Bar Harbor (Photo:Romiana Lee/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Diane Bair
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park -- one of the smallest National Parks in the country -- is the biggest draw in Bar Harbor, Maine. The 41,000-acre park is also one of the most heavily visited, drawing more than two million travelers per year.

The park offers stunning mountain, sea and lake vistas and craggy cliffs that plunge to the surf, as well as an estimated 125 miles of trails for hiking and biking. Additional highlights include the 1,532-foot-high Cadillac Mountain and the Thunder Hole waterspout. Beyond the park, Bar Harbor (or as locals say: "Bah Hahbuh") has the charm of a quaint New England fishing village with all the attractions of a major port, and its touristy downtown area is hard to resist. Watch the lobstermen work, browse the souvenir shops, explore a museum and, of course, enjoy a Maine lobster bake.

The town is nestled on the eastern side of Mount Desert Island, sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean by Frenchman Bay and surrounded on three sides by the mountains of Acadia National Park. Bar Harbor welcomes more than 100 ships annually, with close to 175,000 passengers going ashore. The cruise season spans from May well into October, when the fall foliage is at its brilliant peak.

Long before Bar Harbor was a popular port on Canada/New England cruise itineraries, it enjoyed a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous. In the late 1800s, frequent visitors -- such as the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Vanderbilts and Fords -- grew tired of hotel living and built summer "cottages" (in reality, opulent estates). Many also bought and donated additional land on the island to protect it from development, leading to the creation of Acadia National Park. In 1947, a fire burned nearly half of the eastern side of Mount Desert Island and destroyed many posh estates, permanent homes and more than 10,000 acres of Acadia National Park. The surviving homes have been converted to inns, guesthouses and B&Bs. Today, Bar Harbor has a population of approximately 5,000 Downeasters (a term that refers to residents of coastal Maine who live north of Penobscot Bay). That number swells drastically in the summer, as the town continues its centuries-old tradition of attracting vacationers to its charming shores.

About Bar Harbor


Pro

This quaint New England town is located very close to the port and perfect for strolling

Con

If you cruise offseason, you won't be able to grab the free bus to Acadia National Park

Bottom Line

If changing leaves, lobster lunches and cute shops are your thing, make a point to visit


Find a Cruise to Canada & New England

Where You're Docked

Ships anchor in Frenchman Bay and tender passengers to the Town Pier, located in the heart of downtown, off West Street and Main Street in Bar Harbor.

Good to Know

Black flies are a nuisance from mid-May to mid-June. Unlike mosquitoes that tend to draw your blood, these pesky insects have teeth that can take a bite out of you. Although you won't be bothered in downtown Bar Harbor or close to the ocean's shoreline, be aware if you are exploring the wooded areas of Acadia National Park. To prevent being bitten while visiting the park, wear light-colored clothing, and use a DEET-based insect repellent.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

You'll find numerous ATMs and banks within a five-block radius of the harbor. One of the closest ATMs is located at Bar Harbor Bank and Trust (82 Main Street). Another convenient ATM is at Camden National Bank (43 Cottage Street). Both locations, open Monday to Friday, exchange other currencies into U.S. dollars.

Language

English is spoken everywhere.

Shopping

Like Disney and its mouse-eared everything, Bar Harbor celebrates the lobster, on infant onesies, pottery, you name it. We've even seen chairs made from lobster pots, a marvel of repurposing. But there are non-kitschy treasures aplenty in downtown shops. Among the most sought-after souvenirs is a piece of jewelry made from "watermelon" tourmaline, a uniquely beautiful pink-and-green stone mined in Maine. Jack's Jewelry (23 Main Street) has a good selection. One-of-a-kind, made-in-Maine items, such as pottery and decorative items, can be found at Island Artisans (99 Main Street) and the Acadia Shop and Gallery (85 Main Street). For tasty souvenirs that may not make it home, Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium sells molded chocolates in the shapes of cruise ships, lobsters and moose (66 Main Street). While you're there, try a sample of lobster-flavored ice cream if you dare, but for an actual cone, go for the blueberry.