If you've never been to Maine, the charming seaside town of Bar Harbor is one of the best places to visit. Ride a lobster boat, enjoy breathtaking mountain and waterfront views, hike Acadia, and eat fresh lobster to your heart's content. These are the best things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine including where to eat, stay and play. Ideal for couples and families alike!
The best time to visit
Summers are wonderful, but I think the best time to visit Bar Harbor is late September or October when the leaves are just starting to change. It's not as crowded as it can be in the early summer months which makes for a more peaceful trip.
I visited Bar Harbor in August in 2015 and have been dying to visit in the fall ever since!
How to get there
I recommend flying into Bangor and renting a car for the hour drive to Bar Harbor, Maine. You'll want a car anyway to get to Acadia as well as some of the most beloved lobster restaurants that are located a bit farther out.
Another option is to fly into Boston and drive a few hours to Bar Harbor (you can stop and see some other towns along the way).
Where to Stay
- We stay at The West Street Hotel, a boutique waterfront hotel in downtown Bar Harbor complete with Maine's only rooftop swimming pool. It's walkable to everything and the pool alone makes it a quite the destination!
- Another option is the elegant Bar Harbor Inn. Situated right on the harbor, this upscale hotel offers the quintessential Bar Harbor experience, complete with waterfront dining, an infinity pool and luxury spa.
- The historic Atlantean Cottage Bed and Breakfast offers a more rustic, quaint stay. Don't miss the daily scratch-made breakfast and romantic front porch!
Now let's dive into the must-do's of this magical coastal town!
What to do
1. Take a foodie walking tour
One of the best ways to get to know a city and its accompanying food scene is to take a culinary walking tour.
It's best to do this early on in your visit so you can not only taste a bit of everything, but also score top notch restaurant recommendations from the local guide while meeting new people.
On our tour we enjoyed fresh lobster rolls on buttery brioche, wild Maine blueberry popcorn, one of the best peekytoe crab cakes I've ever laid mouth on, and so much more.
2. Sail on the Margaret Todd
Set sail on this beautiful four-masted windjammer boat for a breathtaking panoramic view of the bay and surrounding islands plus plenty of history.
We enjoyed the Schooner Afternoon Sail but you can also take a two-hour sunset cruise if you're feeling extra romantic. Don't forget a bottle of wine!
3. Eat wild blueberry pancakes at Café This Way
You don't have to tell me twice! Bar Harbor, Maine is brimming with wild blueberry fields so enjoying them in hot flapjacks is an absolute must.
My favorite breakfast spot by a mile was Café This Way, an eclectic spot owned by three women serving scrumptious breakfast and dinner favorites.
There's almost always a wait, but since it's right in the middle of the downtown area, you can peruse the local shops until your table is ready.
For more yummy breakfast fare, try Two Cats Restaurant (pictured above)
4. Hike Acadia National Park
As if Bar Harbor, Maine isn't stunning enough, Acadia's 125 miles of hiking trails are a short ten-minute drive away. The park is enormous, so you can spend an entire day (and then some) there.
If you prefer driving the park, you can book a ride with Oli's Trolley.
We drove up to Cadillac Mountain and it was one of the most gorgeous panoramic views I've ever seen. (Check out the National Park Service for more information on closures, parking, passes and fees.)
Other great hikes are Great Trail Head, Otter Cliff, Bubble Rock Trail, Beehive, and Jordan's Pond Nature Trail.
5. Devour popovers at Jordan Pond House
Ever had a popover? How about a steaming hot one with an unforgettable view of Acadia in the background?
Make this foodie dream a reality at the historic Jordan Pond House. I recommend doing a bit of hiking first and then taking a snack break there.
Of note, the rest of the menu isn't anything to write home about so stick to tea, popovers and the epic view!
6. Relax and sip coffee at Choco-Latte
We love our coffee. We visited Choco-Latte twice while we were in Bar Harbor, once while we were waiting for breakfast and another day as we were strolling along.
They have plenty of organic coffee drinks, yummy baked goods, and breakfast sandwiches with homemade bread and organic eggs.
This is also a nice place to sneak in some work since it has WiFi.
Another adorable morning spot with locally-roasted coffee, homemade quiche, bagel sandwiches, and plenty of vegan options is Morning Glory Bakery.
7. Enjoy waterfront cocktails
You won't find a better view of Frenchman Bay and Porcupine Islands than at Bar Harbor Inn's outdoor Terrace Grill.
Relax on the comfy couches while sipping a speciality drink (I'm partial to the blueberry juniper cocktail) and watching the boats in the harbor.
Save room for wild Maine blueberry pie!
8. Ride an authentic lobster boat
Did you know lobster used to be the food of prisoners? That's right---it wasn't always considered the delicacy it is today!
Learn more than you'll ever need to know about Bar Harbor's famed crustacean, including how they used to catch them and how they catch them today, with Lulu's Lobster Boat Ride. If you're lucky, you'll see some seals, too!
9. Eat lobster at Beal's Lobster Pier
It's a bit of a drive away, but locals agree that Beal's is THE spot for the most authentic Bar Harbor lobster experience. They're about to celebrate their 91st season!
The lobster comes straight from their pier and all the vegetables are grown by local farmers.
Enjoy a beautiful view of the southwest harbor in a fun and casual atmosphere while you wait for your steamed lobster, cornbread, and red potatoes. Bib included!
10. Savor ice cream at Mount Desert Ice Cream
This insanely creamy ice cream is made five batches at a time with premium ingredients, and boy is it obvious. Mount Desert Ice Cream truly has some of the best ice cream I've ever had!
We went there twice in one weekend and I miss it like crazy. My flavors of choice were butterscotch miso and blackstrap banana bread.
Now tell me--have you ever been to Maine? Where are you dying to travel to next? Be sure to check out more travel posts here!
Thanks to Visit Maine for coordinating the hotels, meals, and activities during our stay at Bar Harbor. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.
I was in Bar Harbor 20 years ago to release my mother’s ashes and I’m really looking forward to seeing that sweet little town again in early November. Your list of places to eat and drink is really helpful and we’ll be trying each one then. Thanks for writing this article. Great recommendations.
Alexis Joseph says
That is so very special! I hope you find something you love, Marianne. Enjoy!
Thanks! We are heading back to Bar Harbor/Acadia for the 4th (?) time - and looking for tips! Thanks!! Looks like you had a blast!
Alexis Joseph says
Awesome, have fun!
We've rented a cottage off of Bar Harbor for the past 6 years and we love it there. To anyone heading up, enjoy the touristy places but also take a drive away from them, too. There is so much to see and do. Somes Sound, Asticou Gardens, Beal and Bunker mail boat to Cranberry Isles are just a few. Go off the beaten path as you'll never know what you see.
Anne - Virginia Beach, VA says
This was awesome! Thank you for the information! Our family is really looking forward to our visit next month!
Your blog makes me absolutely want to go to Bar Harbor...thank you for your insights. Can't wait for this coronavirus lock down to be lifted.
Toni from Halifax NS
Alexis Joseph says
Me too! It's a must once things are back to normal.
Thanks for the tips. I took lots of notes. Heading there in August!
Alexis thanks so for the great tour of Bar Harbor Maine! We passed it by when in Maine last time, but Not next time - wow!
I’ve been to all of those places too!!
Nicole @ Laughing My Abs Off says
Girlllll, I wanna go so bad now! I absolutely love coastal towns like this; has a Cape Cod/Nantucket vibe I think. Also that ice cream sounds delicious! My top remains Salt & Straw, so it would be pretty hard to top, but I trust your judgement completely 😉
I too Love sea foods, Its wonderful idea having sea food as snacks in journey.
Brittany Audra @ Audra's Appetite says
For sure on my bucket list of places to go to!! 🙂
My mom and I have been visiting Bar Harbor for the last 3 years now and we just love it! Highly recommend watching sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, it requires early wake up but so worth it!
I have never been to Maine, but one of Matt's best friends lived there for a while. I sure hope to visit one day!!! And you truly have given so so many amazing recommendations that I really hope to visit. What an incredible trip, and it is SO well-deserved! I hope you feel rejuvenated and relaxed. <3
As someone from Maine (and still here!), I wish I could smother this post in love. 😉 I love my state, especially this time of year. It is my favorite time for hiking - the temps are perfect and the colors are amazing. Oh the places I could show you! 🙂
Super glad you enjoyed your visit! Hope you come again soon. 🙂
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog says
There are just so many incredible spots in the US, it makes me want to travel so much! Bar Harbor looks simply amazing! 😀
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
Pam Lawson says
Loved all the information on Bar Harbor. It will be a port of call for our cruise passengers next year. Thanks for the work you put into it.