Head Down East to experience Acadia, the hub of Mount Desert Island, which Condé Nast Traveler named one of the top 12 scenic islands in the world in 2014.
Photo © littleny
Orientation Roughly three hours north of Portland near Bar Harbor, Maine, on the northeastern side of Mount Desert Island, and perched on the edge of Frenchman Bay.
Nearby Acadia National Park, showcasing some of the most dramatic and varied scenery you’ll find on the Maine coastline.
Date incorporated 1796.
Namesakes First called “Eden” (no, not after the biblical garden, but English statesman Richard Eden), the town was renamed Bar Harbor in 1918 for the famous sandbar that connects the mainland to Bar Island at low tide.
Notable for West Street’s former Millionaires’ Row, home to the palatial summer estates of the Rockefellers, Fords, and Vanderbilts; the Fire of 1947 that then destroyed Millionaires’ Row, as well as 25 percent of Mount Desert Island; and Jackson Laboratory, a sprawling 43-acre genetics research lab.
Art Past & Present
In the mid-1800s, the town’s rugged coastal landscape attracted Hudson River School artists Thomas Cole and Frederic Church. Their seascapes and landscapes were so well received, city folk flocked to MDI to see the sights for themselves – causing Bar Harbor’s hotel boom of the late 1800s. Opal’s lodging options include the boutique, waterfront West Street Hotel and the Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina with spectacular views of Frenchmans Bay. Today, the Argosy Gallery acts as the direct connection to this art history by showcasing pieces that primarily capture this area and in the same traditional and impressionist styles of the Hudson River School.
A trip to Bar Harbor wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Acadia National Park and its more than 120 miles of trails. In the early twentieth century. John D. Rockefeller Jr. financed the construction of 57 miles of broken stone carriage roads. Today, some are used for hiking in the summer; others, for Nordic skiing in the winter. The Ocean Trail, beginning at Sand Beach, travels by Thunder Hole where waves roll into this naturally formed inlet with a tremendous crash, forcing air up to 40 feet in the air. It’s also a great vantage point for photographing Sand Beach to the north and the 110-foot-tall Otter Cliff, one of the highest headlands north of Rio de Janeiro.
In this quiet seaside hamlet, most of downtown shutters by 9 p.m., but that’s when the mix of bars and attractions really light up. Leary’s Landing serves beer in 32-ounce chalice-like mugs, The Lompoc Café has bocce ball in the beer garden, and Geddy’s (touted as an institution by locals) pours something called the “Volcano Bowl.” For more of a show, ImprovAcadia doles out comedy alongside a full bar.
New Wild Iris Farm lets you see Bar Harbor the only way it was allowed to be seen up until 1913 – by horse-drawn carriage. Passengers are treated to 30-minute tours in Bar Harbor’s downtown, including West, Cottage, and Main streets.
Perhaps the newest, most-talked about dinner spot in Bar Harbor is Paddy’s Irish Pub, opened on the street level of the West Street Hotel in 2012. One side of the restaurant reveals spectacular harbor views; the other has large glass doors that open up to the West Street sidewalk lined with modern-chic patio heaters. And not only is the menu filled with motherland classics, like slow-roasted rib eye with Irish cheddar and spicy tomato Irish stew, but the wooden bar and wall hangings were imported from the Emerald Isle.