Acadia National Park with Kids – Top Things to Do with the Family

Acadia National Park with Kids – Top Things to Do with the Family

Updated March 2018

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Guide to Acadia National Park with Kids | Top Things to do with the Family

Acadia National Park in the state of Maine makes for an amazing family vacation. Known as the place where sea meets mountain, that perfect chemistry of land and water, it is as captivating as the guide books say, as the photos suggest. With the rugged coastline of Maine, Cadillac Mountain (the tallest mountain on the East Coast), lakes, beaches, ponds, trails and carriage roads, it is a remarkably beautiful and adventurous park to explore.

Covering 47,000 acres mostly on Mt. Desert Island, you can hike, bike, kayak or simply take in the scenery on a coastline walk or beach picnic. We spent 5 fabulous days in Acadia, and could have spent more. There are a number of activities you can do with the kids, and it is known as one of the most family-friendly national parks in the country. Below is my guide to all things Acadia National Park with kids.

Need to Know about Acadia 

First, make sure to check in at the Hulls Cove Visitors Center, where you can purchase a $25 car pass (good for a week), along with a map of the park. If you prefer not to take your car, thanks to the support of L.L. Bean, Acadia has an excellent free shuttle bus system called the Island Explorer; it links hotels, inns and campgrounds with destinations within the park. Either way, you still have to purchase an entrance pass. We preferred to take our car as, in general, we like to explore places as much as we can, and having the car gave us the freedom to do that. We drove all around the park as well as some of the towns right outside of it. And with kids, there’s always so much to schlepp..I do suggest taking your car.

Listed below are all the places within the park I recommend going, and they are listed in order of priority according to my girls, ages 8 and 6. The Park Loop, actually, is listed as number one by me, not the girls, because it is a great way to orient yourself when you arrive to the park.


You may also enjoy: Bar Harbor with Kids


Acadia National Park with Kids – Top Things to See and Do

#1: Drive the National Park Loop

Acadia National Park with kids, driving the Loop

This 27 mile road takes you along Maine’s dramatic rocky coast and into the mountains. For some of the best views you will definitely want to head here; it almost feels like you’re driving along the west coast. The loop takes you along Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond and Cadillac Mountain.

#2: Relax at Echo Lake

Acadia National Park with kids, Beautiful Echo Lake

Swimming at Echo lake in Acadia National park

This was my girls’ favorite place in Acadia, for all those summery simple pleasures. Compared to the ocean, Echo Lake has warm water, and is the preferred watering hole in the park. They splashed around and swam in it for a long time. Even my husband too, as it is fresh lake water us suburban New Yorkers don’t get very often. It has a scenic beach set against the backdrop of towering, forested hills and is a peaceful and serene little spot. I read my book as the girls played in the sand, and it was one of those lakeside relaxing summer days you dream about during the winter. Bonus: it has lifeguards, restrooms and changing rooms.

#3: Go see Thunder Hole

Discovering the majestic Thunder Hole at Acadia National Park.

The girls absolutely loved this. Thunder Hole is a small inlet carved out of rocks where the waves roll into – when the current is strong enough the waves come crashing in and water and air are let out with the sound of thunder. But you have to go at the right time – two hours before high tide – so make sure to ask your hotel or the park the best time of day to go for that day. We completely missed it! Yet the girls still thought it was great – so if you can’t time it right, don’t despair, it’s still worth going for the views alone, and the stunning formations of rocks. They loved all the crevices and cliffs.


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#4: Hike up to Bubble Rock

Acadia National Park with Kids, Bubble Rock

View of pristine Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park

This ½ mile moderate hike is so much fun for the kids because it’s all about the destination. Bubble Rock is a huge boulder that looks like it’s been stopped in time rolling down the mountain (it’s said that it got its position here due to the movement of ancient glaciers). Get that must-have pic with the kids trying to push the rock down the mountain, and you’re sure to have some good laughs. Keep the youngsters close to you though, as there are drop offs. Make sure to also take the path that leads you to the right of Bubble Rock and out to the rock formations above Jordan Pond. Here you will find incredible views of the lake, some of the best views in the park. It is one of my favorite spots from our entire vacation.

#5: Go to the top of Cadillac Mountain

Acadia National Park with kids at the top of Cadillac Mountain

Top of Cadillac Mountain

The highest point on the Atlantic East Coast, you have panoramic views of Acadia and Bar Harbor. Depending upon the ages of your kids, you can hike up from various points, or drive up. We chose to drive up as we were doing a lot of other hiking. It’s beautiful, with cascading rocks running into the horizon. There is lots of space to roam around, but naturally, it gets crowded. There is a gift shop with snacks if you need to refuel. For a real treat, go at sunrise. Cadillac is one of the first places on the east coast where you can catch the earliest bit of the sun rising.

#6: Explore around Jordan Pond

Playing on the rocks at Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park

Taking a walk on the carriage roads at Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond comes highly recommended by all the guide books as it is a picturesque part of the park, and where all the Acadia National Park carriage roads are for biking, walking and hiking. It’s a big Acadia social and meeting spot. The girls enjoyed the pond and jumping around all the rocks that pop out of the water. We also went walking along the lakeside path, as well as a bit on the carriage roads. We never went biking because many of the roads go uphill for a while, and we didn’t think renting bikes for our 6 year old was worth it; there’s only so far she could have gone. But for older kids this is a very popular biking area.

While Jordan Pond was beautiful and scenic, we personally thought Jordan Pond House was over-rated. It has a restaurant where everyone comes to eat popovers and drink lemonade – a tradition over 100 years old – and while I’m all for tradition, it was just too factory-ish for us. A ton of people with long waits for the restaurant, and we didn’t want to spend our time that way. So we didn’t – we went to a nearby coastal town for lunch instead. We also couldn’t find parking for a long time. It’s highly recommended you take the Island Explorer as parking is tight!



Booking.com

#7: Visit Sand Beach

Exploring Sand Beach at Acadia National Park

Sand Beach is beautiful. It’s not near the top of the list because it’s not great for swimming – the Atlantic water is very, very cold. But it is nestled in between mountains and rocky shores and offers a setting as sublime as they come. It’s also a great spot to just let the kids run free – it’s a bigger beach than the one at Echo Lake – and dodge the incoming waves.


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#8: Take a walk on Ocean Path

Walking on the dramatic Ocean Path at Acadia National Park

Exploring the rugged coastline on Ocean Path at Acadia National Park

Ocean Path starts in the upper parking lot of Sand Beach and takes you 1.5 miles along the coast southward to Otter Point. Thunder Hole is about half way in between. This is the path where you get all those classic, rugged coastal Maine views, often with fog, the kind you see in the magazines and movies. It’s simply stunning. But it is not at the top of the list for kids either, the reason being there are serious drop offs along the way. I don’t recommend it for young kids. Older kids are fine, but even with mine there were some hairy spots. I couldn’t leave Ocean Path out of my post though, because it’s just so breathtaking. Use parental discretion.

#9: Visit Wildwood Stables

Photo credit: theknot.com

Photo credit: theknot.com

We did not do this but hear it is popular. This is where the well-known carriage rides originate, the horse-drawn carriages that go along the carriage roads. They are either one or two hours in length and include a tour and history of the area. See here for more information.

We loved Acadia National Park and had such an adventurous and relaxing time there. I can’t recommend it enough, and we most certainly will be returning.

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45 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    / 4:05 pm

    I am so envious, you are going to the places I dream about. Would have joined you there if I had known it was happening. This blog will be saved in my to do file. Your photos are so inviting and I adored hearing about what you did and what you can do. Corey you do such a fine job travel blogging.

    • / 2:47 am

      It doesn’t say who wrote this but I have a feeling it’s you, Jean! Thanks!!

  2. / 6:00 pm

    Great post! I loved ALL the photos, but especially the one at Bubble Rock. It makes me want to go to Maine. Seriously! Glad you guys had so much fun.

    • / 2:50 am

      Thanks Martha! You guys would really love it there, right up your alley. Maybe some day we can all meet up there;).

  3. / 9:38 pm

    You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a national park before. Your photos are amazing. It looks like a great place to visit and not so far from me really.

    • / 2:51 am

      Thanks so much Matt! That’s right you guys are in Canada..you should def try and go sometime. It’s absolutely beautiful.

  4. / 8:48 pm

    The scenery is fabulous, isn’t it, Corey? I’ve read a couple of articles about this place recently. 🙂

    • / 3:03 pm

      It really is, Jo. I think you would love it – so vast and beautiful – lots of great walks:).

  5. / 4:27 pm

    Never heard of this National Park – no idea why not as it looks just incredible. I was going to say I was blown away by that first picture, then I saw all the others as well!! Just stunning.

    • / 3:05 pm

      Thanks Joy! Hard not to come away with some nice photos..the place speaks for itself!

  6. / 9:38 pm

    These are some great pics. Your kids look like they had a blast. I definitely want to check out the sand beach and the thunder hole.

  7. / 11:16 am

    This seems like the quintessential summer lake and mountain getaway in the US. It really looks like such a fun, family friendly area. I love your pics too – especially the Bubble Rock one!

    • / 3:10 pm

      Thanks Ali! The Bubble Rock is an obligatory one, had to do it with the kids! This has definitely become our new favorite spot, we absolutely loved it.

  8. Clare Thomson
    / 1:25 pm

    This looks so fantastic, Corey. You’re so lucky in the States to have so many incredible national parks and this one looks perfect for families. Will definitely be putting it on our list.

    • / 3:40 pm

      Thanks so much Clare – we do love our national parks here. Can’t wait to take the girls – when they’re a bit older – to places like the Grand Canyon. But Acadia has been a great start, and one we’ll go to years from now.

  9. / 3:14 pm

    Thanks Kat! The views were stunning..couldn’t get enough!

  10. I would love Acadia National Park. It looks so beautiful. I would love to see Sand Beach for myself, even if I don’t swim. Although, I’ve been known to swim in some pretty cold water. #MondayEscapes

    • / 12:59 am

      Sand Beach is spectacular – the whole coastline is. I wish I had better photos of it but was having some camera trouble that day. Yes the water is freezing!

  11. / 9:31 pm

    Looks like a great place to visit! Have to keep that in mind if we’ll make it to the east coast anytime soon. Beautiful pictures! #MondayEscapes

    • / 12:59 am

      Thank you! yes must add it to the east coast list!

  12. Ruth
    / 5:11 am

    So many beautiful places to visit in the park. I have a National Park yearly pass, so, I hope I can visit more parks during the year.

    • / 4:28 pm

      I remember reading a post of yours..a yearly pass is such a great idea. My older daughter is in 4th grade and they offer free passes to all 4th graders so we’re excited about that one!

  13. / 6:08 pm

    Impressed by how much you achieved with the wee ones in tow. Staggering scenery.

    • / 6:28 pm

      Gorgeous scenery. I know we accomplished a lot and that’s half of it – still have the town stuff to write about. We get crazy like that have to see everything 😜.

  14. What an incredible adventure. Maine and the national park looks incredible. I’ve shared this on StumbleUpon, as it’s a beautiful post. Apart from the Schlep, it sounds so child-friendly too – I like the fact that there are lifeguards at Echo Lake.

    • / 5:55 pm

      Thanks so much, Nell, for sharing it on StumbleUpon! I so appreciate it! I need to familiarize myself with that site more – another travel blogger has mentioned it to me before and I suppose that will be my homework for tonight;).

  15. travelingchristie
    / 8:43 pm

    This looks like the most incredible adventure and the views are breathtaking, it is making me want to book a road trip x

  16. Clare Thomson
    / 6:01 pm

    Visiting again from #FarawayFiles, Corey! I love this post. The place and the photos are so inspiring.

  17. / 9:23 pm

    Corey the scenery is so breathtaking! Wonderful photos especially the one of the girls standing on the rocks in Jordan Pond. I had never heard of this National Park before reading this post. I love the straight up descriptive place names but my favourite is Echo Lake. I cant get the song “Echo Beach” out of my head now. Thank you so much for joining us on #FarawayFiles

  18. afamilydayout
    / 5:22 pm

    Acadia looks stunning and would definitely be top of my list if I’m ever in the area (one day, I hope). I think the Ocean Path would probably be my favourite, your pictures look very tempting. #farawayfiles

    • / 9:06 pm

      Thanks – Ocean Path is amazing. It’s a truly beautiful place with so much to offer.

  19. Nicki Miller
    / 4:52 am

    We are plannig a trip to Acadia and Bar Harbor this summer! This guide is so helpful – I cannot wait 🙂

    • / 6:49 pm

      You are going to love it!!! So beautiful, and so much for families to do. Let me know if you have any q’s down the line..

  20. Shi
    / 4:20 pm

    Great post!!! Very helpful!

    • / 7:03 am

      Thanks so much! I’m so glad you found it helpful :).

  21. ting bresnahan
    / 2:51 pm

    Can you share where you stayed? Thinking of a trip this coming summer but not sure where to stay – Bar Harbor? MDI?

    • / 2:19 pm

      We stayed in Bar Harbor. This is the biggest town near Acadia, with lots of hotels, shopping and restaurants. I would definately recommend staying there and it’s only 5 minutes to Acadia!

  22. / 11:29 am

    Planning our family trip to Acadia. Great post! I usually use the park website when planning, but was finding it difficult to see what would fit into our itinerary.

    • / 11:24 am

      Thanks so much! Glad you found this post useful – Acadia is a really great place for a family vacation – have fun!

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