Acadia National Park in Maine can feel like a remote spot, something too hard to find a way to visit. But it’s an easy drive from two major cities—Portland, Maine, and Boston, Massachusetts. We tacked a visit to Acadia onto a conference I had a couple years back in Boston and the logistics worked out perfectly. Along the way, we drove through Portland, and if you’re heading up to the region, that’s a must-visit. It’s also a great option for scheduling a flight if you’re just heading up to the area for a long weekend in Maine. We’ll assume you’re coming from Boston for this itinerary but if you start from Portland instead, you’ll just have more time to explore near the park!
Day 1: Drive up the Maine coast. The drive from Boston to Bangor is about five hours and breaking it up with touring the Maine coast is just delightful. It’ll take a whole day to make the trip but will be worth every minute. There are dozens of quaint little towns speckling the coast, each with lighthouses and town centers to enjoy. Here are three of our favorites:
1) Cape Neddick Lighthouse. This was our first stop from Boston and we were so happy to see the rugged Atlantic coast. Even with the thick morning fog, we could get a feel for the area. You can’t beat fresh air from the sea!
2) Boothbay Harbor. Lovely town to wander, grab lunch (or a whoopie pie), or take a boat tour. We visited on a very foggy day so opted not to go out on the water but we did love making our way through and around the historic town.
3) Rockland Harbor Light. You can walk all the way out on a long, rocky surface to reach this lighthouse. My mother-in-law grew up in Maine and used to visit this lighthouse frequently as a child. It was on our must-see list because of this history but it should be on yours because of the unique experience of being able to walk all the way out (the walk is more than 1/2 mile from shore to lighthouse!)
Day 2: Explore Acadia. We firmly believe there are no wrong ways to explore a National Park (as long as you’re leaving no trace!) It happened that the day we visited Acadia, we had a sprained ankle and so no particularly strenuous or long hikes ended up on our list. Instead, we filled the day with mini-hikes that were just delightful. Here are some recommendations:
1) Bass Harbor Lighthouse and the Wonderland Trail. These sites are on the southwest side of the park, further away from Bar Harbor. Bass Harbor Lighthouse will attract plenty of visitors but Wonderland is likely to be quiet. Both are short (1/2 mile to 2 miles each).
2) Flying Mountain Loop. This short (1.5 mile loop) is also in the southwest harbor area. From the top, you get a lovely view of the rest of the park and the Atlantic, all from an open granite seating area.
3) Ocean Path. This 2.2 mile (or 4.4 if you do the whole thing as an out and back) runs from Sand Beach to Otter Point. It’ll take you past Thunder Hole and offers stunning coastal views the entire time.
4) Carriage roads near Jordan Pond. After you stop in for a popover (or two or three), walk them off with a stroll along the wide paths that meander throughout the park. You’ll find these in many regions of the park but if you take them here, you can take advantage of
Day Three: More Acadia & back to Boston
A classic Acadia experience is to see sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, the easternmost point of the United States. You can guarantee you won’t be alone but you might be able to find a quiet spot. Make sure to bring some hot chocolate or coffee + a blanket if you’re visiting in cool weather.
Head back to Boston. Stop for lunch in Portland or any of the coastal towns you missed.
Where to Stay: We had the best hosts in Bangor, Maine. They’re pretty lovely people but you should probably make accommodations at a local hotel or bed and breakfast. In Bar Harbor, we stayed at a Best Western, or similar motel, right outside of town. It was affordable, convenient, and perfectly comfortable. If you’re a bed and breakfast person, you’ll find more options that you can imagine in the town. If you’re staying longer, you might scope out the Air BnB selection in town.