As a kid, my parents would always take us to Myrtle Beach. But as my sister and I got older, my parents started to look elsewhere, specifically northward. And that’s how we found Bar Harbor. A cute, seaside New England town that shares an island with Acadia National Park (which soon became one of my favorite national parks). And once I had a couple of visits under my belt, I thought it was time to put together this Bar Harbor Itinerary.
Now this itinerary is for a whole week. But what if you only have a few days? Well, take a look below and see what activities jump out to you. Then rearrange and edit as necessary. Customize this Bar Harbor Itinerary to suit you!
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Day 1: Time To Orient Yourself
This is the day you arrive in Bar Harbor. There are several different ways you can get to Bar Harbor depending on where you’re coming from. See the section at the bottom (How To Get Around) for the way my family has arrived from several states away.
My favorites? I love to people watch in the Village Green. And to sit back and observe the boats in the harbor from the hill in Agamont Park. Then along Main Street there are a ton of shops. I like to stare at the woodworking at In The Woods (plus it smells fantastic). And to window shop at a small Art Gallery near the West End Drug Company (I actually bought a painting one year and had them ship it home for me).
However if you are staying for a whole week, there are a couple of things you may want to consider doing on your first day.
1. Schedule your whale watching tour.
I would do this immediately if you are considering a whale watching tour. On our first trip our morning whale watching tour was cancelled (due to weather) two days in a row before the weather was good enough to go out on the third day. So I would schedule this as early into your trip as possible in case you have to reschedule for weather.
2. Schedule your sea kayaking or rock climbing tour.
This is similar to the whale watching tour. You’ll need to consider weather and their own availability. Sometimes they’ll be full on certain days. And then rain may also cause you to re-schedule. So I would try to do either one of these activities (if you’re interested) sooner rather than later.
3. Rent your bike for the week.
This is entirely up to you. I’ve rented a bike for a whole week and I’ve also just rented one for the day. So the decision is yours. But if you are going to do it for the week, I would get it your first or second day there.
Day 2: Whale Watching
So if the weather holds out, hopefully this will be the day you’ll be able to go whale watching. The trip is going to take several hours so be prepared that this is half your day.
The main company in town is Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. The main office (and the boats) sit at the base of Agamont Park. You can’t miss it.
Our first year we did the Puffin and Whale Watch Tour. This was cool but you don’t get real close to the puffin island (and you are bobbing around like crazy), so you don’t see too much of the puffins.
Then as we headed into deeper water we actually spotted a Fin whale! This was the first whale I’d ever seen and it was just plain awesome. (I’ve since seen plenty, but that was several years later.)
Though be warned that there can be a lot of people on the boat. Mine was pretty full and the ocean was rough-ish that day (so it was rocking like crazy). Long story short, I have no pictures of the Fin whale. I was too busy jostling for space at the railing to worry about snapping a picture.
On our last trip though, the rest of my family went on the Sunset Whale Watch Tour. And though the weather was not fantastic, they saw several Humpback whales.
So which tour would be best for you? Well that depends on what you want to do and how much time you have. Note though, to my disappointment, you don’t get too close to Egg Rock Island where all the seals are. So unless one comes up to the boat, you probably won’t spot one.
The rest of your day is really up to you. If you do a Sunset Whale Watch, you will have lots of time in the morning. We went sea kayaking that morning.
If you do a morning whale watch, you may want to head back to your accommodation and shower, relax, and/or nap.
Depending on the time you got in the day before, you could spend your day exploring more of the town. There are a couple of additional things you can do around Bar Harbor itself.
1. Bar Island
The first is going over to Bar Island. This is the small island directly to the north of Bar Harbor. And, at low tide, you can walk across the sandbar that appears.
You’ll need to check the tide schedule first (as the sandbar is only there around low tide), but this was a lot of fun on our first trip to Bar Harbor. If you follow the trail all the way up to the top of the island, you’ll find a viewpoint looking back towards the town.
2. Shore Path
The second is walking the Shore Path in town. You can start at either end (one is at Wayman Lane, the other Agamont Park). This path will give you a great views of the coast and the islands in the bay. It’s also relatively flat, which is a plus if you want to just relax and stroll a bit.
Day 3: Acadia National Park
Okay so you should spend at least 1 full day in Acadia. Obviously if you have more time you’ll be coming back into this amazing national park often, but a day should be spent on hitting the highlights.
First up? The Beehive.
Not only is this one of Acadia’s standout trails. But it’s also one of its only iron rung trails (and may be the only one open during parts of the summer).
This is one impressive hike. Get ready to break a sweat. And get ready to wake up early to beat the crowds there. I reached the summit just a little after 9am, and I wish I would have started about a half hour sooner.
So start your day with the Beehive.
Want something even more challenging? The Precipice is the ultimate iron rung trail. It’s much, much, much harder than the Beehive. But it’s closed for most of the season. If you’re here in the fall, check out my guide on the Precipice to see if you are up for it!
Then after the Beehive, it’s time to tackle the rest of the Park Loop Road. Or at least its highlights. There are three in a row as you head south on Park Loop Road (which is a one-way road along the coast so you have to head south). But spend some time exploring the coast beyond these main stops. You’ll find amazing scenery all along the Ocean Path.
So what are the highlights? From north to south along the road, they are Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs. These are the main stops. They each have their own parking lot if you want to hop from one to the next (though Sand Beach’s fills up fast in the summer so plan accordingly).
If you only have time for 3 stops along the coast – these are the 3 you should see.
And if you didn’t want to hike an iron rung trail, then consider the Great Head Trail right next to Sand Beach. It’s mostly flat with only one steep section. And it’s got some great views. My dad who would never consider the Beehive because he’s scared of heights loved this hike.
After that, follow the road inland towards Jordan Pond.
The Jordan Pond Path is an easy trail that will take you all the way around Jordan Pond. The Jordan Cliffs trail is an iron rung trail that will take up to Penobscot Mountain’s cliffs. (Though it’s closed for most of the summer.) And hiking to see Bubble Rock is one of the top hikes in Acadia National Park. (South Bubble has its own parking lot so you don’t have to hike up the mountain from Jordan Pond).
Read Next: Hiking The Bubble Rock Trail
If you want to, you can also stop for lunch at the Jordan Pond House. Though I would recommend saving up and splurging for dinner later in the week. My family’s done both and dinner was so much calmer and relaxed (plus unlimited popovers!).
If you are hungry, there is a small convenience store above the gift shop with some snacks and sandwiches. Refuel here if you need to!
It’s time to end your day in Acadia National Park by heading up to Cadillac Mountain.
Though sunrise is considered popular, I hate mornings. Like really hate mornings. So I’ve never been. Instead we’ve gone in the afternoon and around sunset. Both were beautiful.
There’s a small trail that rings the top of Cadillac Mountain. It’s paved and very easy to navigate. If you want to see the view from almost every angle, then definitely do the trail.
Also don’t forget to pull over at the stops (there are parking lots) on your way up to the summit. Some these have amazing views and offer a different perspective than what you’ll see at the summit.
Now you may be super sweaty and tired after a full day of playing in Acadia. I usually am. This is normally the time we call it quits and head back to shower up.
Day 4: Do You Like Paddling Or Climbing?
If you are an adventurous sort, I would give either sea kayaking or rock climbing a go. Both are fantastic in Bar Harbor. And on one trip we actually did both (though on different days).
And I would schedule these for sooner rather than later in case the weather forces you to re-schedule.
With sea kayaking, there are two main companies in town: National Park Sea Kayak Tours and Coastal Kayaking Tours. We’ve gone with both and I honestly didn’t notice a difference with the quality. Though they do go to different places so keep this in mind when you book.
Now I had two very different experiences sea kayaking. On our first trip, I had a great time (except for the last 30 minutes). But on our latest trip I decided maybe sea kayaking just isn’t for me. Or at least isn’t for me if I have to be the one to steer.
I know that sounds really lame. And it has nothing to do with our guide or the tour itself. But, honestly, I just didn’t have a great time. Read more about my experience here.
Read Next: Sea Kayaking in Bar Harbor: Yay or Nay?
On the other hand, I went rock climbing on our trip last year and had a blast. Even though I’m someone who is afraid of heights it was thrilling!
I did have to reschedule this climb once due to the weather (rock climbing in the rain is a bit “unpleasant” they said). But it was beautiful on the day we actually went out. I climbed with Acadia Mountain Guides at Pebble Beach and Otter Cliffs.
If you are even in the least bit interested I would check it out!
Now after a morning of adventuring (either on the water or on the side of a cliff), it’s time to relax. And I can think of no better way than a brewery tour at Atlantic Brewing Company.
Now hopefully at this point you are already familiar with the company (because like literally every bar/restaurant in town serves their beer), but it’s time to go behind the scenes. And the best part? The tour is free! And it includes free tastings!
Literally one of the best things we did.
Our favorite beers? My Dad was all about the Real Ale, while I gravitated towards the Ginger and the Blueberry.
(Also we did go to their main location on Knox Road to do the tour. Though you can hit up their bar in town now.)
Day 5: Hit The Carriage Roads
If you are into biking, or even into the idea of biking, then renting a bike and heading out onto the carriage roads is a great way to spend a day exploring a different part of Acadia.
What are the carriage roads? Well think of them as really big trails that crisscross through the heart of Acadia National Park (at least on the eastern side). And they get their names from the days when people still rode around in carriages.
Now biking and hiking are the ways most people enjoy them now.
There are several different “loops” you can do, but if you have the time, then you got to go for the main one – the Eagle Lake & Jordan Pond Loop.
Definitely not easy (10+ miles around), but you’ll be treated to some amazing scenery. Learn more here!
Now a couple of tips. For starters, make sure to use the Island Explorer Bicycle Express. This stop is located at the north end of Eagle Lake and will transport you (and your bike) to and from the Village Green.
Also don’t do this on the hottest day. On our first trip, my Dad and I wanted to die by the end of the loop. It was so hot. Ungodly hot.
But the second time we did the main loop it was cooler. Even pleasant. And the loop seemed 200 times easier. So much so that we couldn’t stop talking about it.
Alright. Have you gone to eat dinner at the Jordan Pond House yet? No? Well, I would. The food is amazing. It’s cooler at night. It’s wayyyyyy less crowded at night. Oh and the sunsets aren’t bad either.
Plus unlimited popovers. (This may or may not be the second time I’ve mentioned this already. And it’s only available at dinner. At lunch you are restricted to, like, one popover each.)
Now this is definitely a splurge. As our waiter told us, there is a very different price point between lunch and dinner. But if you can swing it, I would give it a go.
Day 6: Your Last Full Day – What Do You Want To Do?
This is it. Your last full day in Bar Harbor! There are a ton of options. Here are some suggestions:
1. Try out some of the other carriage road loops (like the Witch Hole Pond Loop) if you still have your bike.
2. Head back out on the Park Loop road and walk the Ocean Path. This trail runs along the coast and will give you a different perspective than if you had just stayed in your car.
5. Do you have your own car? Maybe consider a drive down to Northeast Harbor or Southwest Harbor. My family usually does a small road trip around the island, but we haven’t visited either one of these other towns extensively…yet.
I would definitely consider ending the day over on the other side of the island. First stop? The Bass Harbor Lighthouse for sunset. This is a classic Acadia site. And it’s absolutely breathtaking at sunset. Though please note that this is a popular sunset spot. So you’ll be sharing the space with others. And you may want to get there early to get a parking spot.
For dinner definitely head to Thurston’s. This is a great lobster pound located just around the corner from the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. If you haven’t had a real lobster yet, this is the place to go to.
Day 7: Head Home
This is the day to head on home. Say goodbye in whatever way you feel is best. One of my favorites is grabbing a seat in Agamont Park. Sitting there and watching the boats go by in the harbor is probably my strongest Bar Harbor memory. So make sure you take some time to just relax and enjoy doing nothing – even if it’s just for a few minutes.
But what if you want a proper breakfast? Go for the Blueberry Pancakes at Jordan’s.
How To Get Around Bar Harbor
Okay so first up, how do you get to Bar Harbor?
Well there are a few ways. But it’s not super easy. If you live within driving distance (whatever that means for you) – I would drive. You’ll have the flexibility to go where you want and when. And you’ll save money on renting a car.
But what if you don’t? Well depending on your budget, you can fly to Bar Harbor (I think this would be quite expensive). You could fly to Bangor and then rent a car (this is what my family does). And there are even a few options for those who don’t want to rent a car. Mostly these involve on getting yourself to Boston, Portland or Bangor (all routes go through Bangor) and then taking a bus or shuttle to Bar Harbor.
Okay so now that you’re in Bar Harbor – how can you get around? Let me introduce you to the Island Explorer. This free shuttle operates June to October and has routes all over Mount Desert Island. If you are heading to any of the major stops, check the routes to see if you can catch the shuttle.
When we stayed at the Holiday Inn Regency we took the Island Explorer into town every single day. Parking in Bar Harbor is a pain in the ass and there was no way we were driving in everyday for dinner. So instead we caught the Island Explorer (Bus #2) to and from the hotel. Note that not all of the hotels are on the route, so make sure to check with your accommodation and the timetable/map.
And then lastly, if you have your own car and enter Acadia National Park, you’ll need a pass. You can buy one pass for the entire car and it’ll be good for a whole week. See information on prices & fees here.
Where To Eat In Bar Harbor
Maybe the most important part of the trip – eating. My family loves eating. We eat out a lot. We plan our days around our meals. It’s a definite thing for us. And this past year my mom recorded everything we ate. My favorite and go-to? The lobster roll. More specifically, the warm lobster roll. So good!
And my Dad just eats lobster everything. One year it was his goal to eat lobster once every day (in one form or another). Definitely not hard to do in Bar Harbor.
So here are all the places we’ve eaten (and there are probably more that I’m forgetting). My favorites are at the top.
Jordan Pond House. Dinner is delicious and, yea, popovers.
Thurstons. A lobster pound in Bernard.
Mama Dimatteo’s is an Italian restaurant. Their Lobster Mac and Cheese is one of my favorites.
The Thirsty Whale. We may or may not just like the name. But the food was great too.
Paddy’s. Need a break from all the lobster? Try this Irish Pub right on the waterfront. (But they still have lobster – I got my signature lobster roll.)
Side Street Cafe. Very cute little lunch spot!
Blaze. My sister got the oysters and the lobster risotto.
Route 66 is a little touristy, but they have a great spicy lobster roll!
Where To Stay In Bar Harbor
On our first trip to Bar Harbor we stayed at the Holiday Inn Regency (along Eden Street). There was only three of us (Dad, Mom, & me) and though the room was a little crowded, we made it work. Plus it had an amazing pool. (And was on the Island Explorer bus route!)
For our most recent trip though, our family has gravitated towards renting a house. The extra space was wonderful (especially since my sister joined us and at 4 adults, one hotel room is tiny). There are several options in Bar Harbor and on Mount Desert Island.
The next year we stayed in another house through VRBO that was much closer to town. This one was a favorite, check it out here!
New to AirBnb? Click here to get free credit towards your first stay!
What To Pack For Bar Harbor
If you’re not from the New England area, then be prepared for slightly cooler temperatures in the summer and fall. And it’s downright cold in the winter.
Most of the time you’ll be fine with casual clothes, though you may want one nice-ish outfit if you go eat at the Jordan Pond House for dinner.
And if you’re going hiking, I’d definitely consider some hiking accessories depending on the trail. Think a map, a good pair of shoes, and some sunscreen. You may also want some hiking poles if you plan on hitting a lot of trails (though these won’t help you on the iron rung trails).
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