Bar Harbor - Port Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
The ship has to dock out in the seaport area here and everyone has to take a tender boat in to the town of Bar Harbor.
Spring/summer May-September, cruise ship season, the temperature is around 12-25 degrees Celsius. The weather can be very unpredictable and changeable throughout the spring and summer season, and can be sunny, windy, rainy, cold, cloudy and hot, all within a couple of hours. The key to the weather is to wear layers. Never leave the ship without an umbrella and rain jacket, and have two or three layers you can take on or off to be prepared for whatever the weather brings.
Sights & Sites
- Pier from the tender stopStrolling in the town – Bar Harbor is quaint and a very popular tourist town, with or without cruise ships. It has the feel of Disney’s Main Street USA, with candy stores, cute cafes and Christmas shops, gorgeous galleries, and all the souvenir stores you can handle. The main attraction here, in my opinion, is the town itself and just strolling around it taking it in.
- Lobster – Bar Harbor is known for its luscious lobster, and with good reason. Some of the best (and also most decently priced) lobster I have had has been here. You can’t really go wrong for a lobster lunch in Bar Harbor, but my favorite spot to eat it is at Geddy’s, right by the tender spot. Stew’s Lobster Pot along the waterfront has tender morsels too, and Downtown East Deli is great to grab a casual lobster roll to take away for a picnic while walking the shore walk.
- Market at Village Green – During the week, the Village Green is a peaceful green area of the town to sit and relax in, enjoy an ice cream or watch people walk their dogs in. On Sundays, it is market day, with a large artisan market showcasing works by many local artists of all types, from carvers, sculptures, painters, photographers and jewelers. https://www.barharbormagic.com/village-green.html
- Abbe Museum – This is a museum of the indigenous people who have lived here over the years. There are exhibitions on the different tribes, and you can see some works of art by local artists and traditional dress in the hallway before paying to go in to give you a taster. Located behind the Village Green. https://www.abbemuseum.org/
- The Cottages – These “cottages” use the name differently than everywhere else in the world. Instead of finding modest coy dwellings – as the name would suggest – Bar Harbor cottages are mini mansions (and some not even mini). These are the Kinkade-esque, but bigger, cookie cutter abodes built mostly in the 1920s for the rich of the area. They are located just on the outskirts of town on both sides, so are easy to walk to, along the waterfront or reach from walking through town.
- Shore Walk – As you leave the tender boat, you can walk through a building to get to town, and as you go through, you can pick up walking maps of the area (some are added at the bottom of this guide too). The walks along the waterfront are a wonderful way to see Maine’s rugged coastal beauty. Simply walk left when you get on the road after the tender and the trail starts there. It is well signposted with information about Bar Harbor town and the nature surrounding it, and is free.
Out of Bar Harbor:
- Acadia National Park – The Park is a natural wonder, which is beautiful to see when you’re in the area. Its one of the most popular National Parks in the US. You can see it on a tour, with the ship or an independent one outside. There are also local buses which leave from the Village Green and make an hour long loop of Acadia Park’s 27 miles, on a hop on hop off system, with he next bus leaving every 20 minutes, for the very agreeable price of free. https://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm
- Kayaking Frenchman Bay – This tour is a great way to get closer to the nature of the area, and can be arranged independently or through the ship’s tours. You kayak around the bay and several of the Porcupine Islands.
- Whale Watching Tours – There are whale-watching tours available through the ship or on your own booked directly beside where the tender boat drops you off, with the local guides in the red shirts. Pilot, sperm and humpback whales are usually seen around Frenchman Bay and beyond.
Bar Harbor is a shopper’s paradise. There are souvenirs galore in the many stores. Here are a couple of my top picks:
- Sherman’s Books – While being a pretty thorough bookstore for the size of the town, this large local place also has many fun greetings cards, gifts, souvenirs and lovely pieces for the home on sale in it too. I bought a gorgeous plate shaped like a sea urchin for a friend’s wedding present before here, which was popular. https://www.shermans.com/
- Debbah’s on the corner, this is probably the largest solely souvenir store, and it has some good deals on hoodies, T-shirts and cuddly toys.
If you only have two hours
Everything in Bar Harbor is very close by. The main problem is that you have to take a tender boat to get into town, so it depends how long you have to wait on the tender boat leaving and how long you have to wait on getting back on it. The actual tender ride is usually less than 10 minutes, and if you leave at or after open tender, you shouldn’t wait longer than around 10 minutes for it leaving. The second issue more recent, in that the US Customs and Border Control have decided that since some crew members from certain cruise lines jumped ship in Bar Harbor (and Boston), that all crew now have to be back onboard 2 hours earlier than guests in these ports. This means, depending on when open tender happens, there may be little time to even go ashore, so it may not be worth it.
It if is though, you can walk around the town very easily from as soon as you depart the tender, or walk the shore walk, or if you mange to time it well, even take a loop on the Acadia National Park bus.
What is it known for?
Bar Harbor is known for lobster, a fancy history of well to do residents such as the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, and currently Dick Wolf, high profile TV producer, along with the pretty cottages and cute shops, as well as the natural beauty, Acadia National Park.
Food & Drink
Lobster is the most popular food here, with blueberry pie for desert.
You can have your lobster as a full lobster dinner, complete with clam chowder, corn on the cob, and blueberry pie desert, or enjoy a lobster roll, or if you’re brave, even lobster ice cream.
- Geddy’s Restaurant – Located conveniently just across from the ship’s tender stop, this is my favorite spot for the full lobster lunch. They have the whole shebang with whole lobster, chowder, corncob, hot fresh baked bread rolls and butter, with home made blueberry pie for desert for one market related price. Summer 2018 this is going for $35. Their lobster stew (which is more like a delicious creamy bisque) is well worth it too, with generous chunks of claw in it, it is delectable. They also have fine local beers including blueberry beer the local favorite, decent coffee and some of the best Wi-Fi in town. https://geddys.com/
- Ben and Bills Ice Cream Parlor – If you have a sweet tooth, this is the place to stop in Bar Harbor. They have many flavors of home made ice cream, including the “most sampled and least actually bought” (in) famous lobster ice cream, as well as chocolate and candies. http://www.benandbills.com/
- The Independent – This locally run organic coffee shop is a good spot for a brew and some Wi-Fi. They have several specialty mixes and their blueberry roast coffee is a local favorite. They have clam chowder and locally baked cakes too. facebook.com/theindependentcafe
- Downeast Deli – This deli has fresh made sandwiches, popular with picnickers, but the main (e), ahem, event, is their lobster rolls. These ones are served cold, and are great to take on a hike of the park or shore. http://www.downeastdeli.com/
- Sunshine Café – Situated, literally right beside the tender drop off point, this café tempts you in with its freshly baked – by momma – blueberry pic that sits on the windowsill wafting the tasty smell of the rich berries and crispy pastry out to passers by. This year they’re started offering a crew deal, with coffee for $1 and a slice of their popular pie for $2.50. They have Wi-Fi, but no laptops allowed, so its useful for a quick catch up, but not longer uses.
Wi-Fi is available in Agamont Park right opposite the tender dock (http://www.barharbormagic.com/agamont-park.html), and in most restaurants, and some coffee shops and bars. Not everywhere has it, so ask before buying something, and check that the signal is working, if that’s what you’re mainly there for. The Independent coffee shop has a strong reliable connection, as does Geddy’s Restaurant, (https://geddys.com/) the pub The Thirsty Whale has it, (https://www.thirstywhaletavern.com/) but is busy so you can’t really stay for long. The Sunshine Café (https://www.sunrisecafebarharbor.com/) right by the tenders has Wi-Fi (and does coffee for crew for $1 and blueberry pie for $2.50) but doesn’t allow laptops, so if you’re just checking some things quickly on your phone, it is fine.
US dollars are the currency here, as it is in the US. All major credit cards are accepted everywhere and there are cash machines and two banks in the main town area, if you need to exchange currency.
Karen’s Top Tip
Eat lobster. It is delicious here, and really worthy of its reputation as “lobster land”. This is the port I’d splurge for a lobster dinner, having one of the set menus, set price deals means your bill won’t be too high. The scenery here is beautiful and taking a walk along the shore, or heading up to Acadia National Park are both well worth the effort.
My experience here
I have been to Bar Harbor many times, and so spent a lot of time in town, and been on quite a few of the tours available.
For walking around town, I’d recommend going to the Village Green Market if you were there on a Sunday. Try the lobster ice cream at Ben & Bill’s – you’ll love it or hate it, but either way, its an experience! I’ve bought souvenirs for friends and family here – the plush lobster toys are cute, squash up pretty small and are light, and not expensive, gifts for children, and hoodie fans will be spoiled for choice.
I’ve strolled along the shore walk several times, and always enjoy the rugged coastline and the smell of seaweed along there, and just getting out into nature so easily away from the ship.
The tours I’ve been on are:
Acadia National Park – Several times, and you learn a lot about the history and nature of the area. The local hop on hop off bus takes you around the area for free too, though without all the commentary.
Kayaking in Frenchman Bay – This was really memorable, and you can do this tour through the ship or on your own. You get up close to the Porcupine Islands where families of bald eagles nest, so it is possible to get a really good view of them, and maybe even a curious sea otter or dolphin near your kayak.
I’ve also eaten probably more than my fair share of lobster here. If you escort a tour that includes a lobster bake, you can try it for free, or you can try a lobster roll for pretty cheap ($14 last time I was there) at Downeast Deli, or go for the whole haul of lobster lunch at Geddy’s for $35 including whole lobster, corn on the cob, clam chowder and blueberry pie.
My Most Memorable Moment
For me, Bar Harbor is all about the lobster. I had some of my first lobster here, and learning the joys of cracking open the shell, and getting my fingers covered in lobster juice to find the best of the tasty tender meat, then dipping it in butter until it is dripping off it all over my fingers, is a feeling I lovingly associate with this lovely little town.
My other most memorable moment was being out on a kayak way out in Frenchman Bay, on the far side of one of the Porcupine Islands, when I heard the loud unmistakable caw of an Eagle. I then looked up and saw the giant nest, that looked large enough for a human to sit comfortably in, and watch an American Bald Eagle nestle in to it, with a sizable fish in her mouth, bringing home the dinner to her chicks. There was a feeling of serenity being out on the still water right on the water’s surface, with nothing but the thin plastic casing of my one person vessel separating me from the frigid waters. Being one of the few humans to see this mother taking care of her babies, from this close vantage point made me smile from ear to ear.