Introducing Bar Harbor
In 1844 landscape painters Thomas Cole and Frederick Church came to Mount Desert and liked what they saw. They sketched the rugged landscape and later returned with their art students. Naturally enough, the wealthy families who purchased their paintings asked Cole and Church about the beautiful land depicted in their paintings, and soon the families began to spend summers on Mount Desert. By the end of the 19th century, Bar Harbor rivaled Newport, RI, as the eastern seaboard's most desirable summer resort.
WWII damaged the tourist trade, but worse damage was to come. In 1947 a forest fire torched 17,000 acres of parkland, along with 60 palatial summer cottages, putting an end to Bar Harbor's Gilded Age. But the town recovered as a destination for the new mobile middle-class of the postwar years.
Today, Bar Harbor is crowded for most of the year with vacationers and cruise-ship passengers on shore visits. The busy downtown is packed with souvenir stores, ice-cream shops, cafes and bars, each advertising bigger and better happy hours, early-bird specials or two-for-one deals. On the quieter residential backstreets, most blocks seem to have almost as many B&Bs as private homes.
Although Bar Harbor's hustle and bustle is not for everybody, it has by far the most amenities of any town in the region. Even if you stay somewhere else, you'll probably wind up here to eat dinner, grab a drink, or schedule a kayaking, sailing or rock-climbing tour.
Bar Harbor's busiest season is late June through August. There's a short lull just after Labor Day (early September), but then it gets busy again from foliage season which lasts through mid-October.