Bar Harbor is known as the gateway to Acadia National Park. According to TripAdvisor, some of the best things to do in Acadia National Park include visiting must-see attractions like Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, and Sand Beach. But don’t worry, there are other things to do around this cute coastal town in Maine. This includes whale watching in Bar Harbor from June to October. Because it’s a tourist hub, there are plenty of Bar Harbor events throughout the year as well, such as music festivals and a winter beer fest. So get out your Bar Harbor tourist map and note down some of the best things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine.
1. Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is a 47,000-acre coastal national park that’s primarily located on Mount Desert Island. With 3.5 million visitors annually, Acadia National Park is not only one of the best things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine – it’s one of the 10 most-visited national parks in the United States. It’s known for its woodlands, rocky headlands, lakes, and the granite peak that is Cadillac Mountain. There are over 150 miles of walking trails within the national park as well.
2. Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain is the most popular tourist attraction within Acadia National Park. At 1530 feet, it’s the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard (from Nova Scotia to Mexico). It’s also the first place in the United States to see the sunrise from October 7 to March 6 every year. It’s possible to drive up to Cadillac Mountain’s summit, but it does get very crowded in the summer months. Alternatively, you can hike up to the summit.
3. Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond is also found within Acadia National Park. Surrounded by mountains, the glacier-formed lake has a maximum water depth of 150 feet. Swimming isn’t allowed in the crystal clear waters of Jordan Pond, but visitors can canoe or kayak on its surface. There’s also the 3.5-mile Jordan Pond Loop Trail, which is a leisurely stroll on a paved path. Located on its shores, Jordan Pond House opens in the summer and is one of the region’s best restaurants.
4. Sand Beach
Nestled in a cove that’s surrounded by rocky headlands, Sand Beach is a beautiful beach in Acadia National Park. It’s located close to the national park’s entrance station, and less than a 15-minute drive from Bar Harbor. The ocean water at Sand Beach rarely exceeds 55 degrees, even in summer. A lifeguard patrols the beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day. A visit to Sand Beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Bar Harbor in summer.
5. Schoodic Peninsula
Just over 2000 acres of Acadia National Park sits on Schoodic Peninsula – the only part of the national park located on mainland Maine. It’s characterized by a red granite shoreline and a forest filled with mainly pine-birch trees. Schoodic Peninsula’s highest point is Schoodic Head. From the 440ft peak, you can see Frenchman Bay and Cadillac Mountain. It’s definitely one of the more secluded areas within Acadia National Park, but there are still many hiking trails to enjoy on the Schoodic Peninsula.
6. Thunder Hole
Thunder Hole gets its name from the fact it’s where you can see the thundering seas roll onto the rocky shores of Acadia National Park. In fact, water can splash 40 feet into the air at Thunder Hole. There’s a small cavern just below the surface here as well. When air and water are forced out of it, it can sound like distant thunder. To get to Thunder Hole, you can follow the two-mile Ocean Path trail, which connects it to Sand Beach and Otter Cliff.
7. Abbe Museum
One of the best things to do in Bar Harbor on a rainy day is check out the Abbe Museum. It was established in 1928 and named after its founder, Dr Robert Abbe. The Abbe Museum has two locations: downtown Bar Harbor and Sieur de Monts Spring in Acadia National Park, which is open seasonally. The museum’s core exhibition, People of the First Light, focuses on the history and culture of the Wabanaki, Maine’s native people.
8. Mount Desert Island
Bar Harbor is actually located on Mount Desert Island, which is the largest island off the coast of Maine. There are three other towns on the island as well: Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor, and Tremont. However, its biggest drawcard is, of course, Acadia National Park, which is home to the island’s highest point – Cadillac Mountain. Characterized by its rocky coastline and lush forest, Mount Desert Island has been a popular summertime destination for decades.
9. Shore Path
One of the most popular things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine itself is taking a walk along its famous Shore Path. Originally created around 1880, the one-mile round trip path hugs the coastline and begins at the Town Pier near Agamont Park. Points of interest along the way include the rocky shores of Town Beach, Bar Harbor Inn & Spa, and Grant Park. The Shore Path is a great place to watch both the sunrise and sunset in Bar Harbor.
10. Land Bridge to Bar Island
Land bridge refers to a natural sand and gravel bar that’s the namesake of Bar Harbor. The land bridge connects the mainland to Bar Island, an uninhabited and forested tidal island within Acadia National Park. However, the land bridge (and thus Bar Island) is only accessible approximately two hours before and two hours after low tide. If you walk across the land bridge to Bar Island, you will find a network of trails and scenic views across to Bar Harbor.
11. Ocean Trail
Located within Acadia National Park, Ocean Path is one of its most popular and family-friendly walking trails. Hugging the pink granite cliffs and eastern shore of Mount Desert Island, the two-mile (four-mile round trip) Ocean Path starts at Sand Beach and ends at Otter Point. Along the way you can stop at Thunder Hole, Monument Cove, the unofficially named Boulder Beach, and Otter Cliff. Ocean Path gives you a glimpse at the beauty of Acadia National Park.
12. Frenchman Bay
Frenchman Bay is named after Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer who first sailed in and chartered the area for France in 1604. It’s the large body of water between the northern shore of Mount Desert Island and Maine’s south coast. Although Bar Harbor is the largest town on Frenchman Bay, it’s also home to several islands, including Bar, Bald Porcupine, Sheep Porcupine, and Long Porcupine Islands. You can get great views of Frenchman Bay from the top of Cadillac Mountain, or from the shoreline of Schoodic Peninsula.
13. Village Green
When you first arrive in Bar Harbor, one of the best things to do is visit the Acadia Information Center in the Village Green. It’s where you can purchase passes and learn more about Acadia National Park from local experts. The Village Green is the town square, and it’s home to a large gazebo, open green space, the historic town clock, and seasonal arts and culture events. In summer, the Bar Harbor Town Band performs free concerts in the Village Green too.
14. Beehive Trail
The Beehive Trail is one of the most iconic hiking routes within Acadia National Park. With a 450-ft elevation, the Beehive Trail involves hiking up the steep south face of the Beehive peak, via granite steps, iron rungs and handrails. The Beehive Trail is not recommended for those with a fear of heights, but at the top, you’re rewarded with views of Sand Beach and Great Head. You then head back down on the Bowl Trail.