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35 Best Things to Do in Bar Harbor, Maine

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Bar Harbor, Maine is one of the most popular vacation destinations in New England.

And it’s easy to see why: from the rocky shoreline to the simple way of life, the town of Bar Harbor is downright charming. 

My grandmother grew up here, so I have been visiting since I was an infant!

Enjoying the great outdoors isn’t the only thing to do here. Bar Harbor is also a great spot for foodies, families, solo travelers, and couples.

Whatever your reason for visiting, you’ll find plenty of activities and attractions.

OK, I’ll stop yapping about this lovely seaside New England town. Onto a sort-of local’s guide about the best things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Do a tour with Oli’s Trolley

Oli’s Trolley offers 3 tours, as well as private small group tours via van.

The Downtown Bar Harbor tour runs for 30 minutes with tickets starting at $20. It does not include any stops, but is a great way to see the town and get to know where key attractions are.

The 2.5 hour Acadia National Park tour includes 3 15-minute stops: Cadillac Mountain summit, Thunder Hole, and Jordan Pond. Tickets start at $38 for kids and $53 for adults.

The 4 hour Acadia National Park tour includes 4 15-minute stops: Cadillac Mountain summit, Sieur de Mont Springs, Thunder Hole, and Jordan Pond.

These trolley tours are perfect if you’re only in town for a day, such as on a cruise that ports in Bar Harbor.

Explore Acadia National Park

Photo from Cadillac Mountain during sunrise, looking out to the Porcupine Islands.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

The outdoor activities at Acadia National Park are practically endless. 

You can see and hear waves collide against the rocky inlet at Thunder Hole, walk across a land bridge exposed when the ocean is at low tide to visit Bar Island, go for a hike on one of many hiking trails, hang out Sand Beach, take a drive around Park Loop Road, or go bird watching. 

And don’t forget about the Schoodic Peninsula part of Acadia National Park, which is located off the island.

If it’s your first time visiting Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, head to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center.

Here you can get your entrance pass, learn more about the park through exhibits, see art from the latest artist-in-residence, chat with park rangers, grab a souvenir, and catch the Island Explorer bus.

Visit the Abbe Museum

Location(s): 26 Mt Desert St, Bar Harbor // 49 Sweetwater Cir, Sieur de Monts Springs
Phone: (207) 288-3519

Maine has a rich Native American history, and I highly recommend learning more about it while in Bar Harbor at the Abbe Museum.

It’s also a great place to go to learn more about the modern day Wabanaki Nation.

The Abbe Museum is home to artifacts representing over 12,000 years of Native American life in what is now the state of Maine. 

The museum also hosts several markets featuring Native American artisans, as well as a Native American Festival.

Admission to the museum is free for Native Americans, as well as members of the Abbe Museum. 

TIP: Note that there are two locations. Admission paid at the main downtown location includes admission to the Sieur de Monts Springs location. 

If you visit the Sieur de Monts Spring location first, you can get the price deducted from your admission if you choose to also visit the downtown location.

Attend Family Nature Camp

One of the most unique things to do in Bar Harbor with kids is the Family Nature Camp at the College of the Atlantic.

As the name suggests, the Family Nature Camp is a week-long Summer camp designed for families that love nature.

Activities include watching the sunrise over Cadillac Mountain, a fishing excursion, and exploring tide pools, among other fun things to do outside in Bar Harbor.

Learn at the Mount Desert Oceanarium

Location: 1351 State Rt 3
Phone: (207) 200-5465

NOTE: The Mount Desert Oceanarium is currently closed for remodeling & is expected to reopen in 2023, likely under a new name.

The Mount Desert Island Oceanarium is one of the best things to do in Bar Harbor with kids, especially on a rainy day. 

Activities include a marsh walk, museum, a touch tank, and a lobster hatchery. 

One hour long guided tours are available, but by reservation only.

Go whale watching

Photograph of a whale jumping out of the ocean.

The Gulf of Maine is home to finback, humpback, and minke whales from roughly Spring to Fall, making Bar Harbor the best spot for whale watching in Maine.

This timing is perfect if you’re visiting Bar Harbor during the peak tourist season of June, July, August, and September.

For great whale watching in Bar Harbor, check out Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company.  

The best part – on whale watching tours, you’ll likely see other fun sea animals, like seals and puffins, not just whales!

Visit the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History

Location: 105 Eden St
Phone: (207) 288-5395

Learn more about Maine wildlife and natural history at the George B. Dorr Museum.

This small but mighty museum is housed at the College of Atlantic, in the original headquarters for Acadia National Park.

The museum includes educational programs and interactive exhibits, such as a tide pool touch tank – which was always my favorite part when visiting as a kid!

Tour a local farm

If you’re in Bar Harbor for a family vacation, a fun thing to do with kids is a farm visit at Wild Iris Farm.

Wild Iris Farm offers a 45-minute tour, including a horse-drawn carriage ride, during the Summer months (June through August).

A visit to Wild Iris Farm is a great activity for kids that are curious about farm life and animals. 

TIP: Tours must be booked in advance. Reservations can be made by calling 207-288-5234.

Do an aerial tour

Aerial photo of downtown Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay.

Airplane and helicopter tours are all the rage in the tourism industry lately.

But Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island have had a few options for aerial tours for as long as I can remember!

Scenic Flights of Acadia offers several options, so you’re not stuck with seeing only Bar Harbor from up in the air.

Acadia National Park, Schoodic Point, and other scenic areas are available, too.

Go for a bike ride

The carriage roads in Acadia National Park are off-limits to cars, so they are great for bicycling.

Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island overall are bike-friendly, so it’s pretty easy to find a safe stretch of road to take your bike for a spin.

If you’re not able to bring your bike from home, rentals are available at Acadia Bike and Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop.

Go ocean kayaking

Photo of people tandem kayaking in Frenchman Bay of the Atlantic Ocean.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Ocean kayaking is a popular activity in the Mount Desert Island area, especially Bar Harbor, as it sits on the beautiful Frenchman Bay.

If you don’t have a kayak, there are plenty of places in the Bar Harbor area that have kayak rentals, such as National Park Canoe & Kayak Rentals

There are also several options for guided kayaking tours in Bar Harbor, such as National Park Sea Kayaking Tours and Coastal Kayaking Tours.

Go hiking

Photo of a woman walking across large rocks along the shoreline of Jordan Pond.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Mount Desert Island is home to lots of hiking trails, from easy to super challenging.

Most of the hiking trails range from 1-5 miles roundtrip, so they are perfect for day hikes.

The variety of hiking trails available in the area is one of the reasons why hiking is one of my favorite things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Check out my post about the best hikes in Acadia for tips on which trails to hit up or read my guides on Jordan Pond Trail, Beehive Trail, and Bar Island Trail.

Stroll along the Bar Harbor Shore Path

View of Frenchman Bay through a bush from Bar Harbor Shore Path.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

If leisurely nature walks are more your thing, definitely check out the Bar Harbor Shore Path.

This historic shore path stretches for 1.5 miles between West Street below Agamont Park to Wayman Lane, just behind MDI Hospital.

The views of the Porcupine Islands, including Bald Porcupine Island, and the Atlantic Ocean are quite beautiful from this path.

Go rock climbing

Bar Harbor has several good spots for rock climbing.

If you’re new to the sport, check out Atlantic Climbing School for lessons or guided excursions.

Atlantic Climbing School also offers 1-time experiences if you’re not interested in lesson packages.

Do a Bar Harbor food tour

Flat lay photograph of oysters on a half shell arranged atop a bed of ice with a container of red sauce in the middle.
Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism.

Maine Foodie Tours offers 2 food tours in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The lunch and dinner option are focused on food, while the happy hour option includes beer, cocktails, and appetizers.

A food tour in Bar Harbor is a great way to try local dishes, such as lobster rolls, local ingredients, like wild blueberries.

You’ll also get a chance to try out some of the best restaurants and bars in town.

Have popovers at Jordan Pond House

Location: 2928 Park Loop Rd
Phone: (207) 276-3781

Closeup of an open popover with strawberry jelly in the middle from Jordan Pond House in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Pop over to Jordan Pond House, located inside Acadia National Park, for afternoon tea from 3-5 PM daily.

This long-running restaurant is known for their delicious freshly baked popovers and jam, which go perfectly with a tart glass of lemonade or a refreshing cup of tea.

If you’re not an afternoon tea kind of person, they also serve lunch and dinner.

Whichever mealtime you choose, I recommend getting a seat on the lawn for amazing views of Jordan Pond and Bubble Rock.

Do an ice cream crawl

Closeup photo of blueberry and peach ice cream in a cup.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Downtown Bar Harbor is crawling with ice cream shops, such as Mt. Desert Ice Cream and Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium.

It’s hard to say which ice cream shop is the best because they are all delicious – and yes, I’ve been to them all (multiple times, even)!

For a fun twist, gather a group and head downtown for an ice cream crawl.

Order a few flavors at each shop for the group to share, moving on to each ice cream shop until you’ve visited them all.

An ice cream crawl is a great way to try each shop to find out which one is your favorite, so check out my post about the best ice cream shops for tips on where to go.

Play mini-golf

Photo of the entrance to Pirate's Cove mini golf in Bar Harbor, ME.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

There are a few places to play mini golf in Bar Harbor, but the absolute best is Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf. 

Whenever I visit Bar Harbor, spending a night at Pirate’s Cove is a must.

While Pirate’s Cove is open during the day, my family and I find that it is much more fun at night. 

It gets nice and cool at night in Bar Harbor, plus there’s no chance of getting a sunburn. Also, it adds to the fun pirate atmosphere!

Pirate’s Cove mini golf offers two 18-hole courses with a dramatic pirate theme, such as waterfalls and a giant pirate ship that serves as one of the holes!

After you play, hop across the street for ice cream at Udder Heaven, which has delicious handmade ice cream, ice cream sundaes, and other cool-you-down treats.

Another bonus – if you’re staying at the Bar Harbor Campground, there’s a secret path behind Udder Heaven that leads into the campground.

Play golf

Speaking of golf – if you play the real-deal game, there are 2 lovely golf courses where you can flex your skills. 

Kebo Valley Club is the 8th oldest golf course in the United States. 

This historic golf course opened for play in 1891 with 6 holes designed by famous golf course architect, H.C. Leeds.

It was later expanded to 9 holes in 1896, then a full 18 holes in 1920.

While I’ve never played golf here, I have been to a wedding and can attest to how beautiful the grounds are. 

Northeast Harbor Golf Club is located outside Bar Harbor, but in the Northeast corner of Mount Desert Island.

This 18-hole golf course was designed by Arthur Lockwood and Herbert Strong.

Like Kebo, it originally opened with 9 holes, later expanding to 18 in 1925.

Go shopping for souvenirs

Looking for something to do in Bar Harbor on a rainy day? Head downtown for some shopping!

Shopping in Bar Harbor is a mix of cheesy souvenirs, local crafts, and handmade goods, so you’re bound to find gifts for pretty much anyone.

A few of my favorite shops in downtown are Bark Harbor, Cadillac Mountain Sports, and Cool as a Moose.

Bark Harbor is full of goodies for your pup (collars, bandanas, treats, more treats…), as well as a few items for cats. 

Cadillac Mountain Sports is a good place to pop in if you’ve forgotten warm enough clothes (I’m definitely guilty of this) or need new outdoorsy gear. 

Lastly, Cool as a Moose is probably the hippest souvenir shop I’ve encountered anywhere.

There are lots of funny t-shirts, recycled sailcloth handbags, cute spirit jerseys, hoodies, and of course – a moose as a mascot!

Visit a local brewery

Closeup of beer bottles from Atlantic Brewing Company on a shelf.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

One of my favorite craft beer breweries is Atlantic Brewing Company.

In fact, their Mount Desert Island Ginger wheat ale is one of my favorite craft beers!

The main brewery is located in the Town Hill area and is a fun option if you’re looking for things to do in Bar Harbor in the rain.

Free tours, which include beer and soda tasting, are available and are open to all ages.

Times for the tours can change, so it’s best to visit the Atlantic Brewing Company website before visiting. 

TIP: If you’re looking for a craft beer tasting experience, check out their taproom located about a block back from Main St. and Cottage St. in downtown Bar Harbor.

Catch an improv comedy show

Location: 15 Cottage St
Phone: (207) 288-2503

One of my favorite things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine at night is to hit up ImprovAcadia for an improv comedy show.

ImprovAcadia runs 1-2 shows most nights. If you attend the first show of the night, they sometimes let you stay for the second show for no extra charge.

Each time I’ve gone, I’ve pretty much laughed myself into a six-pack!

Catch a show at the Criterion Theatre

Location: 35 Cottage St
Phone: (207) 288-0829

Catch a movie or attend a show at the historic Criterion Theatre.

This multi-purpose Art Deco theatre opened in 1932 and has entertained residents and visitors ever since.

The Criterion Theatre shows current and classic films and a variety of performances, from puppet shows for the kiddos to concerts from popular musicians.

Watch a movie at Reel Pizza Cinerama

Location: 33 Kennebec Pl
Phone: (207) 288-3828

Reel Pizza Cinerama is a quirky movie theater where you can order a delicious pizza, drink a brew, lounge on couches, and watch a great flick.

The movie selection isn’t as big as your typical movie theater, but that would defeat the purpose. It’s the vibe you’re after: super chill and laid back.

There’s usually 1-2 movies to pick from, with a mix of indie, classic, and recent releases.

Occasionally they host film festivals, such as the Indigenous Film Festival, which is hosted in conjunction with the Abbe Museum.

TIP: If you’re dead-set on snagging one of the couches, get there early!

Go stargazing

A dark blue sky with countless stars and an island full of trees in the distance.

With very little light pollution, Mount Desert Island and Bar Harbor are great spots for stargazing.

Acadia National Park can be accessed at night, making it a prime spot to peep shooting stars.

If you’re really into stargazing, be sure to plan your trip to Bar Harbor around the annual Acadia Night Sky Festival.

The Acadia Night Sky Festival features events, hands-on learning, and even a stargazing party atop Cadillac Mountain.

You can view festival dates on the Acadia Night Sky Festival website.

Take a photo tour

A man in a uniform shows a camera filter to a woman while overlooking the Bubble Mountains in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Photo courtesy of Acadia National Park.

Photo tours are great for beginner photographers, as you can learn more about how to take great photos and have plenty of time to practice along the way!

Acadia National Park offers free photo walks led by park rangers. There are only 1-2 tours per week and they are only run during the Summer months.

Reservations are required. For more information on dates and times and to make reservations, call 207-288-8832.

Acadia Photo Safari also offers several nature photography workshops, all led by professional photographer Howie Motenko.

There are 4 preset tours available from Acadia Photo Safari, as well as an option to create a private tour.

The preset tours include:

  1. Jordan Pond
  2. Ocean Drive
  3. Night Sky
  4. Sunset Cruise

The photo tours generally last 3 hours and are capped at 6 people to make sure there is adequate one-on-one assistance.

Have fun at Wild Acadia Camping Resort

Location: 233 Bar Harbor Rd
Phone: (207) 667-3573

Another family-friendly activity near Bar Harbor is Wild Acadia Camping Resort.

Formerly known as Wild Acadia Fun Park, Wild Acadia Camping Resort is finally open after a complete revamp as a family camping resort.

This fun resort and park features a variety of activities, such as water slides, swimming, mini golf, and a rock climbing wall.

Day passes are available for those not camping there, one with access to all activities and one with everything except the pool and slides.

Wild Acadia Camping Resort is located in Trenton, just before you cross over the bridge to get onto Mount Desert Island.

Watch a lumberjack show

Location: 127 Bar Harbor Rd
Phone: (207) 266-5486

Two teams of 2 men competing in sawing a log while a woman overlooks the contest.
Photo by Meg Frost, All rights reserved.

Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show showcases 4 lumberjacks in classic logging sports competitions, such as axe throwing, log-rolling, and pole climbing.

This family-friendly show does a great job of getting the audience involved, such as letting kids help saw a log (supervised, of course).

When I was a kid, my family would go every time we were in Bar Harbor for a visit! We’ve continued the tradition now that my siblings and I are older by taking my niece to see a show during our last visit.

I guess you could say it’s of our favorite things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine!

Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show is located in Trenton, just after you cross the bridge leaving Mount Desert Island.

Watch the sunset over Frenchman Bay

Photo of a silhouetted sailboat in Frenchman Bay during sunset.

Grab some ice cream and head over to Agamont Park, the village green with a gazebo, benches, and an antique Italian fountain, all overlooking Frenchman Bay.

For the best experience, head to the park anywhere from 30-60 minutes before the sun is scheduled to set that day. You’ll also want to stay up to 30 minutes after sunset. 

Not all sunsets are the same, so you might get a special show in the time leading up to or after the sunset!

Another excellent spot to watch the sunset over Frenchman Bay is from Terrace Grill at the historic Bar Harbor Inn, right on the shoreline.

Take a day trip to Southwest Harbor

Photograph of the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse on a rocky cliff during sunset.
Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism.

Southwest Harbor, is a small, quaint town on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island with lots of adorable shops and restaurants.

When I visit with my family we usually grab food to go and head to Wonderland Trail for a seaside picnic. 

Wonderland Trail is just short of 1.5 miles out and back and is a great spot for a nature walk and picnic.

The Seawall Picnic Area is another option if you’re not up for a hike, but want to enjoy the fresh sea air.

TIP: On your way back to Bar Harbor, swing through Bass Harbor to see the famous Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

Wander the Asticou Azalea Garden

Closeup of pink azalea flowers in bloom.

For another fun day trip, take a scenic drive to Northeast Harbor for an afternoon at the Asticou Azalea Garden.

This Japanese-style garden is full of azaleas, Japanese iris, rhododendron, and other beautiful flowers and trees.

Round out your afternoon with lunch at the nearby Asticou Inn & Restaurant or 123 Main Street Restaurant.

Stroll the gardens at the College of the Atlantic

Location: 105 Eden St
Phone: (207) 288-5015

There are several lovely gardens on the College of the Atlantic seaside campus that make for a nice, quiet activity.

At the north entrance of the school is the organic Community Garden. Plots are offered on a first-come, first-served basis in the Spring for local residents to plant their own produce, flowers, or plants.

Nearby the Community Garden is Newlin Gardens, which was started in 1992 by Elizabeth Battles Newlin after her husband’s death.

Behind Kaelber Hall is Beatrix Farrand Garden, which was created in 1928. The garden is made up of perennials, roses, and a series of stone walls that divide the area like rooms.

Behind The Turrets mansion is the 4000 square foot Turrets Seaside Garden, which was restored in 2005 by senior student Eamonn Hutton. This beautiful garden includes a granite bench, fountain, and beautiful views of the Maine coast. Plants and flowers include lavender, Siberian iris, roses, phlox, and other blue, pink, white, and purple foggy colored flowers.

Last up is the Sunken Garden, which has been restored several times, most recently in 2015 by the school’s Gardening Club. It is filled with annual flowers and edible wild plants.

Take a boat tour

Two sailboats with American flags docked on shore.

Given that it’s on an island, there are plenty of Bar Harbor boat tours to choose from.

From fishing tours to lighthouse tours and even birdwatching, you’ll likely find a boat tour of interest to you.

In Bar Harbor proper, I recommend Acadian Boat Tours, Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines, or Lulu Lobster Boat Ride, all of which offer a few different options for boat tours.

If you head out on a day trip to nearby Bass Harbor, Maine, I recommend Bass Harbor Island Cruises.

Go lobster catching or deep sea fishing

Photo of Frenchman Bay with boats in the water and lobster traps on the pier.

Spend a day with Acadia Deep Sea Fishing Tours in Southwest Harbor catching lobster or fish.

On this fun tour, you’ll head out into the Atlantic Ocean for some deep sea fishing for cod, mackerel, lobster, and other seafood.

Joining a fishing tour is a great activity for families with older kids or adults looking for something unique to do.

Tours depart from Biel’s Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, Maine. And yes, you get to keep anything you catch!

Meet sea creatures & marine life

Location: College Pier at College of the Atlantic
Phone: (207) 288-3483

Join Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater for a boat ride out to sea where Diver Ed and his crew will dive into Frenchman Bay and bring back some sea creature friends, such as lobster, crab, scallops, mussels, and sea stars for you to meet. Some of them can be touched or held, too.

And of course, all friends are safely returned back to their home before your journey back to the docks.

The tour runs twice a day at 9:30 AM and 1 PM, but is closed on Sundays. Tickets start at $25 for kids up to age 5, $45 for kids 6-12, and $60 for anyone age 13 and up.

What are your favorite things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine?

Bar Harbor is packed with things to do for a variety of crowds, don’t you agree?

All that’s left to do now is decide where to stay while you’re in town!

About the author

Photo of travel blogger Meg Frost, of Frost + Sun, in Havana, Cuba.
Photo by Meg Frost, all rights reserved.

Meg Frost is a Boston-based travel blogger that helps people embrace technology to make vacation planning and traveling wicked easy, affordable, and fun.

She holds an M.A. in Journalism from Northeastern University and B.S. in Communication & American Studies from University of Miami.

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This post was originally published September 12, 2016. It was last updated March 2, 2023.

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