Bar Harbor 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. The town is nestled on the east side of Mount Desert Island, sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean by Frenchman Bay, and is home to the largest parts of Acadia National Park, including Cadillac Mountain the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard.
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 1800’s, frequent visitors — such as the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Vanderbilts and Fords — grew tired of hotel living and built their own 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. However 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 now been converted to inns, guesthouses and B&B’s.
If you’re looking for something to do in Bar Harbor, you won’t be at a loss for activities.
A former convent built in 1916 is now home to the Bar Harbor Historical Society Museum. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, visitors can view a collection of books, maps, antique clothing, photos and other memorabilia from Bar Harbor’s past. An interesting exhibit includes photos of opulent summer estates, prior to the 1947 fire.
The Abbe Museum celebrates the heritage, culture, history, and archeology of Maine’s Native Americans. Discover the story of the first people of Maine through exhibitions and programs that span 10,000 years of history, art and archaeology. Learn about the Native people of Maine today and enjoy their songs and stories, arts and crafts.
Bar Harbor has an incredible arts scene. Walk through downtown and poke into art and craft galleries and top-notch boutiques, showcasing the works of Maine artists, sculptors and photographers. Recommended stops include Eclipse Gallery featuring blown glass and ceramics, Alone Moose Fine Craft specializing in wildlife sculptures, Bar Harbor Gallery selling one-of-a-kind miniature clay teapots, and Argosy Gallery displaying art by 36 artists who reside or paint in Maine.
At the Mount Desert Oceanarium, visitors can tour the Maine Lobster Museum and a lobster hatchery for an up-close experience with lobsters, baby starfish and seals.
Speaking of lobsters, ms Maasdam recently brought the local fare onboard to the delight of guests. This was done in line with Holland America Line’s sustainable seafood program that employs environmentally responsible purchasing practices and features menus that showcase sustainable seafood. The lobster purchase also was part of the line’s commitment to supporting local industries at ports of calls visited and strengthening Maine’s economy, which is closely tied to the lobster industry.