Acadia National Park with Kids: 13 Must-Visit Places

Ever since we moved to New England in early 2019, we had it on our list to visit Acadia National Park in Maine.

So many people said it was a must-see destination, and finally, more than three years later, we made it happen…with our two-year-old in tow. This post will show you how you can have fun in Acadia National Park with kids.

As with most trips we take as parents, my husband and I had to adjust our expectations and be prepared to change plans at the last minute based on how our daughter was feeling. But we were so happy to have her with us and felt that seeing Acadia through her eyes added to the overall experience.

Stunning view of the Maine coast and the Atlantic Ocean

About Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is known as the Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast, boasting 27 miles of motor roads and 158 miles of hiking trails with stunning mountain and coastal views. It comprises about half of Mount Desert Island, part of Isle au Haut, and the tip of the Schoodic Peninsula, as well as 16 smaller islands. It’s a treasure trove of natural beauty.

Beautiful coastal views near Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Planning Your Trip to Acadia National Park with Kids

Best Time to Visit

Acadia is sure to be beautiful any time of year, but going during the months of May through September will ensure the best weather and road conditions. However, it’s worth noting that you will see the most crowds in July and August during peak season.

We opted to go toward the end of June and it was perfect. Temperatures were in the 50s and 60s the entire time, which we found to be ideal for hiking.

We did have one rainy day while we were there, which is to be expected that time of year. If you come prepared, you can still make use of your time at the park even if the weather is less than optimal.

How Many Days to Spend There

I recommend a minimum of three days at Acadia National Park to take in the main attractions, especially if you are traveling with kids. We had three full days there, which felt like a good amount of time to see what we wanted to see, but we could have easily stayed another day or two.

If you want to make use of the longer, more moderate hiking trails or the carriage roads for biking, you may benefit from staying longer than three days to truly maximize your time.

Peaceful forest scene along the Wonderland Trail in Acadia National Park

Getting to Acadia National Park

By car: If heading north from Boston, take I-95 up to Augusta, Maine, then Route 3 east over to Ellsworth and onto Mount Desert Island. Since we stayed in Bangor, we took I-95 straight up to Bangor, then Route 1A east to Ellsworth, and then switched to Route 3 to get to Mount Desert Island.

By plane: You can also fly from Boston Logan airport to Hancock County airport near Bar Harbor, which is just a few miles away from Acadia. Several national airlines fly this route, such as JetBlue and United.

Start Here: Hull Cove Visitor Center

I recommend starting your trip at the Hull Cove Visitor Center, which you will come across shortly after entering Mount Desert Island. This is where you can purchase the $30 car pass needed to get into the park. (You won’t be able to get very far without it.)

You can also purchase the pass at other visitor centers and certain campgrounds and gift shops, but the Hull Cove Visitor Center is a natural starting point for your journey into Acadia.

Getting Around the Park

While we enjoyed the flexibility of driving our own car in the park, there is also an Island Explorer shuttle that is free for anyone with a park pass. The shuttle runs during the summer months and could be a more relaxing way to get around the park, especially with the crowds of peak season. It can even accommodate a limited number of bicycles and strollers on board.

We didn’t have much trouble finding parking in June, but I have heard it gets harder in July and August. With that in mind, you may want to keep the Island Explorer as a back-up option.

The shuttle stops at many campgrounds, attractions, and trailheads in the park. You can also flag it down along its route, and it will stop for you if it is safe to do so.

Seawall Campground at Acadia National Park

13 Places to Visit in Acadia National Park with Kids

1. Park Loop Road

Park Loop Road begins right at the Hull Cove Visitor Center. It’s a 27-mile road around a good chunk of Mount Desert Island, giving you sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, followed by winding roads around dense forests, mountains and lakes.

It’s recommended to begin your Acadia visit by driving this road to get a general lay of the land, then driving it again and making stops along the way.

Map of Acadia National Park showing the route of Park Loop Road

2. Sand Beach

We didn’t make it around Park Loop Road once without stopping, however, thanks to one of the first points of interest pulling us in immediately: Sand Beach.

This beach – appropriately named – is Acadia’s only sandy beach and a rarity along Maine’s coast in general. Kids will squeal when they put their feet in the icy saltwater.

Note that parking in the lot right by the beach fills up quickly. We drove a little further and found an open spot in another parking lot nearby. There is usually also plenty of off-road parking available.

Mother and daughter enjoying Sand Beach in Acadia National Park

3. Ocean Path

From Sand Beach, you can hop onto Ocean Path for birds-eye coastal views that will take your breath away.

This is a fairly easy hike that small children could handle at least part of the way. Just hold on to their hand as the path isn’t too far from the edge. We ended up carrying our daughter in the hiking carrier we brought along.

Scenic Views along Ocean Path in Acadia National Park

4. Thunder Hole

On the Ocean Path trail, a little less than a mile from Sand Beach, you’ll come across Thunder Hole, another main attraction on the east side of Mount Desert Island.

Thunder Hole is a unique inlet in the rocky shoreline where the crashing waves make a thundering sound 1-2 hours before high tide. This is due to a small cavern beneath the rocks that traps air and water. When the waves roll in, the air and water are forced out of the cavern, leading to a thunderous boom.

We unfortunately did not schedule our visit in alignment with the tides and didn’t hear the infamous sound, but it was still a cool sight to see regardless.

There is a fenced-in staircase leading down to Thunder Hole, making it safe for kids to walk down. However, keep in mind that the gaps in the railing are fairly wide, so keep an eye on younger kiddos!

5. Otter Cove

Shortly after driving past Thunder Hole, the road will wind around toward Otter Cove. The road is on a thin sliver of land with views of the ocean on one side and the Otter Creek inlet on the other. As you look inland, you will also be able to see the summits of the Cadillac and Dorr Mountains.

You can easily park on the side of the road near the Causeway Bridge and let your kids play in the sand facing out toward the ocean. The water is calm inside the cove. We used this as an opportunity to bring out our beach chairs and eat some snacks while enjoying the view.

Relaxing in beach chairs at Otter Cove, Acadia National Park

6. Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain is an absolute must-see. You can either hike the 4.4 mile trail to the top and back, or drive your car up. (We chose the latter since the hike would have been too strenuous with our two-year-old.)

Once you arrive at the summit, you can walk about a half-mile circular trail that gives you stunning views of Bar Harbor, the Atlantic Ocean and the rest of Acadia National Park as far as the eye can see.

Keep in mind that you will need to reserve a specific time slot to visit Cadillac Mountain on the website before arriving at the checkpoint. We and many others made the mistake of thinking our park pass could get us in, but Cadillac Mountain requires a separate reservation in addition to the park pass.

If you don’t have a reservation ahead of time, the park rangers will turn you away and you’ll have to find a spot with phone service to make your reservation. (Good luck!*)

*Tip: We drove back toward the Hull Cove Visitor Center to get reception. 😉

Making your Cadillac Mountain reservation

The Cadillac Mountain reservation costs $6 per vehicle, and you will reserve a half-hour slot of your choosing (based on availability). You will have the option to select either a sunrise or daytime slot. Plan to arrive at the checkpoint no later than 30 minutes past your scheduled time, but once you get in, there is no limit to how long you can stay.

Cadillac Mountain was probably our toddler’s favorite part of Acadia. She loved holding on to both my and my husband’s hands as we swung her from rock to rock around the summit. This spot is sure to be a winner for kids of all ages though, especially for those who love to climb.

Mother and Daughter at the top of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

7. Schoodic Point

Mount Desert Island is the most popular area of Acadia National Park, and many people never make it over to the Schoodic Peninsula, the only part of the park that is on the mainland. On a clear day, you can see impressive views of Mount Desert Island and Cadillac Mountain from Schoodic Point.

We visited the Schoodic Peninsula on our second day at the park. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day and we couldn’t see very far into the water, so we focused on the rocky coastline instead. Our daughter was endlessly entertained by climbing on the rocks at Acadia, rain or shine.

Note that it takes about an hour to drive from Mount Desert Island over to Schoodic Point, but if you want to escape the crowds, it might be worth your while. It’s a very peaceful drive that often winds right along the coast, giving you beautiful ocean scenery along the way.

Father and daughter climbing on rocks near the shore at Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park

8. Seawall

We began day three of our stay by visiting the western side of Mount Desert Island. Our first stop was a place called Seawall, just south of Southwest Harbor. Here you will find a large stretch of granite and loose rocks and boulders that form a natural seawall.

You might be sensing a theme here, but rocks always seem to be a hit with kids. You may want to hold on to smaller children, as many of the rocks are unstable, but this quickly became another place where our daughter enjoyed being swung from rock to rock as we meandered along the coast.

There is also a campground and picnic area nearby, making this an easy spot to spend a longer period of time.

Father and daughter walking hand in hand on the rocks at Seawall, Acadia National Park

9. Wonderland Trail

When I first started researching things to do in Acadia, the Wonderland Trail came up as a top hike to do with smaller children. The 0.7-mile trail, beginning shortly after Seawall, is fairly flat the entire way and leads you straight to the ocean.

The best time to come here is during low tide, when there are many tide pools for kids to explore and look for sea treasures.

10. Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse comes soon after the Wonderland Trail and is worth a quick stop. The parking lot near the lighthouse is small, so you may have to wait in line a while to get a spot. Alternatively, you could park along Route 102A instead of turning onto Lighthouse Road, and then walk the rest of the way in.

Once you arrive at the lighthouse, there are two paths you can take. To the right is a cement walkway that leads you down to the lighthouse and offers a few plaques along the way that explain its history. To the left is a short dirt trail that ends with a steep staircase down to the rocks below the lighthouse.

You can exit the staircase to climb on the rocks for a nice view of the lighthouse, but I would not recommend doing this with younger children as there are no guardrails once you get past the stairs. There is a platform halfway down the staircase with amazing views of the water and surrounding islands, too.

11. Jordan Pond

Toward the end of Park Loop Road is Jordan Pond, which is popular for two reasons: 1) the Jordan Pond House Restaurant, famous for its fresh popovers and tea served on the lawn overlooking the pond, and 2) the 3.5-mile hike around the pond itself.

We arrived here after the restaurant closed (they are open every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.), so we were only able to enjoy part of the hiking trail.

A large portion of the trail is on raised pieces of wood, so keep a close eye on younger children so they don’t fall off. Our two-year-old loved playing hide and seek here, with the many trees and rocks that offered ideal hiding places along the trail.

View of Bubble Mountains at Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

12. Carriage roads

A highlight of Acadia National Park are the carriage roads developed by John D. Rockefeller between 1913 and 1940. The roads cover 45 miles of scenic territory within the park, and the packed gravel that was once ideal for horse-drawn carriages is now the perfect turf for bikers, hikers, and even strollers.

If we had one extra day in the park, we would have probably explored more of these carriage trails, as they really are a park treasure.

One of the carriage roads at Acadia National Park

13. Bar Harbor

While Bar Harbor is not technically part of Acadia National Park, it may as well be. A visit to Acadia would not be complete without a stop at Bar Harbor as well.

This quintessential New England town is located on the eastern side of Mount Desert Island and is one of the most popular places where families stay and dine. We visited Bar Harbor twice while we were at Acadia, and these are the places we recommend:

Jordan’s Restaurant: You have to come here for breakfast and try their fresh Maine blueberry pancakes. I love blueberry pancakes, but these are real blueberry pancakes. The staff is very friendly with kids as well.

Restaurants can still be hit or miss with our two-year-old, but she loved it here.

Fresh blueberry pancakes at Jordan's Restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine

Agamont Park: This park is situated at the end of West Street and overlooks the Bar Harbor pier and Frenchman Bay. We saw so many families with kids running around here, and this was definitely a favorite spot for our daughter, too.

Playing with the fountain at Agamont Park in Bar Harbor, Maine

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream: I heard about this place before going and had high expectations for it – it did not disappoint. The flavors were so unique and rich.

My husband tried the coffee and salted caramel and I got their lemon poppy jam and grasshopper (vegan chocolate mint) flavors. If I could choose a favorite, it would be the grasshopper.

Sherman’s Bookstore: This is Maine’s oldest bookstore and is well worth a stop inside. They have a huge kids book section to browse through as well, but what did we buy here? An umbrella for our daughter…because she wanted to be like us on our rainy day.

Inside Sherman's Bookstore in Bar Harbor, Maine

Village Green: In the center of Bar Harbor is their Village Green, which is a peaceful place to stroll or rest on a park bench. When we were there, they also had a community piano in the little gazebo that was open for anyone to play. The Green is right across the street from Mount Desert Island Ice Cream, making it a nice spot to sit and enjoy your sweet treats.

Community piano on the Village Green in Bar Harbor, Maine

Tips to Make Your Trip to Acadia National Park with Kids Amazing

What to Pack

Here is a list of what we packed in our car, all which came in handy. Note that we visited Acadia National Park in June, when the weather was still a mixture of warm and cool. If you plan to visit in the winter or summer, you’ll want to adjust your outfits and gear accordingly.

  • Small suitcase with clothes for my husband and me, and a smaller duffel bag for our daughter’s clothes. (We stored both bags at our hotel after our arrival.)

    We had a base of athletic pants and dry-fit shirts each day plus a light jacket when the weather was a bit cooler. We also brought along rain jackets and umbrellas that we put to good use on our rainy day.

    Our daughter wore a full rain suit and rain boots that day, which was not only adorable but also very functional. Hiking boots or another sturdy pair of close-toed shoes are also a must.

  • Large cooler to store our food for each day. There is only one restaurant in Acadia National Park itself, Jordan Pond House Restaurant, so you will want to bring enough food to get you through most of the day. We packed things like cold cuts, bread, peanut butter and jelly, energy bars, nuts, fruits and veggies.

    Bar Harbor is not too far from Acadia and is a popular place to stop for meals throughout the day, but if you want to save money or don’t want to interrupt your exploration, packing food for the car is your best bet.

  • Beach chairs and beach mat if you plan to relax on the shore at all. We broke out our chairs at Otter Cove, but Sand Beach is also a great place to chill for a while.

  • Travel stroller for younger children. We used our stroller only in Bar Harbor (perfect for nap time on the go), but the carriage roads in Acadia have very packed gravel and would be great for strollers, too. We wished we would have had more time for the carriage roads.

  • Hiking carrier for small children. We borrowed our carrier from someone and it came in handy a couple times, though my husband said it got pretty heavy after a while. I wouldn’t recommend using one of these carriers for really long or moderate hikes, but maybe there are more comfortable carriers on the market.

  • Backpack to carry hiking essentials: water bottles, bug spray, sunscreen, and snacks.
Sand Beach is the perfect place to let kids run and play at Acadia National Park

Where to Stay

We did what most people would probably not do, which was to stay at a hotel in Bangor, about an hour outside of Acadia National Park. We had Marriott points and were able to stay for free at the Courtyard Bangor hotel, so that made the extra drive worth it for us.

If you are looking to save some money and don’t mind the drive back and forth each day (it gave us time to chat and unwind after a long day of exploring), you might consider staying in Bangor.

But if you are like most people, you will probably want to stay somewhere in Bar Harbor, where there are lots of hotels. There are also several campgrounds both inside and outside of the park.

🛌 Find a hotel in Bar Harbor


Here are answers to other frequently asked questions about visiting Acadia National Park with kids:

Is Acadia National Park family-friendly?

Yes! Acadia National Park is a GREAT place to visit with kids. This post highlights 13 of the best things to do with kids at Acadia, including some of the most kid-appropriate hiking trails and other activities.

We are so glad we went to Acadia with our daughter. She made the trip all the more special for us.

Is Acadia National Park good for toddlers?

Again, I’ll say yes! We actually visited Acadia National Park when our daughter was two years old, right in the middle of her very-much-a-toddler phase. She really enjoyed walking on the trails, climbing rocks, picking up objects from nature, etc. We took our time getting from place to place, and made sure to leave space for her to nap.

We also spent some time exploring Bar Harbor during our trip so we could put our daughter in the stroller and give her a break from all the walking. We brought a toddler hiking carrier with us but didn’t use it much, as it was pretty heavy. If you have a really good carrier, maybe you’ll have better luck with it. 🙂

Exploring Acadia with a toddler can be really fun if you come prepared and expect to take things a bit more slowly than if you were on your own.

Can you hike the Beehive Trail with kids?

I can’t speak to the Beehive Trail from experience since we didn’t do it. I heard this trail is more challenging with steep drop-offs in some areas, so we didn’t want to attempt it with our two-year-old. It might be okay if you have older kids.

One of my friends said and her husband did the Beehive Trail with their preteen/teenage kids and they all made it to the end. But it was a scary hike for her, so I would say your level of experience and comfort with heights would determine whether or not to attempt this trail, especially with kids.

You can read more personal experiences with this trail on AllTrails.

Wrap-up: Visiting Acadia National Park with Kids

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Acadia National Park and found it to be a really fun destination to visit as a family.

June is a really nice month to go because it isn’t too hot yet and there aren’t as many crowds as during the other summer months. I would imagine visiting in September would be just as nice, when you get to enjoy the beautiful fall colors.

There are lots of areas at Acadia National Park that are fun for kids, including Sand Beach, Cadillac Mountain, Seawall, Wonderland, and Jordan Pond.

If you don’t mind hopping around from place to place, three days is a great length of time to spend at the park. But if you would rather take your time, I would recommend extending your trip to four or five days.

Of course, your visit to Acadia would not be complete without a stop at Bar Harbor, where you can find restaurants and ice cream shops to satisfy your cravings after a long day of exploring, as well as picturesque views of the harbor and outlying islands.

If you haven’t already fallen in love with Maine, I can guarantee that a visit to Acadia National Park will steal your heart. And bringing your kids along will make it a lasting memory for the entire family.

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