There are many sights you can see by driving through Acadia National Park. The park loop road and Cadillac Mountain are probably the 2 most popular. You can take the park bus to see the park loop road. The best part about taking the park bus is you can get on and off at each of the stops and not worry about finding a place to park. In the peak of the summer it can be nearly impossible to find a parking spot at some of the more popular attractions.
The Park loop road is 27 miles long and provides access to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. It is closed during the winter and usually reopens on April 15th.
Sand Beach is one of the more popular spots on the loop road and on a hot summer day the parking lot can fill up fast. It doesn’t take long to cool off in ocean water that rarely gets warmer than 55 degrees. Early morning and sunset strolls on the beach are very popular. Just after a storm you might get lucky and find a few sand dollars on the beach. At the far end of the beach is access to Great Head Trail and is one of our favorite short hikes in Acadia. This trail offers great views of Sand Beach and the surrounding mountains, particularly The Beehive.
Sand Beach is dog friendly to leashed dogs in all seasons but the summer. It is closed to dogs from June 15th to September 15th.
Thunder hole is the next stop on the road. Timing is everything on this stop. Even if you time your visit to be there at mid-tide on an incoming tide, you may not get a show. If you are really lucky and a storm is churning up the sea you may get to see how it became thunder hole. In all the times we have visited we have only been wowed once. That day was amazing as we watched spray come well up over the rocks surrounding it.
Otter Cliffs is popular with rock climbers. Rock climbing lessons and excursions are offered by some companies in Bar Harbor. You will see people climbing almost every day. One of our favorite things to do is to walk the ocean path from Sand Beach to Otter Cliffs. It is best done early in the morning during warm weather as there is little shade along this route. The distance 1-way is 2.2 miles. If you are taking the park bus you can get dropped off at Sand Beach and then pick it up again near Otter Cliffs. The other option we like is t0 hike from Sand Beach up towards The Beehive on The Bowl trail and then turn to go up Gorham Mountain.
We traverse Gorham Mountain and come out in the parking lot just past Thunder Hole. We then complete the loop by hiking back on the Ocean Path.
Jordan Pond is another very popular area that can be very hard to find a parking spot particularly during meal times. We have eaten here a few times and the popovers are amazing. The other attractions here are hiking and biking. The 3.3 mile loop trail around Jordan Pond is in our top ten favorite hikes in Acadia National Park. Jordan Pond is also a great location to access the Carriage Trails from. It’s hard to beat the views from the lawn behind Jordan Pond House looking out over the pond towards the Bubbles.
This is one of our favorite summer picnic spots.
Cadillac Mountain summit cannot be accessed using the park bus system. You need to drive it yourself or take a local tour. The summit of Cadillac mountain is the highest point on the eastern seaboard and where the sun’s first rays hit land. Watching the sunrise from the summit is amazing and very popular.
Be prepared to bring some warm clothes as it can get chilly in the early morning before the sun comes up, especially if there is any wind. Once the sun rises you will want to take your time driving down and pulling into all the scenic outlooks. The views are amazing and can be far reaching. On really clear days you can see Mount Katahdin, Maines highest summit that is nearly 100 miles away.