Acadia: Bar Harbor & Bar Island Trail

Acadia: Bar Harbor & Bar Island Trail

What’s the first thing you do after flying to Bangor, renting a car, driving to Bar Harbor, and then checking into your hotel? For us the answer was obvious: Take a hike on Bar Island, then explore Bar Harbor in search of great food. We visited Bar Harbor numerous times over the course of our trip; this post catalogs our adventures there.

Bar Island Trail

Bar Island, north of Bar Harbor, is part of Acadia National Park. If you find Bridge Street in downtown Bar Harbor, then head north, you’ll make your way to the edge of the ocean and see the island about a third of a mile away. And if you come when it’s low tide… you can walk across to the island!

Acadia: View of Sandbar at Low Tide
Sandbar looking toward Bar Island; during high tide this is all underwater

I used a tidepools app on my phone to tell when we could cross the sandbar, and there are charts posted in Bar Harbor and online.  Luckily, it was low tide when we got to Bar Harbor, and after a quick calculation, we determined that we had enough time to walk to the island, and return before the tide came in. We were anxious to explore Bar Harbor, but the short hike on Bar Island came first.

The trail starts at the end of Bridge Street, and crosses the sandbar. We wandered around the bar, leisurely crossing while snapping photos and examining everything. Seaweed was everywhere, and we found little crabs and other critters in the tide pools. See what you can find as you explore! Some people drive over the bar, so watch out for cars. I recommend walking, it’s part of the experience.

Bar Island Hidden Crab
Look closely to find the crab (Hint: He’s in the middle!)
Acadia: Rock on Sandbar
The sandbar is a habitat for many different types of wildlife

After walking across the bar, we got to the beach on Bar Island. There’s a trail that continues onto the island and goes up a gradual incline. Along the trail we saw some gorgeous purple lupine that was begging to be photographed. Eventually, we reached a fork in the path. We didn’t explore the area to the right, but it goes to the site of the former home of Journalist Jack Perkins who sold the property (and about half of the island) to the NPS in 2003.  We turned left to continue to the summit. At the top was a rock cairn (which K climbed), and a great view of Bar Harbor. That’s pretty much the end of the trail, so we headed back the way we came. As we crossed the sandbar, we noticed that the water had receded even further.

Acadia: Lupine Field on Bar Island
Field of Lupine on Bar Island
Acadia: View from Bar Island
View of Bar Harbor from Bar Island summit

We definitely recommend this trail; it’s a great introduction to the park. And it’s an easy trail, good for families with young kids, who would probably love exploring the tide pools as much as we did. Later in our trip, we went back during high tide, and looked across the water to the island. It was great to reminiscence about going across, and seeing the difference when the tide was high.

Acadia: Bar Island at High Tide
Bar Island at high tide. You can barely recognize it!

Bar Island | 1.7 miles out and back | Easy
Elevation Change: 165 feet
Parking: The trail is accessed from the northern end of Bridge Street. Plenty of parking, e.g. along West Street (Google Maps Directions)
Trail Directions: Ensure that it’s low tide, then continue from Bridge Street onto the sandbar.  Continue about 0.3 miles along the bar until you reach Bar Island.  Once there, you’ll see a trail that continues inland.  This trail will go for about 0.3 miles, and then you’ll come to a fork in the path.  Take the left fork for 0.2 miles to the summit for good views of Bar Harbor.  Go back the way you came to return to Bar Harbor.
Highlights: Walking along tidepools, views from island, good for kids (easy hike, wildlife habitat)
Notes: Only accessible 1.5 hours before and after low tide, so plan ahead and make sure you give yourself enough time to explore and get back safely.

 

References:
Bar Island Wikipedia
Bar Island Trail Map PDF
Tide Chart of Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor

We really enjoyed Bar Harbor. It’s totally laid back, and has a ton of restaurants and shops. And of course, it has beautiful views since it’s located right on the water. There’s so much to write about Bar Harbor, but we’ll focus primarily on the restaurants we visited. Make sure you explore, grab some good food and drinks, and just relax after hitting the trail for the day. If you’re in need of any outdoor gear, make sure to stop by Cadillac Mountain Sports too – we stopped here several times to restock on a energy bars, canister fuel, etc. while in the area.

K also found a few shops she liked – she tried on some dresses at It’s a ME Thing and Patrick’s By the Sea, and Fair Trade Winds had soaps, trinkets, and other gift items that she enjoyed checking out.

Acadia: Dresses at Patrick's by the Sea in Bar Harbor
Unique dresses at Patrick’s by the Sea

Lodging

Quality Inn, Bar Harbor
40 Kebo St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609

We also want to mention the first hotel we stayed in. We stayed in a room with two queen beds, in a “cabin” of sorts rather than the main building. It was simple, affordable, and cozy, with friendly service. And one of the best hotel breakfasts we’ve had, with many options, including fresh seasonal Maine blueberries. It was very quiet, but just a short walk away from downtown Bar Harbor. We highly recommend it, and plan to stay here for more than one night when we visit Acadia again.

Restaurants

Mainely Meat & Atlantic Brewing
15 Knox Rd, Bar Harbor, ME 04609

This BBQ and Brewery is located outside of downtown Bar Harbor, but is definitely worth a visit.  It’s the only craft brewery on MDI, and they have great beer. Atlantic Brewing has another location in downtown Bar Harbor, but we didn’t want to miss the BBQ which the downtown location lacks.  Most restaurants in town will at least have one Atlantic Brewing beer on tap (hopefully more!).

When you visit this brewery, you’ll get a free tasting of a selection of beers. Blueberry Ale, Coal Porter, and Ellen’s Coffee Stout were my favorites. I really wish I had been able to try out all of the beers (someday, Island Ginger…). So make sure you grab a pint or two when in Bar Harbor. There’s also a small gift shop at the brewery, where I bought an Atlantic Brewing pint glass for my collection of breweries near National Parks.

Acadia: Tasting at Atlantic Brewing
Tasting at Atlantic Brewing

Beer goes great with food, so it’s natural that they’d have a BBQ joint on-site for their Knox Road location (the downtown Bar Harbor one does not). We sat outdoors, in a super casual setting. The waitstaff was friendly and helpful, and the BBQ was very good! I got a sampler plate, with pulled pork, ribs, chicken, sausage, and all sides (BBQ beans, slaw, and potato salad). Washed down with a Blueberry Ale. K got a full plate of ribs, which were tender and flavorful, and also came with all 3 sides. The ribs were definitely the star of the show, though I liked the pulled pork too.

Acadia: Playground at Atlantic Brewing
Every brewery needs a playground

Sidestreet Café
49 Rodick St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609

We visited this restaurant on our first night in Bar Harbor. And it was pretty good – solid American-style food and drinks and decent service. Only problem was I ordered an Atlantic Brewing Blueberry Ale here, and got a different beer. I thought something was off when the beer seemed too hoppy for a fruit ale. Another clue was when the guy next to me got a beer with blueberries in the bottom, which was a nice touch.  The waitress was very apologetic, and she brought me a sample since I didn’t feel like drinking a second pint.

Acadia: Sidestreet Cafe in Bar Harbor
Sidestreet Cafe

Finback Alehouse
30 Cottage St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609

We really liked Finback. It was an impromptu decision, between Finback and the Thirsty Whale (which we regret we didn’t go to). Finback has a diverse selection of food and a great variety of drinks. I ended up with a Finback Local Pulled Pork sandwich which was amazing, while K had Island Fish Tacos. K thought the fish tacos were very good, but not quite as good as the fish tacos that she got in Stonington at Fisherman’s Friend. We were really impressed by the service too – the waitress made a phone call to double-check the ingredients (K is allergic to milk) and brought K the blueberry pie she had been craving.

Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast
15 Cottage St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609

There are quite a few breakfast places in Bar Harbor, so we had to check out at least one. And Jeannie’s was the pick, mainly because they had vegan friendly options for K. We were starving when we got here, since we had just gone on a kayaking trip. The food? It was good, I got blueberry pancakes and K got some vegan pancakes that were covered with pecans. This added a lot of texture and I think the vegan pancakes may have been even better than the regular ones. They had an amazingly good strawberry rhubarb jam on the table; we went through most of the jar during our breakfast. The only downside to this place was the service. Actually, it was our waitress that was not the best. The hostess and other waiters/waitresses seemed fine (and even brought us water when we ran out…), but ours just didn’t seem to have a care in the world about us.

Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream
325 Main Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609
7 Firefly Lane, Bar Harbor, ME 04609

I really wanted to like this place, but it was just okay. We had read reviews indicating that it was amazing, but in the end we were both let down. My peanut butter ice cream was good, but K’s strawberry sorbet was mediocre. It was icy and the flavor didn’t stand out. There are two locations in Bar Harbor, and they do have very interesting flavors that you don’t normally see, so you could check it out just for that.

CJ’s Big Dipper Ice Cream
150 Main St #1, Bar Harbor, ME 04609

We kind of stumbled onto this place while walking around. A sign out front proclaimed that they had dairy-free soy ice cream – which was a win for K. The service was a bit odd, they try to rush everyone along to make a decision and weren’t super friendly. And they wouldn’t let K get more than one flavor in the small size, which again, was odd. But the ice cream was delicious, including the soy version, so if you’re okay with some less-than-great service and/or have a dairy allergy, this is a good place to go.

Acadia: CJ's Big Dipper in Bar Harbor
CJ’s Big Dipper in Bar Harbor

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