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, Bar Harbor is just downright charming.
My grandmother grew up in the area, so I was fortunate to be able to visit this beautiful outdoorsy town regularly.
But enjoying the great outdoors isn’t the only thing to do there.
It’s also a great spot for foodies, families, solo travelers, and couples. So…pretty much everyone!
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 on the best things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Be sure to check local travel regulations before you book a trip. Some destinations are blocked from visitors or have drastically altered schedules or availability due to COVID-19. Always wear a mask and wash your hands frequently.
Table of contents
- Send the family to Summer camp
- Hang out at Acadia National Park
- Go for a bike ride
- Go hiking in Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island
- Stroll along the seaside Bar Harbor Shore Path
- Try kayaking in Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island
- Challenge yourself with rock climbing
- Get centered at a Bar Harbor yoga class
- Go on a whale watching tour in Bar Harbor
- Check out one of many Bar Harbor boat tours
- Take an aerial tour of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island
- Take a photo tour of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island
- Sample local dishes on a Bar Harbor food tour
- Tour a local farm
- Have afternoon tea and popovers at Jordan Pond House
- Sample the best ice cream in Bar Harbor
- Spend an afternoon shopping for souvenirs
- 3 things to do in Bar Harbor in the rain
- 4 things to do in Bar Harbor at night
- 5 things to do near Bar Harbor, Maine
- What are your favorite things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine?
Send the family to Summer camp
One of the most unique things to do in Bar Harbor for families 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.
Hang out at Acadia National Park
While in Bar Harbor, check out Acadia National Park, my absolute favorite national park in the USA.
From hiking to classic beach time, the outdoor activities at Acadia National Park are nearly endless.
For ideas on what to do here, check out my guide on the best things to do in Acadia National Park.
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.
Go hiking in Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island
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.
Stroll along the seaside Bar Harbor Shore Path
If leisurely walks are more your thing, definitely check out the Bar Harbor Shore Path.
This oceanside walking path in downtown Bar Harbor stretches for 1.5 miles between West Street below Agamont Park to Wayman Lane, just behind MDI Hospital.
The views of the Porcupine Islands and the Atlantic Ocean are quite beautiful from this path.
Try kayaking in Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island
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 offers kayak rentals.
There are also several options for guided kayaking tours in Bar Harbor, such as Coastal Kayaking Tours and Aquaterra Adventures.
Challenge yourself with 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 continued lessons.
Get centered at a Bar Harbor yoga class
If you’re into outdoor yoga sessions, check out Yoga in Your Park, where you can find classes that take place outside in beautiful spots like Sand Beach, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain.
If you’d rather stick to indoor classes, check out Destination Health [LINK] in downtown Bar Harbor.
Aside from yoga classes, Destination Health also offers fitness classes, personal training, massages, and a sauna.
Go on a whale watching tour in Bar Harbor
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 the tours offered by Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.
On Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company’s tours, you’ll likely see other fun sea animals, like seals and puffins, not just whales!
Check out one of many Bar Harbor boat tours
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.
Take an aerial tour of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island
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 air tours for as long as I can remember!
Get a bird’s-eye view of Mount Desert Island with an airplane tour from Scenic Flights of Acadia or Acadia Air Tours.
Both companies offer several tour 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.
Take a photo tour of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island
Acadia National Park offers free photo walks. These tours are led by park rangers and are great for beginner photographers.
There are 1-2 tours per week during the Summer months led by park rangers at Acadia National Park.
These tours are free and require reservations. 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.
Motenko has 4 preset tours, 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.
Sample local dishes on a Bar Harbor food tour
Maine Foodie Tours offers 2 tours in Bar Harbor. The lunch and dinner tours are focused on food, while the happy hour tour includes beer, cocktails, and appetizers.
A food tour of 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.
Tour a local farm
If you’re in Bar Harbor for a family vacation, a fun thing to do for families is a farm tour at Wild Iris Farm.
Wild Iris Farm offers a 45-minute tour, including a horse-drawn carriage ride, during the Summer months (June – August).
A visit to Wild Iris Farm is a great activity for kids that are curious about farm life and animals.
TIP: Tours have to be booked in advance. Reservations can be made by calling 207-288-5234.
Have afternoon tea and popovers at Jordan Pond House
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 Jordan Pond 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, Jordan Pond House also serves lunch and dinner.
Whichever mealtime you choose, I recommend getting a seat on the lawn for amazing views of Jordan Pond and Bubble Rock.
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, and Mt. Desert Ice Cream.
It’s hard to say which one is 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.
Spend an afternoon 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 typical touristy 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!
3 things to do in Bar Harbor in the rain
Even though Bar Harbor is a big destination for outdoor activities, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do when it rains. Quite the opposite, in fact!
Check out these top 3 things to do in Bar Harbor in the rain.
Learn about ocean life at The Mount Desert Oceanarium
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. Reservations for the tour can be made by phone by calling 207-288-5005.
The Mount Desert Island Oceanarium is located on Route 3 on the left side of the road, just after you get onto the island.
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 Town Hill area of Bar Harbor, where they offer free tours, along with a beer and soda tasting. This tour is a great option if you’re looking for things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine in the rain.
Tours are open to all ages and several tours are run each day. Times can change, so it’s best to visit the Atlantic Brewing Company website before visiting.
If you’re looking more 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.
Learn about Maine’s Native American history
Maine has a rich Native American history, and if you’re interested in learning more about it, as well as the modern day Wabanaki Nation, the Abbe Museum is the place to go.
Visiting the Abbe Museum is also a great option if you’re looking for things to do in Bar Harbor in the rain.
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.
The museum has 2 locations, one in downtown Bar Harbor (26 Mt. Desert St.) and the original site in Sieur de Monts Springs (49 Sweetwater Circle, Bar Harbor).
Admission to the museum is free for Native Americans, as well as members of the Abbe Museum.
TIP: Admission paid at the downtown location includes admission to the Sieur de Monts Springs location. If you visit the Sieur de Monts Spring location first, then the downtown location, you can get the price deducted from your admission at downtown.
4 things to do in Bar Harbor at night
Just for you night owls, here are 5 fun things to do in Bar Harbor at night.
Catch an improv comedy show in downtown Bar Harbor
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 a six-pack!
Play a round or 2 of mini-golf in Bar Harbor
There are a few places to 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.
Catch a flick at an independent movie theater
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!
Gaze at the stars
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.
In 2019, the Acadia Night Sky Festival takes place September 25 – 29. In 2020, the festival will take place September 16 – 20.
You can view additional dates on the Acadia Night Sky Festival website.
5 things to do near Bar Harbor, Maine
Looking for even more things to do? Check out these 5 fun things to do near Bar Harbor.
Let loose at Wild Acadia Fun Park
Another family-friendly activity near Bar Harbor is the Wild Acadia Fun Park and Water Slides. It’s a great option for a fun family day to let kids get their energy out.
This fun park features a variety of activities, such as water slides, swimming, go-kart rides, mini golf, a ropes course, and zip lining.
Wild Acadia Fun Park is located in Trenton, just before you cross over the bridge to get onto Mount Desert Island.
Watch a lumberjack competition
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 on a recent visit to Bar Harbor. I guess you could say it’s of our favorite things to do near Bar Harbor, Maine!
Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show is located in Trenton, just after you cross the bridge leaving Mount Desert Island and the Bar Harbor area.
Wander through the Asticou Azalea Garden
If you’re looking to get out of Bar Harbor for a bit, take a scenic drive over 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.
Catch some lobsters or fish, fresh from the ocean
Spend a day like a fisher(wo)man with Acadia Deep Sea Fishing Tours in Southwest Harbor. On this fun tour, you’ll head out into the Atlantic Ocean for some deep sea fishing for cod, lobster
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!
Take a day trip to Southwest Harbor, Maine
Speaking of Southwest Harbor, this quaint town on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island makes for an excellent day trip.
Downtown Southwest Harbor has lots of adorable shops and restaurants. When I visit with my family we will usually grab food to go and head to a nearby trail for a seaside picnic.
Wonderland Trail is just short of 1.5 miles out and back and is a great spot for this activity.
The Seawall Picnic Area is another option if you’re not up for a hike, but want to enjoy the fresh sea air with your meal.
TIP: On your way back to Bar Harbor, swing through Bass Harbor to see the famous Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.
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?
Be sure to hit me up in the comments to let me know what you did while in Bar Harbor!
This post was originally published on Sept. 12, 2016. It was most recently updated on June 24, 2019.