Like many other Maine coastal towns, summer is Bar Harbor’s busiest season – with most of the eastern seaboard looking for cool ocean breezes and lush green hikes. Don’t let the crowds discourage you, because we have the tips and tricks that will let you experience Mount Desert Island like a local, as well as some of the must-see events, from free orchestral performances and fashion shows to fresh seafood and the country’s most famous Fourth of July.

Activities & Attractions 

Savor Some Classic Maine Seafood

No trip to Coastal Maine is complete without a smorgasbord of seafood. Get the most out of your meal, and avoid the long lines at tourist traps like Geddy’s, without ever leaving the confines of Bar Harbor. Stewman’s Lobster Pound is an icon overlooking Frenchman Bay and famous for a meal called The Downeast Lobster Experience: clam chowder, a 20-ounce steamed Maine lobster, mussels, buttered sweet corn and potatoes, and finally, homemade blueberry pie for dessert. To avoid the crowds, make the trip either for a late lunch or early dinner between the times of 2:30 to 5 p.m.

Stewman's Lobster Pot

Time Your Park Loop Drive Just Right

The months of July and August are the peak season for Acadia National Park, which means a congested Park Loop Road – the 27-mile main artery that runs through park – and its equally busy pull-off observation points. And since doing a circuit of this two-lane loop road is a must during any visit to take in granite ledges melting into the steel-blue sea, we suggest heading out as early as 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m. (as the crowds descend at 10 a.m. and don’t start to let up until 4 p.m.). Note: Advance vehicle reservations are now required to access Cadillac Mountain famous Summit Road from May 25 through October 22. 

See a Free Seaside Show

Every Wednesday from July 13 through August 17, the town of Bar Harbor hosts an outdoor movie series in Agamont Park right on the edge of the water. The movies start at dusk (approximately 8:15 p.m.), but you should plan to spread out your blanket early to save your spot (we suggest around 4 p.m.). Grab a to-go dinner from West Street Hotel’s Paddy’s or Harborside Hotel’s La Bella Vita to enjoy while the sun sets, followed by complimentary popcorn when the silver screen lights up.

Sightsee through the Quiet Side of Acadia

Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are obviously two of the most beautiful – and, therefore most popular – locations in Maine. But there are plenty of other scenic hidden gems worth checking out, including what’s known as the “Quiet Side of Acadia,” which comprises the areas of Mount Desert, Tremont, and Southwest Harbor, and their respective villages just west of Somes Sound. Unlike the eastern side’s Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor, there are no major downtowns here, but rather a high concentration of what true Down East Maine is about: tiny fishing villages where the daily return of lobster boats is like a celebratory parade, main streets devoid of chain stores, and weathered cottages seemingly preserved in time from the salty air.

Southwest Harbor

Take an Evening Hike up Cadillac

It’s unlikely that you would start a hike after dinner. But since Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain on the eastern coast of the US, rising 1,530 feet above sea level, it’s still light at the summit until 9 p.m. at the height of summer, making 5 p.m. an acceptable time to start your 2.2-mile trek up (especially as most hikers have finished their longer routes for the day, leaving the trails empty). From the Park Loop Road, you’ll take the North Ridge Trail, which travels along the mountain’s north ridge with a few steep sections broken up by level sections, before hitting the summit, which affords views of the Porcupine Islands and Bar Harbor.

Watch the Fourth of July Fireworks from the Sea

With the entire country clamoring for the best fireworks location, you have to get creative no matter where you celebrate the Fourth. Luckily, Mount Desert Island gives you some beautiful and clever options to skip the crowds, including a special fireworks cruise hosted by Acadia Nature Cruises. Not only do you miss the hassle of trying to navigate the downtown crowds, but the Acadian, which features a second deck for optimal viewing, is one of the best seats from which to watch the display (you feel as if you’re sitting beneath the fireworks).

Festivals & Events

Fourth of July, 7/4

It has been said that Bar Harbor has the best Independence Day celebration in the country. It’s no wonder, considering the day starts off with a community-wide blueberry pancake breakfast followed by races (for both humans and lobsters), a craft fair, a seafood festival, a parade, live music all day, and a giant fireworks display.

Fourth of July in Bar Harbor

Island Arts Association’s Annual Summer Craft Fair, 8/20-8/21

Browse the works of local artisans showcasing their unique and handmade crafts at the Pemetic Green in Southwest Harbor. Admission is free and visitors are welcome between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Open Garden Day, 7/30

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., explore the grounds of the Garden Club of Mount Pleasant, rain or shine. Your ticket scores you access to six gardens in Northeast Harbor, Sand Point, Waters Edge, The Ledge, Hedgefield, The Summerhouse, and Summer Wind. With sweeping ocean views, lush green lawn, and enchanting flower gardens scattered throughout the grounds, spend the day in your own slice of serenity.

Bar Harbor Fine Arts Festival, 8/12–14 and 9/9-11

This invitational fine arts festival includes some of the country’s best jewelry makers, painters, potters, and photographers in a juried exhibition right in downtown Bar Harbor.

Where to Stay Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina | West Street Hotel