Your Go-To Guide for All Things to Do in Bar Harbor in 2024

If you’ve ever dreamed of a place where nature’s beauty meets small-town charm, Bar Harbor, Maine, is calling your name! It’s the kind of place that makes you want to breathe deep, slow down, and soak in every moment.

Pack your bags, and get ready for the vacation of a lifetime on Mount Desert Island.

Fun fact: Even though it’s spelled Mount “Desert” Island, locals pronounce it like “dessert.” It’s a nod to Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer who named the island back in 1604. Cool, right?

Yes, Bar Harbor has a rich history. Wabanaki people and their ancestors lived on the land for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. And in the late 19th century, big-name American families called this place home, including the Pulitzers, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Morgans, Astors, and Fords. They built grand summer “cottages” around the island, marking Bar Harbor’s Golden Age.

Today, Bar Harbor remains a popular destination in Maine for good reason. The state’s geographic location in the northernmost point in the U.S. means pleasant summer temperatures without excessive heat. Bar Harbor itself lies along the Atlantic Seacoast on Mount Desert Island, which includes Acadia National Park and many historic sites to visit.

Summer is the absolute best time to visit Bar Harbor, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to low 80s. Fall is also a great time to come when the tourists have left, and the weather is still mild. Spring and winter see more rain and snow, making them the least popular seasons.

In this guide, we’ll cover the many exciting activities and attractions in the area! You’ll find all the usual and some of the non-touristy things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Activities/Things to Do

Visiting Bar Harbor is an absolute blast. There’s so much to do; you might find yourself planning your next trip before this one’s even over! Many people come back year after year because there’s always more to see and do.

This section covers the wide variety of activities available during your visit.

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Water Activities/Beaches in Bar Harbor

With its pristine location along the rugged Maine coastline, Bar Harbor offers plenty of fun water activities. Frenchman Bay, in particular, provides a beautiful aquatic playground right on Bar Harbor’s doorstep. This inlet of the Atlantic Ocean is part of Maine’s rocky coastline and the Gulf of Maine. You’ll find it eastward of Mount Desert Island. The water in the bay is calmer than the ocean, making it ideal for fun water activities.

Here are just a few:

Kayaking

Kayaking is the best way to get up close and personal with aquatic life, barring swimming or diving. Consider this activity for an up-close look at Frenchman Bay’s marine life.

If you’re new to kayaking, no worries! Guided kayaking tours, available at most kayak rental shops in Bar Harbor, are a great way to start. They’ll show you the ropes and make sure you stay safe. Guided tours lead you to the best spots for spying on harbor seals, porpoises, bald eagles, and other wildlife.

Coastal Kayaking Tours on Cottage St offers guided tours around both sides of Mount Desert Island. Experienced guides are friendly and knowledgeable. Prices range from $67-84 depending on tour length and type.

Boat Charter

If you prefer to sightsee Frenchman Bay in style, several companies offer boat charters. There are all sorts of boats you can charter. Sail the pristine waters on a classic sailboat, take a narrated tour boat ride, or live large on a private yacht.

You can book one for under a hundred bucks, and it comes with an experienced captain. Check out Sail Acadia for some great options.

If you’re more into the classic tour boat experience, look at Acadian Boat Tours & Nature Cruises. These boats are a bit bigger but still small enough to get into cozy coves. You’ll see all the bay has to offer, and prices start as low as $42.

Whale/Seal Watching

Get up close and personal with Bar Harbor’s most famous marine mammals on a whale-watching tour. These magnificent and surprisingly gentle giants are a must-see when you’re in town. Three whale species — humpback, finback, and minke — inhabit the cold Atlantic waters.

The main company offering whale watching tours is Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. They’ll get you near these amazing creatures and teach you all about them all while remaining ethical. They’re careful not to disturb the whales’ natural habitat. Prices start at $75 for adults.

If you’re into smaller sea critters, the same company offers a lobster fishing and seal-watching package for only $38. Seals are like the puppies of the sea, guaranteed to get a laugh or two out of you.

Lobster Fishing

Speaking of lobster fishing, it’s one of those quintessential Maine things. No visit to Bar Harbor is complete without this iconic activity. That’s because lobster is a big deal in Maine. It’s not just food; it’s a way of life.

And lobster fishing tours allow you to experience the process without doing any work. You get to see how it’s done, learn about the process, and maybe even help pull up a trap or two.

The Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co’s boat, Miss Samantha, Maine’s largest lobster passenger boat, takes passengers out to experience the lifestyle.

Standup Paddle Boarding

Next up, we have an excellent way to get on the water and get a workout at the same time. Rent a standup paddleboard!

National Park Canoe and Kayak Rentals offers paddleboard rentals starting at $39 for three hours. That’s plenty of time to explore and get your arms feeling like jelly! You can also catch an epic sunset on the water with their Sunset Special rate of $22 per hour.

Beach Day

We’d be remiss not to mention the beach as a water activity. There are quite a few beaches on Mt Desert Island, and each one has its own personality. Town Beach is right in downtown Bar Harbor, so it’s usually pretty busy with lots of people watching. Sand Beach offers swimming and relaxing in Acadia National Park. Hunters Beach & Little Hunters Beach boast natural rocky shores.

But the best swimming is at Seal Harbor Beach with roomy stretches of sand located on the quiet side of the island.

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Land Activities

In addition to water sports, Bar Harbor also offers exciting dry land activities showing off the area’s incredible scenery. These might make you break a sweat, but the views are worth it!

Acadia National Park

If Bar Harbor were a movie, Acadia National Park would be the star. It’s the single most popular attraction in town. Over 50,000 preserved acres contain mountains, majestic granite peaks, and breathtaking ocean vistas.

There’s so much to do here: hiking, biking, camping, wildlife watching – you name it! Speaking of wildlife, keep your eyes peeled for Peregrine falcons, bats, and salamanders. And if you’re into plants, you’re in for a treat. There are 1,000 different types of plants in Acadia!

Some must-see spots in the park include Cadillac Mountain (the highest point on the eastern seaboard of the U.S.) and Jordan Pond. Jordan Pond is one of the park’s most pristine lakes, surrounded by fantastic mountain scenery. It’s 150 feet deep and covers 187 acres.

Entrance fees are $20-35 per vehicle.

Criterion Theatre and Arts Center

This historic theater opened at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 6th, 1932, during Bar Harbor’s glamorous heyday. It has come a long way since that fateful screening of Arsene Lupin. Today, the iconic Art Deco building hosts movies, plays, concerts, and other performances.

Support local artists and talent by catching a show at the Criterion! This nonprofit venue relies on community backing to continue operations.

Kebo Valley Golf Club

Golfing puts you right in the heart of nature. As you play, you get to enjoy all the peaceful sights and sounds around you. It’s a sport that connects you with the outdoors.

At Kebo Valley Golf Club, breathtaking views of Acadia National Park complement the rolling terrain of the USA’s 8th oldest golf course (established 1888). They’ve designed the course to fit with the surrounding natural beauty. Don’t be surprised if you see some local wildlife while you’re teeing off!

With lunch service daily, plus a modern clubhouse and PGA staff, Kebo Valley welcomes all golfers to come play a round on this public course located at 136 Eagle Lake Road.

Scenic Flight

Appreciate Bar Harbor’s full natural splendor from a new perspective on a scenic flight above Mount Desert Island. Various tour lengths with Scenic Flights of Acadia let you see all the beauty this area offers from glacial lakes to historic lighthouses.

And if you thought Bar Harbor was pretty in summer, you should see it in fall. The colorful foliage from above is stunning. Prices start at $144 per adult and $72 per child.

Oli’s Trolley

There’s something about trolleys that just screams nostalgia and adds to the charm of exploring a town.

Climb aboard Oli’s Trolley for a nostalgic fully-narrated tour of picturesque Bar Harbor. Large windows provide great views of the sights. Knowledgeable guides make for an entertaining and informative experience.

Tour options range from 2.5 hours to 4 hours. New this year is an add-on Popover picnic at Jordan Pond House. Book early, as seats fill fast! Pricing starts at $33 for adults and $20 for kids 12 and under.

Bike Rentals

Trolleys are nice, but they can be expensive if you just want to get around. If that’s all you need, why not rent a bike? Pedal power provides inexpensive, eco-friendly transportation for exploring Bar Harbor’s sights. With designated bike lanes throughout town, Bar Harbor is very bike-friendly.

One good place to rent from is Acadia Bike at 48 Cottage Street. They’ve got all kinds of bikes, even e-bikes, if you don’t want to pedal too hard in the summer heat. Rates start at $22 per day and include helmets, maps, and other gear. Bike tours are also available.

Bar Harbor Music Festival

The reason we recommend coming to Bar Harbor in the summertime is that there are more things going on. Things like the Bar Harbor Music Festival, which is now in its 58th edition.

Catch a classical, jazz, or other live performance at the renowned Bar Harbor Music Festival, running late June through mid-July. It’s been a big deal in the city for a long time, helping over 2,300 musicians, singers, and composers get their start.

There’s also a unique program called Young Audiences, where musicians play for kids in a relaxed setting, teaching them about classical music.

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Romantic Activities for Couples

Beyond the wealth of outdoor activities, Bar Harbor also shines as a romantic getaway for couples. Lots of lovers come here for simple vacations or even bigger occasions like renewing their vows. We’ve put together a list of some romantic things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Tree of Life Day Spa

After adventuring outdoors, pamper yourselves with a relaxing couple’s experience at Tree of Life Day Spa, Bar Harbor’s longest-running wellness retreat. Using organic and natural skincare products like Hungarian ilike, Tree of Life nourishes the skin and soothes bodies without harsh chemicals.

Step into their warm, welcoming haven and choose from an extensive menu of rejuvenating services. Their skilled staff exude positive energy and a caring touch. For the ultimate couples treatment, book the 60-minute Couple’s Massage for $300. Two tables are set up with peaceful music playing as you both receive customized therapeutic bodywork side-by-side.

Emerge feeling tranquil, stress-free, and reconnected. Visit Tree of Life Day Spa downtown at 108 Cottage Street or book convenient online reservations.

West Street Hotel

This one isn’t an activity per se, but it’s so lovely you could hang out there all day and call it one. The West Street Hotel is an upscale waterfront property that sits directly on the harbor, offering rooms with picture windows framing the ocean. It is also part of the Opal Collection of resorts.

The real showstopper is their rooftop infinity pool. Relax poolside with a drink in hand and gorgeous views.

The rooms are cute and cozy. They mix classic Northeast style with fancy resort perks and homey comforts. Nominated for a Condé Nast Traveller Readers Choice award, West Street Hotel is the place to stay. The central location on West Street puts you steps from downtown’s best restaurants and shops, too.

Mind you, it’s not cheap. Splurge on a special celebration by booking a room or suite ranging $500-600 per night depending on season.

Reel Pizza Cinerama

Next, we have a quirky spin on the classic movie-and-date night. Both at the same time! Located downtown at 33 Kennebec Place, Reel Pizza Cinerama is a local favorite that serves up piping hot pizza as you watch the latest cinema hits.

Sink into a padded seat inside their single screen theater or grab counter seating up front for a slice and a craft brew. Menu options offer a wide range of pies, nachos, popcorn and the occasional specialty item.

With affordable tickets, quality food, and drinks at reasonable prices, you can’t go wrong whiling away a few hours at this beloved neighborhood hangout. It may not be glamorous, but the chill atmosphere and tasty grub make for a quintessential Bar Harbor date night.

The Looking Glass Restaurant

If you’re in the mood for something fancier, check out The Looking Glass Restaurant at the Bluenose Inn. They’ve got a deck with amazing views of the bay. It’s very romantic, especially around sunset.

Patrons will enjoy expertly-prepared seafood, juicy steaks and other regional American cuisine. While dinner steals the show, The Looking Glass also serves an extensive breakfast menu to fuel early adventures in Acadia National Park right across the bay.

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Family and Kid-Friendly Activities

Lastly, we cover things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine, when traveling with the little ones. Don’t worry parents; both kids and adults will enjoy this list.

Adventure Mini-Golf

What is adventure mini-golf, you ask? Well, it’s a fun way to play mini-golf while exploring Bar Harbor’s history.

Pirate’s Cove will bring you back to the 1700s when pirates sailed the seas and hid their treasures. This course is pirate-themed, with a huge pirate ship to walk through, waterfalls, caves, and footbridges connecting the 18 holes.

It doesn’t cost much either. Only $9.50 for kids and $10.50 for grownups. You’ll find Pirate’s Cove halfway between Bar Harbor and Trenton Bridge on Route 3.

Stewman’s Lobster Pound

Picture a warm, buttery roll stuffed with chunks of fresh, sweet lobster meat. Is your mouth watering yet? That’s a lobster roll, and it’s a must-try when you’re in Maine!

At Stewman’s Lobster Pound, you can get a delicious, fresh lobster roll made the traditional Maine way. They actually have two locations – one at the Bar Harbor Regency and one downtown. Both are right by the water, which makes eating fresh seafood even better.

This is a great chance to teach your kids about good food made with love and local ingredients. Besides lobster rolls, you can try other Maine favorites like clam chowder, corn on the cob, and fresh blueberry pie for dessert.

Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium

You might be hesitant to bring excited kids to a place full of sugar. But hey, you’re on vacation! Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium is like paradise for kids (and let’s be honest, for adults too). The old-fashioned candy store is overflowing with fine chocolate, ice cream, and candy. They even have sugar-free options!

This place has been around since 1956, and it’s gotten pretty big. In the Bar Harbor store alone, they have 64 flavors of hard ice cream plus 12 flavors of gelato!

Abbe Museum

Finally, there’s always room for learning, even on vacation. And the Abbe Museum makes learning fun! It offers interactive opportunities to learn about the Wabanaki people native to Bar Harbor long before Europeans arrived. Contemporary Native art exhibitions and historical artifacts tell the story of indigenous cultures.

Special events and programs for all ages provide chances to dive deeper. With two locations in downtown Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, add this museum to your must-see list!

We hope this guide gets you excited to start planning your perfect Bar Harbor getaway! Whether you dream of the Acadia National Park or are looking for some unusual things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine, there’s something for you.

With gorgeous scenery, endless attractions, and activities, and that welcoming Maine charm, wonderful memories await you in this coastal paradise.

See you on the rocky shores and wooded trails of beautiful Bar Harbor!

 

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