Bar Harbor in the Off-season and Winter
Activities: Museums, art, walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sightseeing, dining, shopping, historic downtowns.
Region: DownEast and Acadia
During peak season of summer and fall, the coastal town of Bar Harbor is a hub of activity — tour boats hum along the marina, shops and restaurants bustle with tourists, and the local trolley sounds its happy chime. It’s no wonder it’s beloved by so many — with its proximity to Acadia National Park and many great places to explore, eat and stay, it’s an ideal vacation spot. As the weather cools, the stream of visitors subsides and things quiet down, but therein lies the undiscovered side of Bar Harbor — the off-season! Late autumn into early spring is a wonderful time to visit. Serene but no less sensational, Bar Harbor is easy to fall in love with all over again during this special time.
Whether it’s holiday shopping you seek or a memento from your trip, there are some great gems to shop during the off-season. The town hosts several festive shopping events during late fall and winter: The first involves a sale where you can shop in the comfort of your PJs (yes, you read that correctly) and a race where businesses compete from beds on wheels (you have to see it to believe it). As the holidays grow near, there is often a merry sale involving a very special someone driving an iconic sleigh.
Visit and Learn
Explore Mount Desert Island’s history at the glamorous La Rochelle Mansion and Museum. The Bar Harbor Historical Society owns this Gilded Age waterfront mansion featuring everything from a dining room brimming with objects of the day to the servants’ quarters featuring interesting stories of Bar Harbor.
At the Abbe Museum, you can learn about the history of the Wabanaki Nations, the first settlers of Maine, and their present-day legacy. The first and only Smithsonian Affiliate in the state of Maine, it’s an engaging and reflective space that allows people to learn and appreciate Maine’s Native community.
Tip: Please be sure to check museum hours at respective websites. Hours vary this time of year.
Enjoy the Serene Side of Acadia National Park
As a top-10 national park, Acadia has no shortage of visitors. Take advantage of the park’s quiet beauty in the off-season. Take care and plan ahead; darkness falls early, and trails can get icy at higher elevations.
There are many off-season hiking options and scenic drives that make for a beautiful trip, whether you are a hiking novice or seasoned expert. If the conditions are right, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski the park’s 45 miles of carriage roads for a sparkling winter wonderland experience. Rental equipment is available in town.
Though the trails may be quieter and many birds have migrated south, wildlife wonders are still present to be appreciated. Down East Nature Tours and the Natural History Center offer personalized nature experiences with knowledgeable guides — who might even help you spot the elusive snowy owl.
Relax and Retreat
Soak in the peace and tranquility at year-round health and wellness organization Destination Health MDI. Whether it’s moving your body you crave, meditative activities or settling in for a deep-tissue massage, they offer a variety of services sure to relax and rejuvenate.
Eat and Drink
Hiking, shopping and exploring can leave one hungry, and rest assured there are dining options in Bar Harbor during the off-season. Order takeout straight from the boat at Peeky Toe Provisions, or enjoy classic tavern fare at The Dog and Pony Tavern. For an energy boost, Choco-Latte comes through with a variety of coffees and teas. It’s always a good idea to call a business ahead of your visit so you know their most up-to-date schedule.
From Bangor: 48 miles
FFrom Augusta: 102 miles
From Lewiston/Auburn: 152 miles
From Portland: 175 miles