Looking for road trip inspiration in the New England states? 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. You can read more about our Two Days in Acadia National Park, meanwhile, I’m sharing these places we stopped from Boston to Bar Harbor.
Planning a Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip
It seems the eastern coastal areas of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine were made for road tripping. Interstate 95 is the main route north through these states but what fun is a fast moving, big highway when you have smaller state highways like U.S. Route 1 and 1a along the coast?
Taking these secondary, smaller roads gives you the opportunity to visit some lesser know places. If you do decide to use I-95, keep in mind that there are tolls on this route.
Where should you stop between Boston and Bar Harbor? The possibilities are endless but some of the featured spots on this road trip are Portsmouth, Ogunquit and Kennebunkport. When I have a chance for a do-over, some must see’s I’m adding to my next Boston to Bar Harbor road trip are Salem, Rockland and Camden.
Since our road trip was more about smaller towns, Portland isn’t included. Even though we didn’t visit this time, I think it would be a great place to overnight since it’s just 107 miles if you wanted to break up the drive.
I love this hotel and this one in Portland. You could also drive the interstate to Portland, spend the night and then take the smaller roads to Bar Harbor the next day.
For the optimal driving conditions, the best 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 will be much busier.
To help plan and stay on schedule, it’s smart to have a basic idea of where you’d like to stop on your road trip and estimate how much time you can spend seeing on unexpected things you might run across on your journey.
Also, it’s a good idea to factor in some time for quick photograph stops. For more tips about road trip planning, read my How to Plan a Road Trip Step by Step,
How Far is it From Boston to Bar Harbor?
By interstate, Boston to Bar Harbor is approximately 280 miles and takes roughly 5 hours – with no stops. Driving the secondary highways is approximately 270 miles but it’s at a much slower pace.
To use this Google Map, click the icon in the top left hand corner to see the map layers. Then click on the destination 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 July 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.
Related: 15 Wicked Smart Things to do in Boston
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 it was the middle of summer, 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 just wasn’t cooperating.
Leaving Boston, it was raining really hard. We took I-95 out of the city and knowing we wouldn’t be able to make as many stops in the rain we just stayed on it for awhile. Fingers crossed, we would get some breaks in the weather.
Even though it 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.
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Boston, MA to Portsmouth, NH
Our fist city in New Hampshire – Portsmouth. Built on the Piscataqua River, Portsmouth is a charming town with houses that date all the way 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 for this leg of a Boston to Bar Harbor road trip.
Road trip stops to make in Portsmouth, New Hampshire:
- Stay – The Port Inn & Suites
- Eat – The Portsmouth Brewery
- Coffee – Kaffee Vonsolln
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. 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. Saving that for another visit and better weather.
Road trip stops to make in Kittery, Maine:
- Stay – Hampton Inn & Suites Kittery
- Eat – besides AJ’s check out Rudder’s Public House
- Coffee – Lil’s Cafe
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 Abenaki Indian language. And it is beautiful.
Even in the rain. Ogunquit Beach sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ogunquit River. The nearby bluffs and lighthouse offer sweeping coastal views of the dunes and waterfront.
The main public beach was surprisingly crowded for a cool, drizzly July day. Most people were cozied up, in comfortable chairs under a long covered sitting area that faces 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:
- Stay – Gorges Grant Hotel
- Eat – Ogunquit Beach Lobster House
- Coffee – Cove Cafe
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:
- Stay – Nonantum Resort
- Eat – The Boathouse
- Coffee – Dock Square Coffee House
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:
- Stay – Atlantic Birches Inn (Old Orchard Beach)
- Eat – Run of the Mill Public House & Brewery or Quiero Cafe
- Coffee – Time & Tide Coffee
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. Besides all this, if you are sticking around Freeport for awhile, there are tons of activities you can sign up for.
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:
- Stay – Kendall Tavern Inn
- Eat – Jameson Tavern
- Coffee- Isabella’s Cafe & Bakery
Freeport to Bar Harbor, Maine
The final leg of our Boston to Bar Harbor road trip wasn’t too exciting. I would have loved to have visited Camden and Belfast but it kept raining. 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.
Last Stop – Bar Harbor
Even though we stayed in the park and not in the small town of Bar Harbor, we spent the evenings walking around and taking advantage of the free wi-fi in Agamont Park since we didn’t have very good cellular service in Acadia.
The ocean views from the park are some of the best and there are plenty of benches and grassy areas to sit and enjoy them.
From the park, stroll down to the town pier to spot some of the tall ships in the harbor. Bar Harbor is very much worth visiting even if you don’t plan on going into Acadia National Park.
Road trip stops to make in Bar Harbor:
- Stay – Acadia Hotel Downtown
- Eat – Leary’s Landing Irish Pub
- Coffee – Coffee Hound Coffee Co.
Other Things to do on a Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip
You can easily find other things to add to this Boston to Bar Harbor road trip itinerary. There are so many interesting places along the way. This route would be ideal for a themed road trip.
For example, there are an abundance of breweries in the area for a brewery themed road trip (with a designated driver of course). Kittery has six breweries. Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunkport and Freeport all have several breweries as well.
Another fun Boston to Bar Harbor road trip theme would be to include the lighthouses along the route. There are around ten different ones that could be added to your itinerary.
Tips for Boston to Bar Harbor
- Gas stations were plentiful along the way route so you should have no problem fueling up.
- To 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.
- I love duffle bags 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.
- Even in the summer, as you can see from our Boston to Bar Harbor road trip, 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 to fill up 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 and we wanted to try them all.
Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip Round-Up
As someone who road trips in the southwest a lot and it 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 where I should stop next time.
See you on the road!
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?
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.
I love this road trip and want to do the same one! I was wondering where you stayed along the way?
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!
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!
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.