One of the places that I’ve always wanted to visit is Maine. The thought of seeing beautiful lighthouses and eating lobster sounded great. And let’s get real. For this Texas girl, visiting anyplace in the summer with temperatures below 90 degrees sounded like Heaven. So when the time came for my husband and me to actually plan our trip to Maine, we decided to spend most of our time in Bar Harbor. Here are 10 Fun Things To Do In Bar Harbor Maine.
Why Bar Harbor?
If you love beautiful scenery and outdoor adventures in the summer, Maine is the place. And for us, Bar Harbor, a tourist destination on Mount Desert Island, seemed to offer the most bang for your buck!
Bar Harbor sits on Frenchman Bay and is right by Acadia National Park, which offers hiking, bike trails and beautiful mountains, ponds, and beaches to explore.
If you are looking for traditional Maine lobster, you won’t be disappointed. You can get steamed lobster and lobster rolls from many restaurants and lobster pounds. Bar Harbor is the place to enjoy the wonderful things that Maine has to offer.
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Where to Stay in Bar Harbor
As with any tourist destination, there are a number of big and small hotels, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds and vacation rentals. We opted to rent a condo through VRBO.
The one bedroom condo we chose was perfect for the two of us. It was 3 miles from the entrance to Acadia National Park and walking distance to everything in Bar Harbor.
Things To Do In Bar Harbor Maine : Acadia National Park
We started our day at the Hulls Cove Visitors Center to get our park passes. We were about to purchase the $30 pass for a private vehicle that is good for 7 days. However, a particularly astute park employee surmised that one of us may be 62 (and it wasn’t me…just yet) and suggested the Annual Senior Pass for just $20. This pass would get us into any National Park for a year. SCORE for being on THIS side of 50!
We could have purchased the $30 pass online and not gone to the Visitor’s Center, but I’m glad we did. First, because they have nice bathrooms and for me, it’s always good to stop at a clean one before I head out ANYWHERE (can I get an Amen?). Secondly, I was able to talk to one of the park rangers about our plans and get some great direction from these very friendly and knowledgeable folks.
We were there during the peak of the summer season in July, so the park was full of people and parking at the main attractions is limited unless you get there early.
The Island Explorer Bus offers transportation to all the main park attractions from Bar Harbor or the Visitor’s Center. But after talking to the park ranger, we decided to chance it with our car because she said that the buses were often crowded and there was a wait to get to where you wanted to go. As far as transportation goes, it seems to be six of one, half dozen of the other. The main tip is to go and see what you want to see EARLY in the day.
What We Did At Acadia National Park
Sand Beach – This is a gorgeous 290-yard long beach nestled in an inlet with granite mountains on one side and the rocky shores of Mt. Desert Island on the other. Although the water temperature rarely rises above 55 degrees in the summer, we saw a few of the many people on the beach dipping their toes in the water.
There is a lifeguard on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day and changing rooms are available near the parking area.
Hiked around Jordan Pond, which was formed by a glacier and is beautifully clear. There is no swimming or motorboats allowed so the atmosphere around this scenic place is peaceful and serene.
I like to walk so I thought hiking the Jordan Pond Trail would be a great outing one of the mornings we were there. When I hear the word “pond” I often think of the tiny, man-made pond in my neighborhood. Don’t be fooled! The trail around Jordan Pond is 3.3 miles. And although most of it is well-maintained and relatively flat, there are areas of large rocks you’ll need to walk/climb/step over if you want to make the full loop. But it is so worth it!
Following our hike, we had lunch at the historic Jordan Pond House, which is right off the trail. Jordan Pond House opened in the 1800’s and is famous for its popovers. We arrived about 10:30 am and were able to get our name on the list to be seated at 11. Don’t be discouraged by the crowds. Jordan Pond House is large with both indoor and outdoor seating and the wait probably won’t be long.
We lunched on lobster salad, blueberry lemonade and of course, Popovers!
Cadillac Mountain – Standing over 1500 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view the sunrise in the U. S. from October 7 – March 6. Getting there early to see the sunrise or going in the evening to view the sunset is one of the most popular things to do in Acadia National Park.
We took the scenic Summit Road to the top of Cadillac Mountain in the afternoon, stopping at several of the scenic overlooks along the way. Each one provided beautiful views of ponds, the ocean, bays, and mountains. Truly breathtaking.
When you arrive at the Summit, there is a large trail where you can walk to different points and take some gorgeous pictures as you look down on Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay and see the blue expanse of the Atlantic.
Whale Watching in Bar Harbor
There are several cruise lines that offer whale watching tours in Bar Harbor. We chose to take Acadian Boat Tours Sightseeing in Nature Tour which promised that we would see some wildlife, not whales specifically. This tour was a 2-hour cruise with an extremely knowledgeable tour guide.
We got lucky that day and we did see whales. Or I should say the blow holes and fins of some small whales. If you think you are going to see a Shamu type creature jumping out of the water, that probably won’t happen.
Other wildlife we saw were seals, jellyfish, porpoises and a bald eagle that flew over us just like it was a scripted show! It was awesome to see.
We also learned about the history of the area, saw some gorgeous “summer cottages” (mansions) and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Coastal Maine. Pictured here is the Egg Rock lighthouse.
Acadian Boat Tours also offers these tours:
- Sunset Cruise
- Fishing Trips
- Puffins, Lighthouse and Seabirds Cruise
- VIP Somes Sound Fjord & Harbors Tour
I was so impressed with this tour company from the first person we talked to who guided me to a cruise where I would not get seasick to the captain and the tour guide. I highly recommend this company!
More Things To Do In Bar Harbor
- Shop in the Bar Harbor Shopping District which is really the 5 or 6 streets that makeup Bar Harbor proper. Lots of specialty stores, touristy places, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars! Something for everybody!
- Explore all the things there are to do in Acadia National Park. Take a Ranger Guided Cruise or Bike Tour. Explore the many different places to hike or rock climb.
- Visit Agamont Park – a beautiful park on Frenchman Bay with plenty of benches to sit on and enjoy the scenery.
- Take a relaxing stroll down the Shore Path, which you can pick up at Agamont Park. Relatively flat and not too long. An easy stroll where you can see great views of the coast an islands in the bay.
- Have a cup of coffee at Coffee Hound Coffee Bar. Delicious hand-crafted specialty coffee and espresso.
- Dine outdoors or enjoy at a cocktail at Bar Harbor Inn’s Terrace Grille. The perfect location for outdoor dining overlooking the bay.
Have you been to Bar Harbor? What is your favorite thing to do there?
Watch for my next post where I tell you about all the great places to eat in Bar Harbor!
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Enjoyed this post! We are venturing up that way soon, we live in the Deep South. Next year we take a big trip for our birthdays in August, will seriously look into this.
Lori Jo – 50 With Flair
I haven’t been to Bar Harbor since I was a child as I usually vacation on a Maine lake. But this post brought back some memories and I’ll have to get my husband up there!
Must, must must go!
Maine in the summer is amazing as indicated by your fabulous pictures. As a kid we would go for lobster dinner and the beach in Southern Maine, but occasionally we would venture north. I remember the water being numbing cold in Ba Haba
I would love to visit Maine. I have a brother there… I have no excuse.
Ah, Maine is one of our favorite states to visit, and Acadia National Park one of my all-time favorite places in the world! So, we have been to Bar Harbor many times. You hit on many of the highlights here. We like hiking the mountains of Acadia because they are a bit smaller and more doable than most – a little effort gets you to some amazing views! We’ve enjoyed a whale watching cruise, a couple of kayaking trips (one from Bar Harbor and one from the other side of the island), and when our kids were young, a lobster… Read more »