When we decided to have a baby, we also decided that we would not stop doing the things we love. For us that includes traveling and hiking. We knew that traveling and hiking with a baby would be a little different, and we’ve quickly learned to embrace life and travel at a slower pace. (Literally- when you are carrying a 13lb baby on your chest, you’re forced to slow down a bit!)
So, our first time traveling with a baby was an Acadia National Park family vacation. We chose to visit Acadia National Park with a baby because it is one of the smallest national parks and because a number of small towns are connected to the park, which allowed us to relax after our hikes each day.
While some people thought we were a little crazy to be camping with an infant, with a little preparation and a lot of baby camping gear, we were able to enjoy 5 nights of tent camping with a baby and 5 days of good food and hiking.
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How to Get to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor
Since we live in the northeast, we piled into the car and drove to Acadia NP. However, for those who are flying to Acadia National Park, Portland International is where you’d fly into and Portland, Maine to Bar Harbor is about 3 ½ hours. The island has its own tiny airport with daily connections to Boston.
Don’t stress about flying with a baby, we have all the travel tips for flying with a baby!
A trip to Acadia National Park is best done with a car – there are just so many great places to pull over and lots of other small towns to visit nearby, so I would recommend renting a car for visiting Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.
Getting Around Acadia NP and Bar Harbor with a Baby or Toddler
Once you are settled in the town and traveling within Acadia NP, there is a free Island Explorer Shuttle Bus, so you can set the car aside for part of a day or a couple days if you need a break from driving. Plus, Acadia National Park parking can be tough to find at popular spots during the high season, so the bus takes that stress away. All buses come equipped with bike racks, too.
While in Bar Harbor, parking requires payment. You can download ParkMobile or use your credit card.
Acadia National Park with Stroller or Baby Carrier?
We recommend a baby carrier for visiting Acadia National Park with toddlers or babies, this includes outings in town and most hikes in this area. We tried to use our stroller once and it was too hard to navigate the crowded sidewalks in town.
A rain cover for the carrier is a must in the summer, as wind and rain are common on the coast of Maine.
One exception where you could use a stroller in Acadia National Park would be on Acadia’s carriage roads, which are wide and can accommodate bicycles, horses, and pedestrians.
Strollers are permitted on the Island Explorer buses, but strollers need to be collapsed and out of the way of other passengers.
Looking for a lightweight travel stroller or the best baby carriers for travel? We have a full comparison of the best lightweight strollers for travel!
Where to Stay in Acadia National Park with a Baby or Toddler
You can make Acadia National Park camping reservations up to 6 months in advance. Keep in mind that every campground will be fully booked in the summer. As far as Acadia National Park campgrounds go, you can’t go wrong with Blackwoods campground.
We love this campground because:
- It’s affordable, at $30-$60 a night for a site (tent or RV), you have a picnic table, fire ring, and access to clean restrooms with flushing toilets and running water.
- It’s only a 15 minute drive to downtown Bar Harbor, so if you don’t want to cook every night while camping, or you have a need for good coffee, you can find a good restaurant in Bar Harbor.
- You can sit by the ocean to watch the sunset near Otter Cover, or hike up Cadillac mountain from Blackwoods without getting in your car.
- There are kids everywhere. I like to think of campsites as being back in America in the 1950s. Kids can ride their bikes down the dirt roads and walk around freely.
If you are new to Airbnb, it’s easy to sign up with our link and get a discount off your first stay.
Acadia National Park Tent Camping Tips for Blackwoods Campground
NPS lets you pick your site, so look at the map online and choose one across from a bathroom and water spigot. This helped us immensely throughout our stay.
There are no showers at the campsite, but there is a facility less than a mile down the road with showers, firewood, and ice for sale. You get 4 minutes of warm water for 8 quarters.
Acadia National Park Itinerary & Things to do with a Baby or Toddler
There’s a reason this is called Sand Beach, because it’s the only place that the shoreline is not covered in rocks. This is the perfect place for kids to play and run around, but if you’re from the mid-Atlantic states or the south, be prepared for a shock when you jump in the water. It’s often around 55 degrees and is not comfortable or safe for long periods of time, even in August.
There are lifeguards on duty here.
Travel Tip: The only way to access Sand Beach is via stairs, so I would use a carrier for baby and leave the stroller. (Unless you are planning to stay for a while and want your little one to nap in the stroller; then it’s worth lugging it down the steps.)
The CoziGo stroller cover is the best way to get your baby or toddler to nap in the stroller! It blocks 97% of light and is 100% breathable!
Echo Lake Beach
This beach is a bit of a drive from Bar Harbor, but the water is warmer and children will be able to stay in a bit longer. It also features a roped off swim area with a lifeguard.
There are bathrooms and changing areas for the little ones.
Jordan Pond House
The Jordan Pond House falls into many categories.
- It’s the only restaurant in the park; their popovers are famous and they have been using the same recipe since 1890. The restaurant takes reservations and also takes walk-ups.
- There’s a gift shop with a great selection of t-shirts and other items.
- It has clean bathrooms and has the greatest number of parking spots in Acadia NP.
- Many Acadia National Park trails connect to this spot, so it is the perfect homebase for at least half a day’s visit.
Agamont Park, Bar Harbor
This park has an amazing view of Frenchman’s Bay and is in the heart of the town. If you want to have a cheap meal with a view, then pack a picnic and stop by here. Or, go to a nearby pizza or sandwich shop and pick up lunch/dinner and eat outside.
Travel Tip: The only public bathrooms in town are right next to the park and there are a few parking lots nearby.
Acadia National Park Hiking
The great outdoors is why everyone goes to Acadia, so this next section outlines some of the best hikes in Acadia for families.
Acadia National Park Hiking Trails that are Baby and Toddler Friendly
The following Acadia hikes are EASY and can be completed by nearly anyone. For all walks listed below, you must have an Acadia National Park pass. You can access all of these from Park Loop Road.
We purchased an Acadia National Park Guide book for planning our outings.
As the name suggests, this path meanders alongside the ocean. It’s a flat and narrow gravel path that sticks to the roadside for most of the distance. The Ocean Path connects Sand Beach to other points of interest, including Thunder Hole.
There are a lot of great places to pop off the trail, sit on the rocks and watch the waves come in. Some people will bring a book and stay there all day.
Park at Sand Beach or any other small lots on Park Loop Road (there are about 5 between Sand Beach and Otter Point).
Travel Tip: only Sand Beach and Thunder Hole have bathrooms.
This is a fun, touristy stop that is best seen at high tide. The waves coming roaring in and make a thunder clapping noise. Water-loving adventurers can walk down by the inlet and get soaked. This is not a place for kids or toddlers to run around or have freedom because they could easily slip and fall.
There are stairs down to the water’s edge, so use a baby or toddler carrier here.
Drive up to top of Cadillac Mountain and explore the small trails that circle the area. Many of these are paved. You can look down and see the town of Bar Harbor.
If you are ambitious, this is the perfect place to watch the sunrise, but the sun gets up early here in the summer!
Jordan Pond Loop
This is a lengthy walk, but it’s also easy to turn around if your little ones get tired. And bonus, if you hike early in the morning, you can end at the Jordan Pond House and have lunch as a reward.
When facing the mountains, on the left side of the lake, there is over a mile of boardwalk. This area is protected, so children cannot get down and play by the water. This is not great for all walkers, especially if it has rained recently and the wooden boardwalk will be slippery. However, it’s flat and fairly family friendly.
On the right side is a path that weaves through the woods and around the lake. If you are visiting Acadia with toddlers, this path is a little easier to walk through and you can always stop and take breaks on the rocks by the water. (No swimming allowed, though!)
Tip for Hiking in Acadia National Park: Once you are in the park, on Park Loop Road, it is hard to maintain cell service, so we always travel with a an Acadia National Park trail map and a book with trail descriptions.
Given that we were hiking with a baby, it was important to read reviews about the length of time needed to complete hikes and mileage. We knew that we only had windows of 90 minutes to 2 hours (when she would take her morning nap) to complete a hike.
Bar Harbor Baby and Toddler Friendly Hikes
For these walks, you do not need a park pass. Just put some money on the meter and go exploring.
Shore Path, Bar Harbor
There’s no park pass required for this short hike. Start near Agamont Park where there is a paved trail along the waterfront. It passes hotels and other small parks on the right, and Frenchman’s Bay is on your left for the entire walk.
When the tide is low, you can jump down and check out some tidal pools or play by the water in some areas. Don’t expect sand as there is not a lot of sand in this area.
At low tide, you can walk across a sand bar towards Bar Island. This “path” is usually covered by Frenchman’s Bay. Just be careful not to take too long because you can get stuck on the other side when the water comes back in! This is a fun place for a toddler to explore in the sand
Don’t miss all our Resources for Hiking with a Baby or Toddler. We cover everything from hiking tips to the best carriers for hiking.
Other Acadia National Park Activities
We did check in with Scenic Flights of Acadia, and they had no age minimum for babies. So, if we had had better weather (we had clouds and rain for 2 days straight), then we would have tried it out. Children under 2 sit on your lap and fly for free!
You can see more in this short video: Air tours of Mount Desert Island
Usually while in Acadia, we would go kayaking. But, with a baby that is not an option. (Especially because the water is so cold here, it’s not safe for adults to spend a lot of time fully submerged in the water in a bathing suit, so a baby is not touching the ocean or bays).
On previous visits we have used Coastal Kayaking Tours
For more help planning your trip, here is a 3 day itinerary for Acadia NP.
Places with Public Bathrooms and Changing Tables in Acadia NP
- Sand Beach – also includes dressing rooms and a foot wash faucet
- Agamont Park – parking lot and changing tables
- Jordan Pond House – parking lot and changing tables both in and outside of the restaurant
- Thunder Hole – parking lot with two toilets, but no changing tables
Feeding a Baby or Toddler in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park
- Hannaford’s (86 Cottage St, Bar Harbor, ME)
This is a traditional chain store that has everything you could need to feed your baby or toddler. It also has a large and free parking lot.
It’s often busy, so be prepared to be overwhelmed. But, this was the perfect place to stop and grab dinner for the night and jugs of water for the campsite.
- A&G Naturals Market (101 Cottage St, Bar Harbor, ME)
This is a small, organic grocery store right down the street from Hannaford’s (on Cottage) and has 3 parking spots out front. It is also near metered parking.
This store is pricier, but if organic food is a must, then this is the place for you. There is a good selection of meat, cheese, and snacks. They also carry baby and toddler food (brands of baby products they carry are Happy Baby, Peter Rabbit Organics, Earths Best, Baby’s Only, Seventh Generation, Eco by Naty, among others).
It also has a small coffee shop inside.
- Farmer’s Market
From May to October the Eden Farmers Market is held on Sundays from 9am-12pm in the parking lot of the YMCA on Park Street.
Playgrounds in Bar Harbor
- Also on Park Street is a playground with swings, a slide and see saw. There is also a baseball field, and soccer field.
Best Places to Eat in Bar Harbor
Atlantic Brewing Company (Midtown location)
52 Cottage St Bar Harbor, ME (207) 288-2326
When we were at the brewery we saw at least 5 children. Everyone had their babies in carriers and the booths are perfectly cozy for nursing moms to have a little privacy or for toddlers to sit.
240 Main St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609
This is on the edge of town, so it’s easier to park near here and bring baby in the car seat while you eat a bagel or breakfast sandwich and enjoy a cup of coffee. There is indoor and outdoor seating and they have fancy lattes with every kind of milk you can imagine and cold brews.
There are also outlets and free WiFi, so you can charge up your devices and download a movie during your visit.
49 Rodick St. Bar Harbor, ME 04609 (207) 801-2591
This place was incredibly loud at 6pm on a Wednesday night, but our little one can sleep through a lot. I imagine that lunch would be much quieter. And the food is pretty affordable.
We chose Side Street because of their reservation system. One click online and you can put yourself on the waitlist- this meant we were not standing outside for hours to get a table.
There are ice cream and candy shops all over Bar Harbor, but these two locations offer very fresh and unique flavors.
What to Bring when Hiking and Camping with a Baby
Baby Hiking Gear
- Baby Carrier with rain cover – this is essential for hiking on the narrow trails and rocky shores. Also, this is the best way to keep baby warm when it’s windy out by the water.
Baby Can Travel recommends the LILLEBaby The Complete Airflow 360 baby carrier and LILLEBaby rain cover.
- Moisture-wicking clothing – we purchased an infant outfit from Patagonia for hiking with an infant, but a wool base layer like this one from Ella’s Wool would be perfect (use code FamCanTravel for a discount).
You just don’t want to put baby in 100% cotton because it will be cold for your baby if you are sweating and it takes too long to dry. When they live in the carrier, there will be sweat!
- Backpack/ diaper bag – a backpack will be much easier to use while hiking with a baby and getting around town than a shoulder bag.
Baby and Infant Camping Gear
- Mattress pad for baby – It was important that while tent camping with a baby we had a mattress pad for our daughter so she had her own space in the tent, just like she would have her own space at home.
- Baby camping chair or bouncy chair – You want to be able to have your little one sit or lay down without touching the ground at the campsite, so a baby or infant camping chair of some sort is a must.
We used the Baby Bjorn Bouncy Seat for our baby camping chair. This seat comes at a high price point, but it is collapsible and folds flat, so it is easy to travel with.
Our little one sat in it while we set up our campsite AND while we were out to lunch at the Jordan Pond House. We take this chair with us in the car every time we visit friends and family and it’s one of our baby camping essentials.
See all our baby travel essentials for other suggestions on what to bring when traveling with a baby.
- Baby Delight Snuggle Nest – We recently switched to the Baby Delight Snuggle Nest, which is a portable infant sleeper bed, when traveling with our newborn – we use it when visiting friends and it worked well in the tent as an infant camping bed.
We gave baby girl her own mattress pad and then placed our baby camping bed on top of it. Our mattress pads were side by side, so she was only a few inches away from mom.
This made it easy to check her body temp to ensure we were keeping baby warm at night and grab her to nurse before she could cry and disturb any other campers.
- Manual Breast Pump – If you are a nursing mom, the Medela hand pump or the Haakaa Manual Breast Pump will come in handy for long trips in the car. It’s also perfect for camping with a newborn when you don’t have electricity. We purchased ice daily to keep any stored milk cool.
Final Travel Tips for Camping with a Baby in Acadia National Park
If you forgot an item of clothing or the weather takes a turn, Patagonia and North Face are both located on Cottage Street and they sell children’s clothing. There was a lot of gear for toddlers, but there was some infant clothing, too.
We also love Cadillac Mountain Sports for its great selection of adult clothing and gear. They have the best outdoor shoe collection.
Laundromat (6 Pleasant St, Bar Harbor, ME)
In case of blow out or soaking wet clothing and gear, there is a medium-sized laundromat right off Main Street. We visited on a rainy day. It was crowded inside, so we would recommend starting a load and then grabbing breakfast nearby.
This guest post was written by Christina of Niko Explores.
Justin and Christina of Niko Explores have been traveling and camping every summer for five years. They just welcomed their baby girl into the world in May and are hoping to introduce her to many National Parks in her lifetime, both in the US and abroad. Follow their adventures on their blog or on Instagram @nikoexplores.