Bar Harbor, Maine, on lovely Mount Desert Island, a pretty-as-a-picture quintessential New England harbor town, is one of the most popular ports on New England/Canada itineraries – it’s certainly a big favorite with me. There is much to enjoy during a call here – from natural beauty to historical attractions to everybody’s favorite crustacean. Here are five “musts” to experience during a visit to Bar Harbor:
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1) Bar Harbor is a gateway to beautiful Acadia National Park with the impressive Cadillac Mountain and 45 miles of historic carriage roads built by John D. Rockeffeller. We explored the park via the convenient Oli’s Trolley taking in the park’s highlights including Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, Otter Cliffs and Jordan Pond with its glacial landscapes– and making one of three stops for photos and walks on the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard at 1,530 feet.
2) Some of America’s wealthiest families including the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Fords built mansions. which they called “cottages,” here, New England’s premier vacation spot in the 19th century, for their summer escapes. Many of their estates burned down in a 1947 fire, but visitors can still see many imposing homes by taking a leisurely stroll along the Shore Path. This path, about a mile long, begins at the left of the town’s pier and winds along the waterfront, and in addition to the views of beautiful “cottages” it offers panoramas of Bar Harbor’s Porcupine Islands (so called because they resemble that critter).
3) Sightseeing boat tours often reward visitors with whale, dolphin and seal sightings. We took one from Acadian Boat Tours and one from Lobster Fishing And Seal Watching. The Acadian Boat Tours program was a two-hour Nature & Sightseeing Tour in search of eagles, porpoises, seals and other marine mammals and birds – we encountered seals and many birds – while taking in the scenery of coastal Maine, Acadia National Park, the islands of Frenchman Bay and Bar Harbor with views of mansions and the Egg Rock Lighthouse. The Lobster Fishing And Seal Watching tour enables visitors to see a professional fisherman hauling lobster traps from the ocean floor and you can touch the critters because they have bands put on their claws.
4) Speaking of everybody’s favorite crustacean, lobster bakes are a popular activity, of course. Stewman’s Lobster Pound with two ocean-front locations is one of the places you can try. Or perhaps you can simply opt for the unusual delight of a lobster ice cream (it is vanilla flavored with bits of crustacean). One of the places where you can try a cone is Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium.
5) To become acquainted with the history and culture of Bar Harbor, you can visit one or more of its excellent museums such as the Abbe Museum, the Dorr Museum of Natural History and the Bar Harbor Historical Society Museum. We took in the Abbe Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate in downtown Bar Harbor and enjoyed its displays about the Wabanaki Indians, the area’s native people. Highlights include canoes, artistically-decorated root clubs and fruit-shaped baskets.