Bar Harbor in Maine. Photo via Shutterstock.

Best Things to Do in Bar Harbor, Maine

BY Meghan Gunn | July 13, 2021

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Bar Harbor? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Bar Harbor?”

On Maine’s Mount Desert Island sits Bar Harbor, a small but lively bayside town where summers draw a mix of rugged lobstermen, spirited adventurers and old-money New Englanders (the Rockefellers vacationed here). Nestled within its cozy streets are upscale boutiques and yacht repair services, juxtaposed with no-frills bait shops and hole-in-the-wall seafood joints. Bar Harbor also serves as an access point to Acadia National Park, 47,000 wild acres that have long attracted intrepid explorers. This is a place rich with history, in an area called home by humans for more than 12,000 years. 

To get there, you’ll drive hours without cell service through lush, green, undeveloped land that feels more like a Tolkien story setting than America. When the speed limit signs turn to moose crossings, and you pass the billboard for “Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show,” you’ll know you’re getting close. Roll down the windows when you cross the bridge, and the smell of steamed lobster wafts from the tiny roadside shacks ahead. Then the road winds up into the bluffs, and Puritan-style houses give way to sweeping estates cradling modern mansions. A quaint town comes into view. You’ve arrived. Here’s what to do: 

YOU’RE HERE FOR THE DRINKS

Atlantic Brewing in Bar Harbor, Maine.
#1
Atlantic Brewing in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Atlantic Brewing

52 Cottage St, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

A taste for beer seems to be the common denominator among local fishermen, backpacking tourists and summer-dwellers alike, and this town is ripe with craft brews. Order a flight and chill on the rooftop terrace. Be sure to try the signature Blueberry Ale. 

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Choco-Latte in Bar Harbor, Maine.
#2
Choco-Latte in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Choco-Latte

240 Main St, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

This is the hot caffeine watering hole, always packed and the place to overhear town drama. Its interior also doubles as an exhibition space, hosting local artists’ work. The specialty drink is its namesake chocolate latte; pair this with the breakfast burrito for maximum content. 

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YOU’RE ALSO HERE FOR LOBSTER

Agamont Park in Bar Harbor, Maine.
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Bar Harbor, Maine - Splashing water fountain in downtown village Agamont park in summer with children family playing, running, walking, sitting on ground in background. Photo via Shutterstock.

Agamont Park At the Marina

Agamont Park, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

Start at the source. Watch from this grassy hilltop as the lobster boats depart the harbor. Their daily catches will be on the menu almost everywhere in town; just make sure to ask for the market price. Early in the season, a 4-oz. roll was a casual $29. 

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Thirsty Whale Tavern in Bar Harbor, Maine.
#4
Thirsty Whale Tavern in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Thirsty Whale Tavern

40 Cottage St, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

If you’re looking for an unpretentious pub with big portions and buttery lobster at the town’s lowest prices, this is your spot. A local staple, “The Whale” has been serving fresh seafood since 1988 — and you can’t go wrong with any of it. 

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Side Street Cafe in Bar Harbor, Maine.
#5
Side Street Cafe in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Side Street Cafe

49 Rodick St, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

This is a trendy spot that definitely caters to a young summer crowd. There’s a plethora of lobster dishes on the menu, including the crowd favorite, lobster mac and cheese. Other dishes to try are the haddock sandwich and fish tacos. 

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GET CULTURED

Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine.
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Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Abbe Museum

26 Mount Desert Street, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

This interactive museum is dedicated to preserving the culture of Maine’s Indigenous people, the Wabanaki. It’s the only Smithsonian affiliate in the state, and has grown in recent years to become an established contemporary exhibition space. 

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Sherman’s in Bar Harbor, Maine.
#7
Sherman’s in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Sherman’s

56 Main St, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

A branch of Maine’s oldest bookstore, this well-loved spot has a general-store feel and sells both books and trinkets. Like Abbe, it acknowledges realities outside idyllic island life and platforms a diverse range of Maine voices. 

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Reel Pizza Cinerama in Bar Harbor, Maine.
#8
Reel Pizza Cinerama in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Reel Pizza Cinerama

33 Kennebec Place, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

Order a slice and catch a movie while lounging on one of the eclectic theater house’s mismatched couches. In addition to pizza with vegan and gluten-free options, Reel also has an extensive beer selection.

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GET OUTSIDE

Land Bridge to Bar Island Hike
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Maine, Bar Harbor. Bar Island, accessed only at low tide by a natural land bridge that emerges from the ocean. Tourists crossing over the Land Bridge at low tide. Photo via Shutterstock.

Land Bridge to Bar Island Hike

Bar Island Land Bridge, Bar Island Trail, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA

At low tide, a sandbar emerges and makes the uninhabited Bar Island accessible by walking from the mainland. You can explore the island on various trails, but signs will warn you to get back to town before the tide changes again; otherwise, you’ll be stranded until it recedes once more (nine hours). 

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Acadia National Park, Thunder Hole in Maine. Photo via Shutterstock.
#10
Acadia National Park, Thunder Hole in Maine. Photo via Shutterstock.

Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

This geological phenomenon draws a crowd to its show. When conditions are right (I won’t pretend to know exactly how it works), the rock inlet creates massive waves and a, well, thunderous sound. 

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Coastal Kayaking Tours in Bar Harbor, Maine.
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Coastal Kayaking Tours in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Coastal Kayaking Tours

48 Cottage St, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

Amid several rental and tour options, sea kayaks are a must. You’ll paddle around Mount Desert’s surrounding islands, scoping out eagles, puffins and porpoises. Members of the thriving seal community might also try to hitch a ride on your bow. 

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Bridge for Carriage Road in Acadia Nation Park. Photo via Shutterstock.
#12
Bridge for Carriage Road in Acadia Nation Park. Photo via Shutterstock.

The Carriage Roads

Carriage Road, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

Get your wheels set up at Acadia Bike Rentals, and cruise through the famous carriage roads — 57 miles of car-free gravel trails. The Around the Mountain trail is a local favorite, boasting inclines and drops not for the faint of heart. 

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Acadia National Park, Maine - The Jordan Pond House Restaurant. Photo via Shutterstock.
#13
Acadia National Park, Maine - The Jordan Pond House Restaurant. Photo via Shutterstock.

Jordan Pond House

2928 Park Loop Road, Seal Harbor, ME, USA

Stop by the historic mansion for the oldtime tradition of popovers and blueberry lemonade on the lawn. One cannot explain a popover, as it is simply a creation that can only be experienced. The Pond also has a lovely walking trail around its perimeter. 

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Cadillac Mountain in Bar Harbor, Maine. Photo via Shutterstock.
#14
Stone pathway along Cadillac Mountain during a sunrise. Photo via Shutterstock.

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

“…with this wide coastal world at your feet, you can see the roundness of the earth in your mind’s eye and sense keenly the orderliness of the solar system.” Nature writer Christopher Camuto said this of Cadillac’s peak, a sentimentality that might seem overwrought for those who drive to the top of Cadillac; but if you opt to hike the very rocky, very vertical North Ridge Trail, standing at summit really does feel ethereal. 

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WHERE TO STAY

Ivy Manor Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine.
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Ivy Manor Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Ivy Manor Inn

194 Main St, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

This place is straight out of a fairy tale. Located on the town’s main drag, its front lawn has a garden bar, funky bird baths and a fire pit for cooler nights, as well as a patio where live bands perform. In addition to the main house, there are six cabins on the property available to guests.

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Moseley Cottage Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine.
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Moseley Cottage Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Moseley Cottage Inn

12 Atlantic Ave, Bar Harbor, ME, USA

Inns are the vibe here. This one is an adorable Victorian-era B&B located in the heart of town, family-owned and furnished with antiques. Expect home-cooked breakfast, along with fresh scones and warm chocolate chip cookies throughout the day.

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Blackwoods Campground in Bar Harbor, Maine.
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Blackwoods Campground in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Blackwoods Campground

Blackwoods Campground, Blackwoods Drive, Otter Creek, ME, USA

If you choose to forgo a hotel for a tent, this is the place to pitch one. Several Acadia trailheads are accessible by walking, and the ocean is so close that you can hear the waves at night. There are bathrooms and potable water near every site, so you won’t be completely roughing it, and downtown is a 10-minute drive.

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