Family-Friendly Acadia: 9 Outdoor Things To Do For Kids in Acadia National Park

January 7, 2019by Thomas Tash
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Acadia National Park has been a popular destination for families for over 100 years. Located at the heart of Maine’s rugged coastline, the park is a spectacular display of geological wonders. From hiking and biking, to beaches and kayaking, there’s so much for you and your family to do in Acadia. Here are 9 outdoor things to do for kids in Acadia National Park.

Family-Friendly Acadia: 9 Outdoor Things To Do For Kids in Acadia National Park

Locating a Visitor Center or Ranger Station at Acadia National Park

One of the first places you should plan on visiting when you arrive at Acadia National Park is to stop in to a Visitor Center or Ranger Station. Park Rangers are ready here to help you find outdoor things to do for kids in Acadia National Park. These information centers are located at:

  • Hulls Cover Vistor Center – Located at 25 Visitor Center Rd, Bar Harbor, ME, the Hulls Cove Visitor Center is the main visitor center for the park. The visitor center has a bookstore and gift shop, restrooms, water fountains, and is where you can speak with a park ranger or get a park map and park pass. The Hulls Cove Visitor Center is also an ideal “jumping on” point for the Island Explorer shuttle bus.
  • Village Green Information Center – Located next to the Village Green in the heart of downtown Bar Harbor, the smaller, Village Green Information Center staffs 1-2 park rangers who are ready to distribute maps and help you navigate the park. The Village Green Visitor Center is also adjacent to a major Island Explorer shuttle bus stop.
  • Thompson Island Information Center – Located on the tiny Thompson Island gateway to Mount Desert Island from Trenton, the Thompson Island Information Center is a partnership between the National Park Service and the various Chambers of Commerce on Mount Desert Island. This is a great place to pit stop after a long drive, to speak to a ranger, gather information about the island and area communities and businesses, and to use the public restrooms.
  • Schoodic Woods Campground Visitor Center – Located just inside the Acadia National Park boundaries on the Schoodic Peninsula, the Schoodic Woods Campground Visitor Center is a beautiful log cabin structure with plenty of information on outdoor things to do for kids in Acadia National Park. You can pick up a park map here and see an updated list of recent wildlife sightings. *Note – Schoodic Peninsula Trail Maps cost $1, you can download these for free here.
  • Sieur de Monts Nature Center – Located in the Sieur de Monts area of Acadia National Park, the setting of the original Sieur de Monts National Monument before Acadia National Park was expanded and redesignated as a national park, Sieur de Monts Nature Center is surrounded by the Wild Gardens of Acadia, Sieur de Monts Spring, the Abbe Museum at Sieur de Monts Spring, and the popular Jesup Path. Here interpretive park rangers guide visitors through the wildlife, habitats, and ecosystem of the Acadia region.
  • Rockefeller Hall Welcome Center – Located within the Schoodic Institute at the southern tip of the Schoodic Peninsula, Rockefeller Hall is a former Navy building that has since been transformed into an interpretive center for visitors to the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park.
    • Schoodic Institute Entrance Volunteer Ranger Station – There is also a small volunteer ranger station located at the entrance to the Schoodic Institute where visitors can get maps and ask a ranger about the area.
  • Park Loop Road Toll Booth Ranger Stations – Located on the Park Loop Road at 44.338797, -68.183107, these small ranger stations take care of maps, park passes, and can answer park questions.
  • Blackwoods Campground Ranger Station – Located at Blackwoods Campground on the southeastern side of Mount Desert Island
  • Seawall Campground Ranger Station – Located at Seawall Campground on the southwestern side of MDI.
  • Thunder Hole Gift Shop – While technically not a ranger station, the concessionaire operated Thunder Hole Gift Shop is typically staffed by a well-informed individual that can assist in answering park questions
  • Cadillac Mountain Summit Eco-Store – Similar to the Thunder Hole Gift Shop, the Cadillac Mountain Eco-Store is staffed by knowledgable park vendor staff.
  • Jordan Pond House Gift Shop – The Jordan Pond House Gift Shop is the third, and main operation center of the park concessionaire/vendor, Ortega Parks, LLC.
  • Additional, harder-to-reach Ranger Stations include:
    • Islesford Historical Museum on Little Cranberry Island
    • Duck Harbor Campground

1. Acadia National Park Junior Ranger Program

Visitors can get their hands on the Acadia National Park Junior Ranger Program booklet at a number of the above mentioned visitor centers including Hulls Cove, Schoodic Woods, and Sieur de Monts Nature Center. The junior ranger program encourages kid and their families to explore, learn, and experience Acadia in a fun and engaging way. Upon completion of the move-at-your-own-pace program, participants will receive an Acadia National Park Junior Ranger Badge!

2. Sand Beach at Acadia National Park

While one of the most-popular and therefore busiest attractions at Acadia National Park, Sand Beach is a great place to kick back and enjoy the summer sun surrounded by the beauty of Acadia. Plan to come early or take the Island Explorer shuttle bus as this area is jam packed by 10am. If you’re looking for less-crowded beaches near Acadia National Park, visit Seal Harbor Beach, Seawall, or the stunning and quiet eastern side of the Schoodic Peninsula.

3. Schoodic National Scenic ByWay “Kids Quest”

Managed by the local community organizations behind the Schoodic National Scenic Byway, Kids Quest is an engaging program for kids and families with 7 locations along the Schoodic National Scenic Byway from Hancock to Prospect Harbor. Each location educates visitors on the history, geography, geology, wildlife, and more in the Schoodic region and outdoor things to do for kids in Acadia National Park. Play in the reversing tides at Tidal Falls, or discover the old railroad! Learn more

4. Lunch at the Jordan Pond House

If you’re hoping to catch lunch at the Jordan Pond House for one of their delicious popovers on the lawn overlooking Jordan Pond and The Bubbles, you might want to be flexible with your time. The iconic landmark is the only dining option within the park boundaries and a bucket list item for nearly every park guest. Choose to dine before or after lunch if you want any chance of getting a table. If you do leave your name with the host, we recommend having one adult wait for the table to be ready, while the rest of the group explores the gift shop or trails around Jordan Pond (depending on the wait, of course). There is no cell-service in this area, so don’t plan on calling your family when your table is ready.

5. Picnic at Schoodic Point

If you’re not interested in crowded scenery, then a picnic at Schoodic Point might be just the activity for you and your family. Located at the southernmost tip of the Schoodic Peninsula section of Acadia National Park, Schoodic Point has all the crashing waves and ocean views of a beach, without the crowds and sand. This natural granite platform is massive. You can simply park in the parking lot and find your own private area to set up chairs or a picnic blanket and enjoy Maine’s coastline; with public restrooms within a short walk.

6. Bike the Schoodic Loop Road in Acadia National Park

Bicycling around the main Park Loop Road on Mount Desert Island is beautiful and impressive, but with tens of thousands of visitors daily, and at 27 miles in length, it’s a tough activity for most families. Instead, biking the Schoodic Loop Road provides a family-friendly alternative at 9.7 miles with FAR less traffic, but just as many beautiful views along the way.

7. Go Tent Camping near Acadia National Park

Located just 7 miles from the entrance to Acadia National Park’s Schoodic District, Acadia East Campground is not your typical noisy family-style campground. Acadia East is a self-serve, backcountry-style tenting campground located at 574 U.S. Route 1 in Gouldsboro, just 10 minutes from the Schoodic part of Acadia, and 35 minutes from Mount Desert Island. For families that are looking for a quiet place to pitch a tent and get back to nature, Acadia East Campground is entirely unique. While close to outdoor things to do for kids in Acadia National Park, Acadia East Campground replicates an authentic backcountry camping experience with large campsites, picnic tables, campfire pits, and even 4G LTE cellular service. Book your tent camping stay here!

8. Participate in Friends of Acadia’s “Acadia Quest” Program

Administered by Friends of Acadia, Acadia Quest is a fun-filled activity for kids and families to explore Acadia National Park. Teams must include one child under the age of 18 and one adult over 18 years of age. Register your team here!

9. Explore Acadia’s Tidal Pools

No trip to Acadia National Park would be complete without a little splashing in the tidal pools, these micro-ecosystems are booming with life just waiting to be explored. Check these online tidal charts before you go. If wild tidal pools aren’t for you, the Mount Desert Oceanarium is a great indoor alternative.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

Acadia National Park is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the northeast. Roughly 3.5 million visitors come to Acadia each year, with the vast majority coming to Mount Desert Island in the summer months. This means that if you and your family are planning a summer trip to Acadia, do it early and plan on fighting crowds.

Alternatively, Acadia National Park has multiple, lesser-visited sections that provide incredible views and unspoiled wilderness. 40 minutes east by car, or across Frenchman Bay by Ferry boat, the Schoodic Peninsula has miles of trails and coastline and less than 10% of the visitors (just over 200,000 total in 2018).

If you’re looking for a true memorable coastal Maine experience, plan your trip to the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park today!

Thomas Tash

Tom Tash is the Founder and Co-Owner of Acadia East Campground and Pocket Parks Campgrounds. Tom began his career in Outdoor Recreation at the University of Maine at Machias before joining the City of Portland Recreation Department and becoming the Recreation Director for the Town of Bridgton. Tom became deeply invested in the national parks as the Marketing Director for a national park travel guide company. He co-founded Acadia East Campground in 2017/18.

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