Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Southwest Harbor, ME

  • Published 2022/09/15

Southwest Harbor is a town located in Hancock County, Maine, United States of America.

It perfectly lies at the southwest entrance to Somes Sound, one of the most stunning bays on the Maine coast.

Southwest Harbor was first settled in 1761 and was incorporated in 1905.

According to the United States Census Bureau, its total area consists of 13.5 square miles of land and 9.1 square miles of water.

Due to its proximity to the body of water, boat rentals are always available here if you want to visit the offshore islands.

The town is also dotted with galleries, shops, museums, mountain trails, libraries, restaurants, sailboat rentals, and other exciting destinations that will make you come back for more.

On some days, you can drive around the town or sit near the waters and admire as the sun slowly and beautifully sets.

Sounds interesting, right?

Now, let’s look at the best things to do in Southwest Harbor, Maine!

Enjoy Quiet Time at Beech Cliff Trail

Scenic view from Beech Cliff Trail

Jerry Whaley /

Beech Cliff Trail is a moderately complex trail that leads to the summit of Beech Mountain.

It is situated on the southwest shore of Echo Lake.

It is best to visit this place during late summer through fall.

Marker at Beech Cliff Trail

Cheri Alguire /

You’ll need at least two to four hours to complete this thrilling Beech Cliff Trail.

This trail is famous for bird watching, hiking, running, and even walking.

If you’ve decided to hike at Beech Cliff Trail, you will find several iron ladders to help you reach some of the most challenging and vertical cliff formations on the trails.

Hiking ladder at Beech Cliff Trail

Cheri Alguire /

Enjoy an Easier Adventure at Wonderland Trail

Wonderland Trail is situated Wonderland Trail on the southeast part of South Harbor.

Unlike the more challenging trails at Acadia National Park, Wonderland Trail will give you a more accessible yet still exciting trail adventure.

Its gravel road will lead you to a coastal spot where you and your loved ones can take some time just to appreciate the beauty of the place.

Since the ocean is the final destination of this family-friendly trail, you will get the chance to see and be amazed at tide pools.

These tide pools are safe for children to explore.

It only takes 27 minutes to finish the trail, but you can spend the day and stroll around the vicinity.

This 2.1-kilometer Wonderland Trail is accessible by wheelchair.

Get Closer to Nature at Maine State Sea Kayak

Maine State Sea Kayak promises an experience that will bring you closer to nature!

It can be easily found at Main St.

Here, you will get the chance to take a kayak tour on the western side of Mount Desert Island with professional guides that will ensure your safety while having fun.

Maine State Sea Kayak has a perfect safety record, so all you need to do is seize the moment and bond with nature.

The four-hour kayak tour includes a quick break on a stunning beach.

You’ll surely be amazed at sightings of sea lions, eagles, loons, and other wildlife while on the waters.

One of the best things about Maine State Sea Kayak is that it ensures the environment remains clean and serene despite the touring activities.

Clean-up drives on beaches and other initiatives for the sake of mother nature are the top priority of Maine State Sea Kayak.

Touch the Sky at Flying Mountain Trail

Flying Mountain Trail is a 2.4-kilometer trail located at Fernald Point Rd.

Its name came from the Wabanaki Indians.

The trailhead is located at the Carrabassett Valley where towering trees and mesmerizing landscape’ll also surround you.

On average, you’ll only need 46 minutes to complete this trail.

At the summit, you’ll be greeted by a view of Somes Sound and a serene ocean cove.

You might even get the chance to spot the famous bald eagle on the summit of Flying Mountain Trail.

Dogs are allowed on this trail as long as they’re on a leash.

See Colorful Butterflies at Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Park

If you’re a fan of beautiful and colorful butterflies, then Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Park at Main St. is the place for you.

From Meadow Fritillary, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, Monarch, Mourning Cloak, Painted Lady, and a lot more, this place will surely satisfy your eyes and your inner scientist for its wide variety of butterflies and fun activities.

Aside from butterfly watching, Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Park also offers a Junior Naturalist Program where youngsters can participate in hands-on activities with butterflies, plants, caterpillars, and other wildlife at the park.

Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Park can also be a wedding venue, group event location, and destination for students on field trips.

Its mission of promoting butterfly conservation and gardening will surely make your trip here a lot more meaningful.

You’re not just having fun but also part of the mission of protecting these creatures at Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Park.

Eat Fresh Lobsters at Acadia Lobster Cruise

Acadia Lobster Cruise in Apple Ln will give you the unique experience of cruising in a vintage wooden lobster boat built in 1966 while waiting for freshly-caught lobsters to be cooked just for you.

The cruise will let you enjoy the timeless views of Acadia National Park.

Jason Clark, a Downeast Maine native who’s also the boat’s captain, will fascinate you with his vast knowledge of Mount Desert Island.

He’s also the one who cooks the lobsters right on the boat.

Jason’s specialty is a traditional feast with fresh lobster, homemade blueberry pie, and corn on the cob.

Enjoying this meal while on the Acadia Lobster Cruise, surrounded by green landscape, is a dream!

Hike with Friends and Family at Mansell Mountain

Far view of Mansell Mountain

K.L. Kohn /

Mansell Mountain is one of the tallest mountains within Acadia National Park.

It is located on the eastern side of Acadia National Park, with Bernard Mountain on the west.

It is a dome-shaped mountain with trails leading you to calming and evergreen forests.

The summit of Mansell Mountain can be reached by an hour and a half hike.

Mansell Mountain’s trailhead is located at Gilley Field.

You’re moderate to strenuous hike with friends and family towards the summit will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Southwest Harbor and nearby islands.

It is open all year round.

Appreciate Art at Wendell Gilley Museum

Wendell Gilley Museum is located on Herrick Rd.

This museum which also serves as a community center, highlights the life and works of Wendell Gilley.

The structure where this museum lie was designed by architect Roc Caivano and Harris Hyman engineered it.

Wendell Gilley is famous in the field of carving. He’s also a pioneer in the decorative bird carving industry.

Wood carvings of various birds, paintings, and other artistic displays can be found inside Wendell Gilley Museum.

You’ll get the chance to learn the art of wood carving through the museum’s wood carving session.

Children will also enjoy the art activities at Wendell Gilley Museum explicitly designed for them.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Manset Little Farm

If you’re looking for a place where you can get all your sweet cravings, Manset Little Farm is the perfect shop for you.

Manset Little Farm is located on Seawall Rd.

This place is a haven for dessert lovers from cookies, muffins, pies, and cakes.

Also, freshly cut flowers are available here.

You can request a flower arrangement and bouquet depending on your needs.

Manset Little Farm’s owner, Maureen, can also accommodate special requests like gluten-free dessert!

Capture a Moment with J.K. Putnam Photography

J.K. Putnam Photography is a must-visit place for you if you’re a photography enthusiast, especially landscape photography.

J.K. Putnam Photography can be easily located at Main St.

It is a private photography company that offers tours and workshops at the most popular spots near Acadia National Park.

Here, you’ll learn the basics of photography, camera usage, and techniques to capture a scene artistically.

Its owner, John K. Putnam, aims to give his clients a personal photographic experience by imparting his year of experience and learnings in the field.

Explore the Waters through Mansell Boat Rentals

Mansell Boat Rentals is a sailboat rental company located on Shore Rd.

It is ideally situated at the southern entrance to Somes Sound.

You can also rent a sailboat and avail sailing lessons at Mansell Boat Rentals.

You’ll be guided and trained by an experienced instructor, and in two to three hours, your dream of sailing a boat will finally come true.

Aside from sailboats, you can also rent a motorboat or book personalized sightseeing tours to Acadia National Park near Mount Desert Island.

Captain services, where you can rent a boat with a captain who happily drives for you, are also available here.

Fill Your Stomach with Good Food at Little Fern

Little Fern is located in The Claremont Hotel.

You can visit it at Claremont Rd.

This restaurant is popular with locals and tourists for its seasonal creations and New England favorites.

Little Fern uses local and fresh ingredients to ensure quality in every serving.

Lobster bisque, scallops, garlic shrimps, pork belly, and oysters are some of the most popular dishes at Little Fern.

While dining, you also enjoy the magnificent view of Somes Sound in the background.

Ride around Acadia National Park on the Island Time Ebike Rentals

Island Time Ebike Rentals in Village Green Way is an electronic bike rental for Acadia National Park.

Through their electronic bikes, you and your friends can roam around the park and surrounding areas.

Other items such as a map, helmet, phone holder, rear rack, basket, and lock are included.

Acadia National Park’s carriage roads and Park Loop Road can also be explored using these bikes at Island Time Ebike Rentals.

Upon renting, you’ll be given a choice to choose from their two starting locations.

These are the Hull’s Cove Visitor Center, where the staff will meet you with your rented electronic bike or at their store location in Southwest Harbor.

Experience Life-Long Learning at Southwest Harbor Public Library

Exterior of the Southwest Harbor Public Library

WhisperToMe, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Southwest Harbor Public Library in Main St. was built in 1895.

Life-size sculptures surround the outside of this stone structure.

Aside from a beautiful selection of books, you’ll also love the fireplace inside Southwest Harbor Public Library.

Paintings, wooden ship models, and more sculptures are also inside.

Southwest Harbor Public Library also conducts reading events for children.

A storytime for babies under two years old is also being held here.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Book a Tour at Downeast Windjammer Cruises Lines

Downeast Windjammer Cruises Lines in Newport Dr, Bar Harbor, is a 27-minute drive away from Southwest Harbor.

On this cruise, you can enjoy the timeless beauty of the Acadia National Park mountains.

wrAt the same time, when offboard, you can do other fun activities like hiking, visiting a museum, or having a nice picnic with your loved ones.

Final Thoughts

Southwest Harbor is genuinely one of a kind.

Reward yourself with a deserved vacation and time away from the stress and chaos of the cities!

Prepare yourself for a one-of-a-kind trip with this list of the best things to do in Southwest Harbor, Massachusetts!

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