Bar Harbor, Maine

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Given an opportunity for a weekend excursion while I was in New England, I gathered my wife at the Boston airport and my daughter in Cambridge for a short little trip.  When you look at a map, Bar Harbor doesn’t seem to be that far from Boston, especially when you had also looked at Portland and juxtapose the two mentally in your mind.  Portland, I now know, I a very nice town, but when I thought of going to a State that I had never visited, Bar Harbor was what came to mind.  Still does.  Only, it was a four hour drive once we were free of the BFG – Boston’s Friday Gridlock.

I don’t recall the last time I concerned myself with a late arrival at a hotel.  The places I stay at on business have reception desks that are staffed around the clock.  After the lengthy haul from Boston, we arrived around 11:30 p.m. to find our room keys in an envelope in a box nailed to the front door of the office.  Well, that’s convenient.  And also very welcome as there was no delay in getting to bed.  Maine apparently traded roadside billboards for toll booths, which were the only distraction on a highway adorned with nothing but the vague outline of trees under a black sky.  Yawn.

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For those looking for travel tips, we stayed at the Best Western, which was several miles from Bar Harbor.  It was rated highly on TripAdvisor.  There were numerous Bed & Breakfasts in Bar Harbor, and my skittishness about staying in what we would term a “motor lodge” in the south was swayed by the price differential.  It’s been 15 years or more since I stayed at a motel where you park in front of your door.  The thing is, in Maine, all those motels appear to be well maintained and occupied by tourists.  I’m more accustomed to seeing them abandoned, run down, and/or with monthly rentals available.  We scored a very nice complimentary breakfast and began our day.  First, of course, was Bar Harbor.

Before reaching the town proper, we parked as we observed that the “land bridge” to Bar Island was available.  For several hours between tides, you can walk from Bar Harbor to Bar Island.  We didn’t really do that.  We ventured far enough to realize that there was really nothing we wanted to see on the island, so appreciated the puddled terrain littered with stones and shells then headed back. 

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Some choose to drive to Bar Island, with tales being told of hiking on the island and finding their vehicle experiencing the tide.  Oops.

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The town itself is a small grid of stores and restaurants, deceptively larger than it at first seems.  It’s not as a fetching picturesque, postcard perfect  waterfront as one might hope.  On the other hand, my limited introduction to Bar Harbor does not really point  towards a fishing or commercial heritage but rather one quickly associated with inspiration for artists and a retreat for the extremely wealthy.  While lobsters seem to be the focus of everyone with eating distance, it was known by its original Wabanaki Indians as the clam-gathering place.  To my observation, it’s a regular insulated place regarding seafood options, essentially lobster and haddock.  Our family, for one, wasn’t attracted by the idea of fresh lobster, which we were probably wise not to mention for offending… everyone.

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Bar Harbor is, technically, on an island.  You cross over a small bridge where some inches of seawater pass underneath, so it’s a separate land mass. *cough*.  The island is named Mount Desert Island, from its European discoverer who regarded it an “island of barren mountains.”  That’s not exactly what I imagined when headed to the rocky coast of the northeastern U.S.  But that’s what it is.

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Here’s a view of Bar Island from a boat, attractive in its way but without seaside wonderment, at least under clouded skies.

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If I visited again, I’d rent bikes in Bar Harbor and ride them through the flatter sections of Acadia National Park, not to mention plan a longer trip for further exploration and kayaking.  It’s a nice place and a worthwhile getaway.

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