Acadia National Park was all that we hoped it would be and more. We met up with another family and enjoyed exploring the park for four days, squeezing in as many hikes as we could between swimming at the pool and playing in the ocean!
We all stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort Bar Harbor, which was the perfect home base for our adventures.
Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain
Our group got up extra early to catch the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain, which is the first place to see the sunrise in the United States during some months of the year. To beat traffic we left our hotel about an hour before sunrise. We passed only a few cars on the road that early and easily made it to the top of the mountain with time to spare.
The rocks on the mountaintop were a perfect place to perch and watch the sky turn from light gray and blue to orange and pink and red then back to blue. The scattered clouds contributed to the beautiful sunrise.
We brought a picnic breakfast that we enjoyed after the sunrise then took a short walk on the path while the parking lot emptied out, so our trip down the mountain was free of traffic as well.
Bubble Rock Hike
It was unseasonably warm while we were in Acadia, even for summer, so to beat the heat we planned our hike to Bubble Rock right after watching the sunrise. It worked out great because the trailhead was on our way back down the mountain.
We hiked along the South Bubble Mountain and Jordan Pond Loop. We were so glad that we hiked in the morning while it was still nice and cool. And we were excited to find wild blueberries along the path.
The Bubble Rock hike was really fun and unique, but it was not a smooth, easy trail the whole way. The path from the parking lot to the rock was easy, as well as the section from Jordan Pond back to the parking lot.
But the middle of the loop, between Bubble Rock and Jordan Pond, was more of an adventure. There were lots of big rocks to scramble over and steep places to navigate. Once we got to Jordan Pond we enjoyed skipping rocks and even spotted a beaver swimming back and forth from his dam.
Some people advised taking the loop in the clockwise direction so you climb up the rocks rather than down and the rest of the trail is descending rather than ascending. That may have been easier overall, although I think climbing up the rocky places would have been a challenge.
If you prepare with sturdy shoes and a little extra time, and you are okay navigating some steep rocky places, you’ll love the trail!
Sand beach was great for the middle of a hot day since we enjoyed cooling off in the water. The parking lot filled up early and when we arrived around 11:00am, the only parking available was along the road about 1/2 mile away. So we recommend you plan to arrive early or be prepared for a little walk to the beach.
The beach was beautiful, bordered by rocky cliff trails and pine trees. There was a lot of seaweed on the beach (I had no idea that dry seaweed is so sharp!) and in the water, but it was still lots of fun to play in the waves.
The beach has restrooms and changing rooms and water fountains, so it’s a great place to spend an afternoon with everything you need available.
See the Night Sky
We returned to Sand Beach on a separate evening for Acadia’s Night Sky ranger program. This time, arriving around 7:30pm, the parking lot was almost empty and we basically had the beach to ourselves. While we waited for the sun to fully set, we enjoyed exploring the first part of the Great Head Trail on the east side of the beach.
Once darkness cloaked the beach, we gathered on towels and blankets to watch the sky, guided by two rangers entertaining us with their stories and knowledge. We identified the big and small dippers, the north star, the summer triangle, and more.
And we were lucky enough to see the International Space Station rocket across the sky, along with a few shooting stars. It was magical watching the sky with the sound of the waves in the background, and it was great for all ages.
To join the free ranger program at the beach, you just need to call to register three days ahead of time. Find more information on their website.
Ocean Path and Thunder Hole
On another morning, we rose for an early sunrise at our hotel then walked the Ocean Path while it was still nice and cool. A small section of the path borders the road, but the rest of the path weaves through trees and over large rocky areas and it was a beautiful morning hike.
It was the perfect way to check out Thunder Hole (we went to Thunder Hole a few different times at various tide levels during our trip and it was never active), Otter Cliff, and other viewpoints along the eastern shore of Mount Desert Island without worrying about traffic or parking at each spot.
We worried that the Beehive Trail might be a little too intense for some of the kids, so just part of our group braved the hike. On reflection, our 8 year old would have been fine, but I still would have been nervous watching her! I would not recommend bringing kids who have unsure footing or who aren’t willing to listen and follow safety guidelines.
We completed the loop in one hour and it was a great amount of challenge while not being too difficult. And we were happy to find more wild blueberries along the path.
We hiked the trail just before sunset so we could avoid crowds and enjoy cooler temperatures. It was perfect timing.
Bar Island: Land Bridge at Low Tide
Our group enjoyed wading through the shallow ocean around the land bridge to Bar Island while the tide receded. Rather than exploring the island, we spent all our time wandering through the shallow water, finding crabs and starfish, and enjoying the beautiful views.
Holiday Inn Resort Bar Harbor
We absolutely loved the Holiday Inn Resort Bar Harbor. Everything we wanted to see and do in Acadia National Park was just a short drive away. The huge heated pool was one of the highlights of the trip for all of the kids, and the view of the ocean made it almost feel like we were swimming at the beach.
We used IHG Rewards Club Points for this stay. We have the IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card, which gave us more than enough points for the stay plus other benefits:
- Fourth night free, so we only needed to use points for 3 nights
- Automatic Platinum Elite status (which gave us a free upgrade to an ocean view room, but as always it was based on upgrade availability)
- A free night certificate every year (worth more than the annual fee)
We were also impressed with the food at the hotel restaurant. Kids ate free, and the pizza and lobster rolls were delicious!
Acadia National Park is great for adults and kids of all ages! With beautiful scenery and plenty of adventures, it’s a perfect place to create some lasting family memories.
My family loved the cliffs and rugged landscape of northern Maine. Check out this post to read more about our beach town adventures in Southern Maine.