The Scenic Route to Acadia National Park
Road Trip Travel
Vactionland, USA is a well-deserved nick name for the Pine Tree State. While it might be appealing to fly in as close to Bar Harbor as possible to start your trip - the lure of Maine is being able to stop in small towns between Portland and Mount Desert Island to take in all that this beautiful coastal state has to offer. With lobster greeting you on the menu at every restaurant, it's not absurd to consider ordering it at every meal. Maine offers a destination that is long on adventure and short on "been there, seen that" attitudes.
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Where to stay
The Westin Portland Harborview
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The Elmhurst Inn
Cozy B&B in a former house from the 1880s with country-inspired rooms and suites.
Bar Harbor Inn & Spa
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Day 1: Arrive in Portland
Early check in at your hotel or drop your bags then head to Old Port. Step into the art galleries and ceramic studios to see local artisan's work.
If you arrive for lunch, then stop for a lobster roll at DiMillo's Food Truck normally parked on Commercial right by the harbor.
Hop on a ferry boat to Peak's Island and rent a golf cart to check out the abandoned WWII bunker.
If you're back well before dinner then check out the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad for a fun ride along the coast - a short but fun ride.
Weather permitting, rent a bike by the visitor's center and take the greenway to Mackworth Island State Park (also home to a school for the deaf). Hike around the island and check out the gravesite for a former governor's dogs!
End your evening with reservations for Eventide restaurant. The oysters here are the best in the United States. People have been converted from skeptics to lovers of oysters at this restaurant!
Day 2: Begin your road trip to Bar Harbor
Pick up your rental car and start early by heading over to the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams State Park - the most photographed lighthouse in the state! Walk the trails and if they are open then grab (another) lobster roll at the Bite into Maine food truck - who cares if it's breakfast time!
After leaving Portland, you're heading up the coast to make it to Bar Harbor by sundown. The first stop is in Rockland where you'll get some exercise walking out to the Breakwater Lighthouse - it might seem like an endless boulder trail but the lighthouse is unique and worth seeing.
Get back in your car for a short drive to Camden for lunch at The Waterfront. Try their seafood or clam chowder and watch the pirate ship sail out of the harbor. Walk the streets and step into the shops before climbing back in the car towards your final destinaion of Bar Harbor.
Arrive in Bar Harbor by sundown and check into your B&B. Get the lay of the land before showing up for dinner at Side Street Cafe - don't sleep on the mac and cheese bowls!
Day 3: Explore Acadia National Park
Up and at 'em for your B&B breakfast before heading to Acadia National Park to drive the Park Loop Road.
Check out the Sand Beach and for those brave enough, take a dive in what could be very cold water! After time at the beach, continue along the one way road for stops at Thunder Hole (45 minutes before high tide is best!) and then hike up Gotham Mountain for epic 360 views of the park.
Continue on from there and park at Jordan Pond for lunch (sit down or grab n go). Choose to either walk around the pond itself for a less strenuous hike or hop over to the Bubbles Trail where you will get an incredible vista down on the pond and out to the Atlantic.
Wipe off your sweat and head back to Bar Harbor to catch a truly unique walk across the harbor at low tide. The water retreats enough that a land bridge is exposed and you can walk all the way to Bar Island!
After showering for dinner, you'll stop in at Rosalie's for pizza and beer. It'll be hard to tell if the pizza really is the best you've ever had or if it's the appetite you worked up from a day exploring!
Day 4: Reach the Cadillac Summit
Early to bed is early to rise! Make sure you have your Cadillac Summit reservation through Recreation.gov ready for your 4am wakeup call to the summit of Cadillac in Acadia. You'll drive up and park before the sun rises. Bring blankets and find a spot to watch as this will be the first view of the sun for the entire continent of North America. Not only beautiful but it comes with bragging rights!
After you see the sunrise you'll actually head back to the B&B where breakfast will be served! If you need a nap then take an hour to recharge before you're back in Acadia to do one of the coolest hikes in all the National Parks: Precipice Trail!
Not for the faint of heart, this trail is strenuous but worth the work! You'll scale and climb with some parts offering ladders and handrails along the way. Don't forget to look out while you're up there!
Head back to Bar Harbor for lunch at Downeast Deli. Take it to go and grab a pick-me-up at The Stadium where their coffee is smooth and velvety. Depending on your appetite, also grab a colossal pastry to go with it!
Eat lunch at Agamont Park and enjoy people watching. After resting at the B&B and cleaning up you'll be ready for dinner in the largest privately owned art collection in Bar Harbor at Galyn's. I'm not sure it's possible to go wrong on their menu but you'll definitely want to check out Spicy Sprouts and Flowers and the scallops.
Day 5: Discover a hidden gem along the coast
End your trip by checking off any boxes you haven't yet filled. Drive back down the coast and stop in either Bath, Kennebunkport, or Harpswell. Almost any coastal Maine town has it's on charm and you'll definitely want to leave room in your itinerary to stumble upon your own hidden gem! If you're lucky then you'll be driving by Red's on Highway 1 and get delicious lobster from a family owned spot.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Daelynn Leach's guide, Everything Goes Guide to Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Maine.