Acadia National Park | PARK AT A GLANCE

View from the Beehive Trail at Acadia National Park

View from the Beehive Trail at Acadia National Park


Located on the coast of Maine, Acadia National Park began as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916 after 5,000 acres in the Sieur de Monts Spring area of Mount Desert Island (pronounced dee-Zert, like what you eat) were donated to the federal government. The island had long been a popular vacation spot, so a group of private individuals who wanted to save as much of the island from development as possible began purchasing land in 1901. The park is the only National Park created from donated land, and it was the first National Park on the east coast of the United States. (1916 was also the year the National Park Service was established.)

Two years later, Congress promoted the National Monument to full National Park status and renamed it Lafayette National Park after the Marquis de Lafayette, a Frenchman who fought for the Patriots during the American Revolution. However, because Lafayette had no historical connection to Maine, in 1929 the name was changed to Acadia National Park. Acadia is what the original French explorers called the region.

Acadia National Park includes three units. The largest and most visited is Mount Desert Island, an island that is connected to the mainland by a bridge. While many more acres have been added since 1916, not all of the island is part of the park. Private land is interspersed with federal land, and visitors will be traveling in and out of the park on public roads and highways. The park’s constant expansion was a major concern for the locals who were running out of land for personal and economical growth, so a permanent boundary was eventually created, and today no more land on the island can be added to the park. Donated land on Mount Desert Island must now be given to other preservation societies.

To the east of Mount Desert Island is the only unit of Acadia National Park on the mainland: the Schoodic Peninsula. Visitation to this section is a tenth of that of Mount Desert Island, so you can avoid the summer crowds and still have nice scenery, a campground, and plenty of trails to hike and bike by making Schoodic part of your vacation destination.

To the west of Mount Desert Island is Isle au Haut, the least visited unit of the park, and one that many visitors don’t even know exists. It can only be reached by private boat or public ferry, and most visitors just stop for the day. Hiking is the main activity. A five-site primitive campground also draws visitors to the island and allows for multiple-day stays.

There are other islands in the park that have no visitor amenities, but if you have your own boat you can stop and explore them. Only Baker Island is serviced by a daily tour boat during the summer.

Because Acadia National Park is not self-contained, there is no official park entrance other than a pay station on the scenic Park Loop Road on Mount Desert Island. However, there is still a fee to use any of the federal parking areas and to drive the loop road, so you’ll need to purchase an entrance pass. This can be done at various places within the park or online in advance (see the FEES section below for details).

NOTE: The pronunciation of Desert, which is a barren, sandy region in English, as Dessert (what you eat), has an interesting story behind it. The name was coined by Frenchman Samuel de Champlain, who explored the region in the early 1600s. He called the place Isle des Monts Desert, the “island of barren (desert) mountains,” but in French, desert is pronounced as dessert. Thus, the true meaning in English, and the way the name should be pronounced in English, is Mount Desert Island, but somewhere along the line somebody thought it would cute to pronounce it as Champlain did—Mount Dessert Island. Of course, this is silly because if you really wanted to pronounce the name like Champlain, you’d say Isle des Monts Desert. Furthermore, to pronounce Mount and Island per the English pronunciation and Desert as it is in French is sort of absurd. Why not just write it as Mount Dessert Island to begin with if that’s the way it is supposed to be pronounced? My (sarcastic) theory is that the name was first legally recorded as Mount Desert Island by the English because it was pronounced as desert at the time. Its metamorphosis into dessert was nothing more than a sneaky way for the locals to quickly identify and mock ill-informed outsiders from the sticks, who are inevitably going to say desert. It’s like laughing at the guy who comes into a Greek restaurant and orders a gyro (like gyroscope) instead of a YEE-ro (as it is pronounced in Greek), despite the fact that the meat-in-a-pita sandwich is spelled G-Y-R-O.


The grounds of Acadia National Park are open year-round, though access on some roads may be limited in the winter.

Hulls Cove Visitor Center

  • May 1st to June 30: Daily from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
  • July 1 to Labor Day Weekend: Daily from 8 AM to 6 PM
  • Post Labor Day to October 31: Daily from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
  • Closed the rest of the year. Information is available at the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce office at 2 Cottage Street in Bar Harbor.

Islesford Historical Museum

Islesford Historical Museum is closed for 2020 for renovation. It is expected to reopen in 2021.
  • 11 AM to 4 PM daily from late June through Labor Day Weekend
  • Rest of September
    • Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 3 PM
    • Sunday from 12 PM to 4 PM

Rockefeller Welcome Center

  • Exhibits
    • 10 AM to 4 PM daily from Memorial Day through Columbus Day
    • 10 AM to 4 PM on weekdays the rest of the year
  • Business Matters
    • 10 AM to 5 PM on weekdays from Memorial Day through Columbus Day
    • 10 AM to 4 PM on weekdays the rest of the year

Sieur de Monts Nature Center

  • 9 AM to 5 PM on weekends only from early May through mid-June
  • 9 AM to 5 PM daily from mid-June through Columbus Day

Thompson Island Visitor Center

  • 8:30 AM to 5 PM daily from mid-May through Columbus Day

Times can always change, so before making travel plans be sure to visit the official National Park Service Basic Information web page for Acadia National Park.


From May through October there is a fee to park at any federal parking lots within Acadia National Park and to drive on the Park Loop Road on Mount Desert Island. Costs vary depending on your mode of transportation, and even those walking or biking into the park must pay a fee. You can purchase a ticket online in advance at Your Pass Now or at the park at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, Sand Beach Entrance Station, Thompson Island Visitor Center, Bar Harbor Village Green, Blackwoods Campground, Schoodic Woods Campground, or the Seawall Campground. Place the printed ticket on your dashboard or hang it from your rear view mirror. (Since everyone must pass the Thompson Island Visitor Center to get onto Mount Desert Island, when it is open I highly recommend getting your entrance pass there because everyone drives right on by and heads to Hulls Cove Visitor Center, and that place will be packed during the summer).

Standard entrance passes are good for seven days, but there is also an option to purchase an annual Acadia National Park pass. Annual National Park passes are valid as well, and these and other types of annual passes (military, senior citizen, etc.) are sold at the park. For the latest fees, visit the official National Park Service Fees and Passes web page for Acadia National Park

There are also fees for camping and boat tours. Other Ranger-led programs may have a fee, though most are free.


Activities within Acadia National Park are mainly recreation-based, so the time spent at the park depends on each individual. The National Park Service reports that most people spend three to four days at the park. Estimated times to allow for tours, hikes, and other activities are discussed on the review pages here on National Park Planner.

Back to the Top

Last updated on June 19, 2020
Share this article