The Best Driving Itinerary From New York City to Bar Harbor
Have you been longing for cooling sea breezes, pristine beaches, and seaside villages to explore? If so, a road trip from NYC to Maine is just what the doctor ordered.
There are few places in the United States more beautiful than coastal Maine, and this picturesque state has been one of the most popular vacation spots on the east coast for over a hundred years.
And there are plenty of opportunities to devour mouthwatering lobster rolls, stroll miles of sandy shorelines, and even spot a whale or two along the way!
If you’re ready to pack your bags and go on a road trip to Maine from NYC, let us do the planning for you! Follow our itinerary to help you find the best family-friendly attractions at every stop along the way.
What is the Distance from New York City to Bar Harbor
The distance from New York City to Bar Harbor is about 487 miles, and it takes roughly eight and a half hours to drive there directly. You’ll follow I-95 for most of your route.
While there are many beautiful towns to visit in Maine, we’ve built in a few other stops in New England along the way. After all, you can’t pass through cities like New Haven, Providence, and Boston without stopping to see the sights!
If you want to drive straight through to Maine so you can spend more time in this beautiful state, consider taking several of Maine’s beautiful scenic byways along the coast.
How Long Do I Need Driving New York City to Bar Harbor
Your drive to Maine from NYC can take one day or several, and it all comes down to how much time you have to complete your road trip. We suggest spending at least two days in Bar Harbor, which leaves several other days to stop and savor each town’s unique opportunities.
Overall, we recommend taking between three to five days to drive up the coast and another two to three days in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park so that you’re not feeling rushed.
If you choose to take a scenic byway or two, you’re adding extra miles and time to your New England road trip. However, we think you’ll find it worth the extra hours!
Best Time of Year to Drive From New York City to Maine
Coastal Maine is best served warm, so we recommend that you plan your road trip anywhere from late spring to early summer.
Many of Maine’s national and state parks are open year-round, but many tourist attractions are only available during the summer season. Plus, some areas don’t get plowed regularly during the winter, which can interfere with your travel plans.
If you’re not much for crowds, we suggest going on your Maine road trip between May and mid-June or after Labor Day. Maine’s fall foliage is a sight to behold, so early fall is always a great option as well.
Best Stops on a New York City to Maine Road Trip
New Haven, Connecticut
First up on your journey to Maine from NYC is New Haven, a coastal New England city situated on Long Island Sound. There’s much to see and do here, so we suggest taking a full day before continuing on. New Haven’s most significant claim to fame is Yale University, founded in 1701. As such, there are several unique visitor opportunities you won’t want to miss.
Although not everyone can afford an Ivy League education, Yale’s museums are open and welcoming to the public. Yale University Art Gallery, built in 1832, is the oldest university art museum in the United States. It has many fascinating exhibits from around the world.
If you have children, consider spending an hour or two at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, where they can explore the Great Hall of Dinosaurs and other permanent attractions.
If the weather is nice, take a stroll through The Green, New Haven’s 16-acre urban park in the city’s center. You can enjoy Music on the Green during the summer, a series of outdoor summer concerts. And you won’t want to skip out on authentic “tomato pies” and dessert at Frank Pepe Pizzaria Napoletana and Lucibello’s Italian Pastry Shop. Yum!
Travel a few more hours up I-95 to reach Providence, Rhode Island. We love this New England coastal town because it has plenty of family-friendly attractions without being too “touristy.” This self-proclaimed “Creative Capital” has a little something for everyone, so take a morning or afternoon to enjoy.
If you have small children, you simply have to visit Roger Williams Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country. You can also spend an hour or two at the Providence Children’s Museum, where there are plenty of hands-on exhibits like a climbing maze, water tables, and more.
Providence offers many outdoor activities as well, such as pedaling the 14-mile East Bay bike path. There are several different play areas and opportunities for ice cream, and it’s always nice to get out and enjoy the sun. Or you can visit India Point Park and let the kids loose in a large enclosed playground. So many choices!
An east coast road trip to Maine wouldn’t be complete unless you stopped in Boston, Massachusetts for at least a half-day. Boston is sandwiched almost equally distanced from Providence, RI, and Kittery, Maine. It takes 50 minutes to drive there from Providence, which is an excellent way to break up your travel time.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Boston with kids, make sure to check out the Boston Museum of Science. It’s filled with engaging exhibits and activities for children of all ages.
The Boston Children’s Museum is also a great place for your kids to run, play, and burn off some pent-up road trip energy. There’s even a play place for babies and toddlers, meaning you might be able to sit down for a few and catch a breather!
Then there’s the New England Aquarium located right on Boston’s waterfront. You’ll marvel at the towering four-story central tank filled with all kinds of colorful marine life. And there are many fun and educational exhibits for your kids to enjoy, including a playful penguin pool!
You’ll definitely want to grab a bite to eat after all that exploring. We recommend kid-friendly restaurants like The Independent in Union Square (kids eat free from 4:30 – 6:30 pm Sunday – Thursday) or try State Street Provisions, a delicious option close to Boston’s aquarium.
Cross over the bridge from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to reach Kittery, your first official stop in Maine. Kittery is a charming seaside town founded in 1623, and there are many beautiful and historic locations to visit and explore.
Kittery has much to offer, so take at least a day to enjoy the sights before continuing your trip up the Maine coast.
Kittery is well-known for its picturesque ferry boat tours of Portsmouth Harbor and the Piscataqua River. From there, you can observe the rugged beauty of Pepperrell Cove, Whaleback Light, and Kittery Point. Or you can bike, hike, or drive on the Memorial Bridge to explore Badger’s Island before moving on to Fort McClary and Seapoint Beach.
Parents travelling with children will love spending a few hours at the Take Flight Aerial Adventure Park, which is guaranteed to help burn that built-up energy from riding in the car. Kids can choose from over 65 activities, and there’s even a zipline tour!
If shopping is more your style of adventure, take on the famous stores at Kittery Premium Outlets. They feature some of the best outlet stores in New England, and you’re sure to find a thing (or three) that you can’t live without.
Kittery has many fine restaurants, so savor a meal at Robert’s Maine Grill, Captain and Patty’s, or Chauncey Creek Lobster Pound (a local favorite). Once you’ve taken in all there is to see, rest your eyes at the historic York Harbor Inn in nearby York, a 10-minute drive from Kittery.
Your Maine coastal road trip wouldn’t be complete without stopping in Ogunquit, only a 20-minute drive from Kittery. Spend a day wandering Ogunquit’s beaches and beaches, enjoying theatre performances and more.
You don’t drive from NYC to Maine every day, so treat yourself to an afternoon of pampering at the Cliff House Resort, where they offer everything from massages to facials. Next, take advantage of the many photo opportunities along Marginal Way, a 2.5-mile paved path that provides several breathtaking views of the sea.
Marginal Way also leads you to Perkins Cove, one of the many picturesque fishing villages along the Maine coast. You can easily spend an afternoon exploring the many shops, restaurants, and artisans.
A trip to Oqungquit wouldn’t be complete without a whale-watching tour with Finest Kind, or you can choose to soak up the sun at Ogunquit Beach, one of the top 25 beaches to visit in the U.S. Build sandcastles in the pristine sand, splash in the cool waves, or take a stroll along the shoreline.
If theatre is your passion, you won’t want to miss The Ogunquit Playhouse, a seasonal summer theatre program. Finally, spend an hour or two exploring the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, a breathtaking structure overlooking the sea and filled with richly varied representations of Maine’s history.
After leaving Ogunquit, you should schedule a day of your Maine coastal road trip to take in the wonders of Kennebunkport. It’s a true Maine treasure, and this storybook town is also the summer retreat of the Bush family.
If you’re planning on spending the night, book a stay at one of the Captain’s Collection in the historic Dock Square area. These luxurious, resort-style hotels were once the homes of captains who lived in the area.
Spend a few hours exploring Dock Square, the hub of Kennebunkport. Here you’ll find one-of-a-kind boutiques and artisan shops and well-known eateries like the Clam Shack, Old Vines Wine Bar, and Striper’s (a Bush family favorite). You’re sure to find a few treasures and souvenirs along the way.
History buffs won’t want to miss out on the First Family exhibit at White Columns at 8 Maine Street before admiring the impressive sea captains’ mansions along Summer Street. The Brick Store Museum and Nott House are also popular with visitors. Finally, stop in at the Seashore Trolley Museum if you’re traveling with children. They’ll love it!
Boat tours are available all along the coast near Kennebunkport, so marvel at the ocean’s wonders with a whale watching tour! Or you can choose your own adventure by renting a kayak, canoe, or bike from any one of several locations in town. Photo opps include Goat Island Lighthouse, Goose Rocks Beach, and Cape Porpoise, and you can also fish for stripers on Colony Beach.
Drive another 35 minutes up I-95 to reach Portland, Maine’s largest city and arguably one of the best Maine coastal towns to explore. You’ll want to spend a few days here to take advantage of Portland’s diverse attractions. This unique coastal city has it all, from oceanside strolls to famous restaurants. There’s a little something for everyone, and no one will leave disappointed.
Spend the morning or afternoon in the Old Port district browsing crafts from local artisans and one-of-a-kind boutiques. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time as you walk down the cobblestone streets and past the stately architecture straight out of the early 20th century.
Despite the historic buildings, downtown Portland has a very modern feel. Commercial Street is also one of the last remaining working waterfronts in the United States, so savor freshly caught seafood at several of Portland’s seaside restaurants.
Seafaring activities abound in Portland and nearby Cape Elizabeth, where you can visit nearby islands via Casco Bay Ferry Lines or tour the area lighthouses. Children will love exploring Fort Williams Park to see the Portland Headlight, one of the most iconic lighthouses in Maine.
If you’re visiting in the summer, make sure to get an ice-cold gelato from Gorgeous Gelato before moving on with your Maine road trip.
Next on your New England road trip is Freeport, a popular Maine tourist destination. We recommend spending at least a half-day in Freeport. There are multiple opportunities to enjoy delicious seafood, shop, and sightsee in this historic coastal town.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Freeport, be sure to take a Red Cloak Tour, where you can choose from a variety of topics that best fit your interests.
Families will also enjoy the Maine Maritime Museum on the Kennebunkport River. A range of exciting exhibits, lighthouse cruises, and a kids’ pirate play ship make this a treat for all ages.
A trip to Freeport wouldn’t be complete without ice cream or L.L. Bean. Stop in for a frosty treat at Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and then head over to L.L. Bean’s massive flagship store to admire the many displays and outdoor gear. If hiking shoes aren’t your thing,
Freeport also has many boutiques, antique stores, and art galleries. Finally, sit down to a fantastic meal at Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Co., a family-owned favorite with the freshest lobster rolls in Maine!
Bar Harbor, Maine
We’ve finally arrived at our NYC to Maine road trip destination, and it couldn’t possibly be more beautiful. Bar Harbor is commonly called the gateway to Acadia National Park, and it has been one of America’s most popular summer vacation spots for over a century.
We recommend taking at least three to four days to take full advantage of everything Bar Harbor and Acadia have to offer.
Summer remains the best time of year to visit Bar Harbor, where you can hike the trails, relax on the seashore with a good book, or go whale watching along the coast. Stay at one of the town’s many historic bed and breakfasts, or you can rent a cottage in Acadia National Park.
There are endless accommodations to suit any family size or preference, and they’re all equally exciting experiences.
Like Freeport, Bar Harbor also offers five unique Red Cloak walking tours for everyone in the family. If your interests lean towards the paranormal, go on a Bar Harbor Ghost Tour before winding down at Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf. There’s always something to see, do, and eat in Bar Harbor, and it’s the perfect way to conclude your east coast road trip to Maine.
Learn more about East Coast National Parks – including which are free and what seasons are best to visit!
More Tips for Road Tripping in Maine
- Depending on when you plan your road trip from NYC to Maine, you could arrive right in the middle of blackfly season (Mother’s Day to Father’s Day). These biting flies are no fun, so bring plenty of bug spray. Locals recommend Avon Skin So Soft, as it’s more effective than other brands.
- If you want to see some spectacular fall foliage, we suggest making your New England road trip between late September and early October.
- Maine is filled with walking, biking, and ATV trails, so bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes!
- If you want to leave the interstate behind and take a more scenic route up Maine’s coast, take Route 1 from Freeport.
- If you want to get the most out of your NYC to Maine road trip, take at least ten days to travel to Bar Harbor. This way, you’re not rushed, and you get to savor every experience just a little more!
- Setting out from Boston? We also have this detailed guide for all the family-friendly stops you can make on a Boston to Bar Harbor Maine coast road trip.
- Last but not least, relieve the stress of forgetting essential items at home with our Ultimate Family Road Trip checklist!
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