Boston to Acadia National Park: A New England Coast Roadtrip


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There are plenty of awesome places to go on a weekend getaway or day trip from Boston, but if you want to spend some time in one of the best examples of Maine’s unbridled beauty, why not take a road trip from Boston to Acadia National Park?

Sure, you could fly, but then you’d miss out on all the road trip fun— and with so many awesome things to see and do between Boston and Acadia, there’s a LOT of fun you could miss! 

With almost exactly 6 hours total drive time following the coast, we have mapped out an easy come/easy go road trip from Boston to Bar Harbor/Acadia. This itinerary can be done in one day if you’re not in the mood to spend much time adventuring around each spot, or can be stretched out as long as you want, but we think 2 days is the perfect amount of time to sight-see, ooh and ahh over the cuteness of coastal Maine, and still not get sick and tired of being in the dang car already! We figure if you head out by 9am each morning and spend about 3 hours exploring each daytime stop, you will land at your overnight stop with plenty of time to explore before turning in for the night.

Quick note: Acadia National Park is a fun spot to visit year-round, but you get the most bang for your buck when the weather is cooperative for all kinds of fun Acadia things to do, and we believe visiting in time to enjoy Maine’s autumn magic might just be the best plan of all!

Whatever time of year you decide to embark on your Acadia getaway, you’ll enjoy the stops we’ve laid out for you on our ultimate itinerary for a Boston to Acadia road trip!

Acadia National Park is one of the best places to visit in Maine, so pack your bags, gas up the car, and get ready to head out on your amazing Acadia adventure!

Day 1, part 1: Boston to Salem, MA (20.2 miles via US-1N)

drone shot of a classic new england town - salem massachusetts in the summer

Okay, so we know Salem is only about 45-mins up the road from Boston, but you really can’t just drive past this historic (and quite possibly haunted) little town without stopping! You can easily swing through Salem and visit the most haunted places in town and the spots where Hocus Pocus filmed in just a couple of hours!

If you’re making your trek through during the month of October, you’ll find there’s a ton of extra spooky stuff going on for the season and you might consider stretching your visit to an overnight if you’re really into that kind of thing (then you could go on a totally creepy ghost tour, too!)

There are also plenty of cool little Salem shops to check out, museums to visit, and great eats to enjoy, but pace yourself, friend… this is just the beginning of your adventure to Acadia from Boston. One somewhat non-negotiable: grab a bite or even just a cup of coffee at Gulu-Gulu Café before you hit the road… you won’t regret it!

Day 1, part 2: Salem, MA to Portsmouth, NH (44.3 miles via I95N)

tug boats and a historic looking city seen from the harbor at dusk

Just one more hour up the road is this little slice of Seacoast heaven that absolutely had to be included because not only is Portsmouth a lovely sight to see, but with tax-free shopping, it is well worth pulling off of 95, every time! Portsmouth is one of the most beautiful places in the Live Free or Die state, and there’s substance behind this beauty, too; there are so many terrific things to do in Portsmouth. 

We suggest getting out to stretch your legs with a visit to Strawbery Banke Museum, the outdoor history museum where you can sample a little of the history of the area.

Next, move on to the adorable downtown/historic district and get your stroll on as you pop in and out of the cute little shops for that perfect Portsmouth memento; tax-free, remember? Keep your eyes peeled because it’s pretty cool how the well-preserved historical structures coexist with the spectacular street art you’ll find gracing the sides of certain buildings. When you’re starting to feel a little peckish, duck into Portsmouth Book & Bar for a quick bite/drink/book buying/music listening excursion!

Before you head back to the car, consider paying your respects at the African Burying Ground Memorial on Chestnut Street, where the city of Portsmouth came together to memorialize the burying ground that had been so callously paved over centuries prior. Then it’s back on the road!

Day 1, part 3: Portsmouth, NH to Kennebunkport, ME (29.6 miles via 95N)

a shallow harbor filled with boats

Just over a half-hour up 95 from Portsmouth is the little seaside town of Kennebunkport! Known for beaches and the Bush’s (the former President’s summer home, not shrubbery!), this cute little coastal gem is quaint and picturesque, yet still has plenty of things to do. With some of the best beaches in Maine located in Kennebunkport, you’ll definitely want to see for yourself what all the fuss is about; even if it’s too cold to splash around in, you’ll love those spectacular sea views! Downtown Kennebunkport also delivers when it comes to aesthetics; boutique shopping and art galleries are in no short supply in this delightful downtown area.

Seafood rules the roost in this seaside spot and The Clam Shack was recognized as having “America’s Best Lobster Rolls” by Food & Wine Magazine; how’s that for a solid recommendation? Kennebunkport will also be where you set up camp for the night, and while there are plenty of great places to stay, many require 2-night reservations; The Lodge at Turbat’s Creek is an exception and a lovely option!

You can also set up actual camp for the night and go glamping at Sandy Pines Campground. We aren’t talking about you wrestling to set up a tent (although, we guess you still could if you want?) because Sandy Pines has some super neat options for cottages and beautifully structured Glamp Tents that offer a little more comfort-wise than a standard tent staked on the dirt does! Wherever you stay, get some good rest for Day 2 of your Boston to Maine road trip adventure.

PS: You could also consider stops at these Maine coastal towns: Ogunquit, York, or Old Orchard Beach.

Day 2, part 1: Kennebunkport, ME to Portland, ME (28.5 miles via 95N)

iconic new england maine lighthouse at sunset in back of rocky coast

You’ll only be on the road for about half an hour before arriving in Maine’s largest city, and as many will argue, it’s coolest! With an eclectic vibe of trendy chic hipster meets historical sophistication, Portland has tooooons of cool stuff to see and do; check out this ready-made weekend in Portland itinerary for ideas for your next visit!

Hope you brought your appetite because Portland is an up-and-coming foodie destination and you have fabulous food options galore. You’re not likely to hit a dud by choosing any popular Portland restaurant, but a sure bet is Becky’s Diner on Hobson’s Wharf. Featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” Becky’s offers authentic downhome cooking in a laid-back waterfront location; if you make Becky’s your breakfast spot, consider getting the Lobster Benedict… yum!

After breaking your fast, walk the cobblestone streets of Old Port, wandering in and out of the unique shops, like Chart Metalworks, where you can find one-of-a-kind handcrafted jewelry and accessories that can serve as a sweet memento of your Portland visit. Next, consider checking out one of the several lighthouses that are in Greater Portland; Located next to Fort Williams Park, Portland Head Light is just about 10 minutes or so from Old Port and offers those quintessential New England lighthouse views. Visit the museum and gift shop, meander around the beach and gardens, and take about a bazillion photos of one of Maine’s most beloved lighthouses before hopping back in the car for part 2 of your 2nd day on the road.

Day 2, part 2: Portland, ME to Rockland, Me (78.5 miles via 295N)

red short lighthouse at the end of a long rocky breakwater

K, so we aren’t saying that it’s absolutely necessary to stop halfway along the road to Rockland in the tiny little town of Wiscasset just so you can sample a lobster roll from one of the best lobster shacks in the entire region, but we are saying that you will literally be driving right past Red’s Eats about 50 minutes or so after leaving Portland, so do what you will with that information!

Just 45 minutes past Wiscasset is Rockland, one of the cutest small towns in Maine. This classic coastal town has an artsy vibe to it, and we wholeheartedly recommend checking out why that is! There’s the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Farnsworth Art Museum, and The Muir Garden for Contemporary Sculpture at Harbor Square Gallery to choose from. Once you’ve checked out some of Rockland’s best art collections, head on over to the lovely Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse to ooh and ahh over that, too because the views both of and out of the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse are positively perfect.

Your next leg of the trip will be the final stretch to Acadia and you’re looking at almost 2 hours in the car before pulling into the park, so consider a quick fuel-up at quirky Café Miranda before you leave Rockland! With a fabulous menu, there’s lots to choose from—especially those delicious desserts! Maybe have a little Blueberry Crisp or Focaccia Bread Pudding before you hit the road?

READ NEXT  8 Great Things to Do in Rockland Maine

Day 2, part 3: Rockland, ME to Acadia National Park (80 miles via US-1N)

small white lighthouse perched on a high rocky cliff at sunset with pine trees behind it

After your final 2-hour trek along the coast winding around and over the bays, rivers, and narrows that separate you from Mount Desert Island, finally, you will arrive at beautiful Acadia National Park! You have got a whole lot of options when it comes to where to stay in Acadia, including some neat little Airbnbs and cabins. Camping is also always a fun option! Pick your perfect landing spot so you can rest up from your road trip and get out and explore all the amazing things to do in Bar Harbor and Acadia.

As for what to do on your Acadia adventure, feel free to follow our ready-made 3-day itinerary for Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor if you’d like to skip the planning part! If it’s outdoor adventure you’re looking for, there’s plenty of that, with gorgeous hiking trails, scenic vistas, and fabulous natural attractions galore, like Thunder Hole, the rocky inlet where you can watch (and listen!) as saltwater rushes into the narrow space with a loud BOOM, often spraying onlookers that have come to witness the sight.

There’s plenty of opportunity for lounging around, too, with beaches to set up camp on, some of the best whale watching in the state, and even one of New England’s top wineries located right there in Bar Harbor. Whatever you’re in the mood for, you’re likely to find on your Acadia National Park getaway!

The Return Trip

On the way home you can either backtrack along the coast and visit all the spots you wished you had more time to spend in, or you can switch it up by staying on 95 and driving through towns like Bangor, Augusta, and Freeport (don’t forget to get a picture with the boot!) If you choose to do a “straight shot” on 95 with no stops, the drive takes less than 5 hours total.

Whatever roads you choose to take, you’re sure to collect great memories of your road trip. Enjoy your Boston to Acadia getaway!


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