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Vacation like a Vanderbilt

Bar Harbor is a summertime dream

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 Bar Harbor Inn. Photo photo by Julie Summers Walker.

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).

Hancock County/Bar Harbor Airport is located between the towns of Ellsworth and Bar Harbor. Built in 1941, it was a World War II-era airport with three runways, a blimp mooring facility, and seaplane base. The two remaining runways are 5,200 feet long and 3,300 feet long. The seaplane base is active during the summer months. Parking is free up to 60 days and there is ground transportation into town.

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 College of the Atlantic. Photo by Julie Summers Walker.

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.

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.
Topics: U.S. Travel, Travel

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