3 Days in Bar Harbor
From dawn ’til dusk—and beyond—here's the ultimate way to experience this beloved Maine destination.
ONCE A SUMMER HOT SPOT FOR SOCIETY’S UPPER CRUST, Bar Harbor still sizzles, but it’s not at all crusty. An endearing mix of gritty seaside, New England charm, hip sophisticate and tourist kitsch, Bar Harbor’s grid of streets and alleys fairly brims with a dizzying array of restaurants, shops, inns and galleries running back from Frenchman Bay. Of course, with Acadia—the northeast’s gem of a national park where the mountains rise up from the sea—for a backdrop, they’ve got competition. For you, that means options, lots of them. Never fear; we’ve got your planning done. All that’s left for you to do is sample the broad range of delicious local fare, rack up some amazing adventures and soak up the knockout scenery. We think you’re up for the challenge.
You might as well start off with a taste of Maine, so the first order of the day is blueberry pancakes at Cafe This Way (141/2 Mt. Desert St., 207-288-4483, cafethisway.com), tucked off the Village Green. Nosh on the porch if the weather is fair, or inside, where the atmosphere is urban and hip. If you’re in the mood for something more elaborate, you can’t go wrong with choices such as the Harney (corned beef hash with poached eggs, toast and hollandaise sauce) or Kit’s Burrito (a tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, cheddar and sausage and topped with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and home fries).
Now that you’re properly fueled, lace up your hiking shoes and head for the height of land, Sargent and Penobscot mountains, in Acadia National Park. (True, Cadillac is slightly higher, but there’s something deflating about hiking up a mountain only to find cars and mobs of people awaiting you at the top.) Take a free Acadia shuttle from the Village Green (park entrance passes can be purchased at the Green) or drive to the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. From here, you can bag both summits in one 6.4-mile standout loop hike, characterized by plentiful open ledges that afford some of the most glorious views on Mount Desert Island. There are shorter hikes, and trail maps can be picked up at the Village Green.
Back at sea level, take time for tea on the lawn at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant (Park Loop Road, 207-276-3316, jordanpond.com)—a tradition for summer visitors that’s more than a century old—before you head back to town. Your reward is one part plump, steaming popovers, one part picturesque view of Jordan Pond and The Bubbles (sizable mounds, with one peak reaching 872 feet and the other 766 feet), and one part well-deserved rest.
When your appetite rebounds, cap off the day at McKays Public House (231 Main St., 207-288-2002, mckayspublichouse.com). Whatever you’re in the mood for, McKays has it, in terms of both setting and menu. Choose a secluded garden seat, or head inside the historic Victorian, once a bed-and-breakfast, where you can choose a table in the larger, copper bar downstairs, or the intimate wine bar upstairs. The menu features pub fare such as fish and chips and McKay burgers made of Maine-raised, grass-fed beef, as well as fancier entrees such as lemon truffle seafood risotto and Bordeaux-braised short rib.
Swing into Morning Glory (39 Rodick St., 207-288-3041) early for coffee and decadent cinnamon rolls or signature Morning Glory muffins (bran with coconut, raisins, pecans and carrots). Continue on to the Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop (141 Cottage St., 207-288-3886, barharborbike.com), where the friendly staff will set you up with wheels, maps and everything else you need for a spin on the 50-plus miles of carriage paths in Acadia. A good bet is the Eagle Lake/Jordan Pond ride, just under 20 miles, which takes roughly four hours with plenty of stops for photo ops at Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond and Bubble Pond.
After returning the bikes, trek back down Cottage Street to Main Street and grab lunch at Not Quite the Corner Deli (65 Main St., 207-288-1006), where you’ll find unusual sandwiches such as smoked Atlantic salmon pastrami, roast pork loin with chipotle mayo and smoked gouda, and tuna niçoise wraps.
Happily fed, spend the afternoon exploring the village of Bar Harbor. Start with a walk along the Shore Path, which runs about a half mile from the town pier along Frenchman Bay to Wayman Lane and back to Main Street, with outstanding views of the Porcupine Islands and the lighthouse Egg Rock Light.
If you’re up for shopping, this leaves you in the perfect spot. Start at Macey's (240 Main St., 207-288-0698), a funky little boutique with apparel from Citizens of Humanity, Eileen Fisher and XCVI, plus snappy bags, shoes and jewelry. Next stop, Window Panes (166 Main St., 207-288-9550), a fresh, inviting home store where you’ll find everything from basics such as candles and kitchen gadgets to Cuisinart must-haves and Lee Spiller’s natural stone vases. And if hiking and biking have whet your appetite for more, drop in to Cadillac Mountain Sports (26 Cottage St., 207-288-4532, cadillacmountain.com) to gear up for another adventure. With the main shop covering everything from yoga and hiking to board sports, plus three neighboring annexes that specialize in gear and clothing from The North Face, Patagonia and Nike, you’re sure to find what you need.
In lieu of shopping, take a tour of the Abbe Museum (26 Mount Desert St., 207-288-3519, abbemuseum.org), which celebrates the culture and history of Maine’s Native American tribes. This location, an annex to the original Sieur de Monts Spring location, opened in 2001 to give the museum much-needed space to display artifacts, an extensive basket collection, artwork from Maine’s tribal schools and other rotating exhibits.
While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss out on a sweet treat from Mount Desert Island Ice Cream (7 Firefly Lane, mdiic.com). The shop was new to the scene in the spring of 2006, but with flavors such as Mexican chocolate, Nutella and blueberry basil sorbet—all made fresh daily by hand—word is getting out fast.
After a bustling day, it’s time to switch gears. Ease the transition at the intimate piano bar at Michelle’s Fine Dining (Ivy Manor Inn, 194 Main St., 888-670-1997, michellesfinedining.com), which is located in a comfortable French country inn. Then enjoy dinner by chef William Sellner Jr.—one of Donald Trump’s wintertime chefs—who serves up remarkable French fare such as Sonoma Valley foie gras with Maine wild blueberries, lobster thermidor and blueberry soufflé. Mâche Bistro (135 Cottage St., 207-288-0447, machebistro.com), where the menu shifts weekly depending on local ingredients, is another great choice for a candlelit meal. Start with a specialty cocktail, such as a Maytag Martini (with Maytag blue cheese-stuffed olives) or a Mâche Madness (Stoli Ohranj with Chambord and lemon-lime-pineapple juice).
Whether you’re up with the gulls or decide to catch a few extra z’s, breakfast will be ready at Jordan’s Restaurant (80 Cottage St., 207-288-3586). There’s nothing fancy about the booths and paper place mats, but locals love the fare (all kinds of eggs and, of course, Maine blueberry pancakes and muffins).
You can’t leave town without seeing Maine’s rugged beauty from the water, and when it comes to boating, a kayak is about as up close and personal as it gets. Book an ecological tour with National Park Sea Kayak (39 Cottage St., 800-347-0940, acadiakayak.com), where experienced guides know the remote spots away from the commercial boat lanes. Your ride in the shuttle van might be a tad longer, but you’re also more likely to enjoy the best conditions as well as mingle with harbor seals, ospreys and the occasional harbor porpoise or bald eagle.
Back on land, have dinner at Havana (318 Main St., 207-288-2822, havanamaine.com), a hot spot where dining is like an island getaway in itself. There’s a different homemade cornbread (such as Seal Cove goat cheese and sun-dried cherry corn bread with a lemon brown-sugar butter) each night, and the mojitos rock. The menu changes monthly, but some past hits include manchego-crusted halibut in a traditional Island “run down” sauce of coconut milk, green peppers, onions and spices, over Cuban black beans and rice, and Argentinean hanger steak with sardo and root vegetable mash, and topped with spicy chili sauce and a roasted sweet corn and Vidalia onion salsa.