We’ve camped all over the East Coast and visited several eastern national parks. Our absolute favorite East Coast National Park has to be Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. Acadia and Bar Harbor are packed with hiking, boating, shopping, great food, and more.
There are many campgrounds in and near Acadia National Park. We opted to stay at the Bar Harbor KOA. I booked our waterside site a year in advance but didn’t pay the fee to lock in an exact site. I figured any waterside site would be beautiful. As it turns out, we were assigned the best site in the entire campground.
We watched the tides come in and out in front of our campground each day. There were seals in the water and many small ocean creatures in the tidepools. We even picked mussels and cooked them for dinner. Every sunset was amazing.
The only thing missing at our site was a sewer hook-up, because of the close proximity to the water. It didn’t matter, though, because our portable waste tank allows us to empty our gray or black tanks when we don’t have a hook-up.
Our Favorite Adventures
Our family could visit Bar Harbor and Acadia repeatedly and still not do everything the area has to offer. We didn’t even make it to the northern half of the national park on the Schoodic Peninsula.
For our first trip, we did get to many amazing things. Here are some of our favorites:
Cross to Bar Island
At low tide, you can hike across the harbor to Bar Island. Once on the island, part of the national park, you can hike to the top and see a beautiful view of Bar Habor. Just ensure you don’t take too long, or you’ll be stuck on the island until the next low tide!
Cadillac Mountain is one of the most popular destinations in Acadia, so to keep crowds to a minimum, you have to make a reservation to visit the summit. We tried to get reservations for Sunrise, but they disappeared immediately on the online reservation system. So, we opted for the next best thing: sunset.
We arrived early so we could explore the summit. The trails are well-maintained, and the views are incredible. The kids stood at the highest point on the East Coast. That’s when we noticed some ominous clouds in the distance.
About the time the sun would be setting, a rainstorm moved in. We figured our chances of a beautiful sunset would be lost. Fortunately, the clouds began to part just when the sky turned red, and we saw an amazing sunset with a rainbow included!
We wanted to get out on the harbor while we were there. Jim and the older two kids went on a kayaking tour of the harbor. Our youngest wasn’t old enough to kayak, so she and I booked a boat tour of the harbor. Both were a great experience, and we even crossed paths with the kayakers on our voyage!
The hiking in Acadia is some of the best in the country. There are so many to choose from that it’s easy to find trails for your experience level. In addition to the Bar Island trail, we also hiked the Great Head Trail. We woke early to watch the sunrise, then headed for the trailhead. It worked out perfectly because the trailhead closed at 6 am for construction. We got through around 5:30 am to do the entire trail. The Great Head trail has stunning views of the area. There are some spots where you must climb rocks to continue, but nothing our three kids and Australian shepherd could handle.
After the hike, the younger two dipped their feet in frigid waters at Sand Beach, the only sandy beach in the park.
It was the only time they got in the water, apart from the kayak trip. Because it was so early in the morning, no one was there.
There is a one-way loop you can drive through the park, with popular spots for visitors, including Thunder Hole, where the waves sound like thunder crashing. There are parking lots and accessible trails so that most visitors can access the areas throughout the park.
The town of Bar Harbor is a quaint northeastern oceanside town. There are adorable shops and rentals, as well as delicious eateries. The architecture is varied, and there are parks where one can enjoy a picnic while watching boats go in and out of the Harbor. If you aren’t a camper, I would recommend renting a house in town and exploring the area from there.
Again, there is so much we didn’t do on our trip that I am sure we will return one day. To see more of our adventures, you can check out the video of our trip HERE: