If you’re going to Acadia National Park, you’re already going to see a lot of amazing scenery.
But that doesn’t mean you should speed up I-95 to the park’s entrance.
When you set off from Boston to Acadia, you’ll do most of your driving through Maine, a state of sprawling wilderness and untouched beauty.
There is plenty to see on your way between the two. And that’s true whether you stick to the coast or head a bit inland.
Boston to Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor Coastal Drive
For our coastal Boston to Acadia National Park (or Bar Harbor) drive, we’re assuming you’ll spend as many days as you’d like in Boston and as many days as you’d like in Acadia National Park or Bar Harbor once you get there.
This itinerary is for the driving portion only.
While you could easily spread the 4 ½ to 5 ½-hour drive between Boston and Bar Harbor/Acadia out over several days to truly absorb the unique beauty of Maine’s Central Coast, we recommend taking at least two days to make the trip.
Day 1- Boston to Portland
Segment 1: Boston to Salem
The Drive: Drive North on MA-1A to MA-107 North into Salem.
Salem, Massachusetts is a tourist trap. And a bit of a mockery of itself.
The town wanted nothing to do with its violent, puritanical, witch-hanging past until the 1970s when the TV show Bewitched made officials realize they could cash in.
Now, it’s more kitschy than creepy, more fabled than historic.
But it’s still worth a pop-in for the history and the well-preserved town itself.
And it does have the House of the Seven Gables, on which Nathaniel Hawthorne based his novel of the same name.
Suggested Places to See Around Salem
- The Witch House (The Jonathan Corwin House)
- The House of the Seven Gables
Segment 2: Salem to Kennebunkport
The Drive: Drive West on MA-114 to I-95 North (we don’t recommend the roads by the sea… yet).
A former ship-building town that became a resort destination, Kennebunkport, Maine is as place of well-preserved old buildings, sailboats, and one of the quaintest Main Streets you’ll ever see.
Many visitors opt for an overnight in Kennebunkport, but you really don’t need it. You can see much of what’s worth seeing in just a few hours.
The drive along Ocean Avenue is a must-do for road trippers.
And, if your love of vehicles extends to public transit, you’ll want to schedule in a stop at the Seashore Trolley Museum. The oldest and largest public transit museum in the world, they have some truly one-of-a-kind vehicles.
If you make it to Kennebunkport in time for lunch, try The Clam Shack, a pop-up in the parking lot of a fresh seafood market.
Suggested Places to See Around Kennebunkport
- Ocean Avenue Drive
- St. Ann’s Church
- Seashore Trolley Museum
Segment 3: Kennebunkport to Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth
The Drive: Drive North on North Street/Log Cabin Road (right past the Seashore Trolley Museum) to US-1 North to ME-207 South into Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth.
Just South of Portland, Cape Elizabeth is home to Fort Williams Park and the Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse in Maine and the most photographed lighthouse in the United States.
When you visit, you’ll understand why. The positioning of the Head Light and its keeper’s quarters (now a museum) on a rocky outcropping that juts into the sea makes for some truly dramatic scenery.
Plus, there are a lot of cool old things in the park, like the remains of bunkers and what’s left of a 19th-century mansion.
Suggested Places to See at Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth
- Portland Head Light
- Goddard Mansion remains
- Dramatic ocean scenery
Segment 4: Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth to Portland
The Drive: Drive North on ME-77 into Portland.
Drive Time: 15 minutes (+traffic)
The last leg of your Day One drive will roll you into Portland, Maine.
The most populous city in the state, Portland is still home to less than 70,000 people, so it has more of a small-town charm than big city vibe.
Downtown Portland is dominated by the Old Port, which features 19-century brick buildings and cobblestone streets. It’s also where you’ll find most of Portland’s nightlife.
Eat some seafood, grab a drink at a local brewery, and spend some time exploring Portland’s walkable downtown on foot.
Any attractions you might want to see in Portland will be open or have better visibility in the morning. If there are several things you’d like to see in Portland, you might need an extra night.
Suggested Places to See in Portland
- Portland Observatory
- Eastern Promenade Trail
- Portland Museum of Art
- Old Port art galleries
Day 2 – Portland to Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor (Coastal Route)
The drive from Portland to Acadia National Park (or Bar Harbor) takes you through a portion of Maine known as the MidCoast. This section of coastline is known for its rugged, striking beauty and its charming seaside towns.
While there are plenty of places you can stop and get great seafood along this route (at least during the summer road trip season), we highly recommend stocking up on snacks and lunch before heading out of Portland.
You do not want to miss the final attraction on the way because you lingered too long over lunch.
Segment 1: Portland to Yarmouth, Maine
The Drive: Drive North on I-295 into Yarmouth.
Drive Time: 15 minutes (+traffic)
When you leave Portland, you won’t be in the car long before you hit your first stops.
Just off the interstate and inside the headquarters of GPS and wearables company, Garmin, is an attraction you won’t see the likes of anywhere else in the world. At least, not on this scale.
The Eartha Globe is the world’s largest revolving globe and is open to the public during Garmin’s regular business hours, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s located in a lobby that’s all windows, though. So, even if you pass through on a weekend, you can still stare through the glass.
True car enthusiasts may also want to check out The Bickford Collection Truck Museum in Yarmouth. This open-air pavilion houses a collection of antique trucks and is open for the season from June-October.
Segment 2: Yarmouth to Freeport
The Drive: Drive North on I-295 into Freeport.
If road trips are made of the weird, one-of-a-kind attractions you see along the route, this one should put your Boston to Acadia road trip in the books.
L.L. Bean was founded, and its flagship store is located, in the Maine town of Freeport, and outside of that store stands a 16-foot rubber-bottomed boot statue.
The stop won’t take more than a few minutes (unless you’ve got some shopping to do), but the memory will amuse you for years to come.
Segment 3: Freeport to Boothbay
The Drive: Drive North on US-1 to ME-27 South into Boothbay.
Drive Time: < 1 hour
Once you leave Freeport, it’s time to head for the coast.
Boothbay Railway Village is a mandatory stop for enthusiasts of cars from the early 1900s. The collection at the Boothbay museum includes more than 60 vintage vehicles from 1902 to 1962.
In this recreated village, you can take a ride in an antique train car pulled by a steam engine and, on occasion, even in one of the museum’s restored Model Ts.
But whether you can ride in one or not, the car collection is amazing.
Segment 4: Boothbay to Rockland Harbor Breakwater Lighthouse
The Drive: Drive North on ME-27 to US-1 North to Rockland Harbor Breakwater Lighthouse.
Drive Time: <1 hour
Maine’s Rockland Harbor is guarded and illuminated by a very special lighthouse. The Rockland Harbor Breakwater Lighthouse sits at the end of a stone breakwater (or sea wall) that reaches nearly a mile out to sea.
And you can walk the length of that breakwater, weather permitting, from sunrise to sunset.
The lighthouse itself has no set hours. It’s dependent on volunteers to lead tours and may or may not be open on any given day. Check the Facebook page for upcoming dates times.
If the lighthouse is open while you’re there, lucky you. Visitors are allowed to climb up into the lantern and have a look around.
Segment 5: Rockland Harbor Breakwater Lighthouse to Camden
The Drive: Drive North on US-1 into Camden.
Drive Time: 20 minutes
Camden, Maine is a picturesque seaside town with an unusual claim to fame – a waterfall that runs right below its charming Main Street to flow into Camden Harbor.
Camden’s Megunticook Falls is a largely man-made feature, produced by a series of dams situated further up the Megunticook River. And it makes for some striking scenery where it flows over the rocky coastline.
This is a great place to stop for dinner. There are plenty of food options and fresh seafood right around the falls.
And you should see the Camden waterfall before it’s too late. The dams that create it are having a negative impact on the ecosystem in Camden and removing them may be the only way to protect the environment.
Segment 6: Rockland to Camden to Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor
The Drive: Drive North on US-1 to ME-3 East to ME-198 South to Acadia National Park.
Drive North on US-1 to ME-3 East to Bar Harbor.
Drive Time: < 2 hours
When you stop in Camden, Maine, you’re less than two hours from Acadia National Park or Bar Harbor.
With 8 p.m. sunsets from late-May through late-July, you may even be back on the road in time to enjoy the frequent glimpses of the sea as you continue up US-1 along Penobscot Bay.
If you need a little more auto infusion while you’re on Mt Desert Island (where both Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor are situated), check out Seal Cove Auto Museum.
This collection of early-20th Century vehicles is just across the island in Seal Cove and is open to the public from May through October.
Alternative Day 2 – Portland to Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor (City Route)
A visit to Acadia National Park or Bar Harbor is already going to give you a breathtaking overview of Maine’s rugged coastal scenery.
While Acadia and Bar Harbor don’t have everything you’ll encounter at your coastal stops along the way, they do offer quite a bit of it, from antique cars to seafood.
So, if you prefer a little variation in your road tripping, you might prefer to stick to the interstate and roll through Maine’s major cities instead.
Segments 1 & 2: Portland to Freeport
For our alternative Boston to Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor road trip, start with the same first two stops of the day – the Yarmouth globe and the Freeport boot. Then –
Segment 3: Freeport to Augusta
The Drive: Drive North on I-295 to I-95 into Augusta.
Drive Time: 45 minutes
Augusta is the state capital of Maine. As far as cities go, though, it’s a little bitty thing.
There’s not much to see there, but a few things might be of interest.
Capitol Park, right across the street from the Maine State House, offers striking views of both the capitol building and the Kennebec River from above. And the park’s Vietnam Memorial is well worth a look.
Augusta is also home to Fort Western. Built in 1754 during the French & Indian War, Fort Western is the United States’ oldest surviving wooden fort.
You could grab your lunch here and eat along the Kennebec River. Or, if you get in a bit early, grab a coffee at a local shop or regional favorite Dunkin’ Donuts and continue on to Bangor.
Suggested Places to See in Augusta, Maine
- Capitol Park
- Capitol Park Vietnam Memorial
- Fort Western
Segment 4: Augusta to Bangor
The Drive: Drive North on I-95 into Bangor.
Drive Time: Approx. 1 ½ hours
Bangor, Maine is a larger city than Augusta. Nearly twice as large, in fact. And it gives Bangor an advantage when it comes to its local dining scene. (There are more chain restaurants too.)
The city is also home to an attraction that is sure to enthuse fans of the horror genre – author Stephen King’s house, which is in the process of being converted into a writers’ retreat and museum.
There’s also a 31-foot statue of Paul Bunyan in Bangor, because, really, a single giant boot simply isn’t enough quirky statues in one road trip day.
And, don’t worry car fans, the Cole Land Transportation Museum has got you covered, with its collection of cars, trucks, and military memorabilia.
Suggested Places to See in Bangor, Maine
- Stephen King’s house
- Paul Bunyan Statue
- Cole Land Transportation Museum
Segment 5: Bangor to Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor
The Drive: Drive East on US-1A to ME-3 East to ME-198 South to Acadia National Park.
Drive East on US-1A to ME-3 East to Bar Harbor.
Drive Time: Approx. 1 hour
When you leave Bangor, you’re almost at your destination. Just an hour’s drive will get you to almost any location on Maine’s Mt. Desert Island.