Must See Acadia National Park

Must See Places

With so many things to see and do in and around Acadia National Park there just isn’t enough time for it all. If it’s your first visit and you are only able to see the area once, we want to help you make the most of it. Many of our guests only visit for a few days and they often ask us what shouldn’t they miss? If you’re planning an upcoming trip, you’re probably thinking the same thing as well.

For over thirty years we’ve helped guide visitors and guests how to explore our area. During that time we’ve refined a list of places that will give you a great introduction to what Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park has to offer. If you only visit once you’ll still leave feeling fulfilled that you witnessed some of the most sought after and famous places. If you plan to come back, you will have your bearings and will be ready to hit the ground running on your next visit.

Most folks are not sure what exactly they’re going to do on their first visit and don’t know how much time they’ll need. The truth is if you just want to see the highlights you can see them in a day or two. But if you plan to partake in some of the area Activities or Attractions and embrace the local culture of laid-back island living, you can certainly spend longer and may never want to leave!

So for your next visit to Acadia National Park here are some of the must-see places you shouldn’t miss…

Downtown Bar Harbor

Along with shopping and dining, Downtown Bar Harbor is also host to some natural attractions that should not be missed. You can walk across a sandbar at low tide to an uninhabited island or walk the coast of Frenchman’s Bay along a historic walking path. These sites are easily accessible to everyone and offer breathtaking views that anyone can enjoy.

Bar Island Bar Harbor Maine


Accessible only at low tide via sandbar, Bar Island can be reached at the end of Bridge Street off Downtown Bar Harbor. Once across the sandbar, you can hike to the top of Bar Island and witness a spectacular view looking back over Bar Harbor. The picture above is from this very point. Keep an eye on the time as the sandbar becomes fully submerged at low tide. Don’t worry, we have tide schedules at our front desk and can tell you when to visit so you don’t get stuck out there.

Shore Path Bar Harbor Maine


Beginning at the town pier off Downtown Bar Harbor, this half-mile walking path runs along the rocky coast. Along the path, you’ll be able to look out over Frenchman’s Bay and see the Porcupine Islands. Watch the boats come and go and take in the beauty of some of the magnificent homes and inns that line this historic walking trail. Connector paths allow you to walk the trail and then loop back into the Downtown. It’s an easy walk that anyone can enjoy!

Acadia National Park

With over 30,000 acres of land comprising Acadia National Park, there is more than just one way to see it. But if there is one can’t miss part, it’s the 27 mile Park Loop Road. The road winds through the heart of Acadia providing many places to pull off and view some of the park’s scenic vistas and overlooks. Along the way, you will come across some of the most interesting places in Acadia. If you don’t have a vehicle, guided tours are available or you can utilize the Island Explorer Shuttle system to see most of the Park Loop Road.

Sunrise Cadillac Mountain


Cadillac Mountain is not only the highest point on the eastern seaboard but it is also the first place in the country to see the sunrise. The summit can be accessed by a paved driving road or several different hiking trails. You can easily drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain and enjoy panoramic views among miles of Maine coast. If you want to get up early for sunrise there is a shortcut from the Highbrook to the summit which will get you their fast. Be sure to ask one of the friendly staff at our front desk for directions.

Jordan Pond Acadia National Park


Jordan Pond is one of the clearest lakes in Maine boasting a recorded visibility depth of up to 60ft. The beauty can be enjoyed from the surrounding hiking trail that wraps around its crystal clear waters. At the southern end of the lake, you will find the Jordan Pond House. You can enjoy their famous tea and popovers while overlooking the natural beauty of Jordan Pond. Nearby connector trails and carriage roads make Jordan Pond a hub of activity inside Acadia National Park. Check out our dining page for more information about the Jordan Pond House and the best time to visit.

Sand Beach Acadia National Park


Nestled inside a small inlet between Great Head Peninsula and the rocky shore of Acadia’s Ocean Drive, this magnificent beach boasts stunning views. The water is cool, only reaching about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but the warm sand makes a great spot for relaxing and enjoying the beautiful coastline of Acadia. Check out our touring tips for the best times to visit.

Thunder Hole Acadia National Park


Located along the Ocean Drive section of Acadia National Park, Thunder Hole is a small cavern where air and seawater get trapped and explode creating thunderous booms. As waves crash against the coast at Thunder Hole, you can see first-hand the raw power of the Atlantic Ocean. Caution should be used during stormy times and high surf warnings as rogue waves have been known to blanket the entire coastline. This natural phenomenon is not always booming and frankly it’s hit or miss. But there is a recommended time to target Thunder Hole which you can find in our Touring Tips.

Other Points of Interest

There are a lot of places to explore outside of Downtown Bar Harbor and the Park Loop Road but if there are two places you must see it’s these…

Bass Harbor Lighthouse


Guests from all over the world always ask us, where can we see a lighthouse? The coast of Maine has over 60 of them but many are difficult to see. Here on Mount Desert Island, there is only one that can be accessed without a boat, Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Located at the southern tip of MDI in the small village of Bass Harbor, it is approximately a half-hour drive from the Highbrook in Bar Harbor. If you plan to explore the western side of Mount Desert Island be sure to put Bass Harbor Lighthouse on your itinerary.

Sargeant Drive


Located along the eastern edge of Somes Sound, Sargeant Drive provides a chance to drive along one of the east coast’s most unique sections of coastline. For years, Somes Sound was known as the only “fjord” on the east coast but officials have recently downgraded it to a “fjard” as it lacks some of the extreme formations of Norwegian “fjords”. Nevertheless, the scenic drive is still magnificent and not to be missed. If you venture to Northeast Harbor be sure to take in Sargeant Drive along the way.

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Touring Tips

Easily accessed from Downtown Bar Harbor’s many restaurants, the Shore Path is a great way to cap off an evening with an after dinner stroll.

The Island Explorer can take you to virtually everywhere in Acadia except the top of Cadillac Mountain. You’ll have to drive, hike or take a guided tour to get to the top.

Cadillac Mountain is known for spectacular sunrises but it is also a great spot for sunset. If you go to watch the sunset, park at Blue Hill Overlook, it faces west and is considered the best spot.

During the Summer months, Sand Beach is extremely popular. Get there before 10am or late in the afternoon to better your chances of finding a parking spot if you drive yourself. Or take the Island Explorer for added flexibility.

While not a given that you will hear Thunder Hole boom, the best time to visit is two hours before high tide. This will provide the best likelihood of hearing the thunderous booms it is famous for.