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Acadia National Park Itinerary (and Artist in Residence Info!)

Acadia National Park Itinerary (and Artist in Residence Info!)

If you’ve never been before, then you’ll need an Acadia National Park itinerary. We’ve got you covered with a three day plan for seeing the most popular spots in Acadia NP and going off the beaten path to the unknown areas of the park. And did you know that there is an Artist in Residency program if you fall in love with Acadia and need to really dig deep? All that an more is coming your way now!

Acadia National Park is a beautiful destination that, unless you’re familiar with Maine, you might not have even heard of. Located in the DownEast area of coastal Maine, there are some very off the beaten path Acadia spots that are worth visiting if you’ve got the time. Colleen Miniuk is an incredible landscape photographer and expert on Acadia National Park. In her three (3!) Artist in Residence periods at Acadia, she’s gotten to explore the remote stretches of the park in all seasons.

If you have any questions about our Acadia National Park itinerary, need ideas for planning a Maine road trip or just don’t even know where to start, please leave a comment or send us a note. We’re always happy to help!

Duck Brook surrounded by fall foliage in Acadia National Park, ME
Duck Brook surrounded by fall foliage in Acadia National Park, ME

Acadia National Park Podcast Episode

Acadia National Park in Maine is extremely busy in the summer, but there are some beautiful overlooked parts of the park. Also, did you know that despite the potentially extreme winter conditions that sometimes roll through, Acadia NP is beautiful and OPEN in the winter? On this podcast episode we have expert and three-time Acadia Artist in Residence, Colleen Miniuk, sharing about the less visited parts of the park.

What makes this conversation even more interesting is that being an Artist in Residence thrice over, Colleen has experiences across the seasons and insights into what this particular National Parks program means for visitors. Give a listen as we chat about Acadia National Park, photography in Maine and more. I think it’s fascinating to hear from somebody with a completely different sort of experience in a place I love; it broadens my perspective.

Colleen has been the Acadia National Park Artist in Residence several times, including being the first WINTER Artist in Residence. She’s published several beautiful books, including Photographing Acadia National Park. Colleen can be reached through her primary website, and her advice column. For information on her publishing company, books or in-person photography workshops:

Colleen is an inspiring individual. We have several podcast episodes with her available to download or listen to here on our site. Stay tuned, as I know she’ll be back on the podcast for even more conversation and storytelling.




Off the Beaten Path Acadia National Park

The main areas most visitors are going to head to and experience at Acadia NP are Cadillac Mountain and the Park Loop, aka the Ocean Road. Visiting these areas is really wonderful and the coastline and hills are gorgeous, but there are lots of people if you’re here in summer. A Maine road trip in summer is really fun and you’ll get to the see the best version of the state, but there are a lot of people. They don’t call Maine “Vacationland” for nothing… So we have some beautiful off the beaten path ideas for your Acadia National Park itinerary.

Schoodic Peninsula

Located a little over an hour from the main part of Acadia National Park, the Schoodic Peninsula is just east of Mount Desert Island. Here you’ll find forests, streams, rocky beaches and hiking trails without people. The Schoodic Peninsula is a slice of what Maine looked like before tourism became so prevalent. Like on the Mount Desert Island area of the Acadia, the Schoodic Peninsula has a nice loop road that takes you both to the best sights and things to do on the Schoodic.

You can easily spend a whole day here walking, hiking and watching the ocean. This is a key part to your Acadia National Park itinerary if you want to see the quite side of the park. Really, it’s not that far away from Bar Harbor (the main hub for visiting Acadia National Park) and if you’re thoughtful about your Maine visit, you’ll easily be able to spend a beautiful day on the Schoodic Peninsula. And when it comes to Acadia National Park, if you want to see wildlife in Maine, this would be the spot!

A sheet of ice covers the boulders in West Pond Cove during frigid weather and a fiery sunset on the Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA
A sheet of ice covers the boulders in West Pond Cove during frigid weather and a fiery sunset on the Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

Isle au Haut

Probably the least visited area to add to your Acadia National Park itinerary, Isle au Haut (said “aisle a hoe”) takes some planning to get to. There’s a passenger only ferry from Stonington, Maine, which is also an island, but it has bridges going to it. There are cabins and primitive camping options, and a small town to enjoy on Isle au Haut, but this is not a tourist area like Bar Harbor. Here it’s forests and coastline, there’s a lighthouse and lots of trails through the coniferous forest.

Visiting for a day is fine if you can arrive nice and early; the first boat from Stonington leaves at 7:00 am in the summer months, and it’s about an hour to cross to the island. In the summer months you’ll need to depart from Isle au Haut by the 6:15 pm ferry or you’ll be spending the night on the island.

Cove on Isle Au Haut at Acadia National Park Maine

Jordan Pond and the Carriage Houses

Even though this part of your Acadia National Park itinerary has you exploring Mount Desert Island, which is where most people spend their time when they’re at the park, the areas in the middle of the island are much less visited than the park loop road. Jordan Pond, the Carriage Paths and all the other forests walking paths are some of the prettiest parts of Acadia. It’s so easy to visit and most people skip it.

You can plan a day of bouncing from trail to trail around Jordan Pond, maybe biking the paths, and you can even rely on the shuttle transportation provided by the National Park Service in summer. You won’t regret exploring these quiet areas, photographing the mushrooms and leaves. And if you’re visiting in fall, you will love this spot. Some of the best fall colors in National Parks are found here in the middle of Mount Desert Island at Acadia. You’ll love it.

Note: if you are visiting Acadia National Park for fall colors, you will find that the Jordan Pond and Carriage Trails actually become the busiest areas of the park, so arrive early or hit it at the end of peak colors.

Fall foliage with Duck Brook flowing in the background in Acadia National Park, ME
Fall foliage with Duck Brook flowing in the background in Acadia National Park, ME

4 Day Acadia National Park Itinerary

Now that you have a good understanding of the overlooked side of Acadia National Park and what would be great to include in your itinerary for a unique visit, here’s how we recommend you plan three or four days in the Park and exploring. From late spring to early autumn, this is a great plan for having an awesome Acadia National Park experience.

Day 1: Mainstream Acadia National Park Sites

This is your first day at Acadia National Park and your itinerary for today includes simply driving the Park Loop Road, making stops along the way. You can either drive or if the park shuttle is running, ride the bus and hop on and off as you explore, doing small hikes along the way.

If you’ve driven and want to stay away from people, head to the middle of the park and jump on bikes to ride the Carriage Trails. You’ll have the woods and birds all to yourself. This is an easy way to enjoy Acadia National Park without crowds or stress.

Taylor Family Hiking at Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine 4

Day 2: Schoodic Peninsula

Start your day early with the drive over to the Schoodic Peninsula. Once you’re here, enjoy the slow drive on the loop road (different than on Mount Desert Island). Plan a picnic and hikes at the Alder Trail and Lower Harbor trails for two very different experiences. You’ll get the best of both worlds with the forest and the ocean. Remember that you have an hour long drive back to Bar Harbor, but that’s okay because it’s beautiful at sunset.

Schoodic Peninsula at Acadia National Park Maine

Day 3: Isle au Haut

You’ve got another early start today but it’s worth it. Catch the 7:00 am ferry from Stonington to Isle au Haut. You won’t have a car with you, so pack light. Bring your picnic, water, weather-appropriate attire and a camera. From the town landing or Duck Harbor where you’ll disembark the ferry (choose one), you can explore the coves and maybe not see another person for hours. You can do a long hike on the Gross Beach trail and even visit the lighthouse or ranger station.

The thing about visiting Isle au Haut is the lack of people and unique nature for the area. Enjoy the day on the island because it’s special and very few people who visit Acadia National Park get to visit.

Isle au Haut Lighthouse at Acadia National Park Maine

Day 4 (optional): Southwest MDI and Bass Harbor

One more day on Mount Desert Island (MDI) means you can enjoy whatever you skipped on the first day, and then also head towards Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor. This part of the island and Acadia National Park is really beautiful, and truly, this is the most picturesque Maine sight you’ll ever get. Coves, the famous lighthouse, picket fences on the edge of town, and small shops from some rom-com you saw ten years ago.

Taylor Family at Bass Harbor Lighthouse Acadia National Park Maine 3

National Park Artist in Residence Program

So what is required if you’re participating in the AIR program? The National Park Service does have some expectations or deliverables. Part of this is typically doing at least one public program or public interaction each week. For Colleen, part of her residencies included doing student programs with kids coming to Acadia National Park, and specifically visiting the Schoodic Peninsula.

One of the biggest gifts Colleen was able to give while participating in the National Park Service Artist in Residency program was building a student photo journalism program that is still in practice today. With support from the Schoodic Institute and Acadia National Park

Another deliverable for doing the AIR program is delivering a finished piece of some sort of the NPS archives or for the Park to keep. For some this means paintings, others poetry, and for Colleen it was education of others and photography. It looks different for everyone. Get more Artist in Residence info program here!

Photographing Acadia Guidebook

In her third Artist in Residency at Acadia National Park, Colleen was able to create (or start to create) an amazing guidebook of what and how to look at Acadia through a photographer’s lens. From seasonal sights and tips, to beautiful photography, this project is a remarkable testament to what can happen with an Artist in Residence program.

“We can make photographs based on our life experiences.” Going with the Zen Buddhist concept of Shoshin, meaning to have a beginner’s mind, Colleen started viewing Acadia National Park as a new place, after a day with a fourth grader in the park. And that paved the way to creating this wonderful book.


More from Colleen Miniuk:

If you want to learn more about Acadia National Park or Maine in general, we have several great articles to help plan a visit to this beautiful destination:

Enjoy listening to this episode and more. And if you would like to leave questions for us for FUTURE podcast episodes, please complete our form on our podcast page.

This is the Acadia National Park itinerary you need for visiting both the must see sights and the overlooked things to do in the park. This beautiful destination is different in every season, and there's even seasonal Artist in Residency programs to make Acadia NP even more interesting.


Saturday 9th of March 2024

Your Acadia National Park itinerary is a treasure trove for adventure seekers! The Artist in Residence program is a fantastic addition, offering a creative perspective on nature. I'm eager to follow your recommendations and immerse myself in the park's wonders. Great insights and inspiration, thank you!