As well as being home to much of Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island also has several towns. The largest is Bar Harbor with a population of around 5,000 people. It is primarily a tourist town and courtesy of a ferry service from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in Canada, it is also a port of entry into the USA. The area was discovered by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1604, but it was not until 1763 that the first European settlement was established by Israel Higgins and John Thomas. In 1796 it was incorporated as the Town of Eden but in 1918 the name was changed to Bar Harbor after the bar that at low tide links the town to Bar island. Parts of the town were destroyed in the 1947 fire that devastated a large area of Acadia National Park, but fortunately the business district of the town was spared along with several historic former summer homes.
Bar Harbor Inn
The Mount Desert Reading Room was a club set up in the 1870s to promote literary and social culture. The building was then sold in 1922 to the Maine Central Railroad and then changed hands several times until 1933 when a group of hotel owners converted it into the Shore Club to provide additional facilities for their guests. The 1947 fire left Bar Harbor without a single hotel, but the Shore Club building survived. In 1950 a 40 room accommodation wing was added to the building and Hotel Bar Harbor was born. In 1987 a new owner renamed it the Bar Harbor Inn. Now considerably expanded, it is very popular waterfront hotel. The Maine lobster that we were served was amongst the best that we have tasted. Click Tab 2 to see the view from the Inn.
Pier Restaurant & The Bar
Bar Harbor has plenty of restaurants that specialise in local seafood. Several of them are on the shorefront and have views out to Frenchman Bay and the offshore islands. In the background of this picture is Bar Island. At low tide it is possible to walk to the island across the bar that gave the town its name. If you choose to take this walk, do make sure that you get back before the waters return!
Boats in Harbour
The port for the ferries from Yarmouth is to the north of the town, so in the harbour you will find only small fishing and pleasure boats. It is a tranquil location as the shelter of Frenchman Bay is enhanced by the islands just offshore.
Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain
On the landward side Bar Harbor is surrounded by Acadia national park, and the best way to get a view of the town is to go up the highest mountain in the park, Cadillac Mountain. From the mountain top looking across Frenchman Bay, the coastal and rural setting of Bar Harbor is clearly visible. The two islands just off shore from the town are Bar Island (on the left) and Sheep Porcupine Island.
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There are relatively few museums dedicated to Indian culture on the east coast of the USA. The Abbe Museum in downtown Bar Harbor is one of the few. Dedicated to the Wabanaki Nations, it started as a small museum in Acadia National Park (which still opens seasonally). It is filled with changing exhibitions of Wabanaki artefacts, which we found fascinating. The museum is the only Smithsonian Affiliate in the state of Maine. Click Tab 2 to see a Birch Bark Canoe exhibited in the museum.
To move forwards or backwards through the Maine trail click the arrows above, or select your next destination on the Minimap.
As a tourist town, Bar Harbor suffers from a couple of problems. Parking can be a nightmare and mant of the roads in the downtown area are very narrow. One the plus side, the town is small and hence easily walkable. We stayed in the downtown area and then just used our feet to get around.