Cape Porpoise fish house Kennebunkport Maine

7 Fun Stops on a Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip

Are you planning a road trip to the New England states and looking for inspiration? Look no further than a Boston to Bar Harbor road trip. Boston’s location in the northeastern United States makes it the perfect city to fly into and road trip from.

My daughter and I took a day to drive up the coast, as part of a four day road trip that included Acadia National Park and the White Mountains of New Hampshire and I’m sharing all the fun places we stopped from Boston to Bar Harbor.

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Planning a Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip

The New England states are perfect for road tripping and are easy to navigate with plenty of highways and smaller secondary roads. Interstate 95 is the main thoroughfare north and is nice as an option but what fun is a fast moving, big highway when there’s more scenic state highways like U.S. Route 1 and 1a along the coast?

Taking the smaller backroads gives you the opportunity to visit some lesser know places and underrated towns. Just keep in mind that if you do decide to drive I-95, there are tolls on this route.

So, what stops should you make between Boston and Bar Harbor? The possibilities are endless but some of the highlights in this article are Portsmouth, Ogunquit and Kennebunkport, among others. The next time I road trip from Boston to Bar Harbor, I’m adding Salem, Rockland and Camden to my itinerary.

Since our road trip was mostly about smaller places that we could get in and out of quickly, Portland wasn’t included this trip. However, given it’s location, it’s the ideal spot to overnight since it’s just 107 miles from Boston, making it easy to break the trip up. I love this hotel and this one if you stay over in Portland.

Also, instead of immediately driving a rural route from Boston, like we did, another option is drive the interstate straight to Portland, spend the night and then take the smaller roads to Bar Harbor the next day.

For the the best driving conditions, the optimal time of the year for a Boston to Bar Harbor road trip is late spring, summer and early fall. Just keep in mind that holidays and leaf-peeping season in autumn will be much busier.

Unless you have unlimited time, it’s helpful to have a basic idea of where you want to stop and what you want to see on your road trip. That way you can estimate how much time to spend at each place and then build in some extra time for all the fun, unexpected stuff you encounter along the way.

How Far is it From Boston to Bar Harbor?

By interstate, with no stops, Boston to Bar Harbor is approximately 280 miles and takes roughly 5 hours. Driving the secondary highways is approximately 270 miles but it’s at a much slower pace.

How to use this map: click the icon in the top left hand corner to see all the map layers. Click on the destinations to see the address, phone number and directions. You can also add the map to your own Google account by clicking the star at the end of the map’s title.

Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip Itinerary

Our fly and drive road trip started when we flew to Boston from Atlanta. We would’ve loved to explore Boston a little more but since this trip was mainly to visit Acadia National Park we didn’t spend much time in the city.

Once we picked up our rental car at Boston Logan International Airport and after stocking up on food and the always important snacks, we headed north.

Since we were road tripping in July, I had counted on warm, sunny weather. The plan was to take U.S. Route 1 and some of U.S, Route 1a as much as possible. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate.

Leaving Boston, the rain was relentless. We opted to take I-95 out of the city with our fingers crossed that we would get some breaks in the weather. Even though it did continued to rain, after about an hour of driving, we exited the interstate at exit 3, Route 33 for our first view of New Hampshire: Portsmouth.

Boston, MA to Portsmouth, NH


Our first stop in New Hampshire was Portsmouth. Built on the Piscataqua River, Portsmouth is a charming town with homes that date back to the 1700’s.

As you cross the river into town, notice the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to the east and to the west, the USS Albacore Museum, where you can tour a real naval submarine.

We didn’t really do much other than pass through since we were headed just a few miles to Kittery, Maine, but the museum would be a perfect stop on this leg of a Boston to Bar Harbor road trip.

Other stops to make in Portsmouth, New Hampshire:

The bridge over the Piscataqua River crossing into New Hampshire on a Boston to Bar Harbor road trip
Crossing the bridge into New Hampshire

Portsmouth, NH to Kittery, ME


Cross the the river again, from Portsmouth on the World War I Memorial Bridge, and you’re in Kittery, Maine, our first official stop from Boston to Bar Harbor.

Kittery was settled by the English in 1623 and is the oldest city in Maine. It’s kind of ironic that now, most people stop for the shopping outlets than the historical features.

For a little shopping and history, Kittery has a very popular Trading Post that’s been around a long time. Not as long as the houses but they have been in business since 1938.

If there’s anything you need to pick up for your trip or any outdoor equipment you want to buy, the Kittery Trading Post is the place for that. They have just about everything you can imagine and a few things you probably didn’t.

We ended our visit to Kittery by walking around downtown and grabbing some wood fired pizza at AJ’s Wood Grill Pizza. Had the weather have been better, I would’ve loved to visit the Strawbery Banke Museum. The museum has more than ten acres of gardens, historic buildings and collections devoted to 300 years of American History.

Other stops to make in Kittery, Maine:

Kittery, ME to Ogunquit, ME


I love the ocean and being so close to it without actually seeing it was driving me crazy. Bad weather or not, I wanted to walk on a real Maine beach so from Kittery, we drove U.S. Route 1 to Ogunquit, population 892.

The unusual name, Ogunquit, means beautiful place by the sea in the native Abenaki Indian language. And it is beautiful. Even in the rain. Ogunquit Beach, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the winding Ogunquit River offers views of the gorgeous bluffs, dunes and lighthouse.

Surprisingly, the main public beach was pretty crowded for a cool, drizzly July day. Most people were cozied up, in comfortable chairs under a covered sitting area facing the beach. It looked like the perfect spot to read a book. All it needed on this summer day was a fireplace.

Wet and cold, we hurried back to the car to turn the heat on. Even with the sun not shining, this was still one of my favorite stops on our Boston to Bar Harbor road trip.

For other things to do in Ogunquit, consider the Ogunquit Heritage Museum to learn more about the area. South of the beach is well-liked Perkins Cove, full of shops and restaurants.

Road trip stops to make in Ogunquit, Maine:

Ogunquit, ME to Kennebunkport, ME


Heading north from Ogunquit, we drove Route 9 into Kennebunkport – our next stop from Boston to Bar Harbor. When I think about Maine, Kennebunkport is the kind of place I picture in my mind. Sidewalks, a quaint historic district and plenty of colorful houses surrounding the water. Quintessentially Maine.

Since it was still raining, we didn’t do much more than drive through but I at least wanted to see a bit of it. Especially since it’s been special enough for presidents to vacation there for years.

And it’s not just for presidents. Kennebunkport is a very popular destination between in the summer months. Even in the drizzle, the cute downtown was overflowing with people.

From downtown, we continued on Route 9 towards the coast and the village of Cape Porpoise Harbor. This area is considered the quiet side of Kennebunkport. It’s really beautiful and very peaceful with brightly colored houses in the coves.

I was hoping the weather would clear so we could continue on Route 9 and make a few more beach stops. The north section of Route 9 along the coast passes Goose Rocks, Drakes Island and Fortunes Rock, before it meets the Saco River and turns west. But the rain continued so we worked out way back to Route 1.

Road trip stops to make in Kennebunkport, Maine:

Kennebunkport, ME to Saco, ME


There aren’t any coastal views on U.S. Route 1 between Kennebunkport and Saco but it’s still a nice drive. Since it was too rainy to stop at another beach – I had intended on stopping at Old Orchard Beach – we decided pull off at the The Lobster Claw Pound & Restaurant in Saco, Maine.

On a Boston to Bar Harbor road trip, it’s only logical that lobster would be included at some point but I really didn’t think it would be a hot bowl of lobster bisque on a July day that felt more March. However, the bisque hit the spot. It was so delicious – creamy with just the right amount of lobster pieces in it.

The Lobster Claw is a Saco classic and has been in business serving all things lobster for fifty years. In addition to lobster, they have other seafood dishes and for the non-seafood eaters, the serve steak, ribs and chicken.

Road Trip stops to make in Saco, Maine:

Saco, ME to Freeport, ME


I’m sure there are plenty of perfectly good reasons to visit Freeport, Maine but for us, it was all about L.L. Bean and honestly, one of the reasons we wanted to do this Boston to Bar Harbor road trip.

Founded in 1912, L.L. Bean is one of the oldest makers of outdoor shoes, clothing and equipment. If you’ve purchased anything from them, you know their products are good and last forever.

The official name of the flagship store in Freeport is L.L. Bean Discovery Park because it’s more than a store to shop in. It’s actually an entire complex of different stores from the L.L. Bean line up. It has an amphitheater for live music and other events and an area for kids to run around in.

Once we were inside the store, our hearts beat a little faster just seeing the rows of Bean boots and the classic L.L.Bean canvas bags. And the backpacks! What kind of backpack are you looking for? It doesn’t matter, they have it.

In addition to the clothing and outdoor store there’s a separate store for L.L. Bean Home. Maybe one of the most interesting things about the L.L. Bean flagship store, is that they are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you are wondering who shops at L.L. Bean in the middle of the night, I found this NPR article about just that.

Road trip stops to make in Freeport, Maine:

The big boot at LL Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine
The biggest boot ever!

Freeport to Bar Harbor, Maine


The final leg of our Boston to Bar Harbor road trip wasn’t too exciting. With the prospect of having to set up our tent in the dark and rain, we got back on I-95 for the last 158 miles to Bar Harbor and then into the park to our campground.

As it turns out, we did set up the tent in the dark but the good news was that as soon as we got to Mount Desert Island – where Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are located – the rain miraculously stopped. So at least, we didn’t have to set up in the rain too.

We camped in the Blackwoods Campground in the park but spent our evenings walking around Bar Harbor and enjoying the views of the tall ships in the harbor from Agamont Park. Bar Harbor is very much worth visiting even if your plans don’t plan on visiting Acadia National Park.

Other places to check out in Bar Harbor:

one of the tall ships in the harbor at Bar Harbor, Maine
Tall ships in the harbor from Agamont Park on a hazy day in Bar Harbor

More Things to do on a Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip

If you have more time and want to extend your trip, there are plenty of other of interesting places and activities that could be added to this Boston to Bar Harbor itinerary. It’s also perfect for a themed road trip.

For example, this region boasts an abundance of breweries. Beer enthusiasts could explore (with a designated driver of course) some of the many breweries in Kittery, Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunkport and Freeport.

Or how about a lighthouse themed road trip. You’ll find approximately ten lighthouses dotted up and down the Boston to Bar Harbor coast that could be great additions to your itinerary.

Driving Tips For Boston to Bar Harbor

  • Gas stations are plentiful along this route so there should have no problem fueling up.
  • Keep food and drinks cold for the road, pack a soft-sided cooler bag in your checked bag or carry a backpack cooler. or an insulated bag that can double as a carry-on when you are flying.
  • Duffle bags work well for road trips and camping. I have an older style REI bag that’s been everywhere. They don’t sell the same one anymore but here’s a newer version that’s perfect for the road.
  • As you can see, even in summer, it’s smart to pack a rain jacket – just in case. I was so glad I had mine with me. This one from REI is similar to what I have.
  • Carry your own refillable water bottle instead of buying small plastic bottles. Hydro Flask makes some of the best ones.
  • Make time to stop at one – or several – of the many ice cream shops along the way. Highway 1 has so many of them and we wanted to try them all.
the Ice Cream House in Cape Neddick, Maine
The Ice Cream House in Cape Neddick

Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip Round-Up

As someone who road trips in the southwest U.S. frequently and is used to driving longer distances, this New England road trip was one of the best and easiest road trips I’ve ever taken. Have you road tripped Boston to Bar Harbor before? I’d love to hear in the comments what your favorite stops were and what I should see next time.

See you on the road!

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    Hi There: What are the roads like from Boston to Bar Harbor? Are they mostly at ground level or are the mountainous like those along the California coast?

    1. Hi,
      Good question. They are pretty flat even when you get to Mount Desert Island which is where Acadia National Park is located. There are a few mountains but nothing like in the west. I’ve only been as far north as Mount Desert Island so some further north in Maine might be more mountainous.

  2. Hi there,
    I love this road trip and want to do the same one! I was wondering where you stayed along the way?

    1. Hi Miriam,
      This portion of the road trip was really more of a long day trip since we were headed to Acadia National Park. We left Boston really early in the am and arrived to Acadia very late. It was definitely over ambitious for a day 🙂 If I was to do it over again, I would opt to do it in two days and spend the night in either Kennebunkport, Old Orchard Beach or Portland, depending in what kind of experience you are looking for. If you wanted to do it in 3 days, then I would stay in one of those and maybe add in Bangor before arriving and staying in Bar Harbor. Even if I wasn’t planning on going into Acadia NP, Bar Harbor is the cutest town and deserves a couple of days. I hope to return one day and explore more. Great question though and I guess I should add some accommodation options for people that want to break it up. Thanks!

  3. My husband and I are going to Boston/Maine in October. We are flying into boston on Wednesday night and fly out Monday mid day. We are staying in Boston Wednesday night and planning to hit the road first thing on Thursday morning. We are debating whether we should stay a night in Kennebunkport or to drive all the way to Portland. And stay two nights in Bar Harbor. Or do you think it is too much to do a different city every night (Kennebunkport, Portland, Bar Harbor then back to boston), we are prepared for a “road trip”. Curious your thoughts! Thanks!

    1. Ooh this sounds like a very nice road trip! Thanks for the question, If you don’t mind different cities, I say go for it and stay over in Kennebunkport too. If you know this is what you are going to do in advance, then you can pack accordingly so that you don’t have to unpack and repack everything. I sometimes take a big duffle bag with all my clothes and then just remove what I need for that night and day, and put it in a smaller bag so I’m not carrying a huge bag around. The packing and repacking the vehicle is to me the biggest hassle of moving around a lot on a road trip. But with good planning you can work around it. Happy road tripping! Safe travels and I hope y’all have a great time.

  4. Hi Lori-
    What a great post! Curious did you fly back home from Maine (if so, which airport?) or did you fly in and out of Boston?

    1. Hi Kelli – I guess I left that detail out 🙂 I need to finish the second part of the road trip from Acadia back to Boston. We went to the White Mountains and Franconia Notch on the way home. But yes, we did return to Boston and flew back to Atlanta from there. I think you could probably return to Portland and fly from there if that’s convenient to your home airport but we had a really good deal on a flight in and out of Boston.

  5. Do you have a budget/estimate of cost for this trip already? This sounds really good and I’d follow it step by step, if I had a ballpark of money I need to set aside.

    1. Hi Alyse! I don’t really have a budget for this time since everything has gone up so much. The rental car was the most expensive cost and prices vary greatly depending on the season. But I would start there and then estimate your fuel. Everything else like food and lodging can be adjusted but not much you can do about the price of rentals or gas. If budget is a concern, I would also look into camping or renting a basic cabin. There are plenty of places around Acadia that have fairly reasonable prices and there are lots of state parks too. You will need to plan early since the warm weather season is short. I hope you have the chance to visit Maine. It is beautiful!

  6. My husband and I are wanting to take 7-8 days and fly into Bangor, ME and end our trip in Boston, MA. We are looking at hopping places, which sounds fun. But my worry is that we won’t get to see all the amazing places Maine has to offer because we will be hopping from place to place. The plan is to start in Bar Harbor (for 2 days- arrival day and then one full day), visit Acadia Park, Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, etc. Next leave Bar Harbor pass through Camden and see some lighthouses there. End up staying in Portland 2 nights. Head down to Kennebunkport for 2 nights and end our trip in Boston. I am tempted to change staying in Kennebunkport to 1 night and 3 nights in Boston. I am very nervous about planning this trip. I want to make sure that we see some great things.

    1. Hi Tena! I think it sounds like you have a great plan and you might be right in wanting to change to 3 days in Boston. I would either do that or stay an extra day in Bar Harbor. There’s really a lot to do outside of visiting Acadia and I definitely didn’t spend enough time in Maine overall. Hoping to make it back this year. Have a great road trip and don’t be nervous. It sounds like an awesome itinerary!

  7. We are a family of 4 leaving from Atlanta flying to Boston mid August. Then driving to Bar Harbor, Canada and then to New Hampshire for the White Mountains before heading back to Boston. We drove to Maine 4 years ago from south of Atlanta. Stopped in Pennsylvania for the night then on to Portland. Landed in Bar Harbor. I love Maine. Glad to hear you do to.

    1. I hope you have a wonderful trip Roxanne. The White Mountains are lovely! Safe travels and thanks for the kind words.

  8. Hi Lori,

    My husband and I are flying into Portland then driving up to Bar Habor (spend 4 nights )then make out way back to Boston. We have another 4 days to get back to Boston- We don’t need time in Boston or Portland where else would you suggest we stay for the drive down?

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