One Place, Two Ways: Bar Harbor, Maine

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Whether you’re a history buff eager to explore the past or an outdoor enthusiast ready for adventure, the picturesque coastal town of Bar Harbor has something for everyone. From lighthouse sightseeing cruises to Indigenous American history, here are two ways to spend the day in Bar Harbor, Maine. 

Outdoor Adventurers and Water Escapades

Morning

Kickstart your day with a globally-inspired breakfast at Café This Way, a quirky eatery with cottagelike vibes. Choose between delicious dishes like the Cafe Monte Cristo (a French toast sandwich loaded with hand-cut ham, cheddar cheese, a fried egg, and a maple syrup drizzle). Alternatively, indulge in omelets, pancakes, bagels, or breakfast burritos at 2 Cats Restaurant, an eclectic hotspot set in a red-roofed inn. Don’t miss trying the Cat’s Paws—a mouthwatering cross between sticky buns and biscuits topped with cinnamon sugar and caramel sauce. 

Next, head to the marina for a morning Puffin and Lighthouse Cruise. You’ll start in Frenchman Bay before stopping at Egg Rock to check out one of Maine’s lighthouses and snap photos of the bustling colony of cormorants and gulls.

Your journey continues to the offshore island of Petit Manan. Here, you’ll encounter a colony of adorable Atlantic puffins! Keep an eye out for basking seals and eagles soaring in the sky!

Afternoon

Grab lunch at Stewman’s Lobster Pound for a classic taste of New England with a classic lobster roll and local oysters. Pair your meal with a crisp Maine beer like the Allagash White or the Hipster Apocalypse while basking in the oceanfront views.

Next, hit the water again on a guided kayaking tour of Frenchman Bay, where you’ll get expert insights into the local marine life while enjoying the bright blue waters and lush greenery. Look out for harbor seals, porpoises, bald eagles, and osprey – they’re known to hang around the area! 

Prefer to explore by land? Go for a scenic bike ride on Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park. Cruise past serene lakes, vibrant forests, and rugged coastline as you navigate the well-maintained, traffic-free paths. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful ride or something more challenging, there’s a route for cyclists of all levels. 

Evening

Head to the family-run Side Street Café to treat yourself to their award-winning mac and cheese or a specialty burger like the Nomad—a juicy, six-ounce patty topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, avocado mash, and chipotle mayo. Bringing a furry pal? Dine al fresco on the dog-friendly patio.

In the mood for pizza? Chow down on wood-fired pizza and craft brews at Blaze. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Lobster Rangoon Pizza (Rangoon base, fresh Maine lobster chunks, wontons, mozzarella, parmesan, and lemongrass sweet Thai chili sauce) or the Fig and Ricotta pizza with prosciutto and a white ricotta drizzle. 

After dinner, take a leisurely stroll through downtown Bar Harbor to explore charming streets lined with local shops and boutiques. Make your way to Agamont Park, where you can relax on a bench and soak in the panoramic views of Frenchman Bay. Cap off your evening at the Thirsty Whale to kick back with local and regional beers. Embrace the quaint pub atmosphere or head outside to sip your brew in the garden.

Culture, History, and Town Exploration

Morning

Begin your cultural Bar Harbor voyage with a home-style breakfast at Jordan’s Restaurant. Try the famous blueberry pancakes (a local favorite!), or go savory with a steak and cheese omelet. Alternatively, head to Jeannie’s for a classic Maine breakfast with fluffy eggs, crispy bacon, and fresh-baked biscuits.

Dive into the area’s rich heritage at the Abbe Museum to learn about the Wabanaki—the Indigenous people of Maine. Experience 12,000 years of the Wabanaki Nation’s history through stories, replicas, artifacts and textiles. Explore the museum’s core exhibit, People of the First Light, which tells the story of the Wabanaki through oral histories, interactive digital displays and artwork. The exhibit’s centerpiece is a two-story ash tree sculpture that connects the various aspects of the space, from Native clothing on display to canoe replicas.

Next, immerse yourself in Maine’s diverse natural world at the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History. Located in the original headquarters of Acadia National Park, this museum is home to unique exhibits and marine wildlife. Check out dioramas depicting Maine’s local species, from foxes to puffins. Get up close and personal with marine creatures in the touch tank, and check out animal skeletons, taxidermy and more!

Afternoon

If you don’t mind a long wait, head to The Travelin Lobster for some of the best lobster rolls in the state. The fisherman-owned counter-service stand is known for its generous portions of decadent lobster. Alternatively, opt for a waterfront dining experience at Galyn’s to dine on local seafood while enjoying oceanside views. Bite into crave-worthy dishes like lobster enchiladas, bacon-wrapped scallops, and seafood fettuccine. 

After lunch, explore some of Bar Harbor’s many historical treasures. Start at the Bar Harbor Historical Society, where you’ll embark on a self-guided tour of a Gilded Age-era home filled with historic artifacts and vintage photographs of the town’s fascinating past. Continue to St. Saviour’s Church, an architectural gem with a rich history dating back to the late 1800s. The stone and wood American shingle-style church is a marvel on its own, but it’s the breathtaking stained glass windows that are the star of the show.

Reconnect with nature at the Asticou Azalea Garden, a Japanese-inspired garden teeming with colorful flowers, manicured landscapes, and tranquil water features. As you wander the winding paths of this hidden oasis, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a fantasy world. Admire the best of Mount Desert Island’s natural beauty while taking some time to relax. 

Evening

Begin your evening with a picturesque sunset cruise aboard the Margaret Todd, a traditional windjammer reminiscent of colonial days. Enjoy live folk music while you glide across Frenchman Bay, taking in views of Acadia National Park, historic lighthouses, and local wildlife like spot seals and porpoises. Next, grab dinner at the laid-back McKay’s Public House. Try the truffle seafood risotto or beef short rib, followed by the sticky toffee pudding. Finish your evening with a local microbrew or specialty cocktail on the heated garden patio. 

Craving a touch of the supernatural? End the day on a 90-minute guided ghost tour through the city with Bar Harbor Ghost Tours. Stroll through Bar Harbor’s most haunted areas while listening to ghost stories and learning about different types of haunting. If you’re lucky, you may even capture a full-body apparition on camera! 

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