8 BEST & Most UNIQUE Things To Do on Your Trip to Bar Harbor, Maine (and Acadia National Park)!
Updated: May 21
From the landscapes to the delicious (and sometimes odd) foods, there are several things about Maine that set it apart from any other state in the U.S. While Maine is one of six states comprising the region of New England, there are endless ways in which it stands out. Some have even claimed Maine to be the most unique state in the country!
What Makes Maine So Unique?
Well, for starters, Maine is the only state that shares a border with just one other U.S. state (New Hampshire). Its other neighbors are international- the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec. You may already associate things like lobsters and blueberries with the state of Maine, but did you know that Maine is the only state with a state flower that isn’t actually a flower? The White Pine Cone, produced by the dominant Eastern White Pine tree (the Maine State Tree), is the official state flower! With a nickname of “The Pine Tree State,” it just makes sense (though it was voted on by Maine residents)!
Aside from the visible attributes that make Maine “Maine,” there are things you can’t exactly see that make Maine special, too. If you’ve ever been to New England, you may have noticed there’s a different “vibe” there than most other places in the United States. It’s just more chill and relaxed. This especially rings true for Maine. It is hands-down one of the most friendly and relaxed places I’ve ever traveled to. People just live different there- more slowly and more simply. It’s a pleasant change of pace for sure!
Bar Harbor, ME & Acadia National Park
Now that we’ve touched on what makes Maine so special overall, let’s get into the details on Bar Harbor- one of Maine's most well-known travel destinations. Home to the beautiful Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor was voted one of the best Maine towns to visit in 2022. Having just visited here, it’s pretty easy to see why! Aside from the quaintness of the town and the unique sand bar (more on this below!) connecting it to Bar Island, Bar Harbor reflects all the best attributes of Maine in one special place. From the rugged and rocky coastlines of the Atlantic to the mountain peaks, Bar Harbor has it ALL! I couldn’t believe the diversity of experiences we had here both outdoors and indoors, so I’m writing this post to help YOU get the full on Maine experience during your trip!
Before I dive into the specifics, let me just say that I hope you’ve already made the decision to travel to the great state of Maine! If not, I hope this list of very unique Maine experiences will convince you why Bar Harbor, ME (at the very least) needs to be on your bucket list!
The BEST & Most MAINE Things to Do in Bar Harbor, Maine
Here are 8 things you MUST do to get the full-on Maine experience in Bar Harbor, ME.
1. Visit Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
On the National Register of Historic Places, Bass Harbor Head Light in Acadia National Park is located on the southwest corner of Mount Desert Island and marks the entrance to Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay. It was constructed on a rocky cliff in 1876 and is currently one of the most iconic (and most photographed) landmarks in Acadia National Park. You can walk right up to the lighthouse from the parking area on a short, paved trail, or take the Bass Harbor Head Light Trail (.4 miles out and back; open year-round) to a beautiful cliff side view. We did the latter at golden hour and were treated to an incredible sunset (and moon rise) over the water!
2. Cross the sand bar to explore Bar Island
If I had to choose the MOST unique activity in Bar Harbor, this would probably be it. Whether you call it a walk or hike, it is truly one of the most unique hikes I’ve done (and I’m an avid hiker)! At low tide, the water in the harbor recedes, and a relatively wide sand bar emerges that connects Bar Harbor to Bar Island. The sand bar is only .5 miles long, so it’s a pretty doable walk for the entire family. Once you reach Bar Island, you have the option to take a hiking trail another half-mile to the summit where you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of Bar Harbor across the way! This activity was particularly high on my bucket list, and it exceeded my already high expectations. The sand bar is safe to traverse 1.5 hours before and 1.5 hours after lows tide, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time. If you get stranded on the island, you will be stuck there for 9 hours until the next low tide occurs. I recommend checking the tide charts to see what time low tide is expected, and plan your activity accordingly!
Pro tip: Search for the Bar Island Trail on AllTrails for a specific route map. You can park downtown near Bridge Street to start your hike. If you’re like me and you enjoy having a coffee in hand on your stroll, stop at The Stadium on Maine Street (open seasonally). If ice cream is more your style, you can’t miss Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium (more on this to come)!
3. Eat some fresh lobster!
This one is probably obvious, but I do have a lobster flavored food that I bet will surprise you! Perhaps the most Maine way to enjoy some fresh lobster is in a lobster roll. These typically consist of a cold lobster salad (with mayonnaise and maybe a dash of other flavors) on a grilled and buttered bun (aka- the roll). You’d be hard pressed to find somewhere that DOESN’T serve lobster rolls, but I think the best ones are the seasonal shacks and hole-in-the-wall joints. They tend to be cheaper too! If you’re in Maine during the low season or you don’t feel like going on a lobster roll scavenger hunt, I highly recommend Geddys restaurant. Their lobster roll was right on point with a toasted and generously buttered roll! Plus, they had excellent craft beer options and INSANELY good blueberry pie. You can’t really go wrong ordering anything lobster on the menu- lobster bake, lobster mac, lobster pasta. The seafood in general is just so fresh!
Ok, the lobster surprise I mentioned. Get ready. Lobster ICE CREAM! Yep, you can try it for yourself at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium. They have an overwhelming amount of sweet treats to choose from, but their ice cream is delicious! Sample the lobster flavor, or get it on a cone if you dare!
Pro tip: If you aren’t a big fan of lobster, Maine is known for fresh haddock too. The Thirsty Whale makes excellent fried fish sandwiches and fish and chips! They also have an excellent craft beer selection. Noticing a theme yet?
4. Witness sunrise or sunset from Cadillac Mountain
If you are familiar with Acadia National Park, you’ve probably heard of the iconic Cadillac Mountain. At 1,530 ft, it is the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard. From October 7 to March 6, Cadillac Mountain is the first place to see the sunrise. For many, being the first in the U.S. to see the sunrise is a bucket list item! It was for me as well, but the weather didn’t quite cooperate. I didn’t mind though, as I was still able to catch an incredible sunset there! With 360-degree views, Cadillac Mountain is a great sunrise AND sunset spot- though expect it to be busy. We caught the sunset from the West-facing Blue Hill Overlook, which has its own parking area. Be advised that a timed entry pass is required for the Cadillac Summit Road from May 25 through Oct 22. There are several trail options for reaching the summit on foot as well. Restrooms and a gift shop can be found at the top.
5. Take a hike in Acadia National Park
You might be thinking “Kris, I can hike anywhere.” Yes, you can, but there’s no hiking like Maine hiking! Home to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor boasts plenty of unique hikes, and I definitely consider the Bar Island trail to be one of them. In Acadia National Park, some of my favorite trails include the Beehive Trail, Sargent and Penobscot Mountains, Ocean Path, Jordan Pond Loop, and Bubble Rocks Trail. I’ve included information for each of them below:
Beehive Trail- a fun (and easier) version of the more strenuous Precipice trail; involves a short, but steep and exposed climb up a cliff side to "the Beehive." The trail has several narrow ledges and iron rungs, which add to the fun! Once you reach the Beehive, keep going to the Bowl. It’s a little pond tucked in the mountain-side with a nice shoreline to take a break on. You can also take the Bowl Trail on the way back to avoid climbing back down the iron rungs.
Sargent and Penobscot Mountains- This was my personal favorite hike, partly because I didn’t know it existed until I hiked it. We hired a local guide from Maine Guided Trips to take us on an off-the-beaten path hike, and he definitely delivered! On this lesser known hike, we summited the second highest peak in the park, saw the oldest lake in Maine, and had panoramic views of Somes Sound (the only Fjord along the Atlantic coast), Cranberry Isles, Frenchman’s Bay, and more. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Katahdin in the distance.
Ocean Path- This trail is a great option for those looking to enjoy a gentle stroll while taking in incredible views. Like the name suggests, the Ocean Path is a coastal walking path that runs alongside Park Loop Road. It begins at Sand Beach and runs 2.2 miles to Otter Point (and Otter Cove). This is a great way to view popular overlook points such as Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs. The views are simply spectacular.
Jordan Pond Path- This gentler 3.3 mile loop follows the shore of Jordan Pond- recognizable from its view of two rounded peaks known as “the Bubbles.” You can stay on the Jordan Pond Path for an easy hike, or you can connect with the Bubble Trail to climb up to North and South Bubbles (see below).
Bubble Rocks- Visible from many places within Acadia National Park, North Bubble and South Bubble are collectively referred to as “Bubble Rocks.” I’m sure you can see how they got that name! The Bubbles Rocks trail (starting at the Bubble Rocks Parking Area) is a relatively steep, but short day hike that offers incredible views from the North and South peaks. South Bubble features the iconic “Bubble Rock,” which is a large boulder that sits right on the edge of a cliff. It’s really something to see! Don’t sleep on North Bubble though. The views overlooking Jordan Pond are phenomenal!
6. Explore the Carriage Roads by bicycle
Did you know that Mount Desert Island provides some of the most beautiful biking routes in the U.S.!? I sure didn’t, so I was quite pleasantly surprised! The unique carriage road system winds 45 miles through the heart of Acadia National Park and is completely closed to motorized traffic. You just have to share it with horses and pedestrians! There are several bike shops in Bar Harbor that offer full or half day bike rentals, along with helmets and other gear. We rented from Bar Harbor Bike Shop, which is just .7 miles from a Carriage Road access point. The owner talked us into renting e-bikes, and I’m very glad he did! The roads are definitely hilly, and we were able to explore 20 miles in just a few hours without completely exhausting ourselves. The carriage road system can be tricky to navigate, so I definitely recommend getting a map and highlighting your anticipated route. The experts at the bike shop will assist you with this! There are numbered points of interest to help you figure out where you are. I strongly recommend biking by Jordan Pond so you can stop for a famous popover at the Jordan Pond House (reservations my be required).
7. Visit a craft brewery
In recent years, Maine has established itself as one of the best craft beer destinations in the world. *Pause for shocked expressions.* From Portland to Norway, craft breweries are brewing all kinds of delicious beer- from thick stouts to New England IPA’s! If you are a craft beer lover, there are plenty of places in Bar Harbor to grab a brew. We particularly enjoyed Fogtown Brewing, Finback Alehouse, Tap and Barrel, and Bar Harbor Beer Works. Geddys had a great selection of local Maine beer as well!
8. Eat some wild Maine blueberries
Again, this may be obvious, but it has to be mentioned in any post about Maine! With wild blueberries being native to Maine, there’s no better place to have them. Maine and blueberries go hand-in-hand. There’s also no shortage of ways to enjoy your blueberries, so I’m going to give you my Maine favorites:
Blueberry ice cream- Stop at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium or any ice cream shop in Bar harbor.
Blueberry pie: Geddy’s restaurant had especially good blueberry pie that complemented their exceptional good lobster roll!
Blueberry pancakes: The blueberry pancakes at Everyday Joe’s were the BEST pancakes I’ve ever had. Everything on their breakfast menu is delicious, but you have to at least order a single blueberry pancake. You can always hike or bike it off later!
There you have it! You're all set to have your very own uniquely Maine experience in Bar Harbor, ME. I hope you enjoyed this post, and I know you'll enjoy your trip. As always, thanks for reading, and happy travels!