Bar Harbor Things To Do
In northern Maine on Mt. Desert Island, the town of Bar Harbor sits on Frenchman Bay. On any given day, the community is as likely to be shrouded in mist as glistening in sunlight. Both are magical. Our list of things to do in Bar Harbor will acquaint you with some of the many attractions and activities Bar Harbor, Maine has to offer.
Bar Harbor is famous for its lobstering, yachting, and shipbuilding traditions as well as for being the gateway to Acadia National Park. For over two centuries, visitors have utilized Bar Harbor as a base to explore Acadia’s stunning ocean and mountain terrains. Hiking, biking, kayaking, rock climbing, carriage rides, cruises, and scenic drives draw people to the area.
Back in town, Bar Harbor offers guests a different sort of vacation fun. There is a working port full of lobster boats and gleaming yachts. Downtown is filled with a pleasing mix of taverns, bakeries, and boutiques. And, throughout the year there are concerts, markets, and festivals to enjoy.
If you are wondering about things to do in Bar Harbor, read on. For more information on traveling to Bar Harbor, read our Bar Harbor 3 Day Itinerary and Restaurant Guide .
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THINGS TO DO IN BAR HARBOR, MAINE
Explore the Harbor and Bar Harbor Shore Path
One of the best places to be in Bar Harbor is along the waterfront. The harbor is rimmed with restaurants, shops, and salty wharves. At the town pier the view opens-up to reveal a gorgeous expanse of Frenchman Bay. A constant ebb of activity buzzes about on the water as schooners, sailboats, and cruise ships motor in and out.
Next to the Town Pier, Agamont Park slopes upward dividing downtown Bar Harbor from the water. This is a great place to find a bench and sit for a bit. In front of the park, look for the beginning of the Bar Harbor Shore Path. The half-mile trail meanders in front of the stately Bar Harbor Inn and several gilded-age summer cottages. Walk the path to enjoy views of Frenchman Bay.
Shop Downtown Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor has a vibrant downtown. The rectangle of walkable streets between Main, Mt. Desert, Rodick, and West Streets are dense with artisan food shops, artist galleries, and stylish apparel. Between restaurants and pubs, quaint alleys beckon visitors. In the summer several pubs offer live music. You will likely find yourself returning to the downtown area throughout your stay.
Drive the Acadia National Park Loop Road
The 27-mile Acadia Park Loop Road takes in some of the Park’s most majestic mountains, lakes, ponds, and coastline. The road was designed to separate park visitors from local traffic and Acadia’s network of non-motorized carriage roads. Along the (mostly) one-way route there are parking areas where visitors can access activities. Attractions along this route include:
Sand Beach – Acadia: A gorgeous sand beach surrounded by pink granite cliffs and long grasses.
Thunder Hole – Acadia: A narrow inlet that explodes with a thunderous “clap” when the force on the incoming tide cracks up against granite. A series of viewing platforms and staircases lead to the attractions. The ‘claps’ are strongest before hightide.
Otter Cliffs – Acadia: A dramatic 110-foot cliff that is popular with photographers, rock climbers, and otters.
Jordan Pond House: A complex of historic buildings that overlook a pristine glacial pond. There are nature trails, canoe rentals, picnic grounds, and a restaurant onsite.
Cadillac Mountain: The highest mountain in Acadia National Park. The summit offers spectacular views of Frenchman Bay. A 3.5-mile road connecting to Acadia Park Loop Road leads to the summit.
Learn About Lobster Fishing
The town of Bar Harbor is in a region of Maine that is referred to as “down east.” The phrase comes from colonial times when ships sailing from Europe would sail down-wind to the east from the cities on the east coast. The dialect of a “down east Mainer” characteristically drops the r-sound, so “Bar Harbor” becomes “Bah-Habah.” While in town, immerse in the down east culture by learning about the areas “lobstah” industry on a traditional down east-style lobster boat. The Lulu Lobster Boat offers two-hour cruises from the Bar Harbor waterfront area.
Do a Tour on Oli’s Trolleys
For over 25 years, Oli’s Trolleys has conducted sightseeing tours of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. The trips take place on trolley cars, and feature guides that narrate tours with stories of local history and lore. The 30-minute Bar Harbor tour features historic sites, gilded-age mansions, and the downtown area. The 2.5 hour and 4-hour Acadia National Park tours offer stops along the route for sightseeing and photos including the popular Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond House, and Cadillac Mountain sites.
Hang Out on the Summit of Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak on the US eastern seaboard. During the fall and winter months, its summit is the first place in the US to see the sun rise. Park guests come to witness the event each morning. From the top of Cadillac Mountain there are panoramic views of Frenchman Bay and the summit stays busy throughout the day. (Even when shrouded in mist, the summit is still beautiful.) The summit can be reached by a 3.5-mile paved road (or by hiking trail). To drive to the summit visitors must pay the park entrance fee (and reserve tickets ahead between May and October). Parking is limited. Arrive early.
Sail Frenchman Bay
Viewing the amazing Maine coast aboard a tall ship is a special experience. Downeast Wind Jammer Cruise Lines offers sailing adventures upon the red-sailed Schooner Margaret Todd. The company offers day and sunset cruises that take in Frenchman Bay, Bar Harbor, the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, and other Acadia National Park sites along the shore. Cruises leave from the pier in front of the Bar Harbor Inn. Some cruises feature live music.
Hike to Bar Island at Low Tide
The small, uninhabited Bar Island is a tidal island that sits across from the town of Bar Harbor. For about an hour and a half before and after low tide, water in the tidal basin recedes and a land bridge to Bar Island appears linking town to the island. During these hours, people cross the sandbar to hike the Bar Island trail. There are great views of Frenchman Bay and Bar Harbor from the island’s summit. To get to the island, find Bridge Street in Bar Harbor and walk toward the water.
Walk the Acadia Ocean Path
The Acadia Ocean Path is sandwiched between the Acadia Park Loop Road and the pink granite coastline of Acadia National Park. The 2.6-mile stretch begins at beautiful Sand Beach and ends at Otter Point. Along the route, walkers can stay on a gravel path, or stray onto the rocks that run along the shore.
Highlights of this stunning trek include Sand Beach (.0miles), Thunder Hole (.7 miles), Monument Cove (.9 miles), Otter Cliffs (1.5 miles), and Otter Point (2.6 miles). To reach the Acadia Ocean Path, visitors will need to pay the Acadia National Park entrance fee. Once inside the park, the attractions on the Ocean Path are free (including parking at the Sand Beach lot).
Go on a Whale Watch
The Atlantic Ocean around Mt. Desert Island is home to a variety of marine life including puffins, seals, dolphins, and otters. From mid-April until September, the Gulf of Maine also hosts a spectacular variety of whales who feast in the Atlantic Waters. Fin, humpback, minke, and sei whales are known to frequent the area. The Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company conducts whale watch cruises throughout the summer on a fleet of high-tech catamarans. The company partners with the Allied Whale – College of the Atlantic to conduct research and educate passengers.
Farewell from Mt. Desert Island, Randy and Laura
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