Bar Harbor, Maine


It’s tough to decide if the main attraction on Mount Desert Island is Acadia National Park, or the perfectly tourist-friendly town of Bar Harbor.  Baa-Haa-Bah, as you’ll soon start saying, is the biggest town on the island, and it’s where you’ll find most of the area’s motels and restaurants.  It’s also the arrival point for the many cruise ships that deliver thousands of mind-numbed, buffet-filled passengers, who then wander through the streets, oblivious to crosswalks or vehicle traffic.

I dodged plenty of people during my visits to Bar Harbor.  My early October visit was near the end of the tourist season (or at least, so said the sale signs in all the stores), but thanks to all the beautiful fall colors, there was no shortage of visitors.  Parking was difficult, but well worth the effort to explore Bar Harbor on foot.

Bar Harbor is centered around a town square, or “village green”, just like almost every other New England town.  It’s important to remember the location of the green, though, since it’s the main starting and stopping point for Mount Desert Island’s transit system.  The free busses will pick you (and your bike, if you have one) up here, and take you to the park visitor center, around the loop road, or to some of the other towns on the island.  The village green is right next to Maine Route 3, where it turns from Mt. Desert Street onto Main Street.  This picture looks north on Main Street — the green is on the left, and Route 3 is in the opposite direction.

Stroll up the street…

… and admire the old clock outside Bar Harbor’s First National Bank…

… or poke your head inside the West End Drug store…

… for the cheapest lunch in Bar Harbor, at the authentic soda fountain.

Also, be sure to check out Cottage Street, which splits off of Main Street, a block south of the harbor.  In addition to the souvenir shops and restaurants, you’ll also find a couple of bike rental places and kayak tour offices on this street.

And that’s the reason I was on Cottage Street.  I had planned to take a kayak tour of the waters around Mount Desert Island, so I came to downtown Bar Harbor, ate lunch (at the drug store), then checked in for my tour.  Unfortunately, not enough people had signed up for my tour, so it was canceled.  I booked a tour later in the day, but by that time, the wind had picked up, and it was canceled due to the high waves.

If you rent a bike or take a kayak tour at one of the stores on Cottage Street, you’ll probably want to park a block away, on West Street, which has free, all-day parking.  Most other spots in downtown Bar Harbor are limited to 2-hour parking.
There’s more to see in downtown Bar Harbor.  I wish I had taken some pictures near the harbor itself, which is near the intersection of Main Street and West Street (and Agamont Park).  This area was so clogged with cars and tourists, I couldn’t do much more than squeeze through — and I never got back there on foot.

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