|Bar Harbor, Maine Travel Guide|
|Maine's premier travel destination is the Victorian resort town of Bar Harbor, with Acadia National Park. In summer it's monstrously crowded, so plan carefully.|
Bar Harbor Old & New
Visitors used to come to Bar Harbor, 154 miles (248 km) northeast of Portland, Maine (map), for the town's graceful Victorian architecture and atmosphere, and of course to tour and enjoy Acadia National Park, which takes up half of Mount Desert Island.
Although vestiges of Bar Harbor's golden age survive, in summer the town now seems overrun by T-shirt, souvenir and ice cream shops, and thronged with both pedestrian and vehicular traffic, including ear-splitting motorcycles.
Then a giant cruise ship comes into port and disgorges another several thousand pedestrians into the town center.
In high summer, especially on weekends, Maine Route 3, the narrow two-lane road from Ellsworth to Bar Harbor (20 miles/32 km; map), is a solid line of slow traffic in both directions. Unless you come off-season (November through May), be prepared to wait.
Where to Stay & Dine
Bar Harbor has lots of lodgings of all kinds—B&Bs, hotels and motels, campgrounds—to cater to the millions of visitors who come every summer.
Restaurants and shops keep visitors fed and occupied when they're not enjoying the beauties of the island and the park, or taking a day cruise on a saling ship or motorboat.
What makes Bar Harbor more attracting than other, less crowded Maine coastal towns is of course Acadia National Park, New England's only true national park.
Ascending Cadillac Mountain (by car, bike or on foot) on the outskirts of Bar Harbor is a must-do during any visit. The preferred time is dawn, when you can witness the sunrise before anyone elsewhere in the USA. You certainly won't be alone, but especially in June when sunrise is before 5:00 am, the summit may not be as crowded as it will be later in the day.
A Bit of History
When steamships and railroads were opening up America in the 1800s, they also opened up Downeast Maine, and by the end of the century, Bar Harbor, a small town on rocky Mount Desert Island (map), boasted almost as many palatial summer "cottages" as Newport RI.
The Great Fire of 1947 left only a small number of mansions still standing, but some of these are now nice inns.
—by Tom Brosnahan