seagull flying above rocky coast line

Perfect 3-Days in Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor, Maine is located on Mount Desert (pronounced like “Dessert”) Island on Frenchman’s Bay. While there is an airport in Bar Harbor, the closest International airport is in Bangor, approximately 50 miles from Bar Harbor. Regardless of the season you are visiting the area – summer, spring, fall or winter, here’s a guide to a perfect 3 days in Bar Harbor.

different colored buildings in a small downtown area
Downtown Bar Harbor


Driven by the number of people in your party, you may want to consider renting a house. However, if you go the hotel route, here are a couple recommendations for places to say near Acadia National Park.

For those not on a tight budget, consider staying at The Bar Harbor Inn, located in the downtown area of Bar Harbor. This hotel features two restaurants, spa and incredibly easy access to the area’s attractions.

a big gray Inn on the water
Bar Harbor Inn

Many consider the Harborside Hotel one of the best hotels in Bar Harbor. In addition to a spa, the Harborside can setup activities such as boating tours and trips to Acadia National Park.

Day 1 in Bar Harbor

Shore Path

Your perfect 3 days in Bar Harbor starts with getting some fresh air! Some of the best things to do in Bar Harbor can be done every day for relaxation and beauty of the area. A favorite ritual for the morning is to walk the Bar Harbor Shore Path, which is accessible from anywhere around town, but it starts at the waterfront near the Bar Harbor Inn. The harbor view is beautiful and a very relaxing way to start the day. Take the sidewalk by the yellow umbrellas at the Bar Harbor Inn as there are beautiful homes on the water and a large rock where kids love to have their pictures taken. Keep going until the path ends and go right on the dirt (or gravel) road as it will take you back to town. Be quiet as you enter this side as many times you can spot deer on the left in the woods.

4 kids pretending to push a giant rock
Can you push the rock?

Bar Island

Want to know where to find sea glass in Bar Harbor?

During low tide, walk over to Bridge Street as there is a road over to Bar Island. It floods during high tide, so be sure to watch the tide schedule. Take a few zip lock bags with you and look for sea glass or heart shaped rocks. Searching for sea glass on the beach is a NOT MISS activity when visiting Bar Harbor! Most of the sea glass is down the left side in the back near the large homes.

Tip: Take some flip flops with you for walking on the sand.

rocks in very shallow water with the tide going out
Bridge Street can flood during high tide – watch the tide schedule
small pieces of smooth glass of many colors
Fun collecting sea glass from the Maine coast
rock shaped like a heart
and heart shaped rocks!
young girl holding a rock shaped like a heart

Lunch at Jordan Pond House

After a morning stroll around the island, take the shuttle to Jordan Pond House for lunch – a favorite of Bar Harbor restaurants. Sit outside and don’t forget to try their popovers which are heavenly especially with butter and jelly. Do not leave Maine without trying these popovers – the best anywhere! You can call ahead if you prefer having reservations.

puffy pastry with a side of jelly and butter
Popovers are delicious especially with butter and jelly!
many green umbrellas at tables outside
Lunch outside at Jordan Pond House

If time allows before lunch, walk around Jordan Pond and then have lunch on the lawn.  The walk takes about 90 minutes and is mostly flat. Have someone take your picture on the wooden bridge about halfway around the pond. Be sure when you start walking to go right (counterclockwise) as you can see the view of the mountains.

Tip: Don’t forget a bottle of water!

a group of people wlking along a path close to a body of water
Take a hike around Jordan Pond

Biking on the Bar Harbor Carriage Trail

Biking on the carriage trail is lots of fun. You can rent bikes at the shop located at the end of Cottage Street near 2 Cats. Pick up a map at the shop and they can highlight the route for you. Take the bike shuttle from the Village Green to the carriage trails which is easier than biking there from town. This loop also goes to Jordan Pond House if you want to do this in the morning prior to lunch.

female riding a bike on a dirt path
Take a leisurely bike ride along the Carriage Path
a person riding a bike on a dirt path

Day 2 in Bar Harbor

Your perfect 3 days in Bar Harbor starts the same as the first day with another stroll on the Shore Path. It’s so beautiful, it’s difficult not to take this path everyday while in Bar Harbor.

Lunch at Northeast Harbor

If you are visiting on a weekday, call Mother’s Kitchen (207-288-4403), a gourmet sandwich shop, to place your to-go sandwich order in advance. Pick up drinks, chips and baked good after you arrive. The lemon squares are amazing!

1503 State Highway 102, Bar Harbor ME 04609

small yellow building
Lunch at Mother’s Kitchen

Take your lunch to go and head out to Northeast Harbor, which is a left turn from Mother’s. Follow the signs to Northeast Harbor and find your way to the marina. You will be coming in on Harborside Road/198 and take a left turn onto Harbor Road before you pass all the cute shops.

Have your lunch on the benches at the marina and watch the boats sail by. You’ll love this view! If you have time stroll along the main street in Northeast Harbor. There are a few cute shops and a bakery (but Mother’s is better!). This is a great way to pass time while you wait for a boat tour.

boats of all sizes docked in a harbor
Boats in the harbor

Northeast Harbor Boat tour

The Northeast Harbor boat tours are great. You’ll want to call ahead for reservations as they can book up during busy times. The lobster tour is good, but Little Cranberry Island is better. Expect to see seals, birds, a lighthouse and some mansions with last names you’ll recognize.

wake in the ocean along a coastline
Boat tour of Little Cranberry Island
a big white lighthouse on a hill along the coast
Lighthouses are very common along the Maine coast

The boat tours are run by Princess Cruises and most depart around 1:45-2 from Northeast Harbor. If you go to Little Cranberry Island, request Michael’s boat. He is the best! There is a ticket booth at the marina selling tickets for all the boat tours, but it is best to call ahead. The hotel will also have the times and information on the tours.

Tip: Be sure to take sunscreen, hat, binoculars, rain jacket and fleece as it can get cold on the boat.

After arriving on the island, you’ll have about 45 minutes to explore. Check out the church with the sea glass window and the post office/store. The store sometimes has warm ginger bread for $2/slice.

If you drive directly back to Bar Harbor, you will pass Seal Harbor – home of Martha Stewart. If you look close enough, you might catch a glimpse of her roof from the boat tour.

Day 3 in Bar Harbor

Take a hike!

After your morning stroll along the Shore Path, take a hike! There are many great hikes in this area for all levels. One great hike is right off the main road going toward Southwest Harbor. The way up is called Flying Mountain with a fire tower at the top. This is an easy hike for most kids over 6 and adults in relatively good physical condition. Check with your hotel as they can provide directions.

Tip: Be sure to take water and wear comfortable shoes such as hiking boots or sneakers.

Lunch in Southwest Harbor

After the hike, go into Southwest Harbor have lunch under the red umbrellas at The Clairmont Hotel (a favorite Southwest Harbor restaurant) on the water.

Take another hike!

After lunch, take a left as you leave Southwest Harbor heading south and turn left onto Sewall Road as this will take you to Ship Harbor Trail. You will pass the Seawall area where you can stop for photos, etc. After passing an ice cream place on the left, look for cars parked on the right at the trail, Ship Harbor. It is a 30 to 40-minute walk. You can wear sneakers or flip flops as the trail is easy.  The scenic trail has some nice scenic overlooks at the end where you can hear the crashing water making thunderous sounds.

See the lighthouse

After the walk, keep going away from Southwest Harbor and you will see signs for Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Park on the left as it is the easiest way to see views of the lighthouse. Once you see the long stairway, you know you are in the right spot. Great photos can be taken here of the lighthouse.

For the more adventurous, this area also has camping and yurts available.

Other activities

There is so much to do in the area if you are looking to stay longer than 3-days or you want to substitute one of the activities.


This is a great way to see different views of the area. While some of the highlights are like the boat tour, you kayak on the opposite side of the island with gorgeous views of the Maine coast line. Book in advance through National Park Sea Kayak Tours.

2 kids in a yellow kayak
Kayaking on the Maine coast
2 adults and 3 kids standing along side the water with kayaks in the background
Kayaking on the Maine coast

Acadia National Park

There are so many hikes in the area, it is difficult to narrow down the absolute best. But, here are some other favorites.

Sand Beach

Sand Beach is any easy hike inside Acadia National Park. This one is a favorite of Martha Stewart, so be on the lookout for her! Go on the Park Loop Road and park at Sand Beach. Walk to the end of the beach area where the hike starts for the big loop.

Tip: Things to take with you include flip flops, sneakers, water, and a towel. Leave the towel on the beach and switch from flip flops to sneakers for the hike.

beach from high on a hill
Sand Beach

Cadillac Mountain

After hiking Sand Beach, drive the Park Loop Road to see all the views. Stop at Thunder Hole to hear the thunder! Parking is available off the loop. Part of the loop turns one-way, so take this drive in the afternoon finishing at Cadillac Mountain to see the views. If timing works, stay at Cadillac Mountain for the sunset. It can get cold, so be sure to take a jacket.

Tip: It’s also nice to take cheese & crackers but remember no alcohol inside the National Park.

Sunset from Cadillac Mountain

Bar Harbor Restaurants

Side Street Café

Don’t miss having ice cream at Ben & Bill’s every day – a Bar Harbor tradition. Located at the intersection of Cottage and Maine – look for the lobster out front.

big red lobster holding an ice cream cone
Look for the lobster @ Ben and Bill’s ice cream

Café This Way is a great for dinner or breakfast.  They have the best blueberry pancakes! If you have dinner, reservations are a must.

If you are in Southwest Harbor for dinner, try the Eat-A-Pita & Café 2. Eat outside and make reservations if possible.

If you need a breakfast location, try 2 Cats at the end of Cottage Street. There is a great spot to eat outside. The cat head biscuits served with butter and jelly are amazing.

For a rainy day

Take Eden Street out of town and go to the National Park Visitor Center. Another option is to go see a movie located just before the bridge off Mount Desert Island. There are 2 movie theaters in downtown Bar Harbor.

Go shopping at Cool as the Moose store on Main Street great for buying Maine souvenirs.

Skip during your visit

Skip the large sailboat near the Bar Harbor Inn. It isn’t worth the entrance fee.

Enjoy your time in Bar Harbor – it is a very special place.

Many thanks to Stacy Falls for collaborating on all the details for this perfect Bar Harbor itinerary!

Love our National Parks? Be sure to put Mammoth Cave National Park on your list!

3 thoughts on “Perfect 3-Days in Bar Harbor”

  1. Wow this looks incredible! Bar Harbor offers a great mixture of land and water activities. I would love to go riding like you did, and then some kayaking! Such a great mixture which is hard to come by.

  2. We camped in Bar Harbor a few years ago. We also did Acadia and agree that it is a beautiful hiking park. —and we dined at Jordan Pond House. I am so happy that we stopped there. It is definitely a must on this list!

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Nancy Williams

Nancy Williams

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