Top Things to Do in Bar Harbor, Maine

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Looking for the top things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine? Read on to find out more!

Bar Harbor is a charming seaside village on the northern Maine rocky coast. It was once the hot spot for the wealthy and elite, and they built their summer homes here.

Now, Bar Harbor is a popular vacation spot for people looking to get a little bit off the beaten path. Acadia National Park is a popular spot, and there are a lot of really fun things to do in Bar Harbor. It may be small, but it’s mighty!

Even though I grew up in the area north of Boston in Massachusetts, this area eluded me until now. It’s a long drive up the coast to get here, but it’s so worth it!

Much of Maine is charming, and this area is especially so. Want to know all of the best things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine? Continue reading to find out but be warned—You’ll want to immediately book a trip to visit!

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Bar Harbor town pier

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12 of the Best Things to Do in Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor may be a sleep small village in northern coastal Maine, but there are a lot of things to do here. It’s a small area so you can easily do a number of these activities while you’re visiting.

1. Visit Acadia National Park

The “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast,” Acadia National Park is a top draw to visit this area. Acadia is a large park comprising around half of Mount Desert Island, the Island Bar Harbor is located on. It includes a number of the outlying islands as well.

This park is stunning and an incredible representation of the rugged northern Maine coast. Dense forests, gorgeous lakes, and rocky outcroppings and cliffs overlooking the water are some of the reasons to come here.

Cadillac Mountain, in the park, is the tallest Atlantic Coast mountain in the US. It offers some incredible views of the surrounding area.

Some other popular areas to visit in the park are the stunning Jordan Pond, and the Ocean Path. Along the path, you’ll see the Sand Beach, the only beach in this area, and Thunder Hole. It’s an area carved by water erosion that sounds like thunder when the water strikes it.

If you’re looking to visit one of the most gorgeous areas in Maine, check out Bar Harbor and Acadia. Here are the top attractions:

  • Cadillac Mountain
  • Ocean Path and Thunder Hole
  • The Sand Beach
  • Jordan Pond

Though the Shoondic Peninsula is a little less popular than those areas listed above, it’s worth seeing if you have the time.

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Ocean Path, Acadia National Park

2. Explore the Shops in Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor has all of the charm you’d expect from a New England Coastal town. The village features a village green with a picturesque gazebo, and shop and restaurant-lined streets overlooking the beautiful Frenchman Bay.

You’ll find the typical scattering of tourist and souvenir shops in Bar Harbor. There are also shops for local artists sharing some truly beautiful things you can’t get anywhere else.

One thing to keep in mind is that Bar Harbor is a stop on the way for cruise ships heading to Nova Scotia. So, it can get quite crowded in this small village during the day when ships are docked at the coast.

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Bar Harbor

3. Dine on Fresh Bar Harbor Seafood

What could be better than fresh seafood right off the pier it came in on? If you love lobster, crab, and other seafood, you’re in for a real treat! You can get some of the freshest, and most incredible seafood right here in Bar Harbor.

Most of the local restaurants serve up lobster boils, Bar Harbor lobster bakes, and lobster rolls and you can even add lobster to your favorite dish or salad.

Whether you want a full lobster, an easy man’s lobster (cracked and ready for you), or a lobster meat accompaniment to your favorite dish, you’ll find it here. Heck, you can even get lobster ice cream at most of the local creameries!

lobster salad, salad with lobster
Lobster Salad at the Terrace Grill at Bar Harbor Inn

4. Try a Popover with Blueberry Jam

The top spot for a popover is at Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park. However, it’s tough to get in without a reservation, and there’s often a long wait of more than an hour.

If you don’t feel like waiting, you won’t feel like The Stadium is a great other option. They serve up their popovers to go (Jordan Pond House doesn’t do that!) with fresh maple butter and locally-made blueberry jam. Wow, was it good!

They also have other made-from-scratch treats including blueberry pie, huge cookies, and whoopie pies, even a seasonal pumpkin one (yum!)

5. Check out the Mansions i

Bar Harbor was once a playground for the wealthy. J.D. Rockefeller Jr. financed many of the carriage house roads within Acadia National Park, and there were many other wealthy elites that once called this town home.

The area called Millionaire’s Row is what is left of the palatial mansions after the fire of 1947 burned many of them down. Follow West Street from the harbor to the outskirts of downtown Bar Harbor to see where the wealthy once lived.

If you can’t afford to purchase one (and really, who can?), consider touring one. the La Rochelle Mansion and Museum is run by the Bar Harbor Historical Society.

La Rochelle Mansion and Museum presented by the Bar Harbor Historical Society. Visit to learn more about the history of this incredible area.

The La Rochelle Mansion and Museum is located at 157 West Street, Bar Harbor, Maine. It costs $15 to visit. Check the website for dates and hours of operation as it changes throughout the year.

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Bar Harbor Mansion on Millionnaire Row

6. Take a Tour of Bar Harbor and Acadia

A great way to get your orientation of this area and to see the highlights in a short amount of time is by taking a tour. There are a lot of different options!

You can go by bus on a tour like with Oli’s Trolley. This is the one we did, and we opted for the 2.5-hour tour of Acadia and National Park. They have a 4-hour tour that provides more time at the most popular sights, and they also offer a short tour of Bar Harbor.

You can also take a boat tour on a small ship or a lobster boat or a kayak. There are lots of small-group and mid-sized group tours to choose from, each with a different flavor.

frenchman bay
Frenchman Bay, Bar Harbor

7. Take a Ferry to Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia CAT Ferry runs between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth. It’s a high-speed ferry service that typically runs from May to September.

In past years, they ran at least four days a week, which daily service in the summer. The Island Explorer Eden Street route does stop at the ferry terminal, or it’s a ten-minute ride to the village green in Bar Harbor.

A round-trip passenger ticket costs $210 USD. You can bring your car as well for an additional $199. Rates for larger trucks or towing vehicles go up from there, so check the website for prices.

8. See the Local Lighthouses

What is more coastal New England than lighthouses? In the Bar Harbor area, you have two nearby to visit. Close to nearby Southwest Harbor, there is Bass Light.

Bass Light was constructed in 1858. In 1988, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Responsibility for the lighthouse transferred to the National Park Service in 2020.

The lighthouse is a 37-foot tall tower (including the lightning rod on the top). The light has a range of 13 miles. There is a keeper’s dwelling, a bell house, an oil house, and a barn on the property.

It’s minutes from the village center and makes a great visit with a walk through the area. There are some cute shops and restaurants in Southwest Harbor.

Egg Rock Light is the other lighthouse in the area. It was built back in 1875 and also was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Though it’s not accessible to the public, you can see it by water.

Egg Rock Light is located on Frenchman Bay, across from Bar Harbor. It’s on Egg Rock, midway between Mount Desert Island, where Bar Harbor is located, and the Schoodic Peninsula. It consists of two structures, including a square tower and the keeper’s house.

Bass Harbor Head Light Station is located at 116 Lighthouse Rd, Bass Harbor, ME 04653. It is located within Acadia National Park, so you do need a park pass to park there. Egg Rock Light is located at Egg Rock Lighthouse, Bar Harbor, ME 04609.

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Bass Lighthouse

9. Catch a Show at the Criterion

The Criterion Theatre is a landmark in this area. It has been open since 1932 and is a local gem. It’s Art Deco in style, one of only two remaining Art Deco theaters in the state.

It was purchased by a non-profit organization and renovated in 2015. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Check the calendar to see what’s playing and catch a show there if you can!

The Criterion is located at 35 Cottage St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609.

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10. Walk the Land Bridge to Bar Island

Where else can you walk to a small island? Make sure the tide is low and head over to the island to explore.

The trail to Bar Island is available for 1.5 hours before and after low tide. It’s a gravel trail that is just under 2 miles long, with half of that as the round-trip distance between the mainland and the island.

Just make sure you head back before the tide comes in or you’ll be swimming back! (Or calling a water taxi.) It’s another nine hours before the tide will be low enough to leave.

11. Learn at the Abbe Museum

Bar Harbor hit people’s radar as the place for the summer homes of the elite and wealthy. J.D. Rockefeller Jr. lived here and even funded many of the carriage roads located in Acadia National Park.

That wasn’t the start of the local history though, and people have lived here for thousands of years. The Wabanaki Nations had a large presence here, and you can learn about them at this museum.

This is the only Smithsonian Museum affiliate in the state of Maine.

The Abbe Museum is located at 26 Mt Desert St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609 in downtown Bar Harbor. It’s open from Monday to Friday from 10 to 5 from May through October. It costs $10 to visit.

There is a second location in Acadia National Park at 49 Sweetwater Circle / Acadia National Park / Bar Harbor, ME 04609. It’s closed as of this writing, but check out this page to get updated information.

12. Visit Southwest Harbor

If you want to visit an impossibly cute little village not far from Bar Harbor, check out Southwest Harbor. There are some small shops with antiques and local items, including handicrafts.

There are also a few small restaurants. This is a little off the beaten path so if the crowds in Bar Harbor are getting you down, check out this cute area!

Southwest Harbor is located here on a map.

southwest harbor, marina
Southwest Harbor

How to Get to Bar Harbor

There are a surprising number of options to get to Bar Harbor. This town and the area are very into supporting car-less travel.

There are several airports within driving distance of Bar Harbor and Acadia. The closest is Bangor (BGR) which is a little over an hour away. Portland, Maine (PDX), is around three hours away. Both are international airports but they are very small with limited flights.

Boston is the largest airport close by, and that’s five hours away. It’s a larger international airport with flights from around the country and the world. As to flight options and costs, it’s your best bet.

From Boston, you have a few options to get to Bar Harbor. There is an airline that flies once a day to the Bar Harbor-Hancock County Airport called Cape Air. The Island Explorer bus offers several trips a day between the airport and the village of Bar Harbor. There are also rental cars and taxis available.

You can also take a train from Boston to Portland. The Amtrak Downeaster train runs from Boston to Portland. There is also an option with Concord Coach Lines for a bus from Boston to Bangor.

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Bar Harbor green & gazebo

How to Get Around Bar Harbor

Many people take their cars to visit this area. It can be challenging to find parking, though, especially during the summer peak season. Finding parking during “leaf peeping” season in October was challenging as well.

Unlike many of the US national parks, Acadia and the Bar Harbor area has an extensive bus system. The Island Explorer bus has twelve different routes in Acadia and the surrounding area. It’s set up well to go carless if you choose.

The shuttle doesn’t cost anything to use as it’s included in the cost of the Acadia Park pass. You can easily get around Acadia as well as the campgrounds, hotels and inns, and the neighboring village centers quite easily. The only site it does not go to is Cadillac Mountain in Acadia.

The Island Explorer runs from late June through mid-October. There is a separate summer and fall service, so be sure to check online for the schedules and routes. This car-free travel guide is helpful for those who want to visit without a car.

If you plan to bring your car, be sure to download the ParkMobile app. You can pay for parking with coins or even easier, through the app. It’s easy to use and very convenient for parking in Bar Harbor and some of the surrounding areas.

jordan pond, acadia national park
Jordan Pond

The Best Time to Visit Bar Harbor

Given its location on the coast in northern Maine, late spring through early fall are the best times weather-wise to visit. The best Bar Harbor weather is in July and August with average daytime highs in the mid-70s F (23 – 24°C) and evening temperatures in the upper 50s F (14 – 15°C).

As you might expect, the summer is the busiest time in the park and Bar Harbor. You’ll contend with large crowds and parking challenges from tourists visiting and the cruise ships docking here.

Right after the summer peak season is the best time to visit—in September and October. It’s still busy at this time of year, especially in October when the leaves and changing. The fall foliage is gorgeous in this area.

The crowds are shrinking a bit and the weather is still nice in the early fall. And the buses still run frequently until later in October. High temperatures average in the high 50s to high 60s F (14 – 20°C).

Acadia National Park is open all year, however, parts of the park do close in the winter. Check here for closures before you go off-season to make sure you can do what you want.

How Much Time to Spend in Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor is a small village, and the center is a few streets across. So a day or so wandering the area would do it for most.

However, there are a lot of other things to see and do nearby, so I recommend at least 3-4 days to see the area. Particularly to spend time at the sights in Acadia National Park.

If you’re short on time, you can do 2-3 days here and get a taste of the area. In that case, plan to spend most of your time in Acadia National Park, around 1.5 to 2.5 days. Then spend half a day in Bar Harbor.

At a minimum, plan to visit Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, and Thunder Hole on the Ocean Path Trail of the park. These are the highlight of Mount Desert Island in Acadia, and each is worth seeing.

acadia national park
Acadia National Park

Best Places to Stay in Bar Harbor, Maine

Given how heavily touristed this area is, there are a lot of options for where to stay in Bar Harbor. You have a range of places from camping (including tents and RVs, motels, hotels, and apartments).

Things tend to book up quickly during the busy season, so definitely book early to get a good spot. We booked a few months before visiting in October and availability was pretty lean.

We stayed in this house that we found on VRBO. It’s just outside Southwest Harbor, and 30-45 minutes to Bar Harbor and Acadia. It’s a three-bedroom two-bath place that’s nicely appointed. The owner was very communicative and getting in was easy.

It’s only a couple of minutes from Southwest Harbor, which is small and really cute. And it’s a couple of blocks from the water.

There are several camping options in Acadia National Park if you want to go in that direction. Mount Desert Campground is the largest and most popular.

If you want to stay in bar Harbor in peak season, expect to pay a premium, even at the smaller motels. Here are a few options at different price points.

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Our rental in Southwest Harbor

Bar Harbor Hotels and Motels

There is a range of hotels and motels in and around Bar Harbor. You won’t really find much in the typical budget range as this is a heavily touristed area, however, here are some options to choose from.

  • Bar Harbor Inn—This is one of the top hotels in the area according to Tripadvisor reviews. It’s in the center of town, easily walkable to all of the sights in Bar Harbor. Make sure to get an ocean-view room. There are two great restaurants to enjoy.
  • Hampton Inn Bar Harbor—For a short drive to town, you can get a more affordable hotel option. If you prefer hotels where you recognize the name, this is a great option. It offers ocean and mountain views, comfortable rooms, and a fitness center.
  • Bar Harbor Villager Motel—Right in the heart of Bar Harbor, this small motel is in a convenient location. It’s a tourist-class hotel with basic amenities, but it does have a pool and free Wi-Fi. You can sometimes get a good deal so keep an eye out!
  • Moseley Cottage Inn—This place right near the coast in Bar Harbor offers a little of everything. The main building is an old Victorian inn built in 1884, and there’s a motel building as well. It’s tucked just off the main roads. The inn offers a full breakfast and all the charm of a B&B. The motel has basic amenities with comfortable rooms and free Wi-Fi.
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Top Restaurants in Bar Harbor, Maine

You’ll find a lot of great Bar Harbor restaurants offering a variety of foods. Of course, many offer a fresh catch of seafood and shellfish caught locally by fishermen. Lobster and crab and local favorites.

  • Stewman’s Lobster Pound on West Street overlooking Frenchman Bay. Their lobster rolls and crab rolls are amazing and get a table overlooking the water.
  • West Street Cafe is another popular spot in town offering a variety of local seafood, burgers, and other options with lots of local brews.
  • Terrace Grill is a fantastic location in the Bar Harbor Inn right on the village green overlooking the pier. They have great twists on the typical, with a lobster cobb, and you can add lobster to their other salads for a special treat.
  • For a sweet home-baked treat, The Stadium is the spot to go for baked goods. Don’t miss the popover with maple butter and blueberry jam, their blueberry pie, and whoopie pies, including a pumpkin one in season. It’s all made from scratch.
  • Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium might just put Willy Wonka to shame. Their fudge is amazing, and they offer a wide array of chocolates. And check out their ice cream as there are some really interesting flavors. They even have lobster ice cream if you’re so inclined! When in Maine, right?
  • For a top breakfast spot, hit Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast. It has all of the dishes you’d expect and don’t miss the blueberry pancakes.
lobster bisque
Lobster bisque at Stewman’s

The Top Things to Do in Bar Harbor Are Waiting for You!

It may be a long drive up the Maine coast to get to Bar Harbor, but add it to your bucket list! From the quaint village of Bar Harbor to Acadia National Park, this area is majestic and worth every moment.

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