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.
Table of contents
- 1. Explore the town via Oli’s Trolley
- 2. Explore Acadia National Park
- 3. Visit the Abbe Museum
- 4. Attend Family Nature Camp
- 5. Learn at the Mount Desert Oceanarium
- 6. Go whale watching
- 7. Visit the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History
- 8. Tour a local farm
- 9. Take an aerial tour
- 10. Go for a bike ride
- 11. Go ocean kayaking
- 12. Go for a hike
- 13. Stroll along the Bar Harbor Shore Path
- 14. Go rock climbing
- 15. Do a Bar Harbor food tour
- 16. Have afternoon tea and popovers at Jordan Pond House
- 17. Sample the best ice cream in Bar Harbor
- 18. Play mini-golf
- 19. Play golf
- 20. Go shopping for souvenirs
- 21. Visit a local brewery
- 22. Catch an improv comedy show
- 24. Watch a movie at a quirky theater
- 25. Go stargazing
- 26. Take a photo tour
- 27. Have fun at Wild Acadia Camping Resort
- 28. Watch a lumberjack show featuring Timber Tina
- 29. Watch the sunset over Frenchman Bay
- 30. Take a day trip to Southwest Harbor
- 31. Wander through the Asticou Azalea Garden
- 33. Take a boat tour
- 34. Go lobster catching or deep sea fishing
- 35. Meet sea creatures & marine life with Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater
- What are your favorite things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine?
1. Explore the town via 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.
2. Explore Acadia National Park
The outdoor activities at Acadia National Park are practically endless.
You can see and hear waves crash 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.
3. Visit the Abbe Museum
Location(s): 26 Mt Desert St, Downtown 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Go whale watching
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 watch cruises, you’ll likely see other fun sea animals, like seals and puffins, not just whales!
7. 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!
8. 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.
9. Take an aerial tour
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.
10. 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.
11. Go ocean kayaking
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.
12. Go for a hike
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.
13. Stroll along the Bar Harbor Shore Path
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.
14. 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.
15. Do a Bar Harbor food tour
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 in Bar Harbor.
16. Have afternoon tea and popovers at Jordan Pond House
Location: 2928 Park Loop Rd
Phone: (207) 276-3781
Pop over to Jordan Pond House, located inside Acadia National Park, for afternoon tea from 3-5 PM daily.
Jordan Pond House 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.
When you’re done, take a stroll around Jordan Pond Trail.
17. Sample the best ice cream in Bar Harbor
Downtown Bar Harbor is crawling with ice cream shops:
- Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium
- CJ’s Big Dipper
- Jordan Pond Ice Cream & Fudge
- Mt. Desert Ice Cream
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.
18. Play mini-golf
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.
19. 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.
20. 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 Bar Harbor 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!
21. Visit a local brewery
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.
22. 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!
23. 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.
24. Watch a movie at a quirky theater
Location: 33 Kennebec Pl
Phone: (207) 288-3828
Reel Pizza Cinerama is a quirky movie theater in downtown Bar Harbor 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!
25. Go stargazing
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.
26. Take a photo tour
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:
- Jordan Pond
- Ocean Drive
- Night Sky
- 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.
27. 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.
28. Watch a lumberjack show featuring Timber Tina
Location: 127 Bar Harbor Rd
Phone: (207) 266-5486
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.
29. Watch the sunset over Frenchman Bay
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.
30. Take a day trip to Southwest Harbor
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.
31. Wander through the Asticou Azalea Garden
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.
32. Stroll through 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.
33. Take a boat tour
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.
34. Go lobster catching or deep sea fishing
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!
35. Meet sea creatures & marine life with Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater
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?
For more Bar Harbor tips, check out these posts:
This post was originally published September 12, 2016. It was last updated December 24, 2022.