Exploring Bar Harbor with Kids: 7 Autism-Friendly Activities for Unforgettable Family Adventures

Deciding to take a family vacation to Bar Harbor with kids ended up being a thrilling adventure filled with captivating scenery, outdoor wonders, and memorable experiences. At the time, we were just discovering that we are a neurodivergent family, so we didn’t take into consideration whether Bar Harbor would have some Autism-friendly establishments for us to visit. We just knew it was surrounded by water and ocean air is our vibe, 100%.

Kids playing in tide pool on rocky beach in Bar harbor as tehy search for what to do with kids

Now that we’re a couple of years into navigating life knowing we are an autism-family, we realize that planning activities that cater to our unique needs is crucial for a stress-free and enjoyable vacation. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore autism-friendly activities in Bar Harbor with kids, that promise unforgettable family adventures, allowing every member to create cherished memories.  This article will be also be a mix of sharing what we did and where we stayed, as well as a researched list of other autism-friendly activities to enjoy in Bar Harbor with kids.

Where to Stay Bar Harbor with Kids

The Salt Cottages

We stayed at the Salt Cottages, and literally still dream about staying there again. I truly think that it was during this stay that we realized how important it is for us to stay in environments that are low-key. Less is so much more for us. Nature is all we need, and the Salt Cottages provides that and more.

What we loved About staying at the Salt Cottages

  1. Tranquil Environment: Nestled in a serene setting, the Salt Cottages offer a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle. This tranquil environment can be particularly beneficial for Autistic kids and families, providing a calm and comfortable space for relaxation.
  2. Private and Spacious Accommodations: The cottages provide private and spacious accommodations, allowing families the freedom to create a personalized environment tailored to our sensory needs.
  3. Home-Like Atmosphere: The Salt Cottages are designed with a home-like atmosphere, offering a familiar and comfortable setting for families.
  4. Kitchen Facilities for Special Diets: Our kids have food aversions, and accommodating the dietary needs of autistic kids can be a challenge. It was great that the cottages come equipped with a fridge and microwave, so we were able to keep it stocked with foods they eat. There is also an on-site food stand that has both grab and go items, and food made to order. The fries were a big hit with our kiddos.
  5. Proximity to Autism-Friendly Activities: The Salt Cottages are strategically located, providing easy access to autism-friendly activities in Bar Harbor. Whether it’s exploring Acadia National Park, visiting sensory-friendly museums, or enjoying the calming beaches, the cottages serve as a convenient base for family adventures.
  6. Understanding and Supportive Staff: The staff at Salt Cottages are known for their understanding and supportive approach. They are often willing to accommodate specific requests and provide assistance to ensure a comfortable stay for families with autistic kids.
  7. Sensory-Friendly Design: Many Salt Cottages incorporate sensory-friendly design elements, such as soft lighting and calming color schemes. These thoughtful details contribute to a sensory-friendly environment that can positively impact the overall experience for children on the autism spectrum.

Autism-Friendly Activities To do with Kids in Bar Harbor

  1. Nature’s Playground at Acadia National Park: If you visit Bar Harbor with kids, you have a visit to Acadia National Park. Acadia National Park is truly a haven of natural beauty. You can tailor your exploration to include easy, sensory-friendly trails like the Wonderland Trail or the Jordan Pond Path, providing a serene environment for you and your kids.

2. Sand Beach: Immerse your family in the calming rhythm of the ocean at Sand Beach. This autism-friendly spot offers a relaxed environment for kids to enjoy the soothing sounds of the waves and the feel of the soft sand beneath their feet. Consider bringing sensory toys or blankets to enhance the experience.

3. Whale Watching Adventure: Turn your attention to the seas with a whale-watching excursion. Bar Harbor offers family-friendly boat tours that provide a safe and engaging platform for kids to witness the majestic marine life. Check with tour operators in advance to ensure accommodations for sensory needs.

4. Diver’s Ed Starfish Enterprise Dive-in Theatre is a two-hour boat ride where you and your kids get to watch as Diver Ed dives and showcases all of his underwater finds. We watched, in real time, as Diver Ed braved the Frenchman Bay in search of seaside adventure. I will say that this adventure can get a bit loud and crowded as there are tons of kids, and Diver Ed is a very animated character.

Diver's Ed Starfish Enterprise Bar Harbor with Kids

There was a moment where he called on our oldest son to answer a question, and the attention was a pretty unwelcome surprise. Diver Ed also likes to randomly splash the kids with water here and there, and this almost led to a meltdown, so we quickly had to have our oldest sit back with us instead of in the group of kids at the front of the boat.

We are a low-supports needs family, so while this was a great adventure for us, I would leave it to you to make the call if your autistic kid can handle being on a boat at sea for two hours when it can get a bit loud and wet. We’d do it again, though!

5. Lobster and Lighthouse Tour: We also considered the Lulu Lobster Boat Tour as well. You can seemingly delight your taste buds with a family-friendly lobster tour, combining a scenic lighthouse visit with a culinary adventure. Many tours allow families to explore at their own pace, making it a suitable option for those who prefer a more relaxed itinerary.

6. Quiet Exploration at the Abbe Museum: For a cultural experience, visit the Abbe Museum, where exhibits showcase the rich history and traditions of the Wabanaki people. The museum staff is often accommodating, and the serene atmosphere makes it an ideal place to visit in Bar Harbor with kids if you’re seeking a quieter, educational experience.

7. Sensory-Friendly Seal Cove Auto Museum: The Seal Cove Auto Museum provides a unique and autism-friendly outing if you’re visiting Bar Harbor with kids. The museum’s exhibits feature a collection of antique automobiles and motorcycles in a spacious setting. With a focus on visual displays and historic vehicles, the museum offers a sensory-friendly environment for children to engage in a captivating and educational experience.

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Where to eat in Bar Harbor with Kids

Bar Harbor Inn

When visiting Bar Harbor with kids, the Bar Harbor Inn stands out as a great choice for a dining experience. Here are a few reasons why we loved eating here:

  1. Spectacular Waterfront Views: The Bar Harbor Inn has breathtaking waterfront views that add an extra layer of charm to your dining experience. The kids were able to marvel at the beauty of the ocean while enjoying their meal. There were tide pools right below us, too and the kids enjoyed digging around for hermit crabs!
  2. Family-Friendly Atmosphere: Bar Harbor Inn is known for its welcoming and family-friendly atmosphere. The staff was attentive and accommodating, making it a comfortable environment for families with kids. High chairs and kid-friendly menu options made it a win for us. The kids had burgers and PB&J and were very pleased.
  3. Varied and Delicious Menu: The restaurant offers a diverse menu with options for everyone. The lobster Cobb salad was my person fave.
  4. Outdoor Dining Options: Bar Harbor Inn provides outdoor dining options, allowing families to enjoy their meals in the refreshing open air. This is particularly appealing for families with kids who may appreciate a change of scenery or prefer the relaxed ambiance of outdoor seating.
  5. Proximity to Bar Harbor’s Attractions: Situated in the heart of Bar Harbor, dining at the Bar Harbor Inn provides convenient access to nearby attractions. After a satisfying meal, families can easily explore the town, walk along the scenic Shore Path, or engage in other family-friendly activities in the vicinity.
  6. Historic Charm and Architecture: The Inn itself is a historic landmark with charming architecture that can capture the interest of both parents and kids. The unique setting adds an element of cultural richness to the dining experience, creating a memorable backdrop for family meals.
What to do in Bar Harbor with Kids

Exploring Bar Harbor with kids, especially autistic kids, requires thoughtful planning to ensure a harmonious and enjoyable experience for the entire family. By incorporating these autism-friendly activities, you can create unforgettable memories in this picturesque destination. I can’t wait to go back, and be sure to stay tuned as I share more recaps of our travels over the last few years. Click HERE and HERE to see what else we’ve been up to!

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