Why visit Bar Harbor during the winter months?
Winter is one of our best kept secrets in Bar Harbor. As summer winds down, fall takes over in all its colorful glory but after the trees lose their leaves and snow begins to fall, many visitors head back home until next summer. Little do they know, Bar Harbor is a peaceful escape during the winter. Most of the activities and sights that attract visitors in the summer and fall can still be done and seen in the winter but from a different perspective. So, we encourage a visit during November – March for prime winter-wonderland views. And, here’s the answer to your most-asked question, “So, what’s there to do in Bar Harbor during the winter?”
When the snow falls, there are two things to do; hunker down and get cozy indoors or layer up and explore. Luckily, Bar Harbor is the perfect place for both. No, the myth isn’t true, Bar Harbor does not close for the winter. There are shops, places to stay and restaurants that are open year-round, and Acadia National Park simply switches to winter access when the Park Loop Road closes to motor vehicles but is still accessible by people-powered means.
When you’re ready to embrace the snow and get outside
Cross-country ski and snowshoe through Acadia National Park: Cross-country skiers and snowshoers can enjoy the 45 miles of carriage roads (32 of which are groomed) and unplowed park roads. Experienced snowshoers can head out on the park’s numerous hiking trails for some real winter solitude. Families can introduce their children to these winter sports in one of the state’s most beautiful settings. Snowshoes and cross-country skis are available to rent in Bar Harbor.
For those who prefer to travel a bit faster, snowmobiling is also allowed on the park’s unplowed fire roads and the 27-mile Park Loop Road, including the road up Cadillac Mountain. The best place to access snowmobile routes is Hulls Cove Visitors Center.
Fans of the freeze-over: Once the lakes freeze, if there isn’t snowfall, it’s a great time for ice skating. Skate rentals are also available in town. If the lakes are snow covered, test your luck by trying to catch a few fish through the snow – ice-fishing is a fun Maine pastime.
Dare to climb: If you’re looking for a more epic way to see Acadia, scale the cliffs on a guided ice-climbing tour with Acadia Mountain Guides. These experienced mountaineers will show you the ropes and introduce you to a day packed full of adventure.
Sleep under the stars: For pure solitude and tranquility, and if you’re looking to be at one with nature, try out winter camping. Blackwoods Campground in Acadia is open in winter.
Experience the winter landscape from up above: See the snow-covered cliffs and mountain tops from above with a scenic air tour. You’ll see lighthouses and Acadia National Park, including Cadillac Mountain and Somes Sound, to name a few highlights of the ride.
Walking in a winter wonderland in downtown Bar Harbor
Not up for a trip to Acadia? Get some fresh winter air by taking a loop downtown. Here are some spots to check out.
Bar Harbor Shore Path: The Shore Path begins at the Town Pier right next to Agamont Park. The path is a beautiful place for a walk at any time of the day. Located right next to the ocean, the views are incredible.
Agamont Park: Known as a gathering place in the summer, Agamont Park offers just as pretty, or some may say even prettier, vistas in the winter. This is a good resting place with scenes of the Town Pier and Bar Island, and a great spot to see all of Main Street.Village Green: Another great place for a stroll right downtown is Village Green. Known as the central town square, there are pathways and benches for resting. This is also the home of the town’s Christmas tree.
When you’re kind of adventurous but would rather be in a car
See the mountains covered in snow and the rocky shoreline decked with icicles all from the comfort of your car. Although most of Park Loop Road is closed to motor traffic, two sections are still accessible: Ocean Drive and Jordan Pond Road. Ocean Drive offers the most popular section of the park, with access to Schooner Head Overlook, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs. Jordan Pond Road is open for drivers to access Jordan Pond, get a good view of the Bubbles and if so inclined, take a walk around the Jordan Pond Loop to stretch your legs.
For those who love to stay inside and get cozy during the winter
Some days are meant to be spent inside during the winter. Here are some ideas for those days:
Abbe Museum: Maine’s first and only Smithsonian affiliate, the Abbe showcases the Wabanaki Nations stories, work, art and culture. The museum has a collection of more than 50,000 archaeological, historic and contemporary objects, and also features rotating exhibits, lectures, and other events for all ages every month besides January. Open Thursday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wendell Gilley Museum: This museum celebrates the work of Wendell Gilley, a pioneer in the field of decorative bird carving. It also showcases the culture and teaches the art of bird carving through exhibitions and educational programs with a focus on people, nature and art. Open through December, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Mount Desert Island Historical Society: Learn about Mount Desert Islands’ history and its relevance today. The historical society celebrates the lives of the people, their traditions and the events that shaped and continue to shape the island history. Open Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., year-round.
Woodlawn Museum, Gardens & Park: Woodlawn is a 180-acre historic estate located a quarter mile from downtown Ellsworth, Maine. Once home to three generations of the Black family, it is now treasured for its historic house museum, its gardens and public park. The house is open for tours during the winter from December 1 – 23 and the public park and trails are open year round, free of charge, dawn to dusk; dogs are welcome on the trails, on a leash.
Reel Pizza: Why snack on popcorn when you can enjoy your movie with pizza? Reel Pizza is great for snowy days when all you want to do is watch a film and be inside. There’s even a full menu of delicious pizza pies. Closed from Nov. 5 – Dec. 25 and then reopening on December 26.
One of the best parts about a winter visit is how budget-friendly winter attractions and places to stay can be during this time of the year. Many places offer special winter deals, and inn and hotel rates are often reduced – by as much as half. Request a free guidebook and start planning your winter getaway to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park right now.
Photos by Heather Anderson and Gail Leiser