BAR HARBOR, Maine – For those who want to experience some of Maine’s best scenery, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park should be at the top of their “must-see” list.
Located on Mt. Desert Island, both the community of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park abound with an endless variety of sights, attractions and activities bound to satisfy every palate.
Outdoor enthusiasts can try biking, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, sailing and golf. Those who are more interested in sight-seeing and quieter pursuits will find spectacular gardens, serene coves just waiting to be explored, rustic lobster eateries with waterfront picnic tables, unusual museums, festivals and plenty of restaurants and attractions.
While glaciers created the upside-down claw-like shape of the island that is known as Mt. Desert, its shape is hardly the only thing that makes it unique. The third-largest island on the east coast of the United States, Mt. Desert is home to the only natural fjord on the coast, and also Cadillac Mountain, the highest mountain on the east coast north of Rio de Janeiro. From atop Cadillac Mountain’s 1,532 feet, visitors are the first to watch the sun rise each day in the United States.
While there are several picturesque villages on Mt. Desert Island, including Southwest Harbor, Tremont and Northwest Harbor, Bar Harbor is the island’s largest town.
Beginning in the mid-1800s and continuing through the 1930s, Bar Harbor was known as a summer haven for the very rich, including the Astors, Fords, Morgans, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Carnegies. Grand-scale hotels and mansions – known locally as “summer cottages” – were built during that time and continue to dot the shoreline. Today, however, many of those “summer cottages” house some of the most unique and interesting B&Bs in all of Maine.
Of course, those are not the only accommodations in the Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park area. There are also resorts, hotels, inns, and campgrounds.
While on Mt. Desert, consider sailing on an historic schooner, taking a lobster boat cruise to see how Maine’s tastiest crustaceans are trapped, search for whales off the coast, or look for seals, puffins, birds and other wildlife that hug the coastline.
For children, the “Dive-In Theater” cruise comes complete with an underwater camera. The Bar Harbor Oceanarium is home to the Maine Lobster Museum and Lobster Hatchery, and Acadia National Park has a complete Junior Ranger Program.
If you like discovering new places on foot, downtown Bar Harbor is well worth a stroll. The village contains an incredible assortment of streets, alleys, squares and piers. In addition to unique boutiques, art galleries and restaurants, there is a shore path that begins downtown and takes you by the front yards of many of the town’s well-known summer cottages.
If history is your thing, the “Step Back in Time” walking tour comes complete with a costumed guide. The Abbe Museum, dedicated to Maine’s Native American history, and the Tiffany windows in St. Savior’s Church are just two of the interesting sights along the way.
While Bar Harbor and the other villages of Mt. Desert Island are always fun to explore, the biggest draw on the island is the magnificent Acadia National Park. The northeast’s only national park, Acadia is truly one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.
The 47,000-acre preserve is stunning in every way – from its unusual flora and fauna to its rugged coast line, from its breathtaking views to its man-made carriage trails, Acadia National Park is an unforgettable experience.
While a guided tour is a great way to see the park, there’s nothing like getting out on your own to discover the wonder and the beauty that is Acadia National Park. While there, make sure you don’t miss the following:
The Carriage Roads: E xplore the 51 miles of gravel pathways and granite bridges created by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. for horse-drawn carriages. Always closed to motorized vehicles, the carriage trails are enjoyed by walkers, hikers, bicyclers, cross country skiers and snowshoeing enthusiasts.
The Park Loop Road: A 27-mile scenic ride along the eastern portion of Mt. Desert Island offers access to most of the well-known park sites.
Thunder Hole: A thunderous sound is made in this natural wonder during each high tide. As water rushes into the narrow granite channel, it effectively traps the air. When the air escapes, ‘thunder’ follows.
Jordan Pond: Formed by a glacier, the pond’s pristine clear water reflects the surrounding mountains. While visiting at the pond, stop by the Jordan Pond House Restaurant and sample its famous popovers.
Wildwood Stables: The stable offers horse -drawn carriage rides – a refreshing and unique way to experience the park.
Schoodic Peninsula: Described as “one of the last frontiers on the eastern seaboard,” the peninsula is located a few miles away from the main park, but features working lobstering and clamming areas, blueberry barrens and timberland, with mountain vistas, islands, and lighthouses. Many think it’s the most beautiful and rugged section of the national park.
To learn more about Acadia National Park visit http://www.nps.gov/acad/ and for more information on Bar Harbor visit www.barharborinfo.com . For Maine travel information, check out the Maine Office of Tourism Web site at www.visitmaine.com.