Bar Harbor, Maine – the Wild Frontier and Land of Vacation

Maine, known as the land of vacation, is notorious for its rocky coastline, timber wood forests, national parks, lighthouses, wild blueberry bushes, fresh-caught lobsters, and abundance of wildlife. Carved out to be a quintessential part of New England, Maine both fits the bill and, at the same time, defies it. Throughout history Maine has remained a fiercely independent, wild frontier state with a strong maritime culture and connection with its Canadian neighbors. Which is part of the reason I was so compelled to visit Maine again, after a lengthy hiatus. The other part of my reasoning, and by ‘other part’ I mean ninety-percent of my rationale, was a longing for some type of vacation after two years of COVID concerns.

I do confess, I did dip into Maine a few times in the past two years, but those brief visits were right over the border and simply not far enough to call the excursion an adventure. This was the first time in a long time that I took a five hour drive up the coast to visit the iconic Bar Harbor, located on Frenchman’s Bay and known as the gateway to Arcadia National Park.

Frenchman’s Bay view from Bar Harbor Inn and Spa Resort
A few of the five Porcupine Islands, as seen off the coast of Bar Harbor’s Public Pier
The Porcupine Islands as seen from Arcadia National Park

Although I was only visiting Bar Harbor for a short period of time, there are a few places worth mentioning. In no particular order, but as a good start, I would recommend walking the Shore Path, which is a mile long, stone and gravel walkway overlooking Frenchman’s Bay. I would also suggest strolling along Main Street and ducking into some of the shops on the side streets as well. Main Street is a quaint, and yet, highly commercialized. Despite the fact that Main Street is indeed touristy, it will give you perspective and allow you to get your bearings before exploring more of Bar Harbor and Mount Dessert Island.

Part of the Shore path, a mile long, stone and gravel walkway, as seen from Bar Harbor Inn and Spa Resort

Next, I would recommend visiting some or, if you have the chance, all of the six lighthouses around Mount Dessert Island, five of which are only accessible by boat. A quick Google search ‘lighthouse tour Bar Harbor’ will allow you to narrow down the boat tours available during your stay. Many of the tour groups have additional trips that may be of interest. To name a few: whale watching, puffin tours, sunrise and sunset cruises, national park by boat tours, fishing trips, and many more.

One of the lighthouses you can see by foot is Bass Harbor Head Light Station, parking here is very limited

Of the six lighthouses in the Bar Harbor area, Bass Harbor Light is the only one you can drive to. The remaining five lighthouses: Egg Rock Light, Bakers Island Light, Great Duck Island Light, Mount Desert Rock Light, and Mark Island Light, also called Winter Harbor Light, can only be seen in detail by boat.

Bass Harbor Head Light Station built in 1858

Did you know that there are sixty-five lighthouses scattered along the coast of Maine?

Fog bell outside Bass Harbor Head Light Station

At this point, could I ever really convince you that I visited Bar Harbor without mentioning the fact that I devoured fresh lobster on numerous occasions thoughtout my short visit? Probably not…

There are so many local eateries to get lobster entrees, salads and rolls, it’s difficult to name just a few. The ultimate Bar Harbor challenge…try steering yourself in the wrong direction looking for a place to order lobster! I am not kidding when I say the delightfully delicious crustacean is on every menu.

Maine lobster, parsnip-potato purée, lemon scented grilled asparagus, clarified butter, served at The Reading Room at Bar Harbor Inn and Spa Resort

Since we are on the subject of eating, why not pair your meal with something good to drink? Places to check out, include the ever popular Atlantic Brewing Company, who also makes the locally distributed Old Soaker Soda (I highly recommend the Blueberry Soda), and Bar Harbor Cellars who brews a delicious blueberry wine. Like lobster, you can never go wrong with wild blueberries.

Bar Harbor Cellars, with a of wild blueberry bush out front

Finally, my last word of wisdom would be to visit Arcadia National Park. You will need an entry pass to visit the park, which I would recommend printing, as the park rangers like it to be displayed on your windshield (but they will also print it for you). There are so many breathtaking views and all sorts of trails, both short and long, when driving into Arcadia. A few to mention, all stops along the road, are: Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cove and Creek, Jordan Pond and, of course, Cadillac Mountain.

Natural rock inlet, Thunder Hole, known for its crashing waves and thunderous booming sounds
Thunder Hole’s thunderous booms are heard best during high tide
Otter Cove, bridge and causeway, view to the left looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean
Otter Cove view to the right, with Dorr Mountain in the distance
Jordan Pond, a one-hundred and eighty seven mountain lake with plenty of trails, a tea house and restaurant, known for their popovers, and souvenirs shop

A simple entry pass will suffice for many of the stops mentioned above, except for Cadillac Mountain. In order to drive up the three-mile Cadillac Mountain Road to the summit, you must purchase a vehicle reservation pass in advance, this applies only from late May through late October. For sunset and sunrise at the summit, you can only purchase tickets two days before you are planning to visit. Sunrise and sunset are very popular times to drive up and reservations are extremely limited. For these very popular times, tickets are released online, promptly at 10:00 a.m.

Personally, I had trouble securing sunrise tickets, even after logging on to the reservation site at at 9:59 a.m. and refreshing the page continuously until 10:00 a.m. Only one-hundred and two tickets, roughly, are released for the popular times to drive up to the summit. Instead, I opted to purchase sunset tickets, which are still extremely limited. However, I was able to secure sunset tickets much more easily than sunrise.

If you have no plans on seeing sunrise or sunset and just want to drive up Cadillac Mountain Road during the daytime hours, it is quite easy to purchase tickets. Additionally, these daytime tickets can be bought far in advance and often remain available if you are looking to book last minute.

Cadillac Mountain summit from West Lot
Sunset on Cadillac Mountain from the West Lot

So there you have it, a taste of Maine without going into intense detail about the entire state. As we all know Bar Harbor is just a sliver of the pie that make up the vast landscape — and by ‘pie’ we all know it is wild-blueberry baked, subsequent to the lobster entrée. If you can’t tell that I am reminiscing about the delicious dishes of Maine while you read this…just know, I’ll be here daydreaming.

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