If you’re looking for the quintessential tour of New England, then you cannot go wrong with going on a Boston to Bar Harbor road trip. Driving from the Massachusetts capital to the gateway to Acadia National Park will take you through three states and countless amazing places to visit along the way.
There are plenty of people who plan to make this drive in just one day. And while this is certainly possible, you will be missing out on some of the most charming towns and cool spots that Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine have to offer. So whether you want to take in every lighthouse possible or sample lobster rolls while meandering up the Maine coast, this is the guide for you.
Planning your road trip can be a joy of an experience when you consider just how much there is to see and do in a relatively short distance. So if you want to go on the perfect drive through coastal Maine, then make sure to include at least some of these stops.
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Planning a New England Road Trip
Unlike embarking on a road trip in the western USA (for instance, from Seattle to Yellowstone National Park), the drive from Boston to Bar Harbor is relatively densely populated and you won’t be driving through large patches of open wilderness with services available. Conversely, there are plenty of towns along the way and just as many gas stations and facilities so you don’t need to plan too far in advance.
One thing to keep in mind is the season that you plan to do this road trip in. Obviously, the summer months of June, July and August are the most popular for those driving to Bar Harbor as the weather conditions are the mildest.
There isn’t much you need to consider when it comes to road safety in these months, except to be on the lookout for deer and moose and to be aware that conditions can, at times, get foggy.
If you’re travelling in the cooler months from as early as late October through April, be aware that snow can be an option. Particularly in the winter months, there will be quite a bit of snow (and, honestly, Acadia may not be the most pleasant to visit then, anyway).
Autumn is another very popular time to visit, namely because the foliage is simply spectacular. Note that the days do start to get shorter and there can be more rain, but driving conditions should still be fine.
Road conditions are generally good, but it always pays to be aware of wildlife!
If you need to rent a car for this road trip, you can browse Rentalcars.com which shows deals across a number of different car rental companies.
How Far is Boston to Bar Harbor?
Without stopping, the Boston to Bar Harbor drive time along the I-95N is about five hours total and the distance between Boston and Bar Harbor is about 300 miles (483 kilometres). However, staying completely on the I-95 isn’t the ideal route to go if you want to make the most out of this road trip.
Instead, getting off the interstate once you’re past Portland and heading north on Highway 1 is going to be far more rewarding, even if it will add to your overall drive time. This is where you will find the majority of the worthwhile stops on the Boston to Acadia road trip and it is certainly the most picturesque, taking you all along the coast.
Though you could do this drive within the span of the day, if you want to make a road trip out of it, it’s worth planning a few nights to get all the way up to Bar Harbor. Planning to stop for a few nights in Portland and in the midcoast town of Camden or Rockland.
Best Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip Stops
Leaving the city, the first stop on the drive is a bit of a detour, but worth it nonetheless – and that is Salem.
The historic seaside town is notable for being home to the Salem Witch Trials – a series of prosecutions of accused witches in 1692-1693, the trials resulted in over thirty guilty convictions which resulted in the hangings of fourteen women and five men. At least five other people died in prison and one man was pressed to death for refusing to plead.
The Salem Witch Trials are obviously an incredibly dark part of this town’s history and you can learn more about them while visiting this town.
However, these days, Salem is also well known for being a hub for the New Age. So if you’re interested in learning about dark Puritanical history and also may want to pick up a deck of tarot cards or get your palm read, then Salem is an excellent stop for you. It’s also a popular day trip from Boston
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
When driving from Boston to Bar Harbor, the stretch that goes through New Hampshire is only about 20 miles, however, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anywhere to stop in this great state!
And the best place to explore on this route is the lovely seaside town of Portsmouth. Not to be confused with the city in Hampshire, England, Portsmouth, New Hampshire is small but charming and very much worth exploring as you make your way to Maine.
If you’re looking for a great place to grab some lunch, then make sure to head to Geno’s Chowder & Sandwich Shop, located right on the harbour. This place has a great deal on a cup of chowder and a fresh lobster roll, so you can start getting your fix before you’ve officially made it to Maine!
Portsmouth’s town centre is also filled with interesting shops to browse and it can be very much worth taking a stroll along the main drags.
If you’re travelling with children, make sure to make a stop at Treehouse Toys, which is an excellent independent toy store that can be a lot of fun for adults, too!
Cape Neddick, Maine
The next (and subsequent) stop on this road trip from Boston are in the great state of Maine and what could be a more iconic first place to stop than a lighthouse?
And one of the most beautiful lighthouses in Maine happens to be located in the southern town of York on Cape Neddick and that is the beautiful Nubble Lighthouse.
This lighthouse is situated in an absolutely beautiful setting on its own small island. You can view it easily from the mainland while also enjoying the lovely scenery of the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline.
There are also plenty of benches and places to sit around here, so you can spend the time you’d like enjoying the views of this beautiful lighthouse.
Only a few miles north of Cape Neddick along the coast of Maine lies the popular tourist town of Ogunquit which is home to, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful beaches in the state.
While the state isn’t necessarily known for having “beach weather,” the few months of the year when it is warm enough to enjoy the white sands, then Ogunquit Beach is an excellent option for this!
Ogunquit is also home to a cute downtown area with plenty of shops along with a lot of other kitschy seaside town mainstays – such as mini-golf!
There are a number of famous lobster shacks to eat at if you have a hankering for seafood. Alternatively, we can recommend eating at the Greenery Cafe, which has an extensive breakfast menu along with plenty of sandwiches and salads for those looking for a great lunch option!
Another very famous seaside town in Southern Maine and a perfect stop on a Boston to Acadia road trip is Kennebunkport. This is another very popular vacation spot and it has a lot to offer visitors.
Of course, like the rest of Maine, lobster shacks and seafood restaurants abound, and there are some lovely beaches to enjoy and a gorgeous harbour and coastal views to take in.
There is also a charming town centre that is filled with interesting shops and other points of interest. There are also a few small museums to take in, should this suit your fancy, And if you’re interested in getting out on the water, there are plenty of options available for you in Kennebunkport.
And if you want to experience another beautiful beach before hitting the next stop, visit Old Orchard Beach – one of the most beautiful in the state.
Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Located directly to the south of Portland (and effectively a suburb of the city), Cape Elizabeth is home to arguably Maine’s most prominent and iconic lighthouse – the Portland Head Light.
Situated in the vast Fort Williams Park, this lighthouse isn’t the only attraction here. Fort Williams Park boasts some beautiful cliffside views and walks, small swimming areas and beaches, an old fort and plenty of beautiful grassy areas to enjoy.
All in all, this makes for an excellent stop in the Portland area before heading into the city proper and exploring the old port, and also gives you an opportunity to take in Maine’s most notable lighthouses!
No drive from Boston to Acadia National Park would be complete without a stop in Maine’s largest city, Portland. Though this isn’t a huge city by most metrics (it’s home to only about 70,000 people), this is the largest metropolis in the state and has a lot to offer visitors.
Not only are there fantastic restaurants to enjoy and plenty of locally brewed craft beer to sip, but there are also a number of cool things to see and do that it’s worth spending a couple of days in Portland in order to really get to know this city and to do it justice.
Maine doesn’t have a lot of cities, so it’s a great place to get an “urban” vibe, especially considering how rural and small the rest of the towns on this road trip are!
As the last major stop before you venture off the interstate and onto Highway 1, Freeport is an essential stop on any Maine road trip for one reason – the flagship store of LL Bean.
This shop is absolutely massive and offers anything an outdoor lover could imagine. Set over a number of different areas and across a couple of floors, the LL Bean store is a very “Maine” place to visit.
Known for its massive boot marking the entrance, this is the perfect place to pick up any outdoor gear you may need (or forgot to pack!) for your trip to Acadia National Park.
The town of Freeport itself also has a nice downtown area with several cute shops and cool restaurants to check out, so make sure not to only set your sites on LL Bean and explore a bit of the town, as well!
Dubbed “the prettiest village in Maine,” the town of Wiscasset is an excellent stop in the midcoast region on a scenic drive up the coast, especially if you’re feeling a little bit hungry!
Located directly on Highway 1, Wiscasset is perhaps best known for being home to the famous Red’s Lobster Shack, which has been highlighted in a number of different publications over the years.
Because of this, the shack gets queues that wind their way around the corner and up the streets and, in the busy months, you could be waiting to get a lobster roll for hours.
If you want to minimise your wait but still have an incredibly high-quality meal, then head to Sprague’s – located right across the street. They have a similar menu to Red’s, delicious food and they also make incredible milkshakes with the local Giffords Ice Cream! They also have a nice outdoor seating area.
Like most other towns in the area, Wiscasset also has a number of cute shops and things to see and do in the town centre, that is very much worth exploring.
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
This stop is a bit of a detour from Highway 1 and can be a bit of a touristy stop, but if you want to experience a truly charming Maine harbour, then make sure to head to Boothbay while on your Boston to Maine road trip.
Boothbay Harbor is a bit of a kitschy tourist town, but it can be a good place to visit if that is your thing. It’s full of souvenir shops and opportunities to go on harbour cruises and whale-watching tours.
The harbour itself is really lovely and a joy to stroll around and the drive down the peninsula to reach this town is gorgeous, as well.
Coastal New England is well known for its oysters but you would be hard-pressed to find a more famous local variety than the Damariscotta oyster – hailing from the eponymous river in this beautiful Maine town! Damariscotta is a small town with a charming main street, home to plenty of local artisan’s shops and a number of great restaurants.
When driving through this region, you will also notice plenty of oyster farms in the river and, if you want to sample some, make sure to head to one of the many oyster bars or restaurants and order a few in any style that you desire!
Waldoboro isn’t a stop that makes it onto most Maine road trip itineraries, however, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth visiting a few places in this unassuming town! Located on Highway 1, one of the best places to stop in Waldoboro is Moody’s Diner, especially if you’ve got an appetite.
This classic diner has been in business for over 80 years. It’s open daily and serves up diner favourites and also makes dozens of freshly baked pies each day – so even if you’re not hungry enough for a meal, it’s worth stopping by for a slice of pie, at least!
If you’re interested in sampling some locally brewed craft beer, one of our favourite breweries in the region is based in Waldoboro – Odd Alewives Brewery. Located in a refurbished barn on Old Route 1, they have a handful of fantastic beers on tap, a wood-fired oven for delicious pizzas and a delightful garden setting to enjoy.
One of the most popular destinations in Midcoast Maine, this is a can’t-miss stop on your Boston to Acadia drive. There are a number of things to do in Rockland that it can be worth planning to spend a couple of nights in this area so you have enough time to see and do everything there is to offer.
Like many towns in the region, Rockland has a charming downtown filled with art galleries, museums, shops and great restaurants – a personal favourite is North Beacon Oyster!
And if you’re looking for something quick to eat, you cannot go wrong with Wasses Hot Dogs. Rockland is also home to the Maine Lobster Festival, so this is the perfect town to pick up yet another lobster roll.
Make sure to walk out to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse also visit the charming lighthouse at nearby Owl’s Head. There is also the opportunity to take a ferry to one of the nearby islands if this suits your fancy.
Located about a ten-minute drive north of Rockland is the small town of Rockport. This town often gets overlooked, with visitors being more taken in by beautiful Camden or bustling Rockland, but Rockport has its own charm and it’s worth stopping in on your way up to the town of Bar Harbor.
Outside of the town centre, you can find the fantastic Oakland Park Lanes, a classic candlepin bowling alley that’s the perfect place to spend a rainy day for young and old alike.
Downtown Rockport has a charming harbour that is arguably prettier than neighbouring Camden. And if you’re looking for a great meal, then make sure to head to 18 Central, located on Rockport’s main drag.
Along with Rockland, Camden is probably the most popular place to visit in Midcoast Maine and it’s for a good reason – it is incredibly charming. Located only about eight miles (about a fifteen-minute drive) north of Rockland, there are a number of things to do in Camden that make it a great place to base yourself for a few nights while on your road trip to Bar Harbor.
Camden Harbor is beautiful and you can even opt to take a sailing cruise from here. If you simply want to enjoy the views, then make sure to have a meal at the delicious Waterfront Restaurant. Kids will love the nearby Uncle Willy’s Candy Shoppe — but it is super fun for adults with a sweet tooth, too.
For those looking to get a bit active, then consider going for a hike in the nearby Camden Hills State Park. Either hiking or driving up to Mount Battie – the highest peak in the park – will provide excellent views over Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay as a whole and there are plenty of other hiking trails to enjoy, as well.
Heading north along Highway 1 from Camden, the next major town you will hit is lovely Lincolnville. This little town is pretty small, however, it can be worth a stop – especially if you’re interested in heading to the beach.
Lincolnville Beach is very popular to visit on hot and sunny days in the summer. Though it certainly isn’t the nicest beach in Maine, it can still be worth the stop if it suits your fancy.
For those looking for something a bit more secluded and local, then nearby Ducktrap Beach is a good option. Even if you don’t want to visit the beach, Lincolnville also boasts a cute downtown area with plenty of shops and a handful of restaurants that can be worth browsing.
The last major town before continuing on to Mount Desert Island is the lovely settlement of Belfast. There are lots of cool things to do in Belfast and it is one of the larger cities in this area of Maine – with a whopping 7,000 people who call it home!
There is a lovely downtown to explore filled with great restaurants, art galleries, artisan shops, and much more. There is also a nice waterfront and harbour to walk along, a few museums to visit, and a number of different farmer’s markets on various days of the week.
From Belfast, it is about another hour and twenty-minute drive before you reach Bar Harbor.
Where to Stay on the Boston to Bar Harbor Drive
If you want to make all or even some of these stops along the way to Acadia National Park, then you’re going to want to stop for a few nights along the way. The best places to do that are in Portland and Camden.
In Portland, you will have time to explore the city and the areas surrounding it. Camden is the ideal location for exploring the midcoast region, nearby Rockland, and more.
West End Inn – This quaint bed and breakfast makes for an excellent place to stay in Portland and a perfect base while on your road tip Bar Harbor. Centrally located in downtown Portland, it’s perfect for exploring the city and its surroundings. There are plenty of great rooms available and a wonderful breakfast offered each morning.
The Press Hotel – If you’re after a bit of luxury during your stay in Portland, then this swanky hotel is an excellent option. Centrally located close to all of the top sites of Maine’s largest city, they have a number of plush rooms on offer, a restaurant on site and plenty of other amenities to ensure you have a great stay.
Private Rental – For those after their own place, there are plenty of private vacation rentals on offer in Portland. This chic apartment in the Arts District is just one example of many great properties available in the city.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Portland hotels!
Abigail’s Inn – If you’re looking for a charming bed and breakfast in Camden, then this is a perfect place to rest your head when on your road trip. They have countless beautiful rooms on offer, a great breakfast available each morning and the perfect location for exploring the midcoast region.
Blackberry Inn – For those after a bit of luxury, this inn is a great choice for you. Located in the heart of Camden, this place makes for the perfect romantic getaway. All rooms are spacious and feature a seating area and/or a balcony and there is a hearty breakfast included each morning.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Camden hotels!
Bar Harbor Grand Hotel – Located in central Bar Harbor, this hotel is the perfect base on Mount Desert Island. Centrally located close to everything this town has to offer, they have a number of great rooms available and a complimentary breakfast to enjoy each morning.
Bar Harbor Inn and Spa – If you want a plush experience while visiting Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, then this hotel is an excellent choice for you. They have a myriad of luxe rooms on offer, a full-service spa to enjoy and plenty of other fantastic amenities to ensure your stay is a memorable one.
Private Rental – If you’d like to have your own place from which to explore Acadia and Mount Desert Island, then a private holiday rental is a good choice for you. There are lots of places to choose from – like this cottage in downtown Bar Harbor – that can suit many travel styles.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Bar Harbor hotels!
Planning the perfect road trip from Boston to Acadia National Park is only a struggle when you consider just how much there is to see and do on this drive. Make sure you set aside enough time to enjoy what this beautiful section of New England has to offer!
Are you road-tripping to Acadia? Have any questions about this drive? Let us know in the comments!