Things to do · Canada & New England
August 10, 2020 Words: Frances Thomas

Best Things To Do in Bar Harbor, Maine

There’s a lot more than lobster in this bustling seashore town.


Situated on the northeast coastline of Maine’s Desert (pronounced “dessert”) Island, Bar Harbor is a historic fishing village known for whale watching and fishing tours, year-round outdoor adventures, and, of course, fresh-from-the-sea lobster. Shouldering Acadia National Park, a 47,000-acre playground of trails, forested valleys, and natural lakes, this coastal town is a storybook getaway for hiking enthusiasts, though it offers plenty of history and cultural charms if you’re less outdoors-inclined. Whatever you’re seeking, whether it’s action-packed adventures in nature, exceptional dining and shopping (one of the town’s most recognizable traits is its lack of chain stores), or simply a quiet escape with stunning waterfront views, you can find it in Bar Harbor. Below, find our top recommendations for exploring this beloved seaside community.

Walk the Shore Path
Trailing the shore of Frenchman Bay for 1.5 miles (2.5km), this level, well-marked walking path is a beautiful introduction to many of Bar Harbor’s main attractions. Beginning at Ells Pier in the heart of town, it guides you south along the waterfront past the iconic Bar Harbor Inn, the Porcupine Islands, Balance Rock, and other notable landmarks. If you visit in the summer, the blooming rosa rugosa plants infuse the path with a rosy fragrance.

Visit the Abbe Museum
Dedicated to celebrating the legacy of the Wakanabi, Maine’s Native American people, the Abbe Museum is spread across two locations in Bar Harbor: one in the center of town, and one in the Acadia National Park. Both locations offer a treasure trove of artifacts dating back 12,000 years alongside multimedia installations and interactive digital exhibits. Of particular note is the core collection of Wabanaki crafts, including the largest documented collection of Maine Indian basketry.

Meander the gardens at The College of the Atlantic

Home to five different gardens, from formal flower beds to organic vegetable plots, The College of the Atlantic campus is a plant lover’s mecca. Take a lengthy stroll through the gardens — all open to the public — to discover a panoply of regional wildlife and waterfront landscape designs.

Relax in the Village Green
Nestled in the center of town, this public green space is home to a picturesque gazebo, a tiered fountain, and plenty of benches to relax and take in the panoramic ocean and mountain views. Flanked by a cluster of independent shops and cafés, it’s a perfect spot to regroup between planned activities.

Dine on lobster
No Maine vacation is complete without at least one lobster feast. There are countless eateries in Bar Harbor to get your fix, from no-frills pubs to sit-down restaurants with white table cloths. For the former, we recommend Side Street Cafe, a family-run bar and eatery just off the Village Green known for classic comfort food (and great margaritas, to boot); for the latter, head to Galyn’s, a local institution inside a Victorian boarding house just steps from the Town Pier. And if you thought lobster was reserved for savory dishes, think again: At Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, tuck into a scoop (or three) of buttery lobster vanilla ice cream.

Hike at Acadia National Park
Just a 10-minute drive from town, Acadia National Park is a must-visit landmark during your Bar Harbor getaway. If you’re an early bird, watch the sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak along the North Atlantic seaboard (and the first point in the United States to catch the sun’s morning rays from early October through March). Other stunning summits include Sargent Mountain, Bald Peak, and Flying Mountain, to name a few. When you’re ready for a snack break, head to Jordan Pond House, an Acadia mainstay since the late 1800s, for popovers and a pot of Earl Grey.

See a show at the 1932 Criterion Theatre
For a dose of the local arts scene, there’s no better place to visit than this non-profit multimedia art venue that’s been around since — you guessed it — 1932. Recently renovated to restore the original Art Deco structure and design, the theatre hosts live performances, local talent, and curated film screenings all year round.

Take a boat tour
The best views of Bar Harbor are from the water, where you will likely encounter whales, dolphins, and seals in addition to the unforgettable coastal vista dotted with islands, mountains, yachts, and lighthouses. Countless local businesses offer boat, fishing, and whale watching tours — check the town website when planning your trip to view all the available options.

Best Time to Visit:
July and August are the busiest months in Bar Harbor, thanks to reliably warm, sunny days. Also consider visiting in the months shouldering peak summer — May, June, September, and even early October — for fewer crowds, and somewhat cooler yet still pleasant temperatures.

Global health note: Due to the shifting nature of COVID-19, Seabourn highly recommends checking in with all of the above venues before visiting to confirm hours of operation and pertinent regulations.

Maine, ocean, rocky beach


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