Located on Mount Desert Island in northern Maine, Bar Harbor is one of those exclusive enclaves that the Golden Age titans of industry chose as their vacation spots and 100 years or so later, we average Americans get to visit just like the Astors and the Vanderbilts. And we can enjoy it without the trappings of society limitations.
The water is too cold for actual swimming, but the beaches are simply stunning. Low tide creates a phenomenon unique to Bar Harbor: The bay retreats so dramatically that an entire new island rises up for a period of time. Locals and vacationers flock to this amazing spot, accessible only when the tide is low. Don’t dawdle when the tide begins to rise—you could get caught in deep water and need to be rescued. A totally un-Bar Harbor thing to do (trust me on this).
If you love ice cream, Bar Harbor has many offerings—there is something about sea air and ice cream. Although it is spelled Mount Desert Island, Desert is pronounced dessert, the French pronunciation. The town green sits atop a knoll in the center of town and weekend festivals are constant during the summer. The little town is packed with tourists, but there are many charming restaurants, lots of shops, and great views of the harbor. Whale watching excursions are offered and many interesting ships come into the harbor, including cruise ships.
The Bar Harbor Inn dates to 1887 and offers beautiful views of Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands.
Acadia National Park is accessed from downtown Bar Harbor. The park, an area preserved in perpetuity thanks to American business magnate John D. Rockefeller Jr. and other wealthy landowners, is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. It features 45 miles of car‐free roads and 16 stone‐faced bridges, each unique in design, built by Rockefeller so visitors could easily explore the park. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place in the United States to see the sunrise during fall and winter.
Bar Harbor is also home to one of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the United States. The College of the Atlantic, dedicated to the field of human ecology, attracts students from 50 states and 34 countries. Although housed in historic buildings, the college is ecologically friendly; dorm rooms feature composting toilets.