Located on Maine’s eastern coast, Bar Harbor offers eager visitors plenty to do while spending summer in New England. The city has long been known and continues to uphold its reputation as a hub of New England culture, cuisine, and comfort. The northern Maine city also offers access to Acadia National Park and is often considered one of the greatest “park cities” in the nation. Every summer, Bar Harbor transcends from a quiet seaside town to a bustling vacation hotspot. Spring and summer climates bless visitors with sunny skies and cool breezes. Anyone visiting can expect several fun things to do in Bar Harbor since it really is one of the best places to visit in Maine. Because between opportunities for adventure, exceptional gastronomy, and endless memories, Bar Harbor really does have it all.
17 Fun Things To Do in Bar Harbor, Maine
1) Visit Acadia National Park
Every year Acadia National Park’s premier hiking trails, grand vistas, and coastline views draw over 3.5 million visitors to the park. The park is one of the top ten most visited National Parks each year and is only located minutes from downtown Bar Harbor. The park’s premier attractions are the Precipice trail, the Beehive, and the Thunderdome. Check out our Acadia guide here!
Important Acadia Information:
- Entrance fees: $30/ per vehicle, $25/ per motorcycle, $15/ per bicycle or pedestrian
- Acadia Annual Pass: $55
- NPS Pass Series: standard annual pass $80, senior annual pass $20
- Camping fees: Tent/ Rv sites $22 – $30 per night, Group sites $60 per night
If you’re driving to Acadia National Park, why not book a self-guided driving audio tour to guide you around the national park, and learn about its history? The guide includes a map route, that supports GPS for you to follow whilst listening to the commentary.
You could also explore the national park on an e-bike. You can hire an e-bike from Island Time here and get all the biking equipment needed for a day out in the national park.
2) Go Lobster Fishing
It is not possible to visit Maine without at least seeing a few signs advertising fresh lobster. However, Bar Harbor’s lobster advertising is more than a gaudy tourist trap. Local lobster fishermen have long called Bar Harbor home! And the best way to experience this New England stable is to get on a boat yourself.
Lobster Fishing Information:
3) Experience the Nightlife
Downtown Bar Harbor offers several bars and pubs for visitors’ enjoyment. In summer months, these bars peak in visitation. The city is very family-friendly and offers several options to suit everyone’s enjoyment. Some of my favorite places are listed below:
- Leary’s Landing Irish Pub: This bar features several craft beer choices, margarita’s and Maine Blueberry infused cocktails
- Finback Ale House: A plethora of craft beers, local favorites, and specialized cocktails make this a must-visit on any night in Bar Harbor
- Cottage St. Pub: A small pub offering outdoor seating and various drinks in the heart of downtown Bar Harbor
4) Take a Foodie Walking Tour
There is such a wide array of culinary treats awaiting visitors of Bar Harbor, that interested parties may find the city’s delectable eats best explored via a culinary walking tour. Maine Foodie Tours offers a walking food tour.
The food tour starts from $139.99 and includes a walking tour around Bar Harbor that last lasts about three hours. You’ll visit various establishments, and get to taste different local dishes throughout Bar Harbor whilst the tour guide will teach you about the local food scene.
5) Soak in New England Historic Architecture
Today, the city thrives as vacationers arrive via automobile. Years ago, Bar Harbor was a village best accessed by steamship and explored by foot. The Manor House Inn has compiled and curated a list of Bar Harbor’s premier historic attractions as well as a map to follow when exploring on their website.
6) Visit the Museums & Galleries of Bar Harbor
The Abbe Museum was one of the first built in Maine (1928) and the only museum dedicated to the region’s Native American heritage. The museum seeks to preserve the history and culture of the Wabanaki. There are two locations: downtown Bar Harbor and in Sieur de Monts Spring. The downtown Abbe Museum offers vibrant exhibitions and things to do. The latter focuses more on early 1900s archaeology. What a special cultural space that we must support!
Other museums and galleries to visit in Bar Harbor include: George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History, D’Alessio Gallery, Rocky Mann Pottery Studio, La Rochelle Mansion & Museum, and Ernie’s Sculptures.
7) Explore Mount Desert Island
Mount Desert Island is the largest island off of the coast of Maine, and the particular island Bar Harbor calls home. The rest of the island includes spots worthy of exploration, such as Southwest Harbor and Tremont. If you feel extra seaworthy, visit Cranberry Island via ferry from Southwest Harbor or Northeast Harbor.
8) Relax on a Boat Cruise or Sailing Tour
Most of Bar Harbor can be explored by foot. Though, if you wish to explore the water around the city one option is to book a boat cruise. Acadian Boat Tours offers several different tours, including nature tours, seabird and puffin tours, and tours of Somes Sound. And for a romantic sail, consider this Windjammer sailing tour on Frenchman Bay which includes some cool tips and insights into the local history and geography. You may even be able to see some eagles, seals, and/or porpoises. Book your tour here.
9) Go Kayaking Around Porcupine Island
Kayak around the chain of evergreen-dotted island archipelago called the Porcupine Islands. Here you can watch for marine life such as seals and birdlife like the bald eagle! Paddling a kayak around the islands is one of the most scenic things to do in Bar Harbor and a fun way visitors can explore the outdoors by the water.
Several outfitters in the city offer kayak rentals by the hour and for the entire day. These outfitters also offer tours and will provide you with the needed information.
10) Indulge in the Local Gastronomy
A Maine gastronomic experience is not complete without tasting several different seafood dishes, including but not limited to lobster mac & cheese, seafood dip, and a hot Maine lobster roll. The places listed below are Bar Harbor’s premier restaurants in terms of culinary talent, service, and experience.
- Stewman’s Downtown: Located downtown near the Bar Harbor marina, Stewman’s Downtown is a great spot to experience Maine’s culinary treats as well as take in the surrounding views. Ask to sit on the back deck for the best viewing experience. Try their seafood dip appetizer and the Seadog Blueberry Ale or Blueberry Jam Mojito for a true New England Experience
- Thirsty Whale Tavern: The Thirsty Whale Tavern is located on Cottage St., making it an easy spot to grab an afternoon lunch while sitting outside and enjoying the sights and sounds of the city. The tavern is best known for its endless beer list and its tasty Haddock Fish and Chips.
- Route 66: Step back in time to the ’50s and enjoy a steaming dish of lobster mac & cheese at Route 66 restaurant. The restaurant’s menu features whole lobster dishes at market price, Maine lobster salad, and lobster quesadillas to coincide with its decorative interior.
Seafood tip: The best time to visit Maine for seafood is from late May to October when all the lobster shacks are open. However, you can enjoy fresh lobster in restaurants in Bar Harbor and other coastal towns year-round, of course.
11) Visit Otter Cliff & Walk the Ocean Trail
This easy walk features astonishing views and winds around Frenchman Bay. Visitors can access the trails starting at Sand Beach within Acadia National Park. The trail follows a paved path until ending at Otter Cliffs.
12) Have a Picnic in Village Green Park
Village Green Park is a grassy area in the middle of Bar Harbor. The spot is equipped with benches and a gazebo. This area is perfect for a seaside picnic and is home to city-hosted concerts in the summer.
13) Play Mini-Golf
Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf is Bar Harbor’s one and only mini-golf course. The course features pirate-themed obstacles making it a family favorite. Watch out, and don’t hit your ball into the course’s various waterfalls!
14) Shop the Town’s Various Boutiques
Bar Harbor still honors its village trading routes with several exquisite shops and boutiques. Sherman’s Bookstore and Department Store is a crowd favorite while several other shops offer Maine and Bar Harbor-themed trinkets and souvenirs.
15) Take a Narrated Bus Tour of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park (3.5 Hours)
Sit back, and relax on this luxury bus tour of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. With its panoramic front window, you can treat yourself to a tour of the area’s top highlights. The bus tour allows for stops at iconic places such as Thunder Hole, Cadillac Mountain, The Jordan Pond House, and Sieur De Mont’s Spring. Ages 13 and up only. Book your tour here.
Where to Stay in Bar Harbor
Within the town’s limits, there are several great hotels and inns that provide visitors with more than just a place to sleep. There are also several private listings on Airbnb that visitors can book. These listings are limited and book fast.
List of Hotels to Stay in Bar Harbor
- Bar Harbor Inn & Spa (pictured above)
- Harborside Hotel, Spa, and Marina
- Bar Harbor Grand Hotel
- West Street Hotel
- The Inn on Mount Desert
How to Get to Bar Harbor & Local Transportation
Bar Harbor is a three-hour drive from Portland, Maine via I-295 and I-95N. Once in the city, the best way to travel is by car and on foot. The town does offer free shuttles from several locations to Acadia National Park (not offered currently due to COVID-19). Within the downtown area, visitors will also find various shops offering bike rentals. A bike is the best way to see all of Bar Harbor in a quick amount of time.
A trip to Bar Harbor is bound to make anyone smile. Thank you for choosing to read my guide to the city. I hope you have a great trip and get to experience all the New England hub has to offer.