Bar Harbor, the coastal town on Maine’s Mount Desert Island has changed a lot since it was the official summer home to the wealthy families of the Vanderbilts and Astors. After the great fire of 1947 destroyed most of the village homes the downtown area has survived (and thrived). Ever since, Bar Harbor has flourished as one of the top summer travel destinations, thanks to loads of lobster, warm temperatures, and festivals.
Walking the line between a lively tourist spot and a whimsical escape, Bar Harbor garners the attention of everyone from traveling families to nature enthusiasts. Deliciously frozen in time, you won’t find any Starbucks or fast food joints here. Both then and now, Mount Desert has served as an adored hub for outdoor activities: hiking, biking, and boating. At day’s end, travelers can sit back and relax with a blueberry beer (Bar Harbor’s specialty) and a lobster roll. Those wandering during the evening have the ability to watch sailboats drop anchor and magnificent sunsets plunge over the rocky horizons. Just in time for summer, we’ve rounded up the best things to do and see, and the top places to stay.
What to Do:
Witness Mount Desert Island, the largest island off the coast of Maine and the second largest on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. Embedded with a rich history and culture, the island population swells in the summer and is a can’t-miss for tourists. You might even spot celebrities such as Martha Stewart or Rockefeller heirs who have summer cottages on the island.
Looking to learn about Bar Harbor’s rich history? The museums are both small and focused, and travelers can learn about everything from the towns “Gilded Age”, the Gulf of Maine’s unique ecosystems and species, and the natural wonders of Acadia National Park. At the Abbe Museum, visitors can explore the history and culture of Maine’s native people, the Wabanaki tribe.
The spectacular Acadia National Park is a national treasure that you’d be remiss not to explore when visiting Bar Harbor. The 47,000-acre park features rocky beaches, pristine views, lush woodlands, and glacier-capped granite peaks. Enjoy everything from hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, climbing, and so much more.
Head to the water and experience one of Bar Harbor’s many cruises. Catch a glimpse of humpback, Minke, and finback whales on a whale-watching tour, enjoy breathtaking views of Frenchman’s Bay on a sunset cruise, awe over the beautiful lighthouses of Somes Sound and Great Duck Island, and catch a ride on a lobster boat.
Where to Stay:
Bass Cottage Inn, 14 The Field
Bar Harbor’s oldest continuously operating inn, the Bass Cottage Inn located on a quiet lane, is both a central and serene private retreat located in the heart of the city. Built in 1885 during Bar Harbor’s Golden Age, the inn was extensively renovated and preserved to meet the needs of today’s discerning traveler. Fresh, vibrant, and clean, the rooms are uniquely named and decorated after spices and herbs. Cinnamon, a rich and bright room features wood floors, a cozy fireplace, and cottage charm. If you’re looking for something feminine, floral, and crisp, the Verbena room is one of the largest and features broad, sunny windows, a jetted tub for two, and a pillow-top king bed with canopy. Breakfast is also a highlight when staying at the Bass Cottage. Their food philosophy is simple: they showcase ingredients from local farms, season with inspiration from regional cuisines, and serve Maine-roasted coffee. In the morning, guests can enjoy a delicious three-course breakfast – one sweet, one savory and a healthy choice option.
Aysgarth Station, 20 Roberts Avenue
The breathtaking Bar Harbor vista views seen from the third-floor deck and front porch of the Aysgarth Station can’t be beat. This historic property offers six spacious, uniquely decorated rooms perfect for a romantic getaway, all of which offer plush beds and private baths – some with jetted tubs. The waterfront is just a stroll away from the inn, allowing guests to enjoy all of the benefits of a Bar Harbor summer getaway: fantastic dining options, water activities such as sunset cruises, kayaking, and more.
Atlantean Cottage, 11 Atlantic Avenue
Atlantean Cottage, a Tudor-style property built by famed architect Frederick L. Savage, provides modern amenities while still honoring it’s historic past. Accommodations are diverse, with six carefully appointed guestrooms and two spacious suites featuring private, ensuite bathrooms perfect for long, quiet getaways.
Saltair Inn, 121 West St.
There’s a reason that the Saltair Inn has been voted by editors of Yankee Magazine as the “Best Oceanfront B&B in Maine” and praised by The Boston Globe. This romantic, four-season waterfront property on the shores of Frenchman Bay provides the perfect Bar Harbor vacation setting with eight well-appointed guestrooms fit for both the budget and luxury traveler. Soak up fabulous views, a delicious breakfast, luxury waterfront suites, and more.