Bar Harbor, Maine is located on Mount Desert Island, and is a popular Summertime tourist destination for families. You need only visit once to see why people flock here in droves during the Summer months. With incredible weather, vast shoreline to explore, and a quaint small-town feel, it is the ideal spot to spend a few days or even weeks exploring. The boys and I recently visited the Bar Harbor, Maine area on our #90DayRoadTrip, and have compiled a list of our favorite activities that we thing every family must do when visiting the area with kids.
1. Take a Walk to Bar Island at Low Tide
Bar Island, part of Acadia National Park is accessible by a land bridge only at low tide. When the tide is low, people come in droves to walk over and explore the island, build cairns or beach comb for sea glass and other items.
The boys and I happened across this land bridge by pure luck. We were a bit early getting to our lobster boat tour and happened to see the area from our parking lot at low tide. We walked down to the land bridge and over to Bar Island to build a few cairns of our own. There were many create cairns, including one of a miniature Stonehenge.
2. Go on a Lobster Boat Tour
Maine is synonymous with lobster, and a visit to the Bar Harbor would not be complete without a tour on a lobster boat. Lulu’s Lobster Boat Ride is the way to go if you want an authentic lobster boat tour in the heart of Bar Harbor.
Captain John Nicolai is a vast source of knowledge on not just lobsters, but the Bar Harbor area as well. With more than 35 years of experience and a 100 gross ton mater’s license, he is the man you want taking you out into the water. The boys stayed engaged with him the entire time, and the tour was both knowledgeable and fun.
You begin your tour on Lulu, a true downeast-style lobster boat. Our tour first took us out to Egg Rock Lighthouse, Maine’s most beautiful lighthouse which is surrounded by wildlife. We were able to instantly spot seals with their pups and a bald eagle perched upon a rock up on the shore.
After that, we headed back towards the harbor through Frenchman’s Bay and got down to the real business of pulling up traps and learning more about the lobster boat industry. Captain John led us through lobster anatomy, conservation and explained how lobster fishermen keep the lobster from becoming extinct in the Maine waters. For instance, if a female lobster is found with eggs on the outside of her body, she will be notched, and when she is pulled up again, even without legs, she can’t be touched. The same goes for large lobsters over 5 inches long. Both the males and females are returned to the water for mating purposes.
3. Explore Historic Downtown Bar Harbor and Eat at Route 66
Historic downtown Bar Harbor is a destination in itself. The streets are lined with shops, bakeries, restaurants, bars and even a lobster holding an ice cream cone. You never know what you will run across downtown, and that is half of the fun of taking kids there. Grab an ice cream and walk down to Agamont park at night to watch the moonlight dance across the harbor.
Route 66 is one of the most unique restaurants we have ever visited. With oodles of memorabilia, a train that drives through the rafters while you eat, and unique quirkiness at every turn, Route 66 is definitely a “must see” with kids. Choose from a long lineup of burgers, shakes and fries, or try some of the local fresh seafood dishes.
Right next door to Route 66 restaurant is the Criterion Theater, established in 1932, it is one of only two art deco theaters in Maine. If a family friendly film is showing during your visit to the downtown area, I encourage you to take the kids inside. We were fortunate enough to arrive on an evening when they were showing Jurassic World. You can sit up in the balcony of the theater, and it creates a very interesting movie-going environment.
4. Enjoy a Lobster Roll
It is inevitable that you will run into lobster on almost any menu in Bar Harbor. Perhaps one of the best ways for children to enjoy lobster is with a delicious lobster roll. Along the marina in downtown Bar Harbor, Stewman’s Downtown serves up a great lobster roll meal complete with fries and apple slices for just $9 on the kid’s menu. Don’t miss this opportunity to gaze out over the bay and let the kids try a fresh taste of one of the state’s main resources.
5. Hunt for Sand Dollars at Seal Harbor
Seal Harbor, located in Acadia National Park is a lovely beach area any time of the day. Visit for some fun in the sun and let the kids enjoy splashing in the water. Come low tide however, it is a little known secret that sand dollars can be found on these same shores. When the water goes out, drift along the shoreline looking for sand dollars, or get a shovel and dig for clams. We saw some kids pull up quite a few clams from the sand.
In addition to the sand dollar hunting, the tide pools that are left behind on parts of the shore when the tide recedes are fascinating. The longer you look at these pools, the more life you see. From small shrimp to crabs and other sea creatures, kids will love exploring these unique micro-environments.
6. Enjoy Popovers at the Jordan Pond House
This incredibly popular tourist destination is located within Acadia National Park as well. The Jordan Pond House has served popovers and tea since the 1890’s, and though the original home burned down in 1979, tea and popovers on the lawn has resumed as a favorite family tradition since the home was re-built in 1982.
A tip here, although tea and popovers on the lawn is the custom, the wait for a table outside can often exceed 45 minutes. Instead, opt for an inside table near a window and enjoy almost the same view with little to no wait. We thoroughly enjoyed our popovers here, as well as the kid’s chicken strip meals with salad that we ordered.
7. Drive up Cadillac Mountain
No visit to Acadia National Park would be complete without a drive up Cadillac Mountain. The tallest mountain within 25 miles of the shoreline on the East coast, Cadillac Mountain provides unparalleled views of the surrounding area.
Take the road to the top, and make different stops at various pull-outs to enjoy a uniquely different view of the area from each one.
Bar Harbor, Maine is a picture perfect coastal town, that is incredible popular with visitors throughout the year. During the Summer though, it is a virtual wonderland of fun for those visiting with kids. To learn more about the attractions and fun offered to families here, go to VisitMaine.com.