Bar Harbor on Mt. Desert Island

Acadia - BAR HARBOR, Maine - For those who want to own a piece of Maine's best scenery, Bar Harbor real estate and Bar Harbor Maine property near Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island should be at the top of their "must-see" list. 

While there are several other picturesque villages on Mt. Desert Island, including Southwest Harbor, Tremont and Northwest Harbor, most folks begin their real estate search in this area with an overview of Bar Harbor ME real estate offerings. The most recent census lists the population of Bar Harbor at 4,820, a number can swell more than tenfold during summer months.

Acadia National Park, the only national park in New England, is the biggest draw for tourists today in the Bar Harbor region. The park makes up over 30,000 acres of the island (including two smaller islands just off the coast of Mt. Desert Island that offer an additional 17,000 acres) and is known most for Cadillac Mountain, believed to be the first spot in the United States where the sunrise is visible. The Rockefeller family, which vacationed regularly on the island, was largely instrumental for creating the park, and restoring it following the 1947 fire. Future vice-president Nelson Rockefeller was born at Bar Harbor.

A nirvana for outdoor enthusiasts, popular recreation within the park includes hiking, bicycling, swimming, kayaking, bird watching and fishing.

While the gray wolf and mountain lion have vanished from the park (and state) over 40 major species still live in Acadia National Park including moose, porcupine, beaver, beaver and black bear. More than 270 species of bird, including the bald eagle and chickadee have been spotted in the Park.

Hull's Cove Visitor Center is usually the first destination for the more than 3 million tourists that visit the park each year, although there are many entrances onto park grounds. Since most visitors spend more than a day at the park, passes are mainly sold in 7-day increments, ranging from $20 for a vehicle during peak season to $5 for an individual.

While a guided tour is a great way to see the park, there's nothing like getting out on your own to discover the wonder and the beauty that is Acadia National Park. While there, make sure you don't miss the following:

• The Carriage Roads: Explore the 51 miles of gravel pathways and granite bridges created by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. for horse-drawn carriages. Always closed to motorized vehicles, the carriage trails are enjoyed by walkers, hikers, bicyclers, cross country skiers and snowshoeing enthusiasts.

• The Park Loop Road : A 27-mile scenic ride along the eastern portion of Mt. Desert Island offers access to most of the well-known park sites.

• Thunder Hole: A thunderous sound is made in this natural wonder during each high tide. As water rushes into the narrow granite channel, it effectively traps the air. When the air escapes, 'thunder' follows.

• Jordan Pond: Formed by a glacier, the pond's pristine clear water reflects the surrounding mountains. While visiting at the pond, stop by the Jordan Pond House Restaurant and sample its famous popovers.

• Wildwood Stables: The stable offers horse -drawn carriage rides – a refreshing and unique way to experience the park.

• Schoodic Peninsula: Described as "one of the last frontiers on the eastern seaboard," the peninsula is located a few miles away from the main park, but features working lobstering and clamming areas, blueberry barrens and timberland, with mountain vistas, islands, and lighthouses. Many think it's the most beautiful and rugged section of the national park.

For those who wish to take a break from nature, Bar Harbor offers a wealth of cultural opportunities considering its size.

The Abbe Museum, situated in downtown Bar Harbor, celebrates the history of Maine's Native American tribes. While the museum is open only by appointment during winter months, but is open daily late-May through mid-November from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults and $2 for children under 15 years old.

Admission is free to the Bar Harbor Historical Society Museum, open June through October, and by appointment during winter months. The museum takes an in-depth look into Bar Harbor's history, including an extensive display of scrapbooks and photographs about the 1947 fire.

The Bar Harbor Whale Museum, also boasting free admission and a June through October schedule, is Maine's only museum dedicated to the study and understanding of whales and seals native to the Gulf of Maine. Should the museum inspire you to do so, there are many commercial opportunities to take a whale watching tour while visiting Bar Harbor.

The George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History is located on the campus of the College of the Atlantic. It is open mid-June through Labor Day. The mission of the museum is to investigate, interpret and display the natural world of Maine. Children, allowed into the museum for only $1, will enjoy the dioramas of native wildlife and the indoor living tide pool. Adult admission is $3.50

Bar Harbor also offers wide variety of shopping, from traditional tourist souvenirs to upper-crust fare. The town also has its fair share of restaurants, with seafood appropriately being the theme for most. There is also a small movie theater and playhouse in town.

The previously mentioned College of the Atlantic runs all aspects of the Dorr Museum. The school, with just under 300 students and 40 full- and part-time professors, offers Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Philosophy degrees. In a recent national survey of college nationwide, the College of Atlantic was named in the top 10 percent in nearly ever category the survey examined. 

Two of Maine's most esteemed laboratories, the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) and the Jackson Laboratory call Bar Harbor home. MDIBL, founded, in 1898 performs research and experimentation in such areas as marine biomedicine, marine molecular biology and environmental toxicology. Jackson Library focuses more on human research, focusing on dozens of disciplines including many aspects of genetics and nerve-related study. More than 50 scientists are on the lab's research staff.

The Astor, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families may no longer relive the pages of "The Great Gatsby" on a nightly basis in Bar Harbor, but the town has attracted such notable celebrities as Martha Stewart, Katharine Hepburn and Julia Child over the last 20 years.

Residence in Bar Harbor is attainable for most as the average income for a person in the town was just over $24,000 according to latest census data. Forty-five percent of the population is made up of families, with less than 5 percent under the poverty line.

Bar Harbor is easy to get to through various means. A little more than three hours north of Portland, vehicles simply make their way through the City of Ellsworth on Route 3. A major airport, Bangor International, is less than an hour to the west and locally, the smaller Hancock County-Bar Harbor airport that features a couple of major carriers during peak season. Cruise ships regularly make Bar Harbor a stop.

History of Bar Harbor

Historians are able to trace the origins of Bar Harbor back to the late 1500's and early 1600's with the presence of Abanaki Native Americans. French explorer Samuel de Champlain is believed to be the first white man to set foot at Bar Harbor. He dubbed the island "Isles des Monts Deserts" which translates to "Island of the Barren Mountains."

The town was first settled in 1763 and incorporated 33 years later under the name Eden, after Sir Richard Eden, an English statesman. While almost all resident made their livings in fishing, lumbering, shipbuilding and agriculture over the next 100 years, the arrival of artists in the mid 1800s would signify a fundamental change in the economy that is still seen today.

Journalists, sportsmen and society types were all drawn to the Bar Harbor they saw in paintings from the likes of Frederick Church and Thomas Cole. By 1855, the first hotel in Eden, Agamont House, was built. Within 25 years there were 30 hotels in or around Bar Harbor and it became an alternative to Newport, Rhode Island, as a vacation spot for the rich and famous.

Quickly, such luxurious amenities such as yachting, garden parties and carriage rides were commonplace, as was enjoying a day at the track or on the golf course, rare diversions in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Eden became known as the place in Maine where the wealthy "from away" would come to play during summer months.

Eden was rechristened Bar Harbor in 1918, after Bar Island, which protects the harbor on Frenchmen's Bay.

A fire raged for almost two weeks across the island in 1947 destroying five grand hotels and over 65 homes of the rich. The fire spared the town's business district. While Bar Harbor and Mt. Desert Island remained a favorite spot for the well-to-do after the fire, it never regained the elite status it held with America's richest following the fire.

(Read more about the history of Bar Harbor)

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