Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine is so incredibly beautiful. With temperate summers and gorgeous, deciduous-lined beaches that change colors in the fall, it’s a perfect natural get-away for people who love to passively enjoy the beauty of nature or like to tackle it through extreme sports.
Best Times to Travel to Acadia National Park
To keep the trip frugal we’ll start with our cardinal rule:
Travel before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
Prices on lodging and essentially everything touristy will be seriously reduced. That includes airfare–ticket prices double for those who must travel in the summer.
That being said, it’s absolutely beautiful in the summer and every possible thing you could imagine to do there is open.
If you’re traveling in the off-season, be sure to pack warm clothing. Spring and fall are bearable and beautiful, but undoubtedly colder than what you’d expect.
Getting into the Park
Acadia is one of the national parks which requires an admission fee. The good news is that for one car it’s only $20 for a week. It’s not bad, but to eliminate the cost completely you can go during one of the National Parks’ free days.
You can also berid of the entrance fee if someone in your car is:
- A fourth grader.
- A member of the military or a military dependent.
Frugal Fun Inside Acadia National Park
Aside from the entrance fee, going to the park a pretty frugal thing to enjoy the outdoors. Pack your own food and do any of the following:
- Bike or hike any of the carriage roads. These roads were built by Rockefeller with the restriction that no cars could ever drive on them. You can even ride down them in a horse-drawn carriage at certain times of year. In the winter, some of these trails are open to cross-country skiing.
- Visit Cadillac Mountain, where at certain times of the year you’ll be able to see the sun rise before anywhere else in the United States.
- Visit the Abbe Museum in the woods or in the town of Bar Harbor to explore Native American history/culture.
- Visit Thunder Hole, where the waves crash in on a narrow cove creating a thunderous effect. You may just get drenched. There are tons of tide pools off to the side, but you’re not really supposed to climb over to see them as doing so can be extremely dangerous.
- Visit the only sandy beach on the entire island. The water’s not all that warm, but the view is stunning with pines and other trees lining the coast.
- Rock climbers can tackle the Precipice, which will be worth writing home about.
- Anyone can climb the Precipice Trail. It’s intense and can be dangerous. It’s not for people who are children, afraid of heights, or have any health problems. But if you get a thrill out of this sort of thing, you’ll enjoy the challenge.
- Kayak. The ocean is at your disposal.
- Ranger-led programs are also available and may be a great option if you have kids in tow.
- Swim in your choice of ponds.
Affordable Things to do Near Acadia National Park
- Go geocaching! Free activity that will help you explore other parts of the island that you wouldn’t have ventured to before.
- Take a boat tour of the surrounding islands and learn about lobstering.
- Visit the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.
- Go whale watching. Admittedly, this one isn’t super frugal, but can be really cool. I’ve seen humpbacks on an excursion out of Bar Harbor before.
- Go shopping in the quaint town of Bar Harbor. The tchotchke shops have a lot of stuff made in China, but it will be cheap.
The shops where stuff is a little more expensive usually carry products and artwork made by Maine locals–supporting the local economy and artists. The town butts up against the ocean providing a great view lined with an array of restaurants.
- Visit the Ovens–but only at low tide!
National Parks Make For Frugal and Memorable Vacations
My list is by no means exhaustive, but is meant to demonstrate that if you enjoy nature, national parks can be a great way for you to vacation on a budget.
Acadia has a nice balance of small town civilization and isolated wilderness so you can have a great time whatever your preferences may be. I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times, and it’s always a new adventure!