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Camping in Acadia National Park – Top 7 Things To Do for Families

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Ryan’s birthday is in August and every year, for the past 4 years, he’s wanted to go to Acadia National Park in Maine. At this point, it’s become a tradition and we’re already planning our trip for next year. This trip was different than all the others. We had our daughter with us, who just turned one, and this was the longest trip she had ever taken – four and a half hours in the car.

Family Travel: Great Head Trail Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park & Mount Desert Island

Mount Desert Island is an island off the coast of Maine.

It’s a four to five hour plus drive from our home in Southern New Hampshire depending on traffic, how many stops you have to take, and which roads you take to get there. Mount Desert Island (MDI) is home to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, and many other towns you’ll drive through as you explore the island.

It’s a beautiful place to visit during the summer (and in our case end of summer) and there’s so much to explore, do, and eat no matter what town you stay in. If you love hiking, camping, and being outdoors, Mount Desert Island has something for you. Even if you just like to sit on the beach, enjoy some local seafood and wild blueberries, or look out over the ocean and appreciate the natural beauty of earth, you’ll find plenty of things to do.

You can drive the whole island in a short period of time and you’ll have a hard time seeing everything you want because there are so many hiking trails and coastal views that make it onto everyone’s bucket list. We’ve visited Acadia so many times and I haven’t seen it all! It’s one of those places you can keep going back to.

If you visit, you can see a lot in just a couple of days, but next time we go we’re going to stay for a week because traveling with a baby can really eat into prime hiking hours when your child would rather be napping. For detailed information from the National Parks Department you can visit their website for Acadia National Park here.

Mount Desert Island is perfect for families at any stage in life. You will find every kind of person when you visit Acadia and you will meet lots and lots of cute dogs. Bar Harbor and the entirety of Acadia National Park is super dog friendly so you don’t have to leave them at home if you want to visit. They are so welcomed even at restaurants with outdoor seating and there are a lot of them.

Map of Bar Harbor Maine
You can see the red dots around Bar Harbor, ME. It's quite far up the coast and it can get cold so always pack your shorts and your favorite sweat pants.

Booking our Trip

The Campsite: Bar Harbor/Oceanside KOA

Ryan had reserved a campsite at Blackwoods campground, but forgot that I need some modern luxuries now that we have a child. I’m still pumping and bottling milk for our daughter, so I need electricity to charge my pump, a sterile place to wash bottles and pump parts, and a comfy and temperature regulated space to put our daughter down for naps. I looked online and found one spot available at the Bar Harbor/Oceanside KOA in Bar Harbor, ME. I secured our booking 100% online and our KOA membership got us 10% off our booking. If you don’t know what a KOA is or have never stayed at one let me tell you!

KOA’s are all around the US and Canada. You can search for them on their website here or what I like to do is look at an entire map of the US/Canada and search by state. Their campgrounds are known for being clean and beautiful and they have rightfully earned that reputation. They have quite the real estate portfolio and some of the best places to camp so you are guaranteed a nice stay and a lot of amenities at any location (free WiFi, bathroom, shower, laundry, RV hook ups, dog parks, children’s playgrounds, food, bike rentals and more).

Another thing about the Bar Harbor Oceanside KOA – they will deliver things directly to your campsite. You can text the front desk and have them deliver fire wood to your campsite and even food from their kitchen. They also have activities on the grounds like tie-dying t-shirts, ice cream floats, live music, and more – they’ll text you when the events are happening during your stay only. I would normally be annoyed by that kind of stuff but it was actually very helpful. We would get a text around 6pm to remind us that they were doing last call for fire wood and it saved us once.

Photos from our campsite at Bar Harbor/Oceanside KOA

Renting an RV

Renting with Outdoorsy.com

The KOA in Bar Harbor has cottages, RV sites, and tent sites on their property. I wanted electricity and some of the modern comforts you can get when camping, but I didn’t want a cabin or an airbnb, so we decided we would rent a travel trailer or RV. We had been looking at travel trailers recently and still weren’t sure on which model we wanted so we decided we should rent a model we were interested in to test it out. I didn’t want a massive trailer, I wanted something small and easy to tow that could fit the three of us. The Forest River Wolf Pup 16BHS was the exact model I was after and I found someone renting theirs on Outdoorsy 20 minutes from our house.

Outdoorsy.com is like Airbnb but for renting campers. There are so many different types of campers to choose from all over the country. It’s worth a try! My husband and I are already planning our next camping weekend with Outdoorsy until we decide on a trailer we want to buy. You can save $50 on your first trip of $200 or more with Outdoorsy.com using our special code – just click this link.

This particular Wolf Pup listing said “fully stocked”, it looked clean, it was fairly new (2021) and was close to us so I booked it all online using Outdoorsy.com. I sent a message to the owner with our travel plans, shared our experience towing trailers, submitted my information, uploaded my driver’s license, put down the deposit, and got insurance for the RV all in less than 30 minutes. It was so easy to book, the hardest part was picking a trailer! Luckily, I knew I wanted to rent a Wolf Pup so narrowing down the options to just Wolf Pups made my job a little easier.

3 Things to Know Before You Book Your Rental Trailer

01

You need a trailer hitch receiver

We needed to install a trailer hitch receiver on our vehicle to tow a trailer. Your vehicle might already have one, but if it doesn’t, you will need to get one isntalled.

Maybe this goes without saying, but maybe it needs to be said. You will need a trailer hitch receiver on your vehicle in order to tow a trailer, but there’s more.

If you don’t have one, they are kind of expensive to add and require, at most, a days worth of labor for a moderately experienced mechanic to install on most vehicles – not including running the wiring harness and flashing your vehicles computer at the dealership. A dealership can do the entire job for you but you need to plan ahead to make sure you can get the parts installed well before your trip. Most shops were booked out for weeks when we called to quote the job AND the job was very expensive for my Jeep Grand Cherokee L (in the neighborhood of $1,200 – $1,800). Ryan is a mechanic and he managed to get it done in one day and we got our dealer to squeeze us in to flash the computer after the install.

So plan ahead if you need to get one installed before you rent a trailer. Once it’s on, you have it on forever and can tow whenever you want moving forward.

Installing a trailer hitch receiver on a 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

This is what it looks like when you need to run electrical wires from the bumper of your vehicle to the computers up near the front seats and you want to do it the correct way! We had to install a trailer hitch receiver and wiring harness on my Jeep Grand Cherokee L before the trip. I purchased my vehicle new with a “tow prep package” from Jeep that for some reason did not come with a trailer hitch receiver installed. So we purchased and installed our own for less than $1,000 and had the dealer flash the computer for an additional $85 so we were good to go for our trip. It was kind of expensive, but it’s done and we can tow trailers whenever we want.

02

Find your vehicle tow rating and do not tow a trailer that exceeds 75% of that number

If you have a trailer hitch receiver, you are half way there. You need to make sure your vehicle is fit to tow the RV you rent. Your specific vehicle will have a tow rating and you would want to make sure that you pick a trailer that is under your maximum towing capacity, say somewhere under 75%.

If you can town 6,000lbs then I would get a trailer that does not exceed 4,500lbs. You have to think, once you add all your bags, food, liquids, and people into your vehicle, you’re asking your vehicle to tow that too so it adds on fast and you don’t want to max out your vehicle’s towing capacity. 

The less weight, the easier it will be for your vehicle to tow (If you can tow 10,000lbs and you pick a 3,000lb trailer that’s only about 30%). All the RVs for rent on Outdoorsy will have the trailer weight listed so you can make sure to pick a trailer that works for you and your vehicle.

2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee L towing a Forest River Wolf Pup 16HBS

Fun fact, the Wolf Pup trailer 16BHS (the exact model we rented and seen above) is 16ft long and about 3,300lbs dry so it’s perfect for most SUVs to tow. You don’t need a big F-150 or dualie to tow a Wolf Pup!

There are also small and lightweight trailers, like teardrop trailers which are my personal favorite, and many can be easily towed with an SUV.

03

Remember, a trailer is not a house

At times it can feel like the trailer is a house. Yes, it’s small inside, much smaller than a house, but you have a lot of the same amenities you get in a house.

You get a nice bed, electricity, heat and AC, maybe a dining area, a little kitchen, and maybe even a bathroom. You can’t use the bathroom and shower like you would at home though.

It’s best to use any on-site bathrooms you have at your campsite for #1, #2, showering and washing lots of dishes. If you have an emergency in the middle of the night and need to pee, just use the toilet in the RV, it’s not there for looks.

Every trailer has a black and grey water tank. When you flush the toilet, the used water goes into a black water tank. When you use the kitchen sink or the shower, that used water goes into the grey water tank. A 40 gallon tank will fill up fast if you leave the shower head running or the kitchen sink running for 2-5+ minutes. If you fill up the tank, the water will start to back up into the lowest point on the trailer which is usually the tub/shower drain. If you see water there, just sitting and not draining, you filled the grey water tank and it needs to be emptied.

Some campsites you can hook up to a septic and dump right into a pipe (if you reserved a spot with that feature) while most will provide running water and electricity and your RV will carry all of your used water and waste (grey water and black water) wherever you go until you empty it out.

Wolf Pup Kitchen

It kind of looks like a house doesn’t it? The plumbing capabilities on a trailer are no where near that of a home.

I bathed our daughter in the RV out of convince even when I could’ve probably taken her to the showers near the bathrooms. My husband and I also took very quick showers right after her. We also did a lot of dishes, naturally as I have baby bottles to clean every couple of hours, and it filled the grey water tank within a couple of hours.

After those activities, the grey water tank had filled and it was starting to come up through the base of the shower drain. We had to dump the grey water tank.

The KOA had a dump site a short drive from our spot and we were able to empty the grey water tank in under 2 minutes and return to our campsite.

Early Bird Pickup

Picking up the RV

We planned to pick up our RV a day early. I wanted to get familiar with it and load our stuff directly into the RV, versus the trunk of my car, so I didn’t have to move everything from the Jeep to the RV when we got to the camp site.

We arranged a pick-up time with the RV owner through the Outdoorsy app and when we arrived, he gave us a complete walk through of how to use different features of the RV, where everything was located in different cabinets and cubbies, and he even helped us install his hitch onto our Jeep. He had a special anti-sway hitch that he provided with his rental – something I didn’t see on other listings. It made a HUGE difference in how driving with a trailer felt. We have driven with trailers before and they can sway a lot on the highway and when driving over uneven surfaces or bumpy roads. This hitch had a few extra parts and steps to install and remove it, but it was worth it for the comfort it added when towing.

The beauty of camping with this specific trailer we rented from Outdoorsy.com was that it came fully stock. It had bedding, towels, cookware, camping chairs, table, grill, ice maker, corn hole, Jenga, toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags and more. I would normally have to pack all of our camping gear (tents, sleeping bags, crash pads, jet boil, etc.) but we had the RV and it was all stocked and ready to go! All I really needed to pack was clothing for myself, my daughter, and my husband and groceries.

Cookware inside the Wolf Pup
Queen size bed inside the Wolf Pup
Cleaning supplies inside the camper

Packing

The Camping Essentials

The camper was stocked with all the basic stuff we needed to camp so we didn’t have to pack much other than food. I brought eggs, bacon, sausage, avocado, milk, homemade waffle batter and our mini waffle maker (you can get our recipe here), fruit, yogurt and cheese. We got some stuff to make tacos when we got to Bar Harbor and added that to the fridge in the camper.

Camping Clothes

This time of year, late summer in August, Acadia weather can be perfect mid 70s when the sun is out or around mid 50s to 60s cooling off at night and in the early morning. Shorts and a long sleeve are perfect attire for the entire day, but you’ll want pants at night for when the bugs come out. I packed lots of layers, sandals and hiking boots, and bug spray for our trip.

Toys, Snacks & Diapers

Baby Supplies for Long Car Rides

Now, we were traveling over four hours (really five because we had to stop to refuel) with a baby and I needed entertainment. I grabbed a basket and filled it with toys for our daughter to play while we were in the car and when we were either making food, starting a campfire, or doing anything else that involved the two of us. Mushie stacking cups and Mushie stacking rings were the toy that saved us from many meltdowns during our trip. When the Mushie toys failed, it was time to break out the maracas. When those failed, it was time to break out the books from Lovevery. When those failed, it was peek-a-boo. And when peek-a-boo failed I sang, horribly. When I had given it my all, and had nothing left to offer, I put on Ms Rachel. You do what you need to do to keep your child from crying and screaming on long car rides.

A four hour car ride for my husband and I is perfectly manageable as long as we have plenty of water and snacks. I loaded up a bag with snacks that everyone in the car could eat: bananas, apples, fruit pouches, Lesser Evil puffs and juice boxes.

With a baby, we had to stop for diaper changes and we had to stop to fuel the Jeep. Towing a trailer reduced our vehicles MPG A LOT. Like, 18mpg to 8mpg a lot. When we stopped to refuel I would change diapers. I keep a handy little car organizer designed specifically for changing diapers in the car with my Dyper diapers and wipes behind Indi’s car seat for when I need to change her in the car.

You can get 50% off your first subscription of Dyper with my special code here.

Our must-haves

Travel, Camping & Hiking Baby Gear Essentials

You most likely won’t be pushing a stroller if you’re camping HOWEVER it’s always a good idea to bring one. I brought out Ergobaby Metro+ compact travel stroller to push Indi around in downtown Bar Harbor where there are plenty of side walks and paved areas to stroll around on.

I also brought our Nuna baby carrier for when Indi wanted to nap while we were hiking or walking around (she won’t always fall asleep in her stroller but she will fall asleep on me if I hold her).

We always bring our Tushbaby hip carrier everywhere. Camping was no exception. The Tushbaby hip carrier SAVES my back and my arms from hurting and can hold A LOT of extra stuff, like your phone, a bottle, toys, keys, wallet, snacks, etc.

We also brought our baby monitor. Yes. A baby monitor. Our bebcare baby monitor uses radio waves instead of WiFi and we used it to monitor our daughter when she would go down for naps inside the camper. It worked perfectly. I imagine, if you have a WiFi monitor that it would’ve worked just fine at the KOA but you never know what the WiFi situation is going to be like.

Lastly, I brought my beloved Baby Buddha portable breast pump. I purchased my Baby Buddha for our trip to Florida back in May (you can read about that trip here) and I have been using it as my primary pump ever since. It fits perfectly into any bag I am carrying and I can wear it around while I wash dishes or make food.

If you would like to save 10% off your purchase of a Baby Buddha portable breast pump visit their website here and use code LIVINGLIKELACASSE at checkout to save 10% off your order.

Inid in the Nuna carrier
Nuna Cudl Baby Carrier in Caviar
Tushbaby hip carrier
Tushbaby Hip Carrier in action

Hello Acadia

Arriving at the KOA and Parking the Trailer

The KOA emailed me a few hours before check-in to have me check-in online. When we arrived on site, at the main office when you pull in, they gave us a sitemap and directed us to our spot.

We had a spot right on the ocean and it was beautiful. Our spot to back in the trailer was a little tricky but we managed just fine. Our RV host included chalk and leveling blocks, a power drill with different bits needed to raise and lower the RV jacks, a water line, and shore power plug – all included. After we parked the trailer, hooked up to shore power and water, and secured the Wolf Pup in place we sat down to take in the view.

Bar Harbor Oceanside KOA

Exploring Acadia and MDI

This trip we didn’t do as much exploring as we would’ve liked (we were only in Acadia for 2 days) but we still enjoyed our time on Mount Desert Island.

Hiking Wonderland Trail

It can be tricky planning a day with events when you have a little one that still takes two naps a day. We did hike Wonderland Trail in Acadia National Park which is a short flat walk to a beautiful beach and great for families with children of all ages.

Visiting Downtown Bar Harbor: Shopping & Eating

We also visited downtown Bar Harbor twice during out trip. It was only a 20 minute drive from the Oceanside KOA to downtown Bar Harbor.

There are tons of cute shops with locally made items and gifts and you will have plenty of options for picking out shirts, hats, and sweatshirts with Acadia and Maine graphics.

Our favorite ice cream shop, Mount Desert Ice Cream, has a lot of unique flavors and some of the best ice cream in downtown Bar Harbor.

We also ate at our favorite breakfast place tucked a little bit behind the buildings in an alleyway is “Cafe This Way” and Indi was asleep for most of it but she still enjoyed some blueberry pancakes made from wild Maine blueberries.

Breakfast at Cafe This Way in downtown Bar Harbor Maine while Indi naps
Water fountain in downtown Bar Harbor Maine

Acadia National Park: Top 7 Things To Do with Your Family

There is a lot to see and do if you visit Acadia and not every hiking trail is family friendly (like the Beehive, but if you have older kids it has some of the most amazing views). Here’s our top seven list of family-friendly things to do in Acadia National Park.

Park Loop Road Acadia National Park

01

Drive Park Loop Road

The Park Loop is always a beautiful drive and anyone going to Acadia needs to drive the Park Loop road. See the coast of Maine and drive through winding roads with tons of pine trees.

Cadillac Mountain Acadian National Park

02

Drive to the Top of Cadillac Mountain

Another popular spot with a beautiful view at the top is Cadillac Mountain. You can drive to the top with your car and get out to spectacular views of Acadia National Park with the whole family. If you want an even better view go at sunrise.

Jordan Pond Acadia National Park

03

Hike around Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond is just beautiful. The Jordan Pond Trail takes you about 3 miles around the pond and is a pretty walk through the trees following the pond. You can also hike “the Bubbles” which consists of three different trails with summits that overlook the pond. There are some rocky parts and some steep hikes if you hike the Bubbles and I would only bring older children on the hike. Parking can be tough if you go later in the day (it’s very popular) but it’s a nice family walk or hike and there is even a cafe with a field for you to have a picnic and overlook Jordon Pond.

Family Travel: Great Head Trail Acadia National Park

04

Hike Great Head Trail

Another relatively easy hike with stunning views of the ocean. If you bring your kids, you need to keep them close and away from the edge of the cliffs as the trail is rocky and uneven as you follow the coast. This a great hike for older children.

Sand Beach Acadia National Park

05

Visit Sand Beach

We love Sand Beach. It’s on the Northeastern side of Mount Desert Island and is another natural beauty. It’s just breath taking. If you have older kids and hike the Beehive trail you will overlook Sand Beach so it’s a good combo to do in one day. If you have younger kids, hanging out at the beach will be fun – dogs allowed too!

Bass Harbor Lighthouse Acadia National Park

06

Visit Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Everyone goes to see the iconic Bass Harbor Lighthouse and you should too. This is a short little walk down some rocks so be careful with little ones and keep them close, but you will get beautiful views of the ocean and the iconic Bass Harbor Lighthouse from down on the rocks.

Sunset at Seal Cove Mount Desert Island Acadia National Park

07

Catch a Sunset a Seal Cove

This is an underrated thing to do and I don’t know if many people know about it. Seal Cove is located on the east side of Mount Desert Island. If you go to visit Seal Cove during the day it kind of just looks like any other cove but, if you go at sunset you will be stunned by the views.

Coming Home

Returning the RV

The worst part about traveling is saying goodbye to your destination and getting home to unpack and do laundry when you just want to lay down and take a nap. When we got home immediately started unpacking the RV and did a thorough cleaning, making sure to wipe down everything and put everything back in it’s proper place.

I started the RV return on the Outdoorsy app and we returned it the following day. It was a smooth process and the owner helped us unhitch when we arrived at his house.

We love Acadia and will be visiting again

Like I said at the start of this post, we’re planning our next trip to Acadia already. Next time we hope to have a trailer of our own and we’d like to stay for a whole week. We’ll most likely book the Bar Harbor Oceanside KOA again and look forward to exploring more of Mount Desert Island together as a family.

Wonderland Trail Acadia National Park

about the author:

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Andrea

Andrea is the voice behind Living Like Lacasse. She is a mom, designer, and all-around creative who loves good food, good company, and good design.

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