We just got back from a trip Fall Camping in Acadia National Park and it was really spectacular! I wanted to share some of the things we did as a family and make some recommendations to maybe add to your list while your planning a trip yourself!!
Don’t let the in between seasons fool you though…the crowds are still wild! Having patience, a bit of planning and willingness to go with the flow at times will help the trip stay easy going.
I’ll go through the list of some of the hikes and stops we took within the park as well as some exploring in some of the nearby harbors, lodging and even dining!
Fall Camping in Acadia National Park
These were some of the favorites stops we made along the way of our trip. Each stood out for different reasons and had bits of information worth sharing for those looking to spend a bit of time curating your trip before you head out.
Lodging in Acadia National Park
Mount Desert Campground
There is certainly not a shortage of places to lay your head in and around Acadia National Park. There are beautiful campgrounds, KOA campgrounds, cottages, inns, lodges, motels and hotels on every corner and step you take. Depending on what your preference is there is sure to be something to satisfy your comfort level of sleeping. We prefer to camp!
We stayed at Mount Desert Campground in Mount Desert Island, Maine and what an experience it was. The campground itself is magical. There are sites both with and without hookups and they don’t allow in any RV’s over 20 feet. The sites are smaller but all laid out to feel spacious enough for comfort.
Some sites have platforms to keep tents or picnic tables up off of the ground while others are up on trails. A good stretch of sites line the rocky ledge of the coast so you get to take in beautiful sunrises and sunsets, coastal wildlife, tides going in and out and that big inhale of salt water air.
Our site particularly was just across the street as we were in a pop up camper with kiddos. Better for us so we weren’t worried about little feet tripping in the night next to a drop. However we still got to enjoy the perks of the coast line set up because we had family occupying those sites.
The bath houses are very clean as is the campground overall and there are hot showers – $1 for 5 minutes which was a blessing with some of the cooler temps that came in.
Making sure to pack appropriately is a must. We brought lots of layers and rain gear and we used it!
Also make sure that you have back up for cooking. We tend to gravitate to cooking right over the fire but having a small cooktop with you will come in handy if you have a few days of washout weather as we did!
There was also a building called, “Gathering Place” that showcased local bakers goodies on a rotation each morning as well as fresh coffee, tea, hot chocolate and juices. We enjoyed this perk a couple of the mornings. What a great way to get the kids to get moving and stretch their legs before National Park exploration then to hike for goodies!
Overall it was the perfect, serene place to come back and lay our heads or take a day to rest from our adventures within Acadia. Providing shelter to us in the storms and beautiful coastal dreams during morning walks.
Exploring in Acadia National Park
As far as exploring within Acadia National Park there is no limit of what can be done. Between rocky coastal paths, deep wooded trail systems, well maintained and flat carriage roads or beach strolls there is very literally something or more for any level of hiking expertise or age group! Entering Acadia National Park requires a park pass which is $30 for a week long period. To me? A steal! The amount of action you get for $30 is unmatched. There is also a main Visitor’s Center with a lovely gift shop and trolley buses that bring you all around the park should you not want to deal with all of the madness of finding parking at each location. A central hub if you must!
Sand Beach was one of the most enjoyed parts of our trip. I am a sucker for sandy toes and crashing waves. I had never been to a beach like this! This beach is nestled in between the dense forest of Acadia National Park and is a smaller beach but still large enough to feel like you can set up or explore in privacy. The rocky shorelines with mystical forest perched on top made this beach feel a lot like a rare gem of a find and truthfully it was.
We found more sea glass and sand dollars then I’ve ever come across and the shell picking was out of this world! It was also one of the cleanest beaches I’ve ever had the pleasure of walking. There is a trail system which is more like a leisurely coastal walk called Ocean Path that starts off of the parking lot of Sand Beach and there is also bathrooms, changing rooms and a wash-off station located there.
Bass Harbor Light Station
Bass Harbor Light Station is well worth the short drive to Tremont, Maine. Still maintained and apart of the Acadia National Park this light house was constructed in 1858 and is still to this day a well visited and photographed light house! More quaint than some of the other lighthouses along Maine’s coastal boarders it gives a homestead vibe of light houses.
The drive in to park is sometimes a wait as the parking lot is a very small lot. You wait for someone to move along and open a spot at the entrance. There is a short walk down to the light station itself with enough area to ocean gaze. There is also a short hike into the woods and out to the rocky edge to get a different perspective of the light station. Be ready to wear good shoes for this part as you are going out on sometimes wet and less than easy navigable rocks.
Cadillac Mountain Summit
The highest point on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. is the point of Cadillac Mountain Summit. Now…you can hike this monstrosity but we had three little ones it tow so we chose to drive to the summit for a small fee. It was well worth it. What a stunning view! A 360 image of around the mountain and as far as the eye can see. A well kept and easy walking trail will bring you around for several different angles. We went when it was extremely windy but still very worth it.
Make sure to make summit reservations. $6 per car and you choose a half hour bracket time frame of which you will enter. Once you enter you may stay as long as you’d like up until 10 P.M. Be aware…book a day or more in advance. It fills up fast- especially the sunrise times.
Dining in Acadia National Park
We cooked a great deal at our campsite because we enjoy getting creative over the fire. However, being out and about adventuring calls for a pop in and fuel up sometimes. Also…while visiting the coast you HAVE to stop for a lobster roll or something from that salt water. Here are two of the places that stood out the most and that we will absolutely visit again.
Route 66 Restaurant
Route 66 Restaurant in Bar Harbor is a complete experience. Between the theme of the restaurant, all of the vintage touches and antiques lining the walls it truly brings you right back in time. Tucked between two buildings, set back in the alley way there is a road that leads you to this treasure! Sitting inside is like being directly within a classic Eye Spy book and perfect for keeping the kids entertained. The menu has seafood, burgers and some homestyle favorites. You can fill up on a meal or save a little room for a classic milkshake at the end. They even have adult cocktails with classic spins and spiked milkshakes!
Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound
Ok…by far one of the highlights of our entire trip was our stop to Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound. Not only was the food mouth watering good but the entire vibe of this place is just top notch. It might look like any old Maine lobster shack from the front (which when you get up close it really is so much more even there) but once you step around the corner and into the back it screams, “come in & stay awhile – we are all friends here!”
Firstly, there were AT LEAST two dozen deer that were moseying around the field next to the restaurant munching on apples. They were not at all bothered by our presence just a stone throw away which really upped the level of magic here. They had little stations here and there for the children like fill your own water guns, an oversized Connect 4, stick horses to play with and also adorable tiny goats to hangout with.
There is also this great sitting area with heaters and a fireplace going so even in September in the cooler evenings it is perfectly comfortable to dine outside with the family. They often have live music playing and you can BYOB.
The staff was so welcoming, checking up to make sure that we enjoyed our experience and you could tell the level of pride they had for this little gem on the side of the road.
Acadia National Park is a special place…and wow is it huge!
It seems like it goes on and on and you never have enough time to hit all of the places you want to.
We did our best with the up and down weather to mark off some of the most important stops but we already have a list of “next up” spots to visit for next year.
My biggest recommendation on all of this…relax and go with the flow! There is adventure in every corner so no matter how far you get your wanderer’s soul should feel full.
Happiest of travels to you, happy camper.
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Love, light and a little grace…
Olivia Whalen is mama to three young girls who is devoted to creative learning, exploration and free range imagination. Olivia enjoys thinking outside of the box when it comes to preparing homemade baby food or meals for her family. She most enjoys allowing the little minds in her life to flourish and with that you will see her write about creative kid crafts, recipes that fit a family budget and keep everyone asking for more, tips and tricks for a tiny babe, and beginner homesteader fun! Some of her hobbies include gardening, hiking, reading, cooking or just basking in motherhood.