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Your perfect Maine holidayYour perfect Maine holiday

Bar Harbor, Maine, and Acadia National ParkBar Harbor, Maine, and Acadia National Park

Look for lighthouses off the rocky coastline as you fly to Bar Harbor for an authentic “Downeast” Maine summer vacation. Sail on a magnificent schooner, paddle the harbor, hike Acadia National Park, and sleep in an elegant hotel or mansion. Don’t forget the “lobstah” rolls!

  • Your perfect Maine vacation is right here. This aerial photo of Frenchman’s Bay shows the Schooner Margaret Todd at bottom left. The Inn at Bar Harbor is the large hotel complex at center, just left of the cove. The West Street Hotel buildings rise right behind the harbor where the large yacht is moored, with downtown Bar Harbor just behind. Acadia National Park’s round green hills form the backdrop. Photo courtesy West Street Hotel Ocean Properties, LTD.
  • Flightseeing the Maine coastline rewards pilots with rocky cliffs, lighthouses, and tiny islands like this one. If you didn’t fly in, try a flightseeing trip with Scenic Flights of Acadia, right at the airport. They also offer flight instruction—what a beautiful place to learn how to fly! Photo by Jeremy Vroom, courtesy Scenic Flights of Acadia.
  • A variety of scenic cruises are offered aboard the 151-foot “Schooner Margaret Todd.” Morning cruises are tranquil, while afternoon cruises tend to be livelier as winds pick up. Often, a Park Ranger will talk about local history and point out geographical points of interest and wildlife. Sunset sails often include live banjo or fiddle music. Photo courtesy Downeast Windjammer Cruises.
  • View the sea cliffs up close on a guided kayak tour. Photo courtesy Aquaterra Adventures.
  • You’ll see seals and the Egg Rock Lighthouse, and learn all about lobster on “Lulu,” Captain John’s Downeast lobster boat. Photo courtesy Captain John.
  • The West Street Hotel sits right above the Bar Harbor marina, where you can rent a kayak or enjoy a waterfront meal. Photo courtesy West Street Hotel Ocean Properties, LTD.
  • This standard king guestroom at the West Street Hotel has a nautical theme. Photo courtesy West Street Hotel Ocean Properties, LTD.
  • The views are grand from the rooftop infinity pool at the West Street Hotel. Photo courtesy West Street Hotel Ocean Properties, LTD.
  • The scene is set for a summertime breakfast at Paddy’s, the Irish Pub at the West Street Hotel. In the background, the Friendship whale watching boat waits at the dock. Photo courtesy West Street Hotel Ocean Properties, LTD.
  • You’re on the Maine coast. You will eat lobster! Here, it's served in the elegant Reading Room, open for breakfast and dinner daily and Sunday Brunch the first Sunday of each month. You could also try the Lobster Pie: fresh Maine lobster meat baked in a rich sherry cream and topped with a butter crumb finish. Photo courtesy Bar Harbor Inn & Spa.
  • The Primrose Inn, built in 1878, has 18 rooms, each uniquely decorated with antiques. The architecture of this Victorian home is known as stick style and the Primrose is one of the area’s few remaining 19th century grand residences. Each room has a private bath, flat screen TV, and WiFi. Some rooms feature private porches, soaking tubs, sitting rooms, or gas fireplaces. A hot breakfast is served in the dining room or wrap-around porch. Afternoon tea comes with decadent sweet treats, full cuisine descriptions on website. Photo courtesy Primrose Inn.
  • The view from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park. George B. Dorr, known as the father of Acadia National Park, spent most of his adult life bringing the park into being, caring for the park, and expanding it. Dorr’s vision and passion ensured that lands would be set aside for preservation and protection for future generations. Photo courtesy Bar Harbor Inn & Spa.
  • Iconic Maine coast views are found all along the Ocean Drive section of Park Loop Road. In 1901, Charles W. Eliot formed a public land trust to save the landscape from uncontrolled development until the federal government would commit to protecting it for all, forever. First created as a national monument in 1916, Congress established Acadia National Park in 1919, making it the oldest national park east of the Mississippi. Photo by Kristi Rugg/NPS.
  • Many contributed to the formation of Acadia National Park, but we owe a special debt of gratitude to John D. Rockefeller Jr., without whose generosity and foresight this park would not exist. Rockefeller donated 10,000 acres and created 45 miles of single-lane stone carriage roads in the park. Photo by Will Greene/NPS.
  • Popovers and tea on the lawn at Jordan Pond House, inside Acadia National Park, is a Maine tradition that dates to the 1800s. Relax with views of Jordan Pond and the rounded Bubbles mountains. Other favorites include lobster stew, house-made ice cream, blueberry soda from the gift shop, and of course, the lobster roll. You can also dine indoors. Photo by Andrew G. Bloomfield, courtesy Jordan Pond House.

On a nice day, a flight up the Maine coastline is one of flying's great pleasures. You'll view dramatic rock cliffs, crashing waves, tiny isolated islands, lobster boats, and lighthouses. Study the sectional and note the numerous small wildlife refuges; please refrain from flying low over these. If you're bringing your amphibious floatplane, consider an inland path. You'll fly over hundreds of lakes, many with seaplane bases in case you want to stop along the way. Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport sits on the mainland, just across from Bar Harbor, on Mount Desert Island. Watch for gliders and use Runway 22 if winds are below 5 knots. Columbia Air Services-BHB has a courtesy car (very popular in summer) and car rentals. Reserve rentals ahead, and don't forget to admire the beautiful view of the bay and islands from the airport!

Captain John has just hauled this fine Maine lobster aboard “Lulu,” his traditional Downeast-style lobster boat. Photo courtesy Captain John.

Tiny Bar Harbor is nestled below the hills on the northeast side of Mount Desert Island. Most of the island is inside Acadia National Park. As the town comes into view, it’s easy to understand why the Europeans who first settled this area in 1763 named it Eden. Renamed in 1918 for the sandbar that forms the back portion of the harbor and can be seen at low tide, today’s Bar Harbor is a magnet for tourists who shop its art galleries and clothing, antique, and souvenir shops. Hungry? Head to Galyn’s, just up from the pier, serving fresh seafood and hand-cut steaks since 1986.

It’s summer in Maine, so we must get out on the water—in this case, beautiful Frenchman Bay. For me, there’s nothing like the magnificent 151-foot, four-masted Schooner Margaret Todd. Launched new in 1998, she’s the first four-masted schooner to work New England waters in over half a century. Hop on for a cruise and help hoist the sails or just relax and feel the breeze. A couple of companies offer whale-watching tours and nature cruises, or try a naturalist-guided sea kayaking tour. Find out how to catch lobsters from Captain John on his two-hour Lulu Lobster Boat Ride. Aboard his traditional Downeast-style lobster boat, you’ll also check out the Egg Rock lighthouse and look for seals and other wildlife.

The only lighthouse on Mount Desert Island, Bass Harbor Head Light guards the southern entrance of Blue Hill Bay and warns against Bass Harbor Bar. The light is fully operational, signaling three red flashes followed by one second of darkness. Built in 1858, the lighthouse sits high atop a scenic and rugged granite shoreline. Visitors may tour the grounds at Bass Harbor Head, but not the lighthouse itself. Photo courtesy Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Accommodations abound in Bar Harbor. The West Street Hotel offers modern amenities, oceanfront views, an adults-only rooftop infinity pool, and a full-service spa—all within easy walking distance to shops and restaurants. Plus, you’ll have access to the private Bar Harbor Club’s spa, tennis courts, pool, and Jacuzzi. Timeless and iconic, the Bar Harbor Inn and Spa has 150 rooms on eight acres along the half-mile Shore Path that overlooks Frenchman Bay. Choose from rooms in the Main Inn, Oceanfront Lodge (each luxurious with ocean views), and the Newport Building (a more economical option). The Reading Room offers superb dining, fabulous views, and nightly grand piano entertainment. If you like bed-and-breakfasts, you’ll love the historic Primrose Inn, where antiques, luxurious touches, afternoon tea, and a bountiful breakfast set a happy scene.

Still, I recommend escaping all this civilization for at least part of your trip by exploring Acadia National Park, chock full of trails to suit every hiker. Drive or climb to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 feet the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic Coast and first to see the sunrise from Oct. 7 through March 6. When the waves are rocking, Thunder Hole, off Park Loop road, shoots a spout of water up to 40 feet in the air. Rent a bike, cruise the crushed surface carriage roads, and feel the fresh ocean breeze. Stop for tea and popovers on the lawn in front of Jordan Pond House; this is a Maine tradition. At low tide, you can walk to Bar Island and look back at Bar Harbor. While there are no lodges in the park, you can camp year-round.

Explore the cliffs and take photos of the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, 56 feet above the waves at the southern tip of Mount Desert Island. And then it will finally be time for that long-awaited lobster roll. Get it fresh off the boat at Thurston’s Lobster Pound, a casual shack right at Bass Harbor. Filled to overflowing with lobster so fresh it was in the ocean the same morning, this roll is as authentic as they come, and so is Bar Harbor!

In Acadia National Park, you can hike along the rocky shoreline, up to Cadillac Mountain, or choose a green, forested walkway like this. Photo courtesy Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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