Visiting Acadia National Park

Our first grand adventure.

Is there anything more thrilling than the first adventure out on the open road?! We were heading east to Acadia National Park, and I could hardly contain my excitement! My husband may have had a few adjectives to use other than “exciting” leading up to our trip, such as “stress inducing” or “nervewracking”, but here we are, alive and well, to tell the tale.

This was actually a whole trip of firsts for us. First trip to Maine, first trip out of state with the bus (other than purchasing it in Pennsylvania), and our first visit to a National Park.

Just prior to this trip, we purchased the America the Beautiful: Annual National Park Pass. I strongly suggest this option if you are visiting a couple national parks during the year. It cost us $80, and we received unlimited access to the National Parks System and many other federally owned and operated lands for the duration of one year. It paid for itself three times over in this trip alone!

rocky ocean shoreline at dusk in Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park; July 2021

About Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park, located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, was established on February 26, 1919, protecting over 47,500 acres of Maine’s dense forests, towering mountains, and rocky shorelines. In fact, the park is home to the highest peak along the North Atlantic seaboard. Cadillac Mountain rises 1,530 feet above sea level, and is the first place in the entire United States to view the morning sunrise!

The park is teeming with diverse wildlife such as deer, fox, squirrels, rabbits, beavers, otters, whales, and even an occasional moose or black bear! Chances are you will catch a peek at several of these animals in their natural habitat while driving the scenic loop through the park, biking along the pedestrian-only carriage roads, or hiking one of the dozens of marked trails.

converted school bus next to sign for Acadia National Park
Junior the Bus at Acadia National Park; July 2021

Where we stayed

In what you will learn to be our typical fashion, we planned our trip to Acadia National Park very last minute. We had time off work, a (nearly) completed converted school bus, and a destination. Now to make it happen!

It turns out that Maine in July is a pretty popular place to be.

And boondocking opportunities on the east coast are nothing like they are out west. AKA slim to none.

After several hours of searching and some minor heart palpitations later, I finally stumbled across a campground right in Bar Harbor, about five minutes from the entrance to Acadia National Park. But there was a catch. A big catch.

First come, first serve only.

We decided to take the gamble. I mean, this was the whole reason we converted a school bus, right? To push ourselves out of our comfort zone, explore new places, chase adventures, and create memories.

So we did it. We traveled over 700 miles, with hopes of landing a site during probably the busiest month of the year. And we did just that.

With nothing but dumb luck, we scored a great site at Bar Harbor Campground. Our experience there was nothing short of wonderful, with clean restrooms, hot showers, and a vast array of sites. They even had a heated pool and shuttle service to Acadia National Park!

converted school bus parked in clearing surrounded by trees at Bar Harbor Campground
Bar Harbor Campground, Maine; July 2021

Must-do activities

Prior to our arrival, I did quite a bit of research (thank goodness for other blogs and Youtube channels!) to build a must-do list of activities for Acadia National Park and the neighboring town of Bar Harbor. We only had four days, and we were going to make the most of every minute!

Cadillac Mountain:

I couldn’t tell you we would be visiting the highest peak on the North Atlantic seaboard and NOT hike to the top! To be completely honest, our initial plan was to drive the bus on the very convenient, paved road to the top of Cadillac Mountain to the lookout point for the sunrise. However, once we arrived, we learned that anything other than personal vehicles (no buses, vans, or RV’s!) were not permitted on the road to the top.

It truly was the greatest blessing in disguise. It was also a very strenuous hike for only about 4.5 miles round trip! This was a pet friendly hike, and thoroughly enjoyed by all! Read a detailed post about hiking Cadillac Mountain HERE.

panoramic views of rocky peak, trees, and ocean from Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park
View from Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park, Maine; July 2021

Bubbles Nubble Trail:

This was such an awesome quick morning hike! It was rainy and foggy the day we chose to hike this trail, so we only ended up hiking the South Bubble Trail to Bubble Rock. If we had chosen to continue, we would have looped through to the North Bubble and Connors Nubble. The complete loop style trail is about 2.5 miles, and also pet friendly!

rocky peak with dense fog at Bubble Rock in Acadia National Park
Bubble Rock at Acadia National Park, Maine; July 2021

Beehive Summit:

Ah, the infamous Beehive Summit. This was a new challenge for us, as a “rung and ladder” style trail. The 500 foot elevation gain is nearly vertical, up the side of the rock face. This trail is not for the faint of heart (or for those with a fear of heights!), but the views at the end are so rewarding! Thankfully this loop style trail has a walk-down descent, rather than having to climb down. The whole trail is only 1.4 miles, and NOT pet friendly. Read a detailed post about hiking Beehive Summit HERE.

woman with arms extended on rocky peak overlooking trees and dense fog at Beehive Summit in Acadia National Park
Beehive Summit at Acadia National Park; July 2021

Thunder Hole:

Access to this natural phenomenon is found directly off the park’s main road, and can be heard even before the short walk down the pathway. Thunder Hole is a small cave-like inlet carved into the rocky shoreline by the crashing waves. Especially powerful right before high tide, the force of the waves in the narrow rocky channel creates a deafening, thunderous roar as the air escapes. It is a powerful, thrilling experience that can be enjoyed by both yourself and your pets!

Waves crashing in rocky inlet at Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park
Thunder Hole at Acadia National Park; July 2021

Bar Island Trail:

The Bar Island Trail definitely takes a bit more planning that the other items on our must-do list. It is a land bridge from the town of Bar Harbor to Bar Island that is only exposed for 1.5 hours before and after low tide. Watching the water literally retreat before your eyes as you walk over to Bar Island is a (pet friendly!) experience you don’t want to miss! However, you must be very aware of the time of the tides, as once the ocean fills back in, you will be calling Bar Island your home for the next 9 hours!

Ocean during low tide revealing a rocky Bar Island Trail land bridge in Acadia National Park
Bar Island Trail at Acadia National Park; July 2021

Schoodic Ferry to Winter Harbor:

Rather than driving the hour from our campground to the mainland portion of Acadia National Park on Schoodic Peninsula, we decided to enjoy a scenic tour by water. The Schoodic Ferry over to Winter Harbor on the Schoodic Peninsula was a stunning half-day trip, leaving right out of the main hub of Bar Harbor. I would highly recommend this ferry tour! It was full of beautiful scenery, and even Boone got to enjoy the boat ride! Read a complete post about our experience HERE.

Flag billowing in wind aboard Schoodic Ferry to Winter Harbor in the Schoodic Peninsula
Ferry ride to Schoodic Peninsula at Acadia National Park; July 2021

Exploring Bar Harbor:

While in Maine, we couldn’t forget to take the time to enjoy some of the best it has to offer! Spending an afternoon walking through the quaint town of Bar Harbor after a morning hike was just what we needed to relax. We were able to capitalize on the free RV parking near the town park, just a short walk from the main streets of town. After a few hours of window shopping, we couldn’t resist sampling some local beers and lobster rolls at Bar Harbor Beer Works!

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