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How to Do a Long Weekend in Bar Harbor, Maine

SmarterTravel

Bordered by Acadia National Park and the Atlantic Ocean, Bar Harbor is the perfect spot for an active, outdoorsy vacation. This charming town has plenty of mountains, cliffs, and beaches to explore—as well as walkable streets full of local restaurants and shops.

How to Do a Long Weekend in Bar Harbor, Maine

Hotels: The luxury hotel brand Opal Collection dominates the waterfront in Bar Harbor, with its two premier resorts, the West Street Hotel and the Harborside Hotel, claiming the prominent shoreline spots. The chic West Street Hotel, with its nautical-themed rooms and adults-only heated rooftop pool, is perfect for couples on a romantic getaway, while the larger Harborside Hotel is best for families, with an all-ages swim area. Both are well positioned for exploring Bar Harbor and Acadia, and each offers free valet parking (crucial for Bar Harbor, where finding an open spot can be a challenge in peak season).

Thursday:

If you’re coming from the south, take your time on the drive, and opt for a leisurely day on Route 1, where there are plenty of cute coastal towns to explore on the way, like Camden and Rockport.

When you arrive, rejuvenate yourself with a dip in the West Street Hotel’s heated rooftop pool that overlooks Frenchman’s Bay. This is one of the best places in town for sunset, so don’t leave before then.

After the sun has dipped below the horizon, snag an outdoor table at Paddy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, which has a great patio overlooking the waterfront. Get a taste of Maine by starting off with a ploughman’s cheese board featuring local artisan cheese, and then chose an Irish or local New England dish for your main meal, depending on what you’re in the mood for.

Friday:

Hydrate, caffeinate, and fuel up for the day at the pantries located on each floor of the West Street Hotel, which offer free coffee, bottled water, and fruit for guests. Acadia National Park is just a few minutes down the road, waiting for you to explore.

If you’re not going in a main visitor entrance today, make sure you stop to get a park pass ($30 for seven days at the time of writing) at one of the alternative locations listed here. You can also save time by buying your pass online and printing it yourself.

Start off your trip by hiking Acadia’s namesake mountain, which can be combined with Saint Sauveur Mountain to make a nice four-mile round-trip loop. Each of the summits features sweeping views of Somes Sound, beach, and forest. You may wish to bring a hiking map; many of the Acadia trails are not well marked, and each trail uses identical blue blazes, so it can be easy to accidentally detour onto a different path than you intended.

At the end of the hike, you’re just a quick drive from Southwest Harbor, nicknamed “the quiet side” of Mount Desert Island. More laid-back and less touristy than Bar Harbor, it’s definitely worth wandering around for an hour or two. Get lunch at Eat-A-Pita & Cafe 2, where you can relax in the sun on the patio and enjoy an inexpensive and healthy meal.

Continue on to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, where you can walk down a short trail to view it from the rocky shoreline. This is a very popular spot for photographers at sunset, so get here early.

Afterward, head back into Bar Harbor for dinner at Havana, a trendy Cuban restaurant.

Saturday: 

If you’re feeling ambitious, get up early and head to the top of Cadillac Mountain (you can drive or hike up) to watch the sunrise. From October 7 through March 6, this is the first place in the United States that you can see the sunrise.

Afterward, treat yourself to breakfast at Morning Glory Bakery, where you can grab a still-warm bagel that’s been hand-boiled in front of you.

You may be tempted by the plush beds at the Harborside Hotel to take a nap after your early wake-up. Be sure to get up in time for low tide, where you can walk out the door of the hotel and across the “bar” of Bar Harbor—a sandbar that allows you to walk across to Bar Island. A word of warning: The sandbar is only accessible about 1.5-2 hours before and after low tide, so don’t get trapped on the island when the tide comes in!

Enjoy an authentic Italian meal on La Bella Vita’s alfresco patio, where you can watch the sun set over the harbor while feasting on pizza from the wood-fired brick oven. Walk over to Mount Desert Ice Cream for dessert, which serves seriously delicious ice cream in which all the ingredients are homemade.

Sunday:

If you want one last physical challenge before starting your drive home, stop off at the Beehive Loop, a 3.2-mile trail that uses Acadia’s famous iron rungs and ladders to help climbers scale the steep route. This trail has exposed edges and is not recommended for children or anyone with a fear of heights—you’ll see why if you attempt it!

Bars & Restaurants

La Bella Vita

Morning Glory Bakery

Havana

Mount Desert Ice Cream

Eat-A-Pita & Cafe 2

Paddy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant

The Barnacle

Attractions

Cadillac Mountain

Bar Harbor Sand Bar

Acadia Mountain and St. Sauveur Mountain

The Beehive Trail

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Bald Peak & Parkman Mountain

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline was hosted by the West Street Hotel and the Harborside Hotel. Follow Caroline’s adventures around New England and the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

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