Maine is a really special beautiful place. It’s worth going further than Portland, exploring Bar Harbor, hiking in Acadia and checking out Bangor. The best part is that you can do it all in a long weekend. Plan ahead – Bar Harbor gets busy! Make your B&B reservations early and make sure to look at whether you need driving reservations for any part of the park. Once you’ve got these, you’re golden and can check out everything we discuss below!
Downtown Bar Harbor is an adorable place. Though it’s clearly a tourist town, it doesn’t have the same sort of cheap feel that many do. In fact, it has a lot of great local restaurants and stores. Our favorites included Choco-Latte, Cool as a Moose, and Pink Pastry Shop. You have to try the moon pies at Pink (and don’t mind the somewhat cranky staff)! There’s also a neighborhood Route 66 if going full tourist is your thang.
Other than shopping and eating, Bar Harbor has a beautiful waterfront that you can walk along quite a ways using the Shore Path. If you’re staying at the Bar Harbor Inn and Spa, you have particularly easy access. But you can get there just by heading to the harbor and following the railing.
Speaking of places to stay, we stayed at Manor House Inn and LOVED it. Absolutely fabulous breakfasts made to order and accommodating of most dietary restrictions. The bed is comfy, the room is large, the shower’s hot. And it’s so close to everything but on the outside so you’re not in the middle of the crowds (i.e., you can sleep at night!). There are quite a number of B&Bs in Bar Harbor, and we strongly recommend this one!
Not far from the Manor House Inn, there’s a road that leads to Bar Island. The cool thing about Bar Island is that you have to wait until low tide to get there! Which of course means you have to wait until low tide to get back, too, so plan accordingly! When we were there, low tide was around 10am, but you can always check the times here. It’s not recommended to drive on the bar because so many people have had cars wash away when they don’t make it in time before low tide is over. As you can see, people do it anyway!
It’s a short walk to the island, but it’s fun if you’re there at the beginning of low tide as you’re navigating shallow waters. I recommend going this early because then you can have the time you need to explore Bar Island and get back before the tide washes out and you’re stuck there all day!
There’s a lovely path through Bar Island, but remember this is part of Acadia National Park, so you should have a park pass if you’re exploring the island. We didn’t see any rangers on the island, but you never know.
We went from one side of the island to the other in about an hour or so. The path initially leads you to a pretty lookout onto Bar Harbor and ocean. We stayed here for a short while taking it in until the crowds started coming in behind us.
The trail continues to different parts of the island that are pretty and worth exploring. You’re totally canopied by trees and you get beach and ocean views until your heart’s content.
Overall, I’d say Bar Island is a not to miss attraction near Bar Harbor, but you really do have to plan it out to make sure you’re not missing the rest of what Acadia has to offer!
Acadia National Park
Exploring the East Side
Speaking of Acadia, there are day trips from Bar Harbor to round out your weekend of hiking and enjoying nature. You can spend a day exploring Cadillac Mountain, Gorham Mountain, the Beehive, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole (along the Ocean Trail). Or you can split this up to spend a whole day on Sand Beach of you’re into that.
You can also visit the Asticou Azalea Gardens for some real relaxation. It’s such a pretty spot for wedding or engagement photos, or just enjoying some curated gardens. And it’s free! It’s a great stop off on your way back to Bar Harbor from hiking all day as it’s right along Rte 3.
Exploring the West Side
There’s so much focus on the east side of Acadia National Park, but you can’t ignore the west side! The west side is home to some great attractions including Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Pretty Marsh Picnic Area, and Beech Mountain. These are some highly recommended spots to get away from the east side crowds! You get the same beautiful ocean views and high peaks without fifty people lining up behind you.
There’s also food along the way – just stop at any lobstah joint you see on the side of the road. We stopped at a couple and they’re delicious! Or as you pass beach front after beach front, why not stop to sit on a dock for awhile?
When you come to this part of Maine, you’re usually here for Bar Harbor and Acadia. But you may have flown into Bangor or have to drive through it to get back to Portland. Take a moment to explore Bangor, a cute small town. We walked around quite a bit and grabbed lunch and pastries. There are small commons with statues ala:
And just some typical quaintness and small parks that small towns in the Northeast often have. It’s obviously even more gorgeous in the fall, and I assure you, not too cold!
If you’re into it, you can also check out Steven King’s old house, where he apparently wrote many of his novels. We couldn’t go in as it is now leased out to writers trying to follow in his footsteps, but the gate was so cool! There are also some other interesting statues and what not in the yard. It’s a nice pitstop and very close to town, so easy to head on over to take a peek.
The airport in Bangor also is kind of cool. It’s one a lot of military folk come through after being overseas. There’s a long history of Bangorians (or whatever you may call them) greeting soldiers on their way home. The airport is full of memorabilia, photos and letters documenting this history. It’s so cute and sweet. Don’t come here just for this, but check it out if you’re going through the airport!
Fall is such a gorgeous time to come to Bar Harbor and Acadia, but I imagine you can go in Spring and Summer and be just as happy. Try to plan an off-holiday weekend if you can to take full advantage of relaxation. We hope you enjoy! If you are trying to think of other great weekend trips, check out some of the ones we’ve taken here.
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