Secure overnight accommodations well in advance as this area is a popular destination year-round.
Good to know
Weather in Maine can be unpredictable, pack accordingly. Sometimes areas of Acadia National Park can be closed due to weather or construction, check the park website prior to your visit. Also, be prepared for stop-and-go traffic on the two-lane roads.
Acadia National Park is a popular destination. Go early in the morning or later in the evening and you will find it less crowded.
Recommended time of the year
Early June was quite rainy and chilly but not unbearable. Locals claim autumn is the best time of year but also crowded. Wintertime is bitterly cold but less crowded. Some roads and most facilities within Acadia close during the winter, but the park itself is open year-round.
Book your accommodations in advance to avoid overpaying. Many restaurants in Bar Harbor have early dinner specials from 4-6 p.m. If you plan on visiting other national parks within the year, you might consider purchasing a Parks Pass.
About This Day
Mount Desert Island, which is home to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, is a can’t-miss New England location filled with charming shops, cafes, and plenty of seaside sights and sounds. The town of Bar Harbor is the perfect home base for exploring Acadia National Park with kids. Start your day with a visit to the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse for dramatic coastal views. Continue your coastal adventure with a stop at Thunder Hole, and then let the kids roam at Sand Beach. After you've immersed yourself in Maine's wild nature, head back to Bar Harbor for some delicious dinner, ice cream and shopping for New England souvenirs. Along the way, enjoy more breathtaking views and recount your favorite memories of the day. You and your nuggets will be planning your next family vacation to Acadia National Park before you have even left it.
While you cannot go into the lighthouse itself, this area offers unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean and coastline. Because this part of the park is farther away from Bar Harbor and the major attractions Acadia has to offer, it feels somewhat secluded and quiet. Our nuggets watched the waves crashing on the rocks along the coast and tried to spot whales in the water. You will find it easy to enjoy the sights and sounds of the scenery around you, as well as capture some excellent photos.
DIRECTIONS Following the park map will get you to the lighthouse area easily. Once you park, there is a short, paved walking path down to the lighthouse viewpoint.
Our nuggets talked about this spot long after we left. The waves crashing into this rocky hole really does sound like thunder. Not only are the powerful waves quite a spectacle to behold (and hear!), but the sweeping views of the ocean and surrounding nature are just as breathtaking. You may even get a little bit wet from the crashing waves if you stick around long enough. The gift shop in the parking area offers souvenirs as well as some snacks and cold drinks. Our nuggets enjoyed a treat of root beer.
DIRECTIONS Using the one-way road through the park, as you approach the Thunder Hole area, enter the parking lot to your right. Once you have parked your car, cross the one-way street and walk on the paved path down to the Thunder Hole viewing area.
TIP Use caution with little kids. The walkways and stairs may be wet and slippery or even closed in certain areas due to rising tides or storm activity. The walkway is stroller and wheelchair accessible until you reach the stairs that go down for an even closer view of Thunder Hole.
Sand Beach is perfect for exploring and searching for nature's treasures along the waterline. Our nuggets enjoyed this location a lot and spent a long time inspecting all the nature they found on the beach (e.g., seaweed, barnacles, rocks and shells), as well as watching the waves. We even saw a few fishing boats on the horizon. The weather was gray and chilly the day we visited, so we did not get in the water, but we did enjoy climbing around on rocks, taking in the sights and sounds of the beach. This is also a great location for a picnic or snack stop, as well as for photos.
DIRECTIONS Entrance to Sand Beach is included with your park entrance fee. Follow the signs or map to Sand Beach. There is a large parking lot at this location. At the end of the parking lot, toward the sea, there is a staircase that takes you down to the beach.
TIP Because of the stairs, this area is not stroller accessible. It can be temping for children to remove rocks, shells and plants as souvenirs, but that is discouraged within the national parks. The rocks are great to climb on and explore, but tend to be slippery due to the seaweed and seawater. Wear sturdy shoes if you plan on climbing around.
Our family wanted to experience true East Coast fare while in Maine, but with a kid-friendly atmosphere. We don't eat much seafood, but we were pleasantly surprised by how much we liked what we ordered here. We sampled lobster, lobster rolls, New England Clam Chowder, fries and blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream. The atmosphere of this restaurant is lively, with a modern flair of nautical decor. Our family chose to eat during the early dining hours, which provided a more economical option for us and it also meant there were plenty of other children around, being noisy, too. This would be a delightful place to eat at any time of the day. The waitstaff were friendly and accommodating. Everyone in our family highly recommends the blueberry pie!
DIRECTIONS It's a short 15-minute drive from the beach into town. There is public parking all along the streets, and two public parking lots off Main Street, along the harbor. Just be aware that some areas are only parking for customers of that location or for guests of that hotel.
TIP Eat during the early dining hours (4-6 p.m.) for a cheaper option.
From the moment you see the storefront, you know you want to go inside. This place is the quintessential seaside candy and ice cream shop. We had heard from many locals that we must try the blueberry ice cream, and because this shop offers homemade ice cream, we decided to come here for a taste ourselves. While not all of us chose blueberry, everyone very much enjoyed what we selected. The kids were quite taken with the statue of the lobster holding ice cream in the front of the shop. Our family cannot recommend this place enough ... and you do really need to try the blueberry ice cream!
DIRECTIONS The ice cream shop is located on Main Street, a quick 5-minute walk from the cafe.
TIP While the shop is stroller accessible, it’s a tight squeeze because the shop is always busy. There is a park down the street (but no playground, just open grass). We took our ice cream down there and let the kids run around after they finished. Bring wet wipes for post-ice cream sticky faces.
WE LOVEDGreat views, delicious breakfast included, kid-friendly, and a large room.
WE DIDN'T LIKEIt was rainy, so the kids couldn’t use the pool or playground ... but that has nothing to do with the accommodations. We loved everything about this place and wished we could have stayed longer!
TIPBook in advance, especially if you are visiting in summer or fall. Book directly through the website for the best rates. Paying extra for a harbor view is worth it!
STAYED05 June, 2018 with 2 year old, 2 year old, 7 year old, 7 year old