About Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor is the largest town on Mount Desert Island (MDI) in Hancock County, Maine with approximately 5,500 year round residents. Nearby Acadia National Park spans some 50 square miles.
Voted America’s favorite Place in 2014 by ABC’s Good Morning America, MDI encapsulates Maine's rocky shorelines with majestic forests, awe-inspiring mountains, traditional fishing villages, and coastal towns. Anchored by the vibrant and artistic community of Bar Harbor, the area's cultural, lodging, shopping, dining, and outdoor and water based activities offer all the amenities a modern traveller could want.
Come summertime, more than 3 million tourists travel to MDI's idyllic shores — including Martha Stewart and members of the Rockefeller family.
Originally incorporated as the Town of Eden, the town’s name was changed to Bar Harbor in 1918. During the 1850s, the number of visitors began to increase, and while it was mostly artists, scholars, scientists, and writers who journeyed to Bar Harbor, more and more came to the picturesque community after the Civil War.
Maine is a Wabanaki Place
The Wabanaki are a confederacy of tribes that include the Abenaki, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Nations. The Wabanaki have been here, in their homeland, for thousands of generations. This includes Pesamkuk, this place we now call Mount Desert Island and Frenchman Bay.
In what is known as the encampment period, from about 1840 to 1920, Wabanaki lived like the other residents of Maine, speaking English but retaining cultural values, language, and limited privileges. Artists and craftsmen would travel to tourist areas, like Bar Harbor, in the summer to sell baskets and other items to supplement their income. They offered guiding and other services, as well as performances of traditional music and dance. The purchasers were the seasonal residents known as “rusticators” – people like the Abbe Museum's founder, Dr. Abbe, who were drawn to the natural beauty of the area.
These summer encampments were both the tribal members’ homes and retail outlets. And bringing people together helped to sustain Native culture and community. When the encampment period ended, Wabanaki became largely invisible to non-Native Maine, but they continued to live in their communities, sustaining their cultures.
May on Mount Desert Island
May is considered "pre-season" along most of Maine's coastline, including Bar Harbor. Regardless, the majority of shops, restaurants, and accommodations will be open. And, since the day-time temperature in May ranges from 47-60 degrees, the cooler temps make it ideal for hiking, trout fishing, bird watching, and exploring the towns.
Acadia National Park will be open, as will the campgrounds. The Park offers many outdoor activities that are easily accessible. Travel to (you can hike or drive) the top of Cadillac Mountain or Wapuwoc, the “white mountain of the first light,” and be the first to see the sunrise. Or, take a walk along the Bar toward Bar Island and see one of the areas that mark a location of the Indian encampments during the Rusticator Period. And learn why Bar Harbor was then known as Moneskatik, “the Clam Digging Place,” reflecting the seasonal use of resources by Wabanaki hunter-gatherers.
Driving - From Boston (268 miles), follow Interstate I-95 through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and to Bangor, Maine (exit 182A - I395) and pick up Route 1A to Ellsworth. Follow Route 3 to Bar Harbor. Another route is I-95 to Augusta (exit 113), take Route 3 to Belfast over to Route 1 to Ellsworth, then back to Route 3 into Bar Harbor.*
Rental cars are available at all regional airports, local taxi services are available from all airports and bus stations. Additional travel details can be found on the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce website.
Other things to check out on your trip!