It should come as no surprise that the state of Maine is fins down, one of my favourite (if not my favourite) state in the United States.
And conveniently, it’s right next door to us in New Brunswick and only a few hours away. Even closer, if we’re at our island house, which is quite literally, off the coast of Maine!
I’ve had many memorable trips to Maine over the years – some of my favourite spots include Portland (obviously), Ogunquit, Wells, Old Orchard Beach, and Kennebunkport. But Bar Harbor, Maine has always had my heart since I first visited back in 2013.
If you’re not familiar with Bar Harbor, it is a dreamy seaside resort on Mount Desert Island in Maine. It’s one of the rare destinations around these waters where you have the ocean and mountains, in the same town. In addition to breathtaking ocean views and the most delicious fresh seafood (there is a lobster pound around every corner) its also home to Acadia National Park.
Dan and I have been talking about visiting Bar Harbor together for years and this August, we finally made it happen. And in true Dan and Crystal travel fashion, we squeezed as much goodness (and lobster rolls) into a weekend trip as possible.
We even made time to relax in the hotel pool!
Here’s a look at our weekend escape, including my top picks for must see attractions and things to do!
Let’s address the Kraken in the room – a trip to Bar Harbor will cost you a few extra sand dollars, but trust me when I say, it’s totally worth it. That said, where to stay, can be the biggest challenge if you’re trying to stay on budget.
We stayed at the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel, which came highly recommended from friends who stay there regularly, and it was perfect. We’re already talking about staying there again next year.
The rooms are spacious and beautiful, the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, there is a super cute outdoor pool and hot tub, and there is a continental breakfast every morning, included in the cost of your room. Right there – you’re saving anywhere from $30-50 a day on breakfast! They also serve coffee, tea and hot chocolate 24/7 in the lobby and have a water bottle refill station which we took advantage of several times a day before heading out on adventures.
But perhaps the best part about staying at Bar Harbor Grand Hotel is the location. It’s walking distance to everything downtown – you’ll be on the waterfront in under 10 minutes. And less than a 10 minute drive to Acadia National Park, where I know you’ll be exploring.
Plan to budget about $400 USD a night. Again, totally worth it.
Let’s be honest. The best part about visiting Maine and Bar Harbor, is getting to enjoy fresh caught Maine lobster and eat ALL of the lobster rolls.
If you’re the type of person to only indulge (or splurge) on one lobster roll on vacation – I have good news. I am not, I will eat ALL of the lobster rolls on vacation, which means that this post includes two amazing options for lobster rolls during your Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island stay.
The first stop when we reached Mount Desert Island on our way into town was C-Ray Lobster. We had late dinner reservations in town – more on that later – so I included a stop at C-Ray for one of their incredible lobster rolls on our way into Bar Harbor.
They have a number of lobster roll options to choose from but we went with their go-to lobster roll, which includes 5 ounces of fresh lobster meat mixed with their secret mayo seasoning and served on a hot toasted brioche roll. In classic Maine fashion, it’s served with a bag of potato chips!
They also have a Naked Lobster Roll option served with hot butter to pour over your lobster roll and bun.
C-Ray Lobster was Dan’s top pick for favorite lobster roll of the trip! Plan to budget $30 USD for a Lobster Roll from C-Ray – it’s totally worth it!
When Dan and I travel, we’re VERY particular about where we eat to avoid any FOMO or disappointment. When we first started planning this trip months ago, Dan discovered Havana and didn’t stop talking about it. Upon learning it’s rumored to be Mount Desert Island part-time resident Martha Stewart’s favorite restaurant (yes, THE Martha Stewart) – I couldn’t resist surprising hubs with a dinner reservation.
Havana offers American fine dining with latin flair and oh em gee – it was worth it. I started. the evening with a Mojito cocktail – it was fabulous – followed by the most epic salad I’ve ever had in my life, the Farm salad.
For the main course, Dan had the Pescado – a beautiful Halibut dinner that he raved about – while I had the Lobster Moqueca, which was absolutely to die for. It was rich, it was full of flavor, and it felt like there was at least two lobster tails in this dish.
And of course, the customer service was fantastic. We had such a lovely evening at Havana.
If you’re looking for smaller plates and something more casual, they do offer outdoor dining. You can view that menu here.
You simply can’t go to Bar Harbor and NOT explore Acadia National Park.
The park welcomes over 4 million visitors every year (source) making it one of the 10 most visited National Parks in the United States. You could absolutely spend days exploring the park, but if you’re visit Bar Harbor for the weekend, I recommend prioritizing a few hours to do two things: drive the Park Loop Road, which will allow you to see and explore my next few MUST stop locations and go to the top of Cadillac Mountain.
Which you should ABSOLUTELY plan to do!
The Park Loop road is a 27 mile (43 km) scenic drive through the park that is a great way to some of the best sights that Acadia National Park has to offer. Much of the loop road is one-way only with two lanes for traffic. Near many of the main attractions, visitors can use the right lane for parking when parking lots are full.
And mermaid tip – parking lots will be full! Bring your patience, it’s all worth it I swear.
Lastly, you will need an Acadia National Park Site Pass to enter and spend time in the park. You can purchase your park pass here – it’s $35 USD for a 7 day pass.
Here are a few of my favorite spots along the drive!
If sea caves are your thing, Thunder Hole is a must when visiting Acadia! Thunder Hole gets its name because when the waves roll into this small inlet in the rocks, you’ll hear a loud thunder boom! At high tide and with the right wave action, you may be lucky enough to see the water reach as high as 40 feet in the air!
Thunder Hole is best viewed 2 hours before high tide to hear the biggest boom, but we were there during low tide and it was still very cool to see!
In a park full of the rocky coastlines you would come to expect in Maine, Sand Beach feels a bit like a mirage when you first lay your eyes on it. It’s the only swimming beach in the park, if you’re brave enough to swim in the cold water which can range between 10-15 degrees Celsius. No big deal, you’ve got this mermaid! But it’s also a great beach to go for a beach walk or spend a hot, summer day with a picnic.
It’s also one of the park’s busiest stops, so the parking lot WILL be busy – plan ahead! On hot summer days, I’ve heard parking can be a bit of a nightmare, so plan your visit earlier in the day! That said, there are always people coming and going. On our recent visit, the parking lot said FULL but we found a spot with ease.
An absolute MUST when visiting Acadia National Park, at 1530 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the eastern seaboard of the United States. This makes it a hot spot to catch the sunrise, as you will be the first person on the Eastern Seaboard to see the sun come up from there.
Cadillac Mountain is THE place to be for stunning, sweeping panoramic views of Bar Harbor and the islands surrounding it. It’s something to see! And if there are cruise ships in the Harbor, it’s crazy how tiny they look from this viewpoint.
Cadillac Mountain is accessible by car but vehicle reservations are required from Memorial Day Weekend through the end of October to enter the Cadillac Summit Road. Having experienced Cadillac Mountain ten years ago, compared to now, this controlled access is a total blessing. There is less traffic on the road, parking is less crazy, and the mountain doesn’t feel as crowded at the top.
Reservations are for 30 minute timed entry and once on the mountain, you can stay as long as you’d like. Reservations are sold on what they call a “rolling basis” and between July and October, 30% are sold 90 days ahead of each date and the remaining 70% are released at 10 am Eastern 2 days ahead of your visit. For obvious reasons, sunrise and sunset times are the hardest to book – so plan ahead to avoid disappointment.
To learn more or to book your reservations for Cadillac Mountain here. Budget $6 USD for your vehicle. You will also need to have a valid Park Pass to enter, which can be purchased on the same website.
Jordan Pond is one of Acadia National Park’s most stunning lakes and features two beautiful mountains behind it known as the Bubbles. The lake is 150 feet deep (the deepest in the park) and has 3.6 miles of shoreline, which I’ve heard is a fantastic hike around the lake.
Jordan Pond House is a restaurant and gift shop, known for its famous popovers and amazing views of Jordan Pond and The Bubbles, including an opportunity to dine and have tea and popovers on the green lawn. The restaurant first opened in 1893 on the same site, and while the original building was sadly lost in a fire in 1979, the new restaurant and tea house, built in 1982 has been serving delicious meals and tea on the lawn ever since.
Reservations are STRONGLY encouraged to dine at the restaurant and can be made online. If you want to enjoy the views of Jordan Pond but are not able to get a reservation, there is a grab and go on the second floor with a fantastic deck with high tops and chairs to enjoy a variety of treats, including their famous Popover Ice Cream Sundae.
Whether you’re staying in Bar Harbor or simply visiting for the day, a walk on the Shore Path is a must! It’s one of my favorite activities in town and offers stunning views. The Shore Path is a 1/2 mile walk that begins at the Town Pier next to Agamont Park.
It was first created in 1880 and so you can just imagine all of the people (including the rich and famous) that have walked along the shore on the very same path. The historic mansions along the Shore Path are breathtaking – including the John Innes Kane Cottage, a Tudor mansion with a ton of history that belonged to the grandson of John Jacob Astor. Yes, you may recognize that name as he was a famous passenger on the ill-fated Titanic.
You will also get to see the famous Balance Rock, which has been on that shore for more than 10,000 years following a glacier event.
If you’re staying in town, I definitely recommend an early morning stroll on the Shore Path. It’s my favorite time of day to explore the area.
I know I said earlier that we always do our research about where we are going to eat before a trip, so there’s no room for disappointment, but we did switch up our itinerary a bit on the trip due to the weather and found ourselves on the hunt for a delicious and cozy spot for dinner Saturday night.
We overheard the front desk telling guests at our hotel that BLAZE just down the street was a great option and they had a covered patio, which made it easy to get a table despite the weather.
I started with a Bloody Oyster Shooter, that was delicious and a generous “shot” size. We both ordered our own pizza – I had the Wild Mushroom Pizza and Dan ordered the Prosciutto & Pineapple Pizza – and a side of Fried Brussel Sprouts. My pizza was seriously one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had – I wish I could order something like it around here. It was so good, I ate the leftovers cold in the car the next day. The Fried Brussel Sprouts were also spectacular and a very huge and generous portion!
Next time – I would LOVE to try their Wood Fire Grilled fresh caught lobster. The next table over ordered this and it looked amazing.
We all know I absolutely LOVE to visit and photograph lighthouses.
Last time I was in Bar Harbor, I remember visiting the Bass Harbor Lighthouse down BUT at the time, I didn’t know you could take a stroll down a very short trail to see the lighthouse from a whole different vantage point.
Trust me – you want to take the little stroll!
When visiting, go to the back of the parking lot to find the trail head. I recommend if you’re planning to climb over the rocks to get the “perfect photo op” that you wear good footwear. It’s not flip flop or Birkenstock friendly!
Bass Harbor Lighthouse is located about 30 minutes from downtown Bar Harbor, but please don’t let that deter you from visiting. The drive there is BEAUTIFUL and you can stop in Southwest Harbor for lobster rolls at Beal’s along the way – that’s what we did for lunch!
If you’re visiting Bar Harbor, trust me when I say – you want to squeeze in a visit to Schooner Head Overlook. It is breathtaking.
Located under 10 minutes from downtown Bar Harbor and nestled in Acadia National Park, Schooner Head Overlook has stunning ocean views and offers the closest lookout point to Egg Rock Lighthouse, otherwise only accessible by boat.
When you arrive, park in the parking lot and make sure to take the trail down to the water. It’s only about a 5-8 minute walk and it’s windy enough that the uphill on the way back isn’t too bad. Seriously, don’t let the downhill of the trail stop you!
Because Schooner Head Overlook is located in Acadia National Park, you will want to have a park pass in your window when parking. Even if you’re making a quick stop for a photo, make sure to have your pass in the window.
I’m not saying I saved the best for last, but our little jaunt down to beautiful Southwest Harbor to visit Beal’s Lobster Pier for lobster rolls was definitely one of the highlights of our trip for me. Southwest Harbor is absolutely beautiful and far less busy than downtown Bar Harbor, so if you’re looking for fewer crowds, definitely take the 20 minute drive south.
Beal’s offers a bit of a choose your own adventure when it comes to choosing your lobster roll. You can choose between sizes (how much lobster you want in the bun) and how the lobster is served. I went with the Jumbo Garlic Lovah’s lobster roll (9oz of lobster) that includes freshly picked lobster meat warmed in Beal’s Garlic Buttah and served on a grilled Brioche Roll.
It was arguably one of the best lobster rolls of my life.
Dan opted for the Jumbo Classic Lobster Roll, featuring freshly picked lobster meat tossed with light mayo and served with crispy romaine lettuce on a grilled Brioche Roll.
Plan to budget around $40 USD for a jumbo size lobster roll! But trust me – it’s totally worth it. I will be returning to Beal’s for another Garlic Lovah’s lobster roll again soon – trust me!
We’re already planning our next to Maine and Mount Desert Island for next summer.
We can’t wait to explore more of Acadia National Park (I have my eyes set on hiking Beehvive), have even more incredible dining experiences (the Reading Room is on my list), and we’re really keen on taking a boat tour on the Harbor.
But I’d love to hear from you! What are your favorite haunts in Bar Harbor? Make sure to leave a comment or send me a message on my shell phone.