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Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor Travel Guide

flights to Bar Harbor

In the 1840's and 50's the sea brought several visitors who inadvertently changed the fortunes of Bar Harbor. Amongst them were the Hudson River Valley School artist, Thomas Cole and artist Frederic Church. Their artistic interpretations of local seascapes and mountains popularised the area when they started exhibiting their paintings, arousing the interest of wealthy local patrons. Many other artists including Fitz Hugh Lane and William Hart built their reputations in Bar Harbor during these pioneering days of tourist art.

By 1855 Bar Harbor had its first hotel, the Agamont, built by local entrepreneur Tobias Roberts, opening the doors to large scale tourism. By the end of the 1860's the wealthier residents of Boston had discovered Bar Harbor and began building summer cottages in the town. By 1870 the town had 16 hotels including, by the standards of the day, the monolithic Rodick House, able to accommodate 275 guests. Bar Harbor suffered a devastating fire in 1947 and many of the hotels and summer cottages were destroyed, although a good number still remain today, usually in the guise of inns, B&B's and tourist stores. Fortunately the rebuilding of the town was carried out in a manner architecturally sympathetic to the landscape, and today Bar Harbor has lost none of its old world charm.

Bar Harbor is no longer the exclusive summer playground of the wealthy; the town now has a stable residential population engaged in occupations ranging from fishing to tourism. Bar Harbor is also a cultural and educational centre, where visitors can learn about, and explore, the trails and mountains of Acadia National Park. The town is also a great base from which to explore the natural wonders of Downeast Maine. Such famous attractions as Campobello Island, Franklin Roosevelt's summer home, the Schoodic Peninsula and the mainland part of Acadia National Park are only a short distance away.

Surrounded on three sides by Acadia National Park and on the other by the Atlantic Ocean, Bar Harbor is well equipped to cope with the demands and opportunities this incredible environment offers. There are numerous outfitters, guides, marine suppliers and instructors whose daily life is committed to helping residents and visitors alike make the most of this incredible area. Acadia maintains over 50 miles of carriage roads for walking, riding, biking, and skiing, and over one hundred miles of trails for hikers. The lakes, rivers, and oceans provide endless possibilities for those interested in boats, kayaks, canoes or just a gentle days fishing.

If you are planning to visit in the winter the summer carriage trails make for excellent cross-country skiing, the Park loop road is a popular spot for snowmobilers, when the trails under their coating snow take on a whole new aspect. There are plenty of ice climbing routes and the trails range from the simple to the truly wild. Don't forget though to take the correct precautions, keep an eye on the weather, pay attention to the wisdom of the rangers, your life and that of others may depend on it.

Downtown Bar Harbor has four major streets, and an assortment of side streets, alleys, squares, and places running between them. The first street from Route 3, West Street, showcases some of the fine mansions that made Bar Harbor the queen of the east coast at the turn of the century. At the foot of West Street is the working waterfront, where fishing boats, schooners, yachts and excursion boats go about their daily business, you may even see the occasional cruise ship anchored just off the harbour.

Bar Harbor also marks the beginning of the Shore Path, which leads to the front lawns of some of Bar Harbor's biggest "cottages", Up the hill from the town pier, lies Main Street with its stores, restaurants, and open spaces to sit and reflect. Cottage Street is the place to go to rent bikes, canoes, kayaks, and skis. This is also the place to sign up for a whale watching excursions and guided trips on the water or into the mountains, or just to look over all the latest in sporting equipment.
Within a short drive or boat ride of the town there are excellent private and public golf courses. and dozens of clear-water rivers and lakes holding trophy sized trout and salmon. Hunting for deer, moose, bear, and wild turkey in the area is excellent
The town's summer time heart is around the Village Green. In the summer the Green is the venue for biweekly concert series, art shows, and other cultural events. On the other side of the green lies Mount Desert Street, a national historic district filled with old houses reflecting the early history and heritage of Bar Harbor. A number of these homes now serve as luxurious inns. There is also an impressive trio of churches: Saint Saviour's with its stained glass windows, the Congregational with its classic New England lines, and Holy Redeemer with it's imposing stone architecture.

For the culturally and cerebrally inclined, Bar Harbor offers two respected music festivals each year offering everything from string orchestras and chamber music, to jazz and the Blues. Local bars and clubs host a range of bands and solo artists that complete the musical mix. Movies take on an extra dimension at Bar Harbor's beautiful art-deco movie theatre, and the range of Bar Harbor's museums doe's great cultural justice to such a small sized town.

Food also plays an important role in Bar Harbor's life, not just in the eating, but also in the production and harvesting of it. Maine shellfish is renowned the world over. The true gastronome will delight in the wide array of restaurants, and the only possible frustration will be choice. Whether it's lobster, seafood, pasta, or a hearty breakfast, Bar Harbor will serve it, fresh and plentiful portions. You will also find restaurants catering for the health conscious, families and those looking for something exotic in the town's ethnic restaurants.

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