When we set out on our Acadia National Park adventure from our home of the month in Waldoboro, Maine, we had a list of 13 different things to check out. They included places to eat, hike, and shop. We’re dedicated to having a good time, so we vetted each option online before adding it to the list. The 48-hours we spent exploring Acadia National Park and the surrounding area (Bar Harbor and Ellsworth) were full of delicious fun. My prior planning paid off, so I’m excited to share the list with you!
Note: I like to plan. Chris does not. Hence my use of the word my.
A quick note before the list begins. We went on our Acadia National Park trip one week before Memorial Day Weekend. As with many locations in Maine, it’s a time when some places are opening up for the season and others haven’t quite yet. Going early saved us about $80 per night on our hotel room*. Park reservations also weren’t required yet, so we didn’t have to worry about where we could, or couldn’t drive with the park. The only bummer about our timing was not being able to lunch at Jordan Pond House. I would’ve loved giving their popovers and tea a try.
13 Things to Add to Your Trip to Acadia National Park Itinerary
The items listed below are in the order that we did them, not ranked from favorite to least, or the reverse.
Go to Sunrise Cafe for coffee, crêpes, and breakfast sandwiches overlooking Frenchman Bay. As much as I wanted to give their famous Blueberry Crêpe a try, I knew I needed protein to get my day started right. I opted for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Crêpe. The crêpe was light, the cheese plentiful, and the bacon and eggs were great. It was filling fuel. Chris was delighted with his Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Bagel Sandwich. Each meal is made fresh after being ordered, which we so appreciate. Too many places don’t do that when it comes to breakfast. We also tested a cinnamon roll (mostly Chris did). It was still warm from the oven and quite delicious. Sunrise Cafe also has the advantage of being close to the Bar Island Trail. Given the timing of the tides on the day we visited, it was the perfect spot for breakfast.
Why this trail? You get to cross a land bridge, one that’s only available 90-minutes before and after low tide. There are small tide pools on the path that you might get to spy small sea creatures in too. Once you cross over to Bar Island, there’s an easy going trail to hike. At the top, on clear days, there are views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay. When we went, it was foggy, which gave our experience an ethereal feel.
The hike roundtrip including the land bridge is 1.9 miles. To enjoy at a leisurely pace, I’d recommend giving yourself about an hour and a half. When you go, be sure to check the current Bar Harbor Tide Schedule.
Whenever we go to a small town, we walk its Main Street to see what might surprise us. During our walk we were delighted to find Maine’s oldest book shop, Sherman’s Book Store. It’s considered to be among the 10 oldest in the United States. They have a wonderful section dedicated to Maine and its writers to explore. I picked up Downeast by Gigi Georges. It’s an insightful read about life in Downeast Maine’s Washington County, which is a bit north of Bar Harbor.
This spot is also on Main Street and it was on our original list of 13. If you’re a tea lover and a fan of local, hand blended, can’t quite get the same thing anywhere else teas, you’ll want this spot on your list. Their Wild Maine Blueberry Fruit Tea is positively divine!
An Irish Pub on the waterfront? Yes, please! The service is attentive, the menu has enough variety to keep multiple tastes happy, and the ambiance is charming. They also have a good time Irish-fying a couple of typically French menu items like The Dublin Pub Dip (pictured above with shaved slow roasted ribeye, Irish cheddar, horseradish cream, caramelized onions, porter beef jus, hearth baked roll) and Onion and Irish Ale Soup (pretzel toast, melted cheese fondue). Chris ordered up some delicious fish tacos, because tacos… And, because fish is better when served near an ocean.
6. Bar Harbor Shore Path
The Bar Harbor Shore Path makes for a pleasant post-lunch stroll along Frenchman Bay. While it is a beautiful and pleasant walk, if you’re feeling time-crunched, you may want to skip this.
The big attraction of this natural wonder within Acadia National Park is the thunderous sounds that can be produced by waves running into a small cavern beneath the water’s surface. Thunder cannot always be heard here, yet Thunder Hole is still worth visiting for it’s rugged beauty. Watching the waves role in against the rock formation is hypnotic. To up your chances of hearing thunder, try to visit one to two hours before high tide. While the water didn’t splash very high when we went, it’s been know to reach as high as 40 feet. You may want some rain gear, or a change of clothes on hand.
When we first pulled into the Wild Gardens of Acadia’s lot, we thought it might be just a quick stop to learn about a few of the native trees and wildflowers. From our previous adventures to the San Diego Botanical Garden and the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, we’ve learned that knowing the plants and trees that we come across in the wild adds an extra layer of fun to our adventures. There was the time we spotted blooming agave during a hike in La Jolla. I could go on, but this is about the Wild Gardens of Acadia and Jesup Trail.
Jesup Trail is just behind the gardens. It is one of the most peaceful, beautiful, and relaxing trails that we have been lucky enough to walk on. My favorite section was a birch tree lined boardwalk that stretched on for a long time.
I first read about Fogtown Brewing in a Condé Nast Day Off Diary piece. We went to their Ellsworth location, home of their original taproom, because it was close to our hotel and we’re so glad it was! Their Ellsworth spot has a charming beer garden, and brick wood-fired pizza oven. The pizzas! Oh my! They are among the best we’ve ever had and we’ve eaten at some amazing pizzerias over the past year like Pizzeria Lola in Minneapolis and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. The latter is credited with beginning the artisanal pizza movement. Both have earned gobs of media attention.
Anyhow, Chris ordered the Carne Asada pizza, loved it, and devoured it as proof of his devotion. I ordered the Elote pizza. If you’re going to try a pizza at Fogtown, try this one. True, we didn’t get a chance to try them all and maybe there is one more delicious than the Elote, but that’s such a challenge to believe. Chris tried a slice of mine and though he loved his Carne Asada pizza, he loved the Elote’s flavors a little bit more.
Fogtown is known for its brews. Lucky for me, they do ciders too. I tried the Branch & Vine Cider and I don’t think I’ve ever had better, or stronger. Its 9% ABV did sneak up on me a bit. I’m glad I wasn’t driving. Chris enjoyed their Munich Dark Lager at a responsible pace. What’s better than beers, pizza, and laid back fun?
Note: In addition to offering delicious small-batch craft beverages and farm-to-table food sourced in Maine, Fogtown Brewing is committed to environmental sustainability. In 2019, they invested in photovoltaic panels that meet 73% of their electricity needs. Their spent grain goes to local farmers, composters, and into their pizza dough. How awesome is that?
This find, I must also credit to reading Condé Nast. Had I not read about it there, we would’ve eaten the free breakfast at the hotel, or gone to the closest thing to a Starbucks we could find. Sylvia’s didn’t just look like a classic diner, it felt like one. When Chris ordered his omelet, he asked if they could add jalapeños to it. The server said yes. Then, when she put the order in, one of the cooks on the line said they were out. Instead of her having to go back and forth between the kitchen that we could see and us, the line cook offered a solution from where he was cooking, “You want pepper jack cheese on it?”
“That’d be great,” Chris said. Problem solved, in the moment, with no hassle on anyone’s part. I’ve worked in restaurants where that could’ve easily become a back and forth process slowing down meals for everyone. Between getting pepper jack cheese on his omelet and hearing an Iron Maiden song in the background, he was practically beaming.
The coffee was standard black. I’m sure cream was offered, but unless I can order something a little fancier, I stick with black. When I ordered my Monte Cristo sandwich, I added a side of maple syrup to my order. I poured a bit of maple syrup from my meal into my coffee and it became delicious. It was great for dunking the delicious sandwich into too.
We had plenty of calories to burn when we set out to hike Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail. To get to the trailhead, we parked by the Island Explorer bus stop and hiked the Kebo Brook Trail for .1 miles. From there we crossed the road to continue onto the Cadillac North Ridge Trail.
I picked this trail because it takes those hiking it to the highest point in Acadia National Park and on the North Atlantic Seaboard. Despite Cadillac Mountain’s 1,527 foot elevation, the Cadillac North Ridge Trail to its peak is a moderate hike. Most people take between two and four hours to complete the round-trip hike. We completed it in 3 hours and 14 minutes. We stopped several times along the way to take photos, videos, and to remove layers of clothing.
If you’re looking for a beautiful and fun hike with terrain that varies enough to keep things interesting, Jordan Pond is a great find. The landscape on this path is considered one of Acadia’s most iconic for good reason. I’d taken off all my layers on the Cadillac North Ridge Trail and didn’t think to grab any when we started the Jordan Pond one. It’s my only regret of the trip, because the temperature was lower by the water and the wind had picked up. I definitely recommend bringing along a wind jacket, or sweater on this one.
They serve up local favorite, Gifford’s award-winning, slow churned ice cream. Gifford’s started making ice cream on their Maine dairy farm more than 40 years ago. I had the Cookie Dough. Chris went for the Strawberry Cheesecake. Our smalls were filled with heaping scoops and we ate every last delicious bite of them.
Travel Tip: Have cash on hand. According to the sign we saw on their window, it’s the only form of payment they accept.
Now That Our Trip Is Done
In the end, would we do it again? Yes! Is there anything we’d change? The amount of time we stayed. While a lot of fun can be packed into two days in the area, we feel that there was so much we left unexplored. Until next time Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, and Ellsworth! We had a ton of fun! Check out our 13 Fun Things To Do in and around Acadia National Park video below to see how much fun the above experiences were!
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*Note: We stay at Hilton properties like the Hampton Inn in Ellsworth whenever we can, because we became Hilton Honors members a few years back. We love pretty much everything about being Diamond members, from the free bottles of water and better parking spots to the dining credits, free upgrades, and occasional free night’s stay.