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Bar Harbor Maine Port Guide

Bar Harbor is located on Mount Desert Island, a large island off the coast of Maine. Cruises to Bar Harbor pull into port near the central part of town. It’s a popular port of call for travelers on a Canada and New England cruise due to the attractions in Bar Harbor’s charming downtown area and its close proximity to Acadia National Park. Bar Harbor is often called the Gateway to Acadia National Park and a Bar Harbor, Maine cruise port of call provides many opportunities to explore that natural wonder.  

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Top Sights & Attractions for Cruises to Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is mostly located on Mount Desert Island and is home to the highest rocky headlands and mountain (Cadillac Mountain) along the east coast of the United States. Its sprawling beauty covers 47,000 acres and it is filled with towering trees and wildlife. Cruises to Bar Harbor provide a jumping off point for getting to Acadia National Park and a day spent there can be spent hiking on one of its 158 miles of trails (including ones to the top of Cadillac Mountain), or being driven along one of the park’s carriage roads, which are accented by 16 stone bridges. In addition to the natural beauty, you may see bears, moose, whales, and a variety of birds and other woodland creatures while making your way through Acadia National Park.

Thunder Hole

Located in Acadia National Park, Thunder Hole is a highlight of the park for many visitors – particularly if you love wave watching. Thunder Hole is a small cavern that is located on a rocky inlet. When a large wave come in, it’s forced out of that cavern like a loud clap of thunder and forms a water spout that goes high into the air, making for an exciting sight to see.

Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond is a gorgeous glacier-formed lake with strikingly clear water. Motor boats and swimming are not allowed, but you can kayak or canoe on the pond, and cruisers to Bar Harbor who are looking for a more adventurous way to spend the day may enjoy heading to Jordan Pond for some paddling.

 

Looking out over Jordan Pond is another popular tourist spot: the aptly named Jordan Pond House. It is a historic restaurant that has been in operation since 1890 (though the original building burned down in 1979). The thing to order here is tea with popovers, and afternoon tea on the lawn is an idyllic way to spend a summer afternoon while in Bar Harbor.

Whale Watching

Bar Harbor is located on the Gulf of Maine, which is home to a variety of whales. Depending on the time of year, you can see humpback, finback, and minke whales migrating through the waters of the Atlantic. A whale watching shore excursion will take you out to sea to search for the giant mammals and gets you up close to them so you can see the whales spout, breach, and more. On a whale watching shore excursion out of Bar Harbor, you also may see eagles, dolphins, porpoises, and possibly even puffins.

Lobster Boat Experience

Maine is famous for its lobster and you can learn more about how lobster is caught on a shore excursion that takes you onto a lobster boat for a demonstration of how lobster traps work. You’ll also learn more about the lobster fishing season in Maine and become educated on the Maine lobster itself. During your lobster boat ride you may spot other wildlife like bald eagles plus see some of the gorgeous views along the coastline of Mount Desert Island, including Egg Rock Light.

Great Cranberry Island

Great Cranberry Island is the largest of the five islands that make up the unique town of Cranberry Isles, Maine. You won’t find too much in terms of businesses and buildings on Great Cranberry Island, but you will find an idyllic slice of small-town island life with a tiny population mostly consisting of fishermen. You’ll also find peaceful nature to walk in, featuring forested shoreline and colorful wildflowers.  

Asticou Azalea Garden

Learn more about the plants and flowers of Maine at Asticou Azalea Garden. Located in Northeast Harbor, Maine, it is a popular excursion for visitors who have a Bar Harbor, Maine cruise port of call. The garden was started by a local of the area in 1956. It has a 2.3-acre garden and picturesque pond. The lovely rhododendrons and azaleas are popular flowers to see during a stroll through the gardens.

Village Green

Located on the location of the old Grand Central Hotel, Village Green was created after the hotel was torn down in 1899 in order to give Bar Harbor some public open space. The beautiful park like space is home to one of Bar Harbor’s most famous landmarks: a cast iron clock that has stood in Village Green since 1905.

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Top Things to Do in Bar Harbor

Shore Path

A beautiful way to spend some time in the Bar Harbor, Maine cruise port is to walk along a half-mile trail called Shore Path. The trail has been there since 1880 and provides people ambling down it with picturesque views of the sea and Porcupine Islands. Shore Path begins at Agamond Park, which is its own popular attraction in Bar Harbor for its grassy slope that leads to a panoramic harbor view.

Mount Desert Island Oceanarium

This isn’t your typical aquarium experience since the Mount Desert Island Oceanarium mostly features local animals from the surrounding Atlantic Ocean. A highlight is to see baby lobsters in the Oceanarium’s lobster hatchery and learn more about the sea creature in the adjacent Maine Lobster Museum, where you can also learn more about the life of a lobster fisherman.

George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History

If you’re interested in learning more about the outside world of Maine and its wild nature, head to the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History in Bar Harbor. It has a number of interactive and hands-on exhibits that let visitors use all their sense to learn more about the flora and fauna of Maine.

Abbe Museum

Learn more about the native people of Maine, the Wabanaki tribe, while at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor. You can see a collection of artifacts made by the Wabanaki tribe, some of which date back to prehistoric times.

Top Food and Drink Spots Near the Bar Harbor Cruise Port

You can find cuisine from all around the world in Bar Harbor, but its claim to fame that you can’t miss trying is located right off its shores: Maine Lobster. It’s a local delicacy and eating it is a thing to do on a Bar Harbor, Maine, cruise that even your taste buds will appreciate. Dine on decadent lobster rolls or enjoy perfectly steamed lobster claws dipped in butter. You can even get lobster flavored ice cream at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium located in Bar Harbor! Besides lobster, Bar Harbor has many other fresh seafood caught in its water that you can try in town, including oysters, shrimp, scallops, flounder, and other fish depending on the season.  

Culture & History of the Bar Harbor Cruise Port

The first known people to utilize the shores of Bar Harbor were the Wabanaki tribe, who would visit the area seasonally for fishing, clam harvesting, and to pick berries.

The area became known to the Europe in 1604 when French explorer Samuel de Champlain discovered it after damaging his boat on a nearby rock ledge. The community wasn’t settled by Europeans, though, until 1763 when English businessmen arrived and set up fishing, lumbering, and shipbuilding industries in Bar Harbor (known at the time as Eden after one of America’s earliest settlers, Sir Richard Eden).

In the 1800s the beauty of Bar Harbor began to attract the rich and famous from the mainland, who would build summer homes in Bar Harbor (the Rockefellers, Astors, and J.P. Morgan all had homes in the area), or would spend summer vacations in the town. After a devastating fire destroyed much of the town in 1947, tourism was hurt. The town eventually rebuilt and today it has a population of around 5,200 and is a popular tourist destination in Maine.

In addition to tourism, there is a large fishing industry in Bar Harbor and it is also home to the College of the Atlantic, Jackson Laboratory, and MDI Biological Laboratory. It is still frequented by prominent people, including the CEO of Burt’s Bees, who has a home on Mount Desert Island near Bar Harbor.  

Bar Harbor Port Facilities & Location

The Bar Harbor, Maine cruise port is a tender port of call, meaning cruise ships anchor a short distance off shore and passengers are ferried to the port terminal in smaller tender boats. The tender ride takes about 15 minutes. The main part of town is within walking distance of the Town Pier where passengers are dropped off by the tender boat. There is an information center at the Town Pier.

Transportation in Bar Harbor

Very few taxis are available in Bar Harbor. Luckily for travelers on a Bar Harbor, Maine cruise port of call, most attractions in the city are located within walking distance. For destinations outside the city, there’s the Island Explorer, which has eight bus routes that go to various locations around Acadia National Park. Shore excursions are also a convenient and fun way to get around the area while in port.  

Shopping Near the Bar Harbor Cruise Port

Bar Harbor has many tourist shops and independently owned boutiques located near the harbor in the downtown area, with most located along Main Street and its adjacent side streets. For a souvenir unique to Maine, look for jewelry with a “watermelon” tourmaline stone, which is a special type of pink and green tourmaline that is mined in Maine. Other stores in Bar Harbor that are popular with souvenir seekers are the art galleries, antique shops, and craft stores located in the city. 

Local Currency & Tipping Customs

The U.S. dollar is the accepted currency in Bar Harbor and the rest of Maine. Many ATMs are located within walking distance of the harbor. If you need to get cash right away after disembarking from one of the cruises to Bar Harbor, Maine, head to Bar Harbor Bank and Trust on Main Street that has an ATM as well as a currency exchange inside.

You can use credit cards at most places of business in Bar Harbor and surrounding areas, even if purchasing something that is just a few dollars. When in doubt, though, it’s good to double check accepted payment for a transaction if you aren’t able to pay in cash.  

Tipping in Maine and all of the United States is prevalent and expected. For restaurants, taxis, and most other services, a tip of 15% to 20% of the total bill is customary.

 

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The list of residents inhabiting this part of Mount Desert Island once read like a who's who of America's richest citizens - Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Carnegie, to name a few. Now anyone can come and visit the adjacent Acadia National Park, which offers a network of hiking trails leading to some of the region's most breathtaking views of the Atlantic.


Tip from Travel + Leisure

 

Looking Glass Restaurant

You can’t leave Bar Harbor without a helping or two of lobster. Try it three ways—traditional, with garlic and herb butter, or in mac n’ cheese—at the Looking Glass Restaurant, which has a large wooden deck with water views.

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