Acadia National Park is a Maine park that spans an impressive 47,000 acres. You’ve always wanted to take the kids on a visit, and now that they’re old enough, it’s finally the right time.
When leaving from Philadelphia, how do you get to Acadia?
To reach Acadia National Park from Philadelphia, you’d cut through New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts before finally reaching Maine. This is a long road trip that takes 12 hours to complete and is best broken up into at least two days.
In today’s guide, I’ll walk you through the driving route from Philly to Acadia National Park, which takes you through three other states before you reach Maine.
I’ll also recommend some sights and attractions along the way, so check it out!
The best route from Philadelphia to Acadia National Park
If your goal is to plan a family vacation to Acadia National Park, you can drive there from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
It’s not going to be a short trip by any means, but there’s no need to hop aboard a train or a plane.
As I touched on in the intro, this is a multi-state road trip that spans New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts before you get to Portland, Maine, and then make your way to Acadia.
Let’s go over how you’ll reach your destination when leaving from your hometown of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia to New Brunswick
It’s a lot easier to cut through New Jersey than drive through Pennsylvania on your route to Acadia National Park.
Thus, for the first leg of your journey, you’ll drive northeast up towards northern New Jersey to New Brunswick.
New Brunswick is a major commercial hub for the central part of New Jersey as well as a bustling commuter city.
The city is home to Rutgers University but offers other attractions for families if you have the time to stop by and stay for a while.
It will take you about 60 minutes by car to reach New Brunswick barring serious traffic.
New Brunswick to Stamford
Now it’s time to bid New Jersey adieu as you get ready for the Connecticut branch of your trip.
You’ll continue northeast for about 47 minutes to get to Connecticut from New Jersey.
This will entail you driving through New York, which can be especially congested in certain cities, so make sure you plan your trip accordingly. Don’t drive near morning or evening rush hours.
Stamford is a beautiful city on the Long Island Sound with museums, old mansions, trails, wetlands, and beaches.
Stamford to New Haven
You’re not leaving Connecticut yet, as you need to cross over from Stamford to New Haven.
This is only a 42-minute drive, give or take, as you continue to make your ascent along the east coast heading northeast.
This is yet another coastal city in the state. It’s also the much-esteemed home of Yale University and all that goes with it, from the Yale Center for British Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.
New Haven to Hartford
The last part of your Connecticut journey on the road to Acadia entails you going from New Haven to Hartford.
This is another 42-minute drive (barring traffic), so it’s not too arduous. You’ll drive north rather than northeast this time.
Hartford features the Mark Twain House & Museum as well as plenty of other attractions if you want to spend some time here.
I would indeed recommend staying for a while. By the time you get to Hartford, you’ve been driving for about four and a half hours already. You should find lodging in the city overnight and resume your trip in the morning.
Hartford to Worcester
After you wake up feeling nice and refreshed the next morning, it’s time to continue your journey to Acadia.
This time, you’re saying farewell to Connecticut as you leave this east-coast state and make your way to Massachusetts.
The first leg of your Massachusetts journey will see you arriving in Worcester. This is a central Massachusetts city with a nature museum and science center, art museums, and parks.
It will take you about an hour and a half to drive from Hartford to Worcester, and you’ll again go northeast on your journey.
Since this is the beginning of the second leg of your trip, I would recommend getting an early start to minimize the amount of traffic you run into.
Worcester to Salem
Your mini-tour through Massachusetts will next take you to Salem, one of the better-known cities in the state.
It’s right over Boston in case you feel like checking out the activities in that beloved city.
It’s a diagonal eastward route from Worcester to Salem that will require you to pass through about half of Massachusetts on your way.
Unsurprisingly, this is another long stretch of the journey, taking about an hour and a half for you to get to Salem.
Salem to Kennebunkport
You can hang out in Salem for a bit if you’d like or make your way to Kennebunkport, which is your first Maine stop.
You’re nearly to Acadia now and just need to drive for a few more hours before you reach the park.
It’s a straight shot from Salem to Kennebunkport if you drive north along the coast of both states.
That said, it’s a long stretch that lasts about an hour and a half. At least the views should be pretty along the way!
Kennebunkport is a coastal town with plenty of beaches, such as Arundel Beach and Goose Rocks Beach. Try to get here in the summer especially!
If you have the time to spare, the Seashore Trolley Museum documents a huge piece of this charming town’s history of locomotion.
Kennebunkport to Portland
Although you and the kids might not want to leave Kennebunkport, you must.
It takes you only about 35 minutes (if you don’t run into much traffic) to reach Portland from Kennebunkport. You’ll want to continue northward on your journey.
This Maine city with waterfronts and coastal views has fishing wharves surrounded by shops and restaurants.
You and the kids can take a leisurely stroll, fill your bellies, and do a bit of shopping before you make your way to Acadia National Park.
Portland to Acadia National Park
The route from Portland to Acadia requires you to go north and then loop your way southeast. It’s about a three-hour drive, but you’ll finally be there!
How long will it take you to reach Acadia National Park from Philadelphia?
I alluded before that it’s not going to be a short trip to Acadia National Park from Philadelphia. Precisely how much time are we talking about here?
Well, the first day of driving is about four and a half hours. It takes you four and a half more hours to get from Hartford, Connecticut, to Portland, Maine, then another three hours to reach Acadia itself.
When you add that up, you’re looking at a trip time of about 12 hours, provided you don’t run into serious traffic. Then it could take you even longer!
You can see why I strongly advise you to stay overnight somewhere in Connecticut before driving through Massachusetts and into Maine the next day.
That second leg of the journey is even longer than the first. You need a good night’s sleep so you can be clear-minded and ready for the rigors of the long drive.
It’s also easier to navigate by day, especially if you’ve never been to the places on your route before.
The most convincing reason to break the trip up into at least two days? Your kids, of course! A 12-hour road trip is a lot to ask of children of any age, even tweens and teens.
If you feel like even four or five hours in the car is too much for your kids, then feel free to break up the journey into three days.
I know you have an itinerary to keep, but it’s important not to rush the experience.
Must-see destinations on the road to Acadia National Park
Since you get to traverse a grand total of four states on your trip from Philly to Acadia National Park, you should take some time to spend in each of them. Your kids will get a varied experience of the wonders of the east coast!
In New Jersey
You only spend a brief bit of your trip in New Jersey on the route from Philadelphia to Acadia. New Jersey is your neighbor as a Pennsylvanian, but if you’ve never hung out here long, change that today.
Here are some fun activities around New Brunswick to entertain the whole family.
- Duke Farms
Duke Farms is a 2,740-acre park with 1,000 acres for the public to explore.
You won’t spend too long here so you can stick to your schedule, but the hiking and biking trails are a nice way to kill a couple of hours.
Classes and events happen throughout the year as well, so check the Duke schedule if you’re interested in attending something in that vein!
- Rutgers Garden
Maintained by Rutgers University, Rutgers Garden features both a student farm and Cook’s Market for buying fresh produce or snacks.
You can stroll the gardens with your family, witness appealing natural areas, and enjoy some fresh air so the kids don’t feel too cooped up after all that time in the car.
- Donaldson Park
If your kids are ultra-energetic and you want to calm them down before you drive from New Jersey to Connecticut, you can always take them to Donaldson Park in nearby Highland Park.
This 90-acre park on the riverfront has two playgrounds, a dog park, picnic groves, and sports courts and fields.
Since so much of your first day of driving to Acadia is spent venturing through various cities in Connecticut, you might as well make the experience mean something by visiting these destinations.
- Cove Island
In Stamford, Cove Island will be a welcome respite from all the time spent in the car. The park is 83 acres and features a recreation area and a beach.
You must have a parking pass to access Cove Island, so be sure to get that ahead of time if you’re interested in visiting with your family.
Then you and the kids can splash around on the beach or even have a picnic on the shoreline!
- Stamford Museum & Nature Center
The Stamford Museum & Nature Center combines agricultural sciences, nature, history, and art in one beautiful facility that’s 118 acres.
The exhibitions at the museum change all the time, which will give you a reason to come back if you ever feel like road-tripping to Connecticut from Philly with your family.
The Stamford Museum & Nature Center has both adult and children’s programs, so there’s literally something for everyone!
- Yale Peabody Museum
The Yale Peabody Museum in Stamford is one of the biggest and oldest university natural history museums on the planet, which is reason alone to visit it.
The museum chronicles more than five billion years of natural history, so there are dinosaur exhibits, exhibits on early civilization, and more modern-day exhibits as well.
At the very least, the dinosaurs should immerse the kids long enough that you can get through the rest of the exhibits without your children raising a fuss.
- The Children’s Museum
If your kids aren’t going for the Yale Peabody Museum, then in nearby West Hartford is The Children’s Museum. This ought to be way more up their alley!
Established in 1927 and one of the oldest children’s museums, the kids will adore such exhibits as Amazing Amphibians, the Lizard Lair, Dinosaurs in Your Backyard, Kids Can Compost, and Conny the Whale.
The Children’s Museum also has an onsite planetarium that shows educational films for children of all ages as well as laser shows.
Once you reach Massachusetts, the entire family can begin experiencing travel fatigue. Give the kids a break and change things up by taking them to these fun places throughout the state.
Worcester’s EcoTarium is a nature and science museum with indoor and outdoor experiences that span more than 45 acres.
There’s so much to do at the EcoTarium that you and the children can easily spend an entire day here.
The Alden Planetarium shows the earth as you’ve never seen it before.
After exiting the theater, jump on the Explorer Express Train on a 12-minute ride. The train is designed to look like the C.P. Huntington steam locomotive from 1863.
The kids can also have a hands-on otter encounter by feeding these creatures.
- Canobie Lake Park
Now here’s a way to make your kids’ trip! Take them to Canobie Lake Park.
This Salem amusement park boasts water rides, thrill rides, kids rides, and family rides so the entire family can have fun no matter their ages.
Throughout the park, you’ll find plenty of dining options that serve up burgers, chicken tenders, fried dough, international foods, ice cream sundaes, caramel apples, soft pretzels, and all other nature of carnival fare.
Arcade games, puzzle rooms, and games like balloon races are a nice capper on what is sure to be an amazing day!
- Singing Beach
Experience the coastal luxury of Massachusetts by spending a few hours with the family at Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea.
This public beach features crunchy sand (that’s supposed to make audible sounds when dry if you walk on it), a snack bar, and a bathhouse open only in the summer.
I’m sure you’re wondering why the name Singing Beach? Well, that’s because of the sand. The sound is quite squeaky indeed.
- Seashore Trolley Museum
The aforementioned Seashore Trolley Museum is a must-see when spending time in Kennebunkport. This museum is the biggest collection of mass transit vehicles and also the first of its kind in the world.
As the name of the museum implies, most of what’s on display here are trolley cars, but not exclusively. You can also see motor buses, trolleybuses, Interurban cars, and rapid transit trains.
You and the kids can even ride a vintage 1900s trolley!
Once you get to Portland, I know the urge to rush straight to Arcadia National Park is going to be strong.
You’ll recall that it’s nearly a three-hour drive to the park if you don’t hit traffic, so you might as well give the kids something entertaining to make the drive seem shorter.
Here are some sights and activities to consider.
- Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine
On Thompson’s Point, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine has a huge assortment of exhibits to entertain kids all day.
They can see live bees in an observation beehive, learn how veterinarians do their jobs at the IDEXX STEM Learning Hub, or learn about how watersheds rely on mountain ecosystems in the From the Mountains to the Sea exhibit.
The Ramp Up exhibit is a 10-foot, six-sided ball sculpture that’s completely interactive while the Go With The Flow exhibit lets kids learn about water through splashing and playing.
The Illuminate exhibit features great use of color and light in a dark environment. There’s even a Dress Up Theatre.
- Urban Air Adventure Park
Urban Air Adventure Park in South Portland might tire kids out too much on the way to Acadia, so maybe save this attraction for the trip back.
Kids can play with the battle beam and dodgeballs, explore the ropes course, experience the DropZone, feel like a hoops star in the Slam Dunk Zone, bounce on APEX trampolines, or explore the tubes playground.
- Palace Playland
Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach is an amusement park that will be the ideal capper for your trip to Maine.
Built in 1902 and operated regularly ever since, Palace Playground features a carousel, long slide, bumper cars, and spinning teacups. The rides here are only for the kiddos.
If you have tweens or teens, they can make a beeline for the arcade, which promises fun for the entire family.
Traveling by car from Philadelphia to Acadia National Park takes about 12 hours one way but gives you and the kids the chance to see New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine before reaching the park itself.
I hope this guide gives you plenty of itinerary ideas to make the most of your trip!