OH MY BAR HARBOR. I love you.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that Steve and I needed to peace the f out of Boston after a long 6 months of staring at the same four walls or if Bar Harbor is incredibly perfect in and of itself, but we were obsessed with this place.
You might remember I went to Bar Harbor five years ago on a work trip but I was only there for 3 days and didn’t get to explore much on my own. Steve and I also went there when we were kids (with our families, not together), so again, we were overdue.
Bar Harbor was the perfect New England getaway, easily accessible from Boston by car – only about a 4 1/2 to 5 hour drive. If you’re traveling from further away, you could fly into the Bar Harbor Airport (BHB) or the Bangor International Airport (BGR).
What we loved most about vacationing in Bar Harbor was the close proximity to Acadia National Park (about 10 minute drive) for daily hikes, access to delicious, fresh seafood (hello lobstah), and the quaint, laid back vibe of the town itself.
If you’re thinking about making a trip to Bar Harbor or planning it right now, here are TK tips for things to do while you’re visiting (in no particular order)!
10. Book a fancy, special occasion dinner on the deck at the Veranda Bar & Restaurant at the Balance Rock Inn.
We celebrated our four year anniversary in Bar Harbor and celebrated with dinner with a GORGEOUS view on the deck at the Veranda Bar. This hotel is super swanky and $$$ so if the budget doesn’t allow you to stay here but does have room for an expensive dinner, be sure to book a dinner here at sunset!
They were nice enough to print special menus for us with happy anniversary on there and they served us a couple glasses of prosecco on the house :).
Their bread was SO good. No wonder it’s listed on the menu as “the best bread we’ve made so far,” served with a cultured compound butter. We also started with tempura scallops but I forgot to take a photo :).
Steve ordered the pork tenderloin with fig, pistachio, fennel, sweet potato.
And I ordered the arctic char with carrot, samphire, sea kelp, and smoked cream. It was v. delicious.
9. Stay at a cute bed & breakfast like the Mira Monte Inn.
The Mira Monte Inn is a super cute B&B, located in the heart of Bar Harbor, it’s just a five minute walk to the shops and restaurants. The owner is super nice and gave us lots of local tips and recommendations when we arrived. They have several gardens on the grounds and they were sweet enough to cut us from fresh flowers for our room as a happy anniversary gesture.
Our room had its own little balcony off the back so we would grab our breakfast (buffet style bc of ya kno, the times) and then take it back to our balcony to eat outside looking at the trees and gardens and appreciating the peace and quiet of Maine.
The balcony was also the perfect place to read in the morning, cup of tea in hand.
8. Hike the ocean path at Acadia National Park.
With stunning ocean views alongside the coastline, the ocean path hike is flat, easy, and family-friendly. Spanning from Otter Cliff to Sand beach, the total distance round-trip is 4 miles. This is a popular path so it was fairly busy for us during labor day weekend.
Ending at sand beach, where the water rarely exceeds 55 degrees F, of course we had to stop here as a halfway point so Steve could take a dip (he has a thing about swimming in v cold water).
7. Grab a lobster roll at Side Street Cafe.
There is nothing like Maine lobster. I live in Boston and I swear Maine lobster is slightly sweeter and all around more delish.
Highly recommend the lobster roll from Side Street Cafe. It’s served with a creamy, meaty cup of clam chowdah. Also their blueberry margarita is FABULOUS. This place is perfect for a post-hike lunch!
6. Watch the sunrise and sunset at Cadillac Mountain.
I’m a serial sunset chaser. I LOVE nothing more than kicking back and watching a good sunset. Cadillac mountain at Acadia is known for its vantage point for watching the sunset and sunrise. But to avoid the massive crowds, we decided to watch from just below the peak at Blue Hill Overlook (it’s the last parking lot before Cadillac lot).
I appreciated that there weren’t mobs of people and we could enjoy a quiet sunset. It gets pretty windy and chilly up there as the sun sets, so be sure to bring/wear layer!
We arrived around 5:30pm when the sun was supposed to set around 7pm and we snagged a spot in the lot before it filled up, and we had our pick for a spot to spread out.
The sunrise at Cadillac was equally breathtaking. The sun was going to rise around 6:02am I believe and we set our alarm for 4:45 maybe and planned to be in the car by 5am. We made the sort of mistake of watching the sunrise on Labor Day so it was ridiculously packed.
The lot was full and so we turned around and made it into the Blue Hill Overlook lot (where we watched the sunset). It was only about a 10 minute walk from the lot up to the peak at Cadillac.
Because it was so packed and we wanted to be safe, we walked down to a point on the trail you hike up to the mountain that was much, much less crowded. And the view was just as spectacular.
5. Hike at Jordan Pond and stop at Jordan Pond House for their famous popovers
Jordan pond is another popular hike at Acadia, spanning 3.4 miles around the pond. It’s easy and flat with some uneven terrain. The best part of the hike is arguably finishing at Jordan Pond House for lunch!
Guest of the park have been enjoying these views and popovers here since 1893! Typically you have to make reservations in advance but this year they were doing takeout only, which worked out perfectly because we could just sit down right in the grass and enjoy a little picnic like lunch.
4. Splurge and spend some time staying at the Bar Harbor Inn.
Since we were staying past labor day, the hotel rates dropped after the holiday to off season rates, so we took advantage by spending our last few nights lapping up a bit more luxury at the Bar Harbor Inn.
Located on the waterfront, this timeless and iconic hotel was established in 1887. We stayed in the main inn, which has gorgeous views of the harbor.
But the real reason we were looking forward to staying here was the infinity pool and two jacuzzis, which felt HEAVENLY after a long hike.
3. Get a whole lobster at Beal’s Lobster Pier.
Beal’s has been a local favorite for fresh lobster since 1932. Located about 30 minutes outside of Bar Harbor, their working lobster pier sits in Southwest Harbor. I came here with the Wild Blueberries team five years prior and knew I had to bring Steve back with me.
We came on the Sunday night before labor day and ended up in a line that took two hours for us to get our food. I’m not sure if it’s always that busy on the weekends or if it was because it was a holiday weekend.
Two hours is a long time to wait for food and I have to say it was 100% WORTH IT. Beal’s is quite the experience too – once you finally get up to the counter, you’re greeted with a pool of live lobsters and mussels, and someone is picking ’em out and weighing ’em right before your eyes.
I’ve honestly never had better lobster in my life. It was so tender and sweet and with drawn butter, OH EM GEEEEE. I ordered mine with the fixins: 1/2 lb mussels, corn, coleslaw, and cornbread. I was also blown away by the mussels – they were huge and so tasty. I’ve never had mussels that have compared to these.
If you go to Beal’s, you cannot leave without trying their homemade wild blueberry pie, served warm with a la mode. It was perfection.
2. Grab breakfast at Cafe This Way and ice cream at Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream.
Talk about the best brunch/breakfast in Bah Habah! I loved their chai lattes and their eggs benedict was amaze.
Plus, I couldn’t leave with Maine without having had wild blueberry pancakes. The ones at Cafe This Way didn’t disappoint.
Is it even summer vacation if you don’t end the night with ice cream? I was obsessed with the ice cream at Mt. Desert Island. It’s one of the creamiest ice creams I’ve ever had, almost reminiscent of a gelato. With out of the box flavors like butterbeer, cranberry bliss bar, and Thai chili coconut, this is not your average ice cream stand. I had a scoop of the salted caramel and the Brigadeiro, which is a traditional Brazilian truffle.
1. Hike Pemetic Mountain.
This was by far our favorite hike we did at Acadia. Probably because it was the least crowded trail we took but also because of the VIEWS. We took the pemetic south ridge trail up to the top, which is located off of Jordan Pond. The elevation at the peak is 1248 feet.
This hike is about 3-5 hours long, depending on the route taken. If you hike back down pemetic south ridge trail, the distance and time will be shorter. We decided to do the 6 mile loop, which took us about 5 hours total. We hiked down the north ridge trail and then hiked bubble pond carriage roads back to Jordan pond.
Yes, we have matching hiking boots. There are fewer things that give Steve as much joy as matching accessories and outfits so I play along. 🙂
Tell me, have you been to Bar Harbor before? Let me know if you’re planning a trip and feel free to leave any questions in the comments below!