National Park Guide

How to Plan an Acadia National Park Stargazing Trip in 2024

The wind whips up over the mountaintop. It’s the kind of night where you can’t help but shiver – except there are so many stars overhead that it’s distractingly beautiful. This is what it’s like stargazing in Acadia National Park.

I had the good fortune to spend a few nights on an Acadia National Park stargazing trip back in 2019, and have been eager to get back since. Maine is fast becoming one of the top states in New England for stargazing – and in the country as a whole. This makes for an exciting prospect: you can go stargazing in Acadia, then visit other dark sky parks across the Pine Tree State too.

Stargazing in Acadia National Park Hero
Photo credit: Eric Kilby

Acadia National Park is one of the best spots for stargazing in New England, one of the biggest dark sky locations in the Eastern Seaboard, and one of the best national parks for stargazing in the country. Read on to get all the information you need to plan your own stargazing trip in Acadia National Park.

In this post, I promote traveling to a national park that is the traditional lands of the Passamaquoddy, Wabanaki (Dawnland Confederacy), N’dakina (Abenaki / Abénaquis), and Penobscot peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

This post was originally published in June 2019, and was updated most recently in January 2024.
Special Thanks to R’lyeh Imaging for sharing so many Acadia night sky photos on Flickr.

How to Get to Acadia National Park

Stargazing in Acadia National Park - Mr Seb
Photo credit: Mr Seb via Flickr

If you’re flying to Maine to visit Acadia National Park, you’ll probably end up flying to either Portland or possibly Bangor. In general, flights to and especially within Maine are pretty expensive, so it might be cheaper to fly to Portland and drive from Portland to Bar Harbor (the biggest town near the park).

It’s a three-hour drive between Portland and Bar Harbor on the fastest route (I-295 and I-95); if you want to take the coastal route (US-1), this can stretch up to five hours depending on how often you stop and traffic.

The majority of Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island, as are the towns of Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor. Parts of Acadia National Park are also located on nearby islands and the Schoodic Peninsula – so to visit those parts will obviously add on additional travel time.

When I visited Acadia in May 2019, I flew into Portland and drove to Bar Harbor. It took me about 3.5 hours to get there, and 4.5 hours to get back on the coastal route.

Where to Go Stargazing in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is known for its great night skies. Here are the top stargazing spots in Acadia:

Cadillac Mountain

Acadia Stargazing - R'lyeh Imaging
Photo credit: R’lyeh Imaging via Flickr

If you ask locals, everyone says that Cadillac Mountain is the place for stargazing in Acadia. This mountain is topped by a parking area that looks out over the entire surrounding region. That makes it an ideal spot for stargazing, though you will see a bit of light pollution from nearby Bar Harbor.

During the summer months, you can drive to the top of Cadillac until midnight and enjoy the night sky above you.

For one added (but easily solved) complication, if you want to visit Cadillac Mountain during the day or to watch sunrise between late May and late October, you do need a vehicle registration, which is available on You don’t technically need one for stargazing, but if you’re already planning to visit this part of the park, you can just have your reservation ready.

Jordan Pond House

Jordan Pond House is one of the main visitor spots in Acadia National Park – but it’s also a great stargazing spot! At night you can park at Jordan Pond House and walk out to the shores of Jordan Pond to see the stars and their reflections.

Sand Beach

Acadia Stargazing - R'lyeh Imaging
Photo credit: R’lyeh Imaging via Flickr

Sand Beach isn’t quite a secret stargazing spot – but it’s far less popular than other spots. You can park at the lot near Sand Beach, and walk out onto this unique sandy strip of land. The reason this is a great stargazing spot is that it’s protected from light pollution in Bar Harbor, and looks out toward the southern part of the night sky.

Seawall Picnic Area

Acadia Stargazing - R'lyeh Imaging
Photo credit: R’lyeh Imaging via Flickr

Located near Seawall Campground, Seawall Picnic Area is another great spot with views of the southern part of the night sky. You can park in this day use area once the sun goes down and admire the stars overhead.

Seawall Picnic Area is a great stargazing spot if you’re staying in the campground or in Southwest Harbor.

Schoodic Peninsula

If you’re willing to travel further, Schoodic Peninsula is the most remote spot for stargazing in Acadia National Park. The best way to go stargazing here is to camp at the Schoodic Woods Campground.

Where to Stay Near Acadia National Park

You have plenty of options for where to stay each night after stargazing in Acadia. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Hotels near Acadia

There are a number of hotel options in Bar Harbor, including many of the major hotel chains which operate small properties here on a seasonal basis.

During my trip, I stayed at the Bar Harbor Inn, which is located right on the waterfront in Bar Harbor. If you’re looking to experience this coastal Maine town along with Acadia National Park, the Bar Harbor Inn is a great option. You can also enjoy all the town has to offer (and depending on your class of room, warm up from stargazing with a toasty fire in your in-room fireplace!).

Camping in Acadia National Park

There are a couple of campgrounds in the main part of Acadia National Park, as well as one on the Schoodic Peninsula (Schoodic Woods Campground) and one on Isle au Haut (Duck Harbor Campground).

The main campgrounds are:

  • Blackwoods Campground – Located 5 miles south of Bar Harbor on Route 3, Blackwoods is slightly inland on Mount Desert Island. This campground is open year-round.
  • Seawall Campground – Located 4 miles south of Southwest Harbor on Route 102A, Seawall looks out over the Atlantic Ocean. This campground is open from late May through mid-October.

The National Park Service strongly recommends making camping reservations in advance as there are rarely spots available on any given day. You can make Acadia campground reservations at

What to See & Do During the Day in Acadia

Acadia National Park - Craig Stanfill
Photo credit: Craig Stanfill via Flickr

As you plan your trip to Acadia, there’s more than just stargazing to keep in mind. Here are some additional resources to help you plan your whole trip.

What to See in Acadia National Park

Like all national parks, Acadia is home to a bevy of natural wonders. The best way to see them is by driving the Park Loop Road which makes it easy to stop and park at each one. Some of the top sights in Acadia National Park include:

  • Park Loop Road – The 27-mile Park Loop Road is a must-drive. This route takes you past almost all of the other main sights in Acadia.
  • Sand Beach – This unusual sand beach is a fascinating geologic feature. While you won’t be sunbathing on this beach, it’s a picture perfect spot.
  • Cadillac Mountain – In addition to being a great stargazing spot, Cadillac Mountain is also great during the day. There are trails of varying difficulty and some great views of the entire region. (Don’t forget, you need a vehicle reservation to drive Cadillac Mountain Road in the summer months!)
Acadia National Park - Jon Bush
Photo credit: Jon Bush via Flickr
  • Thunder Hole – A submerged sea cave formed by wave action, Thunder Hole makes a great racket during the hours leading into high tide. If you can time it right, this site makes quite a splash (literally!).
  • Jordan Pond & The Bubbles – Jordan Pond is an inland body of water with beautiful views of surrounding mountains, especially The Bubbles. These two unusual hills were formed by glacial erosion.
  • Bass Island Lighthouse – Located on the southernmost point of Mount Desert Island, Bass Island Lighthouse is an additional drive beyond the Park Loop Road, but it’s the most picturesque view in the park.

These are just the greatest hits of Acadia National Park… but if you build an itinerary to see these, you’ll have a great time.

What to Do in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park - jeff.thompson7
Photo credit: jeff.thompson7 via Flickr

In between nightly stargazing sessions, there’s plenty to do during the day in Acadia. Here’s a quick rundown of the best things to do in Acadia National Park:

  • Hiking – Acadia National Park is full of great hikes for all skill levels. These include The Precipice, Jordan Cliffs, or Valley Cove Trails for more advanced hikers, or Wonderland Trail, Great Meadow Trail, or Jordan Pond Path for less strenuous options. The NPS always notes which trails are open on the main Acadia webpage.
  • Cycling – If you love to explore on two wheels, the roads of Acadia National Park are perfect. You can do a good 27-mile loop of the Park Loop Road.
  • Sailing/Boating – It’s possible to go kayaking in several of the lakes and ponds in Acadia National Park. There are also great coastal kayak routes and guides if you want to go kayaking with more expertise.
  • Wildlife Watching – Acadia and the surrounding waterways are home to amazing animals you probably don’t have in your own area. Some popular activities include birdwatching, tide pooling, and wildlife watching off the coast. You might spot otters, seabirds, or even whales!
Acadia National Park - Tim Lumley
Photo credit: Tim Lumley via Flickr
  • Rock Climbing – There are a handful of good climbing areas in Acadia; the NPS has a page about the best climbing routes in Acadia. (You need a permit for this, too!)
  • Horseback Riding – There are 45 miles of carriage roads in Acadia that are perfect for horseback riding!
  • Ranger Programs – As opposed to unprotected wilderness where there are no educational programs or stewards to teach you about the land, Acadia has loads of Ranger Programs on topics like birds, coastlines, and human history in the park. Most of these are great for kids too.

These activities will give you plenty of things to do during the day in Acadia!

Other FAQ About Stargazing in Acadia National Park

Acadia Stargazing - R'lyeh Imaging
Photo credit: R’lyeh Imaging via Flickr

When is the best time to go stargazing in Acadia?

Acadia National Park has four distinct seasons, and the winters are long and cold here. If you choose to visit in the winter, you will encounter snow and cloudy skies.

The best time of year to visit Acadia National Park is the summer, between mid-May and mid-September. The weather is warmest in July and August and the skies are clearest in September and October. However, you can take advantage of the shoulder season (mid-April to mid-May and mid-September to early October) to get better rates on hotels and fewer crowds in the park.

The skies are clearest between June and October, so the best months for stargazing in Acadia are June and September.

Can you see the Milky Way while stargazing in Acadia? When?

Acadia Stargazing - R'lyeh Imaging
Photo credit: R’lyeh Imaging via Flickr

Yes, it is possible to see the Milky Way while stargazing in Acadia National Park. The best way to make this happen is to visit during the right time of year. The Milky Way is best visible in the summer months, especially July and August when it rises early in the evening and says visible most of the night.

Keeping in mind that the best weather in Acadia is typically between May and September, this will help you plan a trip if you want to see the Milky Way.

Can you see the northern lights in Acadia?

Northern Lights in Acadia

In the winter months, it is possible to see the northern lights in Acadia! You’ll need to visit in the coldest, snowy months like December and January.

Be sure to check an aurora forecast tool or a site like this NOAA page to see what the northern lights prospects are – and bundle up! It’s frigid during Maine winters.

Is Acadia National Park open at night?

The Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park is open at night, which means you can drive into and around the park at night. You’ll be able to visit Sand Beach and Jordan Pond House at night. It is also possible to drive up Cadillac Mountain at night, though the final spur to the top of the mountain may be closed at certain parts of the year. The Acadia NPS site will always have the most up-to-date info on road closures.

Are there guided night tours in Acadia?

The National Park Service has strict requirements and rules about tours in any park (even during the daytime), so there are currently no stargazing tours in Acadia National Park.

If you want a guided nighttime experience, consider booking a bioluminescence night kayak tour with Castine Kayak or Acadia Park Kayak. These companies will take you out in a kayak after dark to see the bioluminescent plankton and the night sky too!

Is there a dark sky festival in Acadia?

Acadia Stargazing - R'lyeh Imaging
Photo credit: R’lyeh Imaging via Flickr

Most likely, yes. After some understandable disruptions, the Acadia Night Sky Festival was last held September 21-25, 2022; there wasn’t an event in 2023, but there might be one in 2024. You can check when dates have been announced, learn more about the activities planned, how to book your trip, and what you’ll see in the night sky on the Acadia Night Sky Festival website.

Have other questions about stargazing in Acadia National Park? Let me know in the comments!

Share this to help others enjoy the night sky!

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Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She grew up in Alaska, has lived across the U.S., and traveled around the world to enjoy the night sky from many different perspectives. Join her on this journey to explore space right here on earth.


  • Diane Turnshek

    Great article, Valerie — thanks!
    I heard recently that Bar Harbor had established once a month dark sky nights where people turn off lights in town so as not to scatter light upwards into the sky. This makes the celestial wonders really POP! Do you have any infomation about that? I’d love to plan a trip for a time that would include one of those nights.


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      Valerie Stimac

      I haven’t heard of that, but it sounds cool! I’ll have to research it and add it if I can find out more info…

  • Rowanne Gallo

    Thanks for the article! Can’t make it to Arcadia night sky festival in September 2023, but planning on mid October for Milky Way….. New moon phase and hopeful clear skies— is it too faint to view by then with no galaxy core above the horizon?
    Thank you

  • Bonnie Gordon

    Hi Valerie, we are traveling to Acadia this week and I was wondering if we should stay up until the moon sets to see the night sky even better? If so, It looks like it sets around midnight, so we need to wait until we’ll AFTER midnight for the sky to really start popping with stars ? Also, will the Milky Way be visible ?

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      Valerie Stimac

      Yeah, I recommend waiting until moonset if you want to see the stars – the moon is very bright when it’s full and makes it difficult to enjoy the night sky in all its wonder.

  • Bernita McClure

    Why won’t there b an Acadia Night Sky Festival this year? Sad about this. Isn’t tourism important?
    I live in NC but my mom and 2 bros were born in Maine. Bar harbor is like my very happy place! I come to bar harbor every year for the festive.

  • Stacey

    Can you stargaze in November? If so, can you drive up on Cadillac Mountain during November. Do you need to make reservations to do so? Unfortunately, the summer and Sept and Oct have been too busy to visit. However, I’m turning 60 in Dec and I want to forgo a party so we can enjoy the stars!

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      Valerie Stimac

      Hi, Stacey! I’m not sure if Cadillac Mountain will be open in November – you should definitely double-check the National Park Service site since they keep road conditions updated there!

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