From fall foliage to clear night skies, Bar Harbor looks its best when the temperatures begin to fall.
US News Travel claims that September through October is the best time to visit Bar Harbor, and it’s no wonder. With the kids back to school and the nights getting chillier, tourism drops by almost half when the fall rolls in. That means no more crowds coveting popular Acadia National Park trails, as well streets of downtown Bar Harbor. It’s also the best time to check out some Downeast foliage and take in the Milky Way without the summer haze.
Activities & Attractions
Seek Starry Skies & Storytelling
Held in partnership with Bar Harbor Whale Watch, the Abbe Museum offers a special Under the Stars Boat Cruise every evening from September 25 to 28 during the Acadia Night Sky Festival. Departing at 7 p.m., the 130-foot catamaran Atlanticat cruises among the islands in Frenchman Bay, while John Bear Mitchell, University of Maine professor of Wabanaki and Multicultural studies, shares Maine native stories about the relationship to the night sky and naturalist Zack Klyver provides a short presentation on celestial navigation.
Take Advantage of Newly Opened Trails
While Acadia’s 155 miles of trails are beautiful regardless of the time of year, casual hikers tend to forget the benefits of hiking in cooler weather. For one, the amount of people sharing the trails plummets, and, secondly, you get access to some additional trails that close down in the spring and summer seasons on account of nesting and fledgling peregrine falcons. Since these birds start migrating in August (you can see them soaring overhead yourself during the annual HawkWatch program), you can expect the Precipice Trail and Jordan and the Valley Cove cliffs to open back up to hikers.
Maximize Your Leaf-Peeping Opportunities
Bar Harbor’s window of peak fall colors falls mid-September to mid-October each year. You can stay abreast of the conditions by keeping an eye tuned to Maine’s official foliage tracker. To come back with awe-inspiring Instagram photos of the foliage against Acadia’s rocky coast, sign up for one of the many photo tours in the area that take place in October like Acadia Images’ day-long tours or Tony Sweet’s four-day workshop from October 14 to 18.
Soak Up a Chilly Evening
There are few things better – especially after spending a chilly afternoon checking out the foliage or hiking Acadia – than warming up in a private hot tub. Each of the oceanfront Boathouse Suites at the Harborside Hotel come equipped with a private rooftop hot tub that overlooks Frenchman Bay.
Festivals & Events
Bar Harbor Fine Arts Festival, 9/6–8
Hosted by local artist Marc Fink, this annual fine arts show features juried work from artists across Maine, the US, and the world. Artists show everything from paintings and photography to sculpture, pottery, and woodcraft.
Acadia Night Sky Festival, 9/25–29
Turning 10 this year, this unique nighttime event features a slew of stargazing outings, lectures, workshops, and a “star party” held on the summit of Cadillac Mountain. Expect telescopes of all sizes and volunteer astronomers to point out constellations among the Milky Way in the largest expanse of entirely dark night sky east of the Mississippi.
Acadia’s Oktoberfest, 10/11–20
With over 80 breweries in the state of Maine alone, this weeklong festival of Maine brews is a must for any beer lover. The week kicks off with a full Oktoberfest-style party at Smuggler’s Den campground, just a 20-minute drive from Bar Harbor, followed by tours, tastings, lectures, concerts, and demonstrations at locations all over the island.
Mount Desert Island Marathon, 10/20
Lauded by Runner’s World, Competitor Magazine, and Men’s Health Magazine, RunMDI is probably one of the most scenic marathons in the country. This race begins at Bar Harbor and snakes its way through 26.2 picturesque miles through Acadia Park and along Mount Desert Island’s rugged coast to Southwest Harbor. Along with the Marathon, there is a half-marathon, team relay, and kids run.