We worked in Acadia National Park several years ago for three months during the summer. We lived, slept, worked, and hiked there. I worked as a sales associate at the busiest retail store in the park, Jordan Pond Gift Shop. Adam worked in the employee dorm. Through those 3 months we have learned some very beneficial tourist/traveling advice which we have chosen to live by when offering travel tips for visiting Acadia National Park. Remember we have only lived there for 3 months, are not seasonal professionals in this specific location, and do not live there year-round. This is just my point of view of what I learned when living and working there! Here are Acadia National Park travel tips! Enjoy!
Best Time to Visit
The most common question asked when planning an Acadia National Park vacation is always “when should I visit?” When people look into going on vacations they usually chose their time based on when the kids are out of school, warmest months, and open vacation availability. Weather is a great factor to look at especially when going on vacation in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. Unfortunately everyone knows that July & August is the warmest, but they are also the busiest. If you want to travel during those months, feel free. Just know which days to be in the park. Below we have listed some travel tips that most tourists do not know about traveling in Acadia National Park.
Best Times to Visit to AVOID Crowds
Don’t go in July or August. Most returning vacationers vacation in Acadia National Park during those month. I was warned and I found it to be very true: vacationers during July and August are rude. Working there you can definitely notice a shift once July hit. They’re slightly more entitled being that they pay ridiculous prices year after year for condos, hotel rooms, houses, etc. They have been coming here for decades. One of our Acadia National Park travel tips is to avoid the crazy, visit the island during the slower months.
May & June are slower months to visit, as well as September & October. We left right before autumn came in Acadia National Park, but from what I was told from my manager: May & June, September and October are slower. Most business comes from cruise-lines, newlyweds, or retired folks who want to explore Mount Desert Island. They are affectionately known, in the area as the “newlyweds or nearly dead.” Cruise lines come in and take stops for about 15 minutes at a time and then they leave.
Another travel tip that we have learned, based on sales patterns, is crucial to visiting Acadia National Park: Our shop, during peak months (July & August) would average 1,000 sales a day. That means while only 1,000 purchases were made, over 1,000 people frequented the store. That’s fine, but not one of our most incredibly useful Acadia National Park travel tips, but this is:
Through those sales, we noticed a very valuable trend. Weekends were slow and Tuesdays-Thursdays were much busier days. On the weekend everyone was unpacking/packing, getting settled in, & hanging around Bar Harbor. This made the other days (Friday-Monday) slower days.
Overall the best time to visit the park is Fridays-Mondays, May-June, Sept-October.
But what about Bar Harbor?
As far as Bar Harbor goes, July & August are absolutely crazy busy months to visit when going on vacation. Bar Harbor is small, but in the summer it is bustling. Everyone visiting Acadia National Park. cruise-lines, tour buses and then add Fourth of July, yearly vacationers, and everything else. It is very hectic and really cannot accommodate everyone. If you must visit Bar Harbor, which you should because it is very charming, park your car and walk. You will spend forever finding the nearest parking spot, circling the block, and almost running over a tourist in the meantime.
While I was there I hadn’t seen a moose on Mount Desert Island or while visiting Acadia National Park. You have to be super lucky in order to catch a glimpse of any possible moose while on vacation. I was told that if you do see any they will be near Aunt Betty’s Pond if anywhere, but most moose are known to not roam onto the island.
Instead: Another one of our Acadia National Park travel tips is that if you want to see moose, venture to Baxter State Park. I was told there are plenty there.
They’re adorable and are known as the clowns of the sea, but they are hard to track down. In order to see the puffins, you have to be on vacation at the right time. Puffins are only at land to lay their eggs, nest, and once the puffin babies are big enough to fend for themselves they leave land. They nest and incubate the eggs in May and June/July. They fly back and forth from water to the nest to feed the babies (which is actually prime time to see them I’ve been told since they are constantly bringing back fish to their young).
You might be able to see Puffins from a Bar Harbor tour, but I can’t vouch for how well the viewing is from a big boat. You can find out more about that here. However, you are not guaranteed to see puffins here.
We chose to go to to leave Acadia National Park and the island. We caught a boat over to Machias Seal Island. This is an actual reserve where these spectacular birds come every year like clockwork to lay their eggs and raise their young. It’s a little expensive to actually go see them, but so worth it to see them. The experience at this facility is great and has been stated to have the “largest puffin colony in Maine.” Tours book up fast to see puffins, so I’d call up a few and see if they have an opening.
Note: If you are looking for any Acadia National Park travel tips for this specific venture, you should know that: if you are looking for the money shot of the puffins with fish in their beaks, you will have to come in July once their eggs have hatched and they are feeding their young.
Whales are wonderful to see here. I have heard some tourists on vacation complain they did not see any whales on days they went, but when I went there were a few. The hotter months (July & August) are the best time for seeing whales since they head over here during the summer month and leave when it starts to get colder out.
On our days off we chose to hike all of the mountains in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island that had trails leading up to it. Some of those days we had the terrible luck of having endless amounts of fog. I’ll give you a quick roundup of travel tips for what mountains to peak and not to peak based on THE VIEW, since everyone’s difficulty level is different.
Try at your own risk: Beehive:
Skip It (opinions based on hike to views or view in general. Camera was zoomed in most mountains to even be able to see anything.):
The Triad :
South Bubble (unless your goal is to see Bubble Rock, otherwise North Bubble has better views)
Bernard Mtn. & Mansell Mtn.:
Conner’s Nubble was not a terrible view, but the route to get there makes it not worth it:
Beech Mtn. (unless your goal is to go up to the fire tower):
St. Sauveur Mtn. (no pictures)
The following mountains were too foggy or dark at the time to tell when we hiked it to actually give you a good opinion: Sargent Mtn. & Penobscot Mtn., Day Mtn., Cadillac Mtn. & Dorr Mtn., Bald Pk., Parkman Mtn., Gilmore, Cedar Swamp Mtn.,
Other Great Hikes
Great Head Trail is a gorgeous hike and gives you a spectacular view of Acadia National Park. Even if you only do a little bit and turn back around because the first half, we believe has the best views. It has really nice views of the Beehive & Sand Beach.
The Jordan Pond Loop is a 5 miles “hike” that many individuals on vacation choose to do. Another Acadia National Park travel tips would be to do a little bit and turn back around. Looks are very deceiving.
- Drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain for sunrise. It’s GORGEOUS! I’ve never seen a sunrise as pretty. Look online for sunrise hours to get there like 30 minutes in advance for the golden hour. It will be a little breezy so bring some blankets and hot chocolate and wait it out. It’s gorgeous. During some winter months, Cadillac Mountain sees the first sunrise in the United States.
- Go to Cadillac Mountain in general. It’s the highest point in Acadia National Park and there’s a good view of the ocean and the porcupine islands.
- Hunter’s Beach is pretty nice. I consider it a hidden gem. It’s nice to get out for a quick hike and see it. There are huge slabs of granite and whenever I had gone there was not a single soul or vacationer out there.
- Bass Harbor Lighthouse is very popular with vacation goers. You cannot go inside, but you can go down to the bottom via wooden stairs and get really nice pictures of the sun, waves, and lighthouse.
- Southwest Harbor is a VERY CUTE town. Not as busy as Bar Harbor or as popular, but it’s very quaint. It’s very enjoyable and gives you that small town vibe.
- Drive along Somes Sound on Sargent Drive. My manager would always recommend this drive to through Acadia National Park because it has such gorgeous views.
- The Wonderland Trail is very popular.
- Visit Asticou Azalea Garden in late spring to see the azalea bushes.
- You can also get rock climbing lessons in Bar Harbor. We never did that, but wanted to while on the island.
- Rent a canoe and go around Long Pond or Jordan Pond. We canoed in Jordan Pond with a bunch of summer employees and it was a lot of fun. Especially seeing the beavers.
- Seal Cove has a really awesome Auto Museum. I’m not a car enthusiast and I loved it.
What About Thunder Hole?
This was and continues to be the biggest disappointment for individuals on vacation in Bar Harbor and seasonal employees. To be honest, it never “thundered” that big or loud when I was there. It has been said that the only time Thunder Holes has that effect is during hurricane season. People (myself included) went there frequently near storms, high tide, full moon…nothing big happened. Don’t expect anything amazing is all I am saying. Another one of our Acadia National Park travel tips would be to come in October, near hurricane season. That is when you will have a greater chance of seeing it in its’ glory.
- Jordan Pond House (based on when I was there in 2010) is a restaurant in Acadia National Park that has 11 am tea and popovers on the front lawn. It’s a great view and something that many people on vacation look forward to when they come. For the 11 am popovers you line up outside of it for it to open and it’s first come first serve but they have lots of seating. For lunch and dinner reservations are required. This restaurant is more known for its popovers and tea rather than it’s dinner however.
- We did end up loving Geddy’s in Bar Harbor. They had good pizza. I stuck to this restaurant because my employee dining room liked to serve the same food daily.
- Dink’s Route 66 Taxi. Everything in there is 1950’s themed and very cute. I felt like I was in Happy Days or Grease. There is so much to look at while you are in there. I liked the atmosphere.
Is there any place that you really enjoyed in Acadia National Park? Anything that I should add to the list of things to do?