Located on Desert Island in Down East, ME, and tucked between mountains and sea, Bar Harbor has been a vacation destination since the early 1900's when the rich and famous established grand summer estates on its shores. During a period of long draught in 1947, forest fires ignited and destroyed many of the summer retreats, as well as much of the state. Some relics still remain, and as Bar Harbor has developed into a huge tourist destination, many of these “cottages” have been transformed into restaurants and inns.
Though primarily used as a base camp to explore the neighboring Acadia National Park, there is plenty to see and do in the town itself and worth a day or two of exploration. Bar Harbor is full of New England charm, but also has it's own unique character and local color that sets it apart from the rest.
Explore by Foot
A great way to explore the town is by foot. Pick up a walking map and spend a day delving into all Bar Harbor has to offer. Main, Mount Desert and Cottage streets are lined with shops selling arts and crafts and souvenirs and restaurants advertise their daily specials on sidewalk signs. Stroll down the promenade that follows the shoreline for scenic views of the harbor and Frenchman's Bay. Make your way to the West Street historic district and tour the mansions from the “cottage era” that survived the fire. Note that these “cottages” were often times baronial mansions, a reflection of the opulence of the time before there was an income tax.
Renting a bike and getting out there on two wheels is also a great way to tour the town. Pack a picnic and cruise to the Village Green or Agamont Park for a laidback afternoon and end your day with a relaxing evening sailing cruise to watch the sun set.
History and Culture
For a cultural fix, opportunities abound. Plan your trip for July and enjoy a night of beautiful chamber music during the Annual Bar Harbor Music Festival that has shows throughout the month. Or for a history lesson, visit the Abbe Museum and learn about the local Native American cultures and tribes.
Boating Bar Harbor
Costal kayaking tours will take you along the rugged banksof Frenchman's Bay that the Wabanaki Indians encountered as the first settlers to the region. You can rent boats and create your individual kayak itinerary, exploring at your own pace, or hire a guide to lead you through the chilly Atlantic waters.
Feeling adventurous? Head straight for the action on a whale watching tour and witness National Geographic moments as Humpback, Finback and Minke whales breach and splash. And keep your eye peeled for the occasional shiny black seal poppingits head through the surface!
Bar Harbor Museums
A great way to take in the natural world without braving the open waters is a visit to one of Bar Harbor's many museums. The George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History, Bar Harbor Whale Museum and the Mount Desert Oceanarium bring the outdoors inside for an educational and entertaining experience. Kids will enjoy watching lobster eggs hatch at the Lobster Hatchery at the Mount Desert Oceanarium and other hands on exhibits.
Bar Harbor, lobster. Lobster, Bar Harbor. This is the home of America's most sought after seafood, the Homarus americanus. And no visit to Bar Harbor is complete without a lobster dinner. Most every restaurant has lobster on the menu so it's worth shopping around to see who has the best deal of the day! Cracking open a Maine lobster, sipping on a locally brewed beer, and watching the sun set over Frenchman's Bayis an experience of a lifetime.
During the Off-Season
If solitude is what you crave, Bar Harbor during the “off-seasons”is your spot. Fall ushers in bright foliage, crisp temperatures and a slower pace. Blanketed in snow by early December, you may only see the occasional cross-country skier glide by during the winter months. The seascapes take on a new, icy look and if you pause for a moment, you can see what the great painters, Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, who hailed from this region, were capturing on their canvasses. Things begin to warm up as spring arrives with its vibrantwild flower blooms. The traffic and crowds that inundate the town in the summer months are nonexistent during these “off-seasons”, and while many shops and businesses close down, there are still plenty of restaurants, bed & breakfasts and hotels that stay open and offer discounted rates for your perfect Bar Harbor getaway.
How to plan your trip?
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