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A Photographer’s Guide to Seeing the Best of Bar Harbor

Since both our Bar Harbor Opal properties – West Street Hotel and Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina – are open for the season we figured it’d be a good time to tap Maine-native and photography-guru, Greg Hartford, to offer up some of his favorite places to wile away a day in this classic seaside Maine town and the neighboring Acadia National Park.

Raised in the small town of Dexter, roughly an hour northwest of Bangor, Maine, Greg Hartford and his family spent regular summer vacations on Mount Desert Island. It was during those trips – spent gorging on fresh lobster from one of the many lobster pots in Trenton and exploring tidepools barefoot in Acadia National Park – that he developed a deep fondness for MDI (as the locals refer to the island) that would call him back years later.  As an adult, he spent 15 years in Florida, teaching photography and working corporate gigs (his background is in painting and photography), but something was missing. “Acadia is a place that calls upon those with a depth of soulfulness and spirit,” he says. “I always longed to return.”

And so he did, photographing every crevice of his long-beloved island. Eventually, it led to him creating Acadia Magic, a site he curates that shows off his impressive portfolio of photographs and acts as a guide to pretty much everything you could ever know about MDI. It also led to his 2009 book, Best of Bar Harbor, which features his images of the town. So, as someone who has spent the last couple decades photographing, writing about, and documenting MDI, what are his tried-and-true favorite attractions?

Bar Island

“This small island is a short distance off-shore from the public pier but is accessible at low-tide due to a sandbar. It’s actually a part of Gouldsboro on the Schoodic Peninsula [located four miles east, as the crow flies, from Bar Harbor], but most people think it to be a part of Bar Harbor. From it, it offers a great view of Bar Harbor with Champlain and Cadillac Mountains behind it. If making the short walk over to it, just always know when the tide is expected to come in again! You don’t want to get stuck over there.”

Park Loop Road

“Everyone knows this main travel road through the Acadia National Park, especially where it travels along the eastern coast of Mount Desert Island, passing right next to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliff. But there is a section that runs through the interior of the island that is beautiful too – and often overlooked. It runs along three different lakes and the greenery is so thick and lush, you can forget that you’re just minutes away from town.”

Carriage Roads

“There are all kinds of ways to experience these car-free roads: walk, hike, jog, bike, ride a horse, or take a horse-drawn carriage. They are so peaceful and weave all through the park. You could spend an entire summer exploring them. They’ll take you to less crowded areas along the lakes as well as the many bridges and waterfalls that you’ll find right on the trails. They are also really accessible to everyone.”

Eagle Lake

“A gorgeous lake that also has a carriage road around it, Eagle Lake is the largest freshwater lake on MDI. If you like to walk, ride a bike, or paddle, this is the place to do it. The Free Island Explorer Shuttle Bus stops and picks up here, too. It’s also a great place to visit in the mornings before the wind picks up to get shots of the mountains reflected in the water.”

Where to Stay Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina | West Street Hotel

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