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Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island, and Acadia National Park: A Long-Weekend Getaway to Maine

Ready for an escape, but only have a long weekend?  Craving natural beauty, relaxation, and delicious food? Looking for an easy family escape?  …Or maybe it’s time for a much-needed romantic getaway?


As a busy family that loves to travel, we love to take longer immersive trips as often as we can.  However, with work and school schedules, it’s often not possible to schedule week(s)-long trips as frequently as we would like.  As life gets busier, I have come to value the restorative power of a long weekend away.  For these trips, I want to be able to get there quickly and easily so that we can spend the maximum amount of time exploring or just relaxing.  I also want plenty of options for things to do, but not so many that we feel rushed or don’t have time to just unplug and enjoy the experience of a new place together.  Sounds like a tall order, right?  It’s easier than you’d think!


One fantastic option for just such a long-weekend getaway is the coastal gem of Bar Harbor, Maine.  Let me tell you how we spent a fun and relaxing weekend in this charming coastal town, and then I’ll give you my top 5 tips for how to make the most of 3 days in Bar Harbor.





How to Spend 3 Days in and around Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine is a quintessential northeastern coastal town on Mount Desert Island, just a short drive from Acadia National Park. It's a popular tourist destination year-round, but especially in the summer and fall when the weather is mild and the scenery is breathtaking.

If you're planning a trip to Bar Harbor, here's a suggested itinerary for how to spend 3 days:

Day 0: Getting There

  • If possible, take an afternoon or evening flight so that you can wake up fresh and start your adventures.  

  • Since time is limited, you’ll want to minimize driving to/from the airport.  While it’s possible to fly into Portland, Maine (or even Boston) for a longer trip, when time is of the essence Bangor is often a better option.  From Bangor International Airport, Bar Harbor is an easy drive that takes only about an hour and fifteen minutes.

  • You’ll want a car for your explorations.  There are several options to choose from at the Bangor airport.


Day 1: Acadia National Park, Park Loop

  • For breakfast, try Jordan’s Restaurant on Cottage Street– they are known for their amazing blueberry pancakes! 

  • Call ahead and pick up a lunch to go at Downeast Deli and Boxed Lunch Co. – the “Thanksgiving Day After” sandwich was so good that we got it twice!  While you’re picking up your lunch, you may also want to walk across the street and pick up a great cup of coffee at Coffee Hound Coffee Co. for the road.




  • Spend your first full day exploring Acadia National Park.There are endless things to do in Acadia, so be sure to plan ahead and decide what you want to see and do.  I HIGHLY recommend using the GuideAlong app– it’s a super easy to use GPS based app that is like having a tour guide in your car, but BETTER because you can go at your own pace!  The GuideAlong Acadia tour includes a Park Loop route, and this is what I recommend for your first day.  You’ll have time to drive the full Park Loop Road and stop at some of the most popular attractions like Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain.  Note that Cadillac Mountain requires reservations to access the summit (see info here), so make sure to book these in advance. Take your time and stop often, and find a quiet scenic spot to enjoy your lunch.  When you get to Jordan Pond (nearer to the end of the loop) make sure to stop for a famous popover with jam!  The rest of the food there looked just “okay”, but the popovers are to die for.  Go in knowing that there will probably be a wait– stop and the hostess stand first to get your name on the waiting list, and then use that time to take a walk on one of the trails near the pond or relax on the lawn.




Popovers and Jam at Jordan Pond House


  • Return to Bar Harbor for supper– try someplace like Geddy’s Lobster Pound.  I got the “Mini Lobster Bake” and it was SO tasty– it  included a smaller-sized lobster roll, clam chowder, and a mini blueberry tart. Since Bar Harbor is a small town, the restaurants can be pretty busy.  We found that many of them either take reservations or allow you to put yourself on the waitlist virtually.  This is a great option if you want to eat at a specific time.  Or, if you’re more flexible, just stop by and put your name on the waitlist and then wander around the charming streets while you wait– there are plenty of shops and places to stop in for a drink, and it’s all very walkable.  We stopped in to sample a beer flight at Fog Town Bar Harbor.


Day 2: Mount Desert Island

  • Spend your second day exploring more of Mount Desert Island, where parts of Acadia National Park are interspersed with charming coastal towns and gorgeous sea views.  Once again, you’ll use your GuideAlong app, so no advance route planning required!

  • Stop for lunch at a classic lobster pound.  We heard wonderful things about Thurstons, but they weren’t open on the day we visited.  We chose Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound instead, and it was delicious.




Lunch at Charlotte’s Lobster Pound


  • You’ll have some extra time after finishing the Mount Desert Loop to do something else.  This is a great time for a hike if you’re game!  We did the Beehive trail and all agreed that it is one of our favorite hikes ever, but it is challenging since it involves quite a bit of rock scrambling and iron rung ladders in the rock face, as well as narrow ledges, so it’s not good for young kids (and certainly not for folks who are uncomfortable with heights).  If you’re fit and love a challenge, do your research, but you just might love it as much as we did! 




Beehive Trail Ascent


 If you’d rather do something more mellow, here are some great options:

  • Hike/ Walk Gorham Mountain Loop (Moderate), Bar Harbor Shore Path (Easy), or Wonderland Trail (Easy).  Always research trails for yourself to make sure they will be enjoyable and safe for you– the links above will take you to AllTrails, which is my go-to for trail information.

  • Take a whale watching or nature cruise. Bar Harbor is a great place to see whales, and at some times of year Puffins can be spotted, so this would be another fun option!

  • Stroll over to Bar Island (tide dependent); a stone path between Bar Harbor and Bar Island is only exposed during low tide, but it’s an easy walk across and a good opportunity to try to spot sealife in the tidepools.  Once you’re across, there is an additional hike to the top of the island for a viewpoint, or you can just turn around and walk back.

  • And last but not least, maybe you just want to enjoy your hotel amenities!  Our hotel had a beautiful pool right on the waterfront.




Sand Beach


  • For dinner, try another of the great selection of restaurants that Bar Harbor has to offer.  Check the map below for some options.  We ate at West Street Cafe and would recommend it– the fish and chips and lobster bisque were delicious!

Day 3:

  • Try to get your return flight as late as possible in the day so that you can squeeze in a bit more time in Bar Harbor.  Spend your morning exploring downtown Bar Harbor, stroll the Shore Path or walk to Bar Island (see above for info on these), or maybe even schedule a whale watching or nature cruise if you have time.

  • Melt is a great place to grab lunch in town, and if you haven’t already, be sure to enjoy some ice cream from Mount Desert Island Ice Cream before you hit the road.



Where to stay:

  • Bar Harbor has a variety of accommodations to choose from, including hotels, inns, and vacation rentals.  Because it’s a small town and there is a lot of demand, expect prices to reflect that.  Your Time to Travel advisor can help you find the best fit for you!

  • Consider staying in downtown Bar Harbor; it’s a compact and walkable area, and it’s so nice to be able to walk to dinner or explore the town after a day spent in the National Park.

Where to eat:

  • Bar Harbor has a variety of great restaurants to choose from, including seafood restaurants, fine dining, and casual eateries. See our map for some recommendations. Many restaurants either take reservations or allow you to put yourself on the waitlist virtually.  This is a great option if you want to eat at a specific time.  Or, if you’re more flexible, just stop by and put your name on the waitlist and then wander around the charming streets while you wait.

  • Be sure to try the lobster! Bar Harbor is known for its fresh lobster. Some great places to eat lobster in the area include Geddy's Lobster Pound, Thurston’s Lobster Pound, and Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound.

  • Don’t miss the ice cream at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream


Activities:

  • Visit Acadia National Park: Acadia is one of the most popular national parks in the country, and for good reason. Use the GuideAlong app to make the most of your time in the park!

  • Take a scenic drive around Mount Desert Island: this is also included on the GuideAlong app, so no planning required!

  • Explore downtown Bar Harbor: Bar Harbor has a charming downtown area with shops, galleries, and restaurants. 

  • Take a boat tour of Frenchman Bay or a whale watching cruise: This is a great way to see Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park from a different perspective. There are a variety of boat tours available, including whale watching tours, nature/lighthouse cruises, sunset cruises, and other sightseeing tours.

  • Take a hike:  The AllTrails app is a good resource, you’ll find some recommendations within this post.




Top 5 Tips for Planning Your Trip to Bar Harbor, Maine:

  • There is a lot more to see/do in Acadia that meets the eye, so make sure you have a plan.  This is why we highly recommend  the GuideAlong app.

  • Bar Harbor is a popular destination, so it's important to book your accommodations and activities (especially Cadillac Mountain vehicle reservations) in advance, especially if you're traveling during the peak season.

  • Consider staying in downtown Bar Harbor; it’s a compact and walkable area, and it’s so nice to be able to walk to dinner or explore the town after a day spent in the National Park.

  • Bring your appetite– there are lots of great choices for dining.  Whatever you do, don’t miss trying a classic lobster roll– even if you don’t think you’re a fan of lobster, get one to share.  You might just change your mind after trying a fresh, authentic Maine lobster roll!

Reach out to your Time to Travel Advisor to handle all of the details for you and help you plan the perfect getaway!  If you don’t already have an advisor that you work with, I’d love help.  To contact me, click here and select “Katie

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