Bar Harbor is one of our favorite places in the world to visit, which is why we have taken an annual trip there for almost 10 years now. A few years back, I wrote a piece on my favorite things to do in Bar Harbor, but I thought it was worth writing an update now that we have a 3-year-old and a baby to share some of our favorite things to do in Bar Harbor with kids! This guide includes toddler-friendly hikes and kid-friendly restaurants (with outdoor dining), as well as other activities we’ve enjoyed with our children around Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park.
If you are traveling with kids, we recommend doing an Airbnb home stay in Bar Harbor. There are lots of options, and you will appreciate the extra space and the kitchen. Bar Harbor is also very walkable. There are two village greens as well as a really nice playground where we make daily stops. My kids love the fountains in the greens and eating an ice cream cone looking out over the bay. Make sure to book early though as popular weeks, especially in the summer, are booked well in advance.
The wonderful thing about Acadia National Park is that there truly are trails for every experience level. There are many classic hikes and walks that are very child-friendly: the Jordan Pond loop, the Ocean Path, the Shore Path in downtown Bar Harbor, Sand Beach and the summit of Cadillac Mountain (drive to the top and park, then explore). But Acadia has hundreds of hikes, so be sure to venture outside of these classics. Here are some of our favorite hikes for kids in Acadia National Park.
Not only is this one of our favorite hikes for toddlers—my husband declared this is one of his favorite hikes in Acadia National Park, period. It’s easy to see why, because you get a little bit of everything in a relatively short time. You can make this a short 1.5-mile loop by taking the Valley Cove Loop Rd. You hike up through a beautiful forest and find yourself at the peak of Flying Mountain very quickly, then descend on a winding path that leads to Valley Cove, a secluded beach where you can dip your feet in the water. There is a longer trail you can continue on here, but we took the truck road back to the parking lot to keep the hike manageable for our toddler, who did the whole hike himself!
This is a great one if you are looking for even terrain without an ascent. Ship’s Harbor is a 1.5-mile loop that skims the coastline of the quiet side of the island. We saw seals in the cove on our hike and there are tide pools to explore as well. The path is easy for kids, with little log bridges and small rocks to climb and explore for interest.
A must-do for kids. The Bar Island hike is accessible only at low tide, when a land bridge appears in the harbor. Make sure to consult tide charts and time your hike to low tide—it is possible to be stranded on Bar Island if you hike too close to high tide! But as long as you consult the tide charts, you will have a really fabulous adventure. The best part is crossing the land bridge because you can explore the tide pools to find all kinds of creatures, from crabs to starfish. Then a short hike up to the top of Bar Island gives you a view back to Bar Harbor.
McKay’s still holds its place as my personal favorite restaurant in Bar Harbor. They serve a really lovely seasonal menu that is hearty, approachable, and varied. You can get a lobster if that’s what your heart desires, but you can also have a steak, seafood risotto, a wood-fired pork chop, or some really excellent apps. There’s a good kids menu and the staff are super friendly to children. But the thing that really seals the deal is the outdoor seating area, which is the nicest in all of downtown Bar Harbor.
You may have heard of Havana, Parilla’s sister restaurant, which is one of the highest rated restaurants in the city. But Havana is quite fancy and not a super great choice with young children. Instead, opt for Parilla, an open-air tapas concept right next door. They don’t take reservations, but it’s not hard to show up early when you’re dining with kiddos. The tables are all high-tops, but they have tall highchairs for children and we had one of the best servers I have ever had in terms of catering to kids. The woman just got it. Most of the food is cooked on the plancha; I recommend the mixed grill or sausage party and a side of papas bravas. The Maine cheese plate is also nice and comes with fruit.
Another really solid choice with kids: a pizza joint! There’s a fairly spacious side patio to eat outside (and they’re even dog friendly). They have a pretty big menu, but we think the pizzas are the best.
Abel’s is my current favorite lobster pound on Mt. Desert Island. The setting plays a role: Abel’s is right on the shore of Somes Sound. You can wait for your order in an Adirondack chair as the kids collect pinecones and watch the boats, then grab a seat at one of the green picnic tables to enjoy full lobster dinners or classic lobster rolls. They also serve the burgers for not-so-adventurous kids.
Our favorite breakfast spot. This restaurant is the earliest full-service spot to open in Bar Harbor, and if you are a parent of young children, you will appreciate this. They have a large outdoor seating area, strong coffee, and a delicious breakfast menu.
A solid lunch spot for a quick bite or takeaway. This counter-service spot serves fresh smoothies, salads, wraps, poke bowls, and smoothie bowls. If you’ve been having a lot of indulgent dinners (and why not?!), this is a great spot to grab something refreshing, yummy, and healthy for lunch. Lots of kid-friendly sides available, including fruit cups and veggie chips.
Activities for Kids in Bar Harbor
Here are a few other top things to do with kids in Bar Harbor and Mt. Desert Island.
Drive the Park Loop Road
If it’s your first time in Acadia National Park, you absolutely must drive the Park Loop Road. This classic drive is recommended for a reason: It hits many of the most beautiful highlights in Acadia, including the Jordan Pond House, Cadillac Mountain, and Thunder Hole. Make sure to display a park pass in your windshield for parking, and stop to explore many times along the route.
Asticou Azalea Gardens
Located right across the street from the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, these beautiful gardens are definitely worth a stroll.
Pirate’s Cove Mini Golf
We love this mini golf course and always make a stop. The pirate-themed mini golf course has lots of caves and waterfalls—one hole is even on a pirate ship. And you can shoot off a water cannon at the end: your kiddos will love it.
We took this lobster fishing and seal watching boat tour with our kids and found it to be the perfect length for young children at just under 2 hours. The first half of the tour you’ll get a lesson in lobster fishing. A fisherman hauls in real lobster traps from the ocean floor and a naturalist explains the catch, as well as letting kids get up close to touch lobsters and other sea creatures that make their way into the traps, like crabs, sea cucumbers, or sea stars. The second half of the tour is seal watching at a nearby seal hot spot. We saw tons of seals, including seal pups!