Photo Credit : Courtesy of Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce
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Sitting on the doorstep of Acadia National Park on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor has roots as a resort town that go back to the mid-19th century, when it was a posh summer escape for families with names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Morgan. Today, Bar Harbor, with its concentration of hotels, inns, galleries, restaurants, and shops, caters to a broad array of vacationers and nature lovers.
Ready for a visit? Here are some of our favorite things to do, places to stay, and restaurants to try in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Best Things to Do in Bar Harbor, Maine | Eat, Stay & Play
Researchers from the College of the Atlantic’s Allied Whale program operate this free (donations appreciated), fun-for-all-ages museum. It’s jam-packed with educational diversions, including a life-size model of a prehistoric “walking” whale, fascinating videos, and hands-on exhibits on whales and climate change.
Go down to the bottom of the sea, virtually, with “Diver Ed” Monat while cruising off Bar Harbor aboard the Starfish Enterprise. Help Monat suit up, then push him overboard and watch on the big screen as he explores the depths and selects lobsters, sea cucumbers, starfish, and other critters to bring aboard for everyone to examine (he returns them to their watery home afterward, of course). Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Family Adventure.”
Sample fine olive oils from around the globe, balsamic vinegars aged up to 35 years, and many other delicacies, including sea salts and pestos, at this specialty-food mecca. Named a 2012 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Around-the-World Tasting Room.”
Climb aboard the Lulu, a traditional Down East–style lobster boat, for a humor-filled two-hour cruise with Captain John Nicolai that covers everything you ever wanted to know about Maine’s tasty crustacean. The seal sightings and breathtaking coastal beauty aren’t bad, either. Named a 2015 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Lobster Cruise.”
This splendid museum of Maine’s native peoples shifted its focus a few years ago from archaeology of a vanished world to an emphasis on living culture. Many Wabanaki artists helped design the core exhibit, “People of the First Light,” which explores the 12,000-year continuous history of people living in the Wabanaki homeland. The tales of confrontation, adaptation, and survival paint a picture of a resilient — and very much living — culture. Named a 2018 Yankee Editors” Pick for “Best Specialty Museum.”
Talk about a two-fer: Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner from the wood-fired oven at Sweet Pea Café and purchase Maine-made wine, beer, and chocolates at Bar Harbor Cellars (the town’s only winery), both located on Sweet Pea Farm. Named a 2015 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Twofold Food Stop.”
A bit quirky and charmingly eclectic, this Bar Harbor café ticks all the breakfast boxes: organic and vegan options, a slew of Benedicts and omelets, and pancakes and French toast with real maple syrup. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Breakfast.”
Watch the chef prepare meats and veggies on an Argentinian-style wood-fired grill as the bartender concocts you a memorable mojito at Parrilla, the casual open-air, streetside bar of Bar Harbor restaurant Havana. Cobble together a Maine-accented, Latin-inspired tapas meal or choose from entrée-sized offerings. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Bar Food.”
The Burning Tree may be a bit off the beaten path but well worth seeking out (you’ll need a reservation, FYI). The seafood specialties vary seasonally, and the vegetarian options come straight from the chef’s garden. Don’t miss out on the signature cocktails.
If you’re searching for a more casual option, look no further than Rosalie’s, in the heart of downtown. It’s served up pizza, calzones, and subs for more than 35 years, and the Wurlitzer jukebox is a real step back in time.
6 Places to Stay in Bar Harbor, Maine | Hotels & Inns
From the hotel’s rooftop pool you can watch downtown shoppers, excursion boats heading out to sea, cruise ships coming into the harbor, and more. Check out the world-class dining opportunities located on-site, as well as the luxurious spa. Named a 2014 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Pool View.”
Each of the 10 guest rooms at the Bass Cottage Inn has been named for an herb or spice with which it shares attributes. Check out fresh and soothing Verbena or subtle and refined Sage for an immersive, elegant lodging experience. The setting is peaceful, tucked away just off downtown, and guests also enjoy a decadent breakfast at no extra charge. Named a 2010 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Un-Victorian Victorian.”
Another area hotel with a storied past, the Bar Harbor Inn once hosted President William Howard Taft on a three-day excursion to Mount Desert Island in 1910. Dining options range from upscale, in the Reading Room, to more casual, at Terrace Grille. Be sure to check out the heated pool, and help yourself to afternoon tea and cookies.
A replica of the 1866 Rodick House, a guesthouse that was destroyed by a fire in the 1940s, the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel boasts all the modern amenities you could need. The heated pool and long front porch with plenty of rocking chairs are reminiscent of a bygone era and will remind you why this is one of the classic Bar Harbor hotels.
Try to resist the lure of the Adirondack chairs positioned just so on the oceanfront lawn of this gracious inn, located in the center of the town’s historic district. Your distinctively decorated, spacious guest room is the perfect oasis after a busy Down East day. Named a 2011 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Oceanfront B&B.”
This beautiful property has been a bed-and-breakfast since 1884. Located on a quiet side street, it’s within walking distance off downtown shops and restaurants. Whether you opt for one of the nine Moseley Cottage guest rooms or accommodations at the adjacent Town Motel, you’ll have a great place to recharge after taking in the sights of Mount Desert Island.