What to Do with One Day in Bar Harbor, Maine

The warm rays of the late August sun touched my bare arms as I breathed in the salty ocean breeze in Bar Harbor, a seaside town in Maine famous for it’s New England charm, lobster industry and eateries.

This port was the last stop on a six-week cruise and it wasn’t exactly how I had envisioned the trip to end. It was with a stuffed nose, throbbing head, sore throat, and completely exhausted body that I dragged myself through the beautiful sites in and around Bar Harbor. Being sick at home is never fun, being sick in the summer is even worse, and being sick on vacation in the summer is the absolute definition of hell in my mind.

But, I wasn’t going to give up my day of sightseeing in Bar Harbor because of a cold! Instead, after consulting with some locals and fellow travelers, my family and I signed up for a tour of Bar Harbor’s main attraction: Acadia National Park.

Cadillac Mountain Views
Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

At 1,530 feet (466 m), our first stop was Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain in Acadia National Park as well as the tallest along the eastern coast of the United States.

This is the place to be in the summer. Even with a dizzying headache, I could appreciate the views that seemed to stretch on forever, the calm blue waterways, and all the little forested islands that make up the rugged coast of Maine.

If you want to enjoy the great outdoors there are plenty of hiking trails of varying difficulty to choose from around Cadillac Mountain.

Cadillac Mountain

One of the most interesting features of Cadillac Mountain are the deep scratches and gaps in the granite rock surface. Like many continental coastlines, this area has undergone many climate changes, including one, which saw an enormous glacier sheer off the mountaintops in the region.

Cadillac mountain

Wild Gardens of Acadia

After driving down the winding road from Cadillac Mountain we stopped at the Wild Gardens of Acadia. These lush gardens are maintained by a group of community volunteers and contain over 300 native species of plants (all of which are labeled for identification).

The gardens reflect the typical habitat found on Mount Desert Island, the largest island off the coast of Maine and home of Bar Harbor.

The garden is open year round for everyone’s enjoyment and charges no entrance fee.

Wild Gardens of Acadia
A blooming flower in the Wild Gardens of Acadia
Wild Gardens of Acadia
Blooming Flower in the Wild Gardens of Acadia
Birdhouse in the Wild Gardens of Acadia

Thunder Hole

Our final stop on the tour brought us to Thunder Hole, a small inlet in the rocks along the coastline where you can experience the thunder of the ocean as the waves slam into the rocks.

To be honest, Thunder Hole can be a bit of a hit or miss depending on the weather and sea conditions. The ocean was quite calm when we visited, but on rough days the water can spurt as high as 40 feet into the air.

What I really loved most about the area around Thunder Hole was the panoramic views onto the rocky coastline and the hypnotic sound of the waves crashing onto shore.

Maine Coastline

Bar Harbor Shore Path

With a population slightly over 5000, Bar Harbor remains a tight knit community with an affinity towards the ocean, but the summer months have the place swarming with tourists.

If you’re really looking to get a sense of Bar Harbor, then the Shore Path is the right way to go. Starting at the town pier, follow along this easy trail and you’ll find beautiful vistas of several islands, yachts, boats, cruise ships (from spring to fall), as well as some picturesque private residences along the scenic shoreline.

Bar Harbor Boats
Bar Harbor Shoreline
Bar Harbor Residence
A cruise ship in Bar Harbor

Where to Eat

Bar Harbor is known for its fresh seafood, specifically lobster and there was no way I was going to miss out on trying some while in town. Locals recommended us two different restaurants and we ended up at the busy West Street Cafe. This place is beloved by locals and tourists alike so be prepared to wait for a table.

Lobster in Bar Harbor

The West Street Cafe serves delicious food, but it was here I learned that lobster just wasn’t for me. After trying this bright red crustacean, I really don’t get what all the fuss is about. Maybe it’s because I was feeling sick at the time, but the flavor reminded me of accidentally swallowing a huge gulp of ocean water. Not exactly what I consider a delicacy. But, that’s just me.

If seafood isn’t your thing, grab a coffee at The Trailhead Cafe, a small and cozy place with fast Wi-Fi.

Maine Coastline