Bar Harbor, Maine

Best Places to Retire in Maine


Bar Harbor (population 5,000) is located on the Maine coast, on the east side of Mount Desert Island. It is 46 miles from the city of Bangor. This picturesque coastal village is surrounded by scenic Acadia National Park with granite hills rising more than 1,300 feet, crystal clear lakes, two sandy beaches, more than 50 miles of carriage roads, and 120 miles of hiking trails.

Hancock County consists of more than 40 small towns with a total population of about 50,000. 

Once a summer retreat and playground for “the rich and famous,” Bar Harbor has a long and storied history. Champlain explored this unique island in 1604 with its protected waters, and backdrop of seven or eight bare-topped mountains, which he declared to be “desolate.” The island became known as Mount Desert Island.

It was claimed by the French, then by the British. The British occupied it for short time before the American Revolution. In the 1880s it began to emerge as a glamorous summer destination for the very rich from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Plush accommodations were constructed, both hotels and summer mansion-cottages, and vacationers often brought their own butlers, maids, and chefs for the summer. The Bar Harbor of today is a charming coastal village with lots of activity.

It holds a big Fourth of July celebration with a parade, seafood festival, and fireworks. It also celebrates music with the Bar Harbor Music Festival, and the Arcady Summer Music Festival. The Native American Festival celebrates the cultures of four Maine Native American tribes.

Both Bar Harbor and nearby Northeast Harbor offer extensive shopping. The shopping district in Bar Harbor’s village center has a wide range of shops, including antiques, bookstores, clothing stores, jewelry, crafts, collectibles, boutiques, and art galleries, and more. Beginning in May, visiting cruise ships with from 50 to 2,500 passengers regularly drop anchor in peaceful Bar Harbor. This tourist population helps to support the great number of amenities in the community.

The working harbor offers harbor and nature cruises to view the seals and sea birds, sailing charters, and ocean kayaking. There are whale watching cruises as well. You will discover a good selection of dining choices, including lobster, of course, seafood, pasta, and home-cooked meals. There are restaurants for fine dining, casual elegant dining, local breweries, or older pubs. There is something for almost any taste. Bar Harbor is both interesting and charming, and it has a great deal to offer as a place for retirement.

Arts & Culture

Criterion Theater is a beautiful art deco theater that first opened in 1932. It has hosted many vaudeville performances as well as motion pictures. It now offers live music and theater productions throughout the summer months. Seating capacity is 88 in the balcony and 781 on the main floor. 

The Bar Harbor Historical Society Museum maintains a permanent exhibit of historical materials relating to the town of Bar Harbor. 

Bar Harbor Jazz Festival 

Arcady Summer Music Festival performs in Bar Harbor and at other locations in the region. 

Abbe Museum has assembled a collection of Native American artifacts from the area. It has added exhibits on archaeology of Maine and the history of the Abbe.


There are three fine 18-hole golf courses right on Mount Desert Island:

Northeast Harbor Golf Club (207-276-5335), Bar Harbor Golf Club (207-667-7505), and Kebo Valley Golf Club (207-288-3000), which first opened to the public in 1888, and is the eighth oldest course in America.

Acadia National Park at Bar Harbor is the first national park to be established east of the Mississippi. It consists of more than 47,000 acres with barren-topped granite mountains, woodlands, lakes and ponds. It also has two beaches. The park has more than 40 miles of carriage roads that are well suited for walking, hiking, bicycling, and of course, horse-drawn carriages. In addition, there are 115 miles of hiking trails, some of which offer spectacular views of the ocean.

The park also has 20-mile Park Loop Road with a spur to Cadillac Mountain, which is the highest point on the Atlantic Coast (1,530 feet). Both offer dramatic scenes of the coast. There are ranger-led programs available from May through mid-October.

Other activities (in addition to Acadia National Park) include bicycling, hiking, tennis, sailing, boating, kayaking, whale watching, lobstering, and fishing. Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge (Steuben – 44 miles) on the Petit Manan Peninsula and the more than 25 nearby offshore islands attract great numbers of migrating water birds. Two hiking trails lead through the pine forest and along the rocky coast of this 5,500-acre site. The park also includes a 123-foot lighthouse. 


College of the Atlantic is a liberal arts institution with an enrollment of about 300.

Senior Programs

At present (2005) Bar Harbor does not have a town-run senior program. Hospitals Mount Desert Island Hospital is an acute care facility with 24-hour emergency services.

There are a number of health centers on the island which operate in association with Mount Desert Island Hospital. 


Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport offers scheduled service and has modern instrument landing systems. It is located about three miles from Bar Harbor. 

Bangor International Airport is a regional airport with more than 60 flights a day.


The average temperatures for January are a high of 32 degrees and a low of 10 degrees. The average high temperature for July is 80 degrees and the low is 57 degrees. There is an average of 5.94 inches of precipitation in January and 3.38 inches in July. 


Bar Harbor Times 

State Taxes


Seal Harbor – 7.5 miles

Northeast Harbor – 11 miles

Ellsworth – 20 miles

Bangor – 46 miles

Brunswick – 134 miles

Portland – 172 miles

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