Bridge in bar harbor

Why Winter is Becoming the Best Time to Visit Bar Harbor, Maine

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WONDERING WHEN THE BEST TIME IS TO VISIT BAR HARBOR?

Acadia National Park – which is located near the town of Bar Harbor – is one of the most visited National Parks in the world, but let’s face it… Everybody plans their trip during the summer months when it’s hot and sticky and the bugs are relentless. However, in recent years, many have argued that winter is actually the best time to visit Bar Harbor!

Winters in Maine have a bad rep, however, maybe these winter vacationers have a point. Let’s dive into why winter is becoming the new summer in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

Why Winter is the Best Time to Visit Bar Harbor: An Overview

The cute and dainty town of Bar Harbor has been treasured by many as they stop through on their way to Acadia. However, there’s a common misconception that the town closes during the winter months. Fortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth!

Bar Harbor has plenty to offer during the wintertime, with the added bonus of getting away from the crowd and taking part in delightful holiday festivities. If you and your loved ones are looking for a new holiday vacation destination, Bar Harbor might be the perfect fit for you!

Bridge in bar harbor

Here are the winter activities we’ll be talking about in this post:

  • Take in the views on a winter hike
  • Explore the park on cross-country skis or snowshoes
  • Ice skate Jordan Pond
  • Ice Fish Echo Lake
  • Take an ice climbing or aerial tour
  • Snowmobile around Acadia
  • Walk the Bar Harbor Shore Path
  • Drive Ocean Path and Jordan Pond Road
  • Visit a Museum
  • Attend a winter event downtown

Why Winter is the Best Time to Visit Bar Harbor

Let’s dive in! This post will cover things to do in Bar Harbor in the wintertime, some of the best places to eat, fabulous shopping opportunities, a list of great accommodations nearby, and tips on how to prepare for your trip!

10 Things to Do in the Winter in Bar Harbor, Maine

Let’s begin with things to do in the wintertime. Hopefully, this post will show you that there are plenty of fun things to do, and you’ll get a glimpse into why winter is becoming the best time to visit Bar Harbor!

Maine in the wintertime

1. Take in the views on a winter hike

Contrary to popular belief, Acadia is still open during the winter months and there are plenty of hiking trails you and your loved ones can explore. Take in the breathtaking views of this park’s winter wonderland during your trip to Bar Harbor.

Visitors are required to purchase a park entrance pass, although you can use your America The Beautiful annual parks pass if you have one. Visit Acadia’s website for more details on open hiking trails, park hours, and more.

2.  Explore the park on cross-country skis or snowshoes

Hiking isn’t the only winter sport that’s available in Acadia! There are 45 miles of carriage roads and unplowed park roads that are available for cross-country skiers and snowshoers alike.

If you don’t have your own skis or snowshoes, there are rental options available in Bar Harbor for a decent price from Cadillac Mountain Sports! Grab your gear and get ready to explore the quiet oasis of Acadia National Park during the winter months.

Winter is the best time to visit Bar Harbor because there are so many outdoor sports to do like cross country skiing!

3. Ice Skate Jordan Pond

Once it gets cold enough for the lake to freeze over, visitors have the option to ice skate on the breathtaking Jordan Pond! Take in the breathtaking pine forest that surrounds you as enjoy skating in the deepest lake in the park.

If you don’t own your own skates, ice skates are also available for rent in Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain Sports.

4. Ice Fish Echo Lake

What’s a better way to experience Acadia National Park than by one of Maine’s popular pastimes: ice fishing! You can fish for landlocked salmon and brook trout in Echo Lake.

Generally, ice fishing season is between the months of January and March. Make sure you check out Maine’s Ice Fishing handbook regulations before your trip.

5. Take a tour (Ice Climbing, Aerial)

A fun way to experience Acadia in the wintertime is by purchasing an ice climbing or air tour!

Experienced mountaineers guide you through a half or full day of “ice climbing” – climbing up frozen waterfalls! A typical day looks like practicing movement skills, getting comfortable on the ice, and learning how to swing tools. Acadia Mountain Guides supplies technical equipment before your adventure.

Rather be up high than on the ground than scaling a frozen waterfall?! Check out an aerial tour with Scenic Flights and choose your tour based on three different types of aircraft! All flights include scenic views of the park, Frenchman Bay, lighthouses that surround the area, Bar Harbor, and more!

if you visit bar harbor in the winter time, you can take an ice climbing tour and scale frozen waterfalls!

6. Snowmobile around Acadia

If you’re a snowmobile owner, you might want to consider bringing it on your trip to Bar Harbor! In Acadia, snowmobilers can drive on the 27-mile park loop, the road up to Cadillac Mountain, and most of the fire roads. The best place to access snowmobile routes is Hulls Cove Visitors Center.

Unfortunately, there are no rental options for snowmobiles in the area. Make sure to check the snowmobile regulations on Acadia’s website before your trip.

7. Walk the Bar Harbor Shore Path

Want to forgo Acadia for a day and explore the town of Bar Harbor? Take a walk alongside the ocean on the breathtaking Bar Harbor Shore Path! The trail begins at the Town Pier next to Agamont Path and gives you great views of both the dainty town and the breathtaking coast.

8. Drive Ocean Path and Jordan Pond Road

Although some roads are closed in Acadia during the winter, visitors are still able to drive Ocean Path and Jordan Pond Road. Both of these roads offer many of the park’s greatest natural attractions and can be experienced any time of year!

On Ocean Path, stop at Schooner Head Overlooks, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs! You may even consider getting out to take a stroll around Jordan Pond to stretch your legs!

9. Visit a Museum

The Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor

Of course, Bar Harbor has options for those who want to stay indoors during the wintertime! Consider checking out one of the town’s many museums! Some are listed below:

10. Attend a winter event downtown

Spending the holidays in Bar Harbor is one of the reasons why winter is the best time to visit!

What’s a better way to celebrate the holidays than in the fun and decorative town of Bar Harbor!? Bar Harbor has so many fun holiday festivities happening throughout the months of November, December, and January. Check out some of these classics!

  • Early Bird Pajama Sale and Bed Races: Head downtown in your pajamas in early November to receive some of the best holiday sales at participating local shops! Don’t miss the bed races (you read right) before you get all your cherished holiday gifts!
  • Village Holidays: Every early December, downtown Bar Harbor hosts a traditional Christmas tree lighting by “Santa,” with free hot cocoa and the opportunity to sing Christmas carols beforehand! Don’t forget to attend the annual Midnight Madness Sale that starts late at night with some of the best holiday discounts at local stores!
  • Gingerbread House Contest: Attend the town’s gingerbread house-making contest by entering or voting on your favorite! Winners are subject to a cash prize.
  • Bar Harbor Winter Beer Fest: Every January, Bar Harbor hosts their winter beer fest by celebrating craft beer at Atlantic Brewing Midtown. Partake in the keg stacking relay and donut-on-a-stick eating contest while you try all your craft samples!

Where to dine in Bar Harbor during the winter

One great thing about Bar Harbor is that there are plenty of restaurants for your choosing that are open year-round.  For a comprehensive list of all of the shops, stores, and accommodations that are open in the wintertime, check out the list here.

Restaurant in Bar Harbor
  • Reel Pizza  – A full menu of pizzas at a cinema where you can enjoy your food as you watch a movie! If you don’t care to watch a movie, there are also outdoor dining and take-out options available. This location is closed from November 5th through December 25th but reopens on December 26th.
  •  Peeky Toe Provisions – This is a great low-key eatery that includes some of Maine’s specialty products such as local jam and jellies, delicious seafood, and take-out lobster.
  •  The Dog and Pony Tavern – This bar and grill has a very relaxed atmosphere where you can order all the classic pub food while watching sports on the surrounding TVs.
  • The Thirsty Whale Tavern – This local pub is extremely popular for its casual seafood dishes. Try a fish sandwich or some clam chowder to warm up during your trip!
  • Mount Dessert Bakery – This locally owned bakery and cafe is a great way to start your morning in Bar Harbor. Grab a freshly baked pastry and a delicious cup of coffee to begin your day the right way!
  • Jack Russels Steak House and Brewery – This restaurant is a bit more upscale than the ones listed above, as it serves American steaks, classic seafood, and more.
  • Leary’s Landing Irish Pub – If you’re looking for an Irish-themed pub, consider heading to Leary’s! This tavern serves Irish and New England cuisine, craft ales, and whiskey.
  • Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium – I couldn’t make this list without a dessert place! Ben and Bills feature all the best desserts you could imagine. Choose from fudge, ice cream, chocolate, buttercrunch, or sugar-free candy options!
Shopping in Bar Harbor during the wintertime

Where to shop in Bar Habor during the winter

Now that you know where to eat, let’s cover some of the shops that are open year-round. The wintertime is great for casual shopping, making it the best time to visit Bar Harbor.

Many of these boutiques provide great opportunities for gifts, too! This list does by no means cover all of the open stores in Bar Harbor during the winter.

  • Willis’ Rock Shop – This family-owned business has operated for over 80 years in the creation and design of beautiful gemstone jewelry!
  • Serendipity Resale Shop – This adorable boutique offers gently used donated clothing, serving as an eco-friendly and affordable clothing store in Bar Harbor!
  • A Little Mad – This cute shop includes all the best collectibles, home decor, and local artwork for sale.
  • Fabricate – This art store includes all sorts of fabrics, paper, and art supplies for quilters, scrapbookers, collage makers, and artists alike.
  • Cool as a Moose – This clothing store is the original Cool as a Moose brand that features charming clothing with a northern New England design.
  • Island Artisans – This shop displays the best of Maine’s arts and crafts. Shop for home decor, pottery, postcards, picture frames, souvenirs, and more!
  • Bar Harbor Tea Company – If you or a loved one is a tea drinker, you should definitely check this one out. Shop the plethora of loose-leaf blends, fancy china, beautiful pottery, and more.
  • Sherman Maine’s Coast Book Shops – Looking for a good book?! Check out Maine’s oldest bookstore! As one of the nine locations, this store has everything a book enthusiast needs!

Where to Stay during the winter months in Bar Harbor

Now that we’ve covered what there is to do, where to eat, and places to shop, it’s time to cover maybe the most important part about visiting: where to stay! I have heard travelers express concern about not knowing where to book their accommodations in the winter, so hopefully this list will place you in the right direction.

Cottages:

$ Canterberry Cottage Bed and Breakfast – This cute bed and breakfast is in the heart of downtown Bar Harbor and within walking distance from all the best shopping and eateries in the area. 

$$ Acadia Bayview Cottages – This company offers 6 unique cottages dispersed among Frenchman Bay, only minutes away from Acadia and a short drive from Bar Harbor.

$$$ Acadia Cottage Rentals – Choose your ideal cottage based on setting type and number of guests. You also have the option to choose your cottage based on whether you’re bringing pets!

Check prices to book your stay with Canterberry Cottage Bed and Breakfast by clicking this link!

Atlantic Oceanside resort Bar Harbor

Hotels

$ Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Conference Center – This beachside hotel is great for those looking for great amenities in a prime location. This hotel offers private beach access, an indoor pool, a health club, and a spa tub. There is a bistro that is open for dinner, in addition to a bar, lounge, and terrace.

$$ Acadia Hotel – For those looking for a downtown Bar Harbor experience, Acadia Hotel should be at the top of your list. This hotel features a bar and restaurant, a common area stocked with tea and coffee, an ATM, and daily housekeeping.

$$$ The Inn at Mount Desert – This hotel looks more like a large house, and offers a homey feel, too! Some of the best perks are the on-site laundry and included breakfast.

Our Pick: The Inn at Mount Desert!

Other

$ Blackwoods Campground – Last but not least, I had to include the fact that one of Acadia’s campgrounds (Blackwoods) remains open during the winter months. If you’re an avid camper, plan to spend most of your time in the park, and don’t mind the cold, you could definitely save a few bucks by camping out here!

$$ Mira Monte Inn and Suites – This guesthouse is eloquent and classy and is near the historical district and in the mountains. Many of the restaurants are within walking distance.

$$$ Bar Harbor/Acadia Weekly Cottage Vacation Rentals – This website lists well over 50 different vacation rental options for you to choose from. Pick your vacation rental with a lake view, ocean view, in-town location, shore access, luxury furnishings, or other options. Keep in mind that these rentals book for weeks at a time!

Camping tent in Acadia

Book your stay with Mira Monte Inn and Suites here!


Preparing for your winter trip to Bar Harbor

At this point, I hope I’ve convinced you that for one, there is plenty to do in Bar Harbor and Acadia in the wintertime, and for two, winter is the best time to visit! If you do decide that this is a winter vacation you’d love to take, you’ll want to arrive prepared… especially if you’re not used to the cold or the snow!

Gear and Clothing

The first thing to think about is the weather. You’re going to want to dress warm and don’t forget about your hat and gloves. As I said, there’s plenty to do in the wintertime, but some of those activities involve being outside.

On that same note, you’ll want to make sure that you’re adequately prepared for any of the fun activities you plan to do. Want to snowmobile, cross-country ski, ice-skate, hike, ice climb, ice fish, or snowshoe? You should probably consider bringing winter boots and snow pants to ensure you stay toasty during your outing!

Even if you do happen to forget, there should be plenty of shops in town where you can buy winter gear to stay cozy. There are ice-skating, cross-country ski, and snowshoe rentals available in town, however, if you want to ice-fish or snowmobile, you’ll need to bring your own gear.

One of the reasons Bar Harbor is the best to visit in the winter is because of the snowy wonderland it displays

Transportation

In all honesty, it’s pretty unrealistic to visit Bar Harbor in the wintertime without a car. It’s unrealistic in any of the other seasons to visit without a car, so you’re definitely going to need a vehicle in the wintertime. You’ll need a way to get around and the only means to do so is to bring or rent a car during your vacation.

Rent a car with Rentalcars.com for your winter trip to Bar Harbor using this link!

Whatever option you choose, make sure that the vehicle has a windshield scraper for when it snows and that the heat works properly. Allow your vehicle to warm up for a few minutes after long periods of sitting in the cold. Ensure there are jumper cables available in case the car has trouble starting.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Let’s dive deeper into some of the frequently asked questions about visiting Bar Harbor.

What is the best time of year to visit Bar Harbor?

This question is widely debated and is based on personal preference, however with growing popularity, winter is actually becoming seen as one of the best times to visit Bar Harbor! 

What is the best month to visit Acadia National Park?

Visit Acadia in the winter months to escape the heat and the crowds, explore the park in solidarity, take part in the local holiday festivities, and experience all the best dining and shopping options that Bar Harbor has to offer.

What is off-season in Bar Harbor Maine?

Winter is considered the off-season in Bar Harbor between the months of November and February. However, this makes wintertime one of the best times to visit Bar Harbor because many of the same activities are still available with the benefit of escaping tourist season.

How many days do you need in Bar Harbor? 

To fully take in Bar Harbor, you’ll want to spend at least a few days in the town to explore all it has to offer. You can easily spend a day strolling around the city, dining at restaurants, and shopping in boutiques, but you can also take a short drive to Acadia to take in the scenery of the area.


Winter is the best time to visit Bar Harbor because just look at how beautiful it is!

Wrapping Up: Why Winter is Becoming the Best Time to Visit Bar Harbor, Maine

Well, folks, there you have it – all of the reasons that winter is becoming the best time to visit Bar Harbor, Maine. Visiting in the wintertime is a fantastic vacation idea because there is plenty to do in Acadia National Park, most of the shops and restaurants remain open year-round, there are fun family holiday festivities to attend, and you get the added benefit of escaping the tourist season.

Will you give Bar Harbor a shot in the wintertime? We hope so! Happy travels!