By Robert Rousseau
Traveling north in the United States along the eastern sea coast, eventually you’ll hit a state that looks quite different than the others you’ve passed through. The trees on both sides of the highway will become a tad thicker, the air will be as crisp as a fall leaf, and then, if you open the car window, you may begin to smell the sea. This is the state of Maine, a place where much of the land is still undeveloped; a destination that reminds that nature is still alive in some parts of the world. And if you travel to the northernmost sections of this great state- where the wilderness seems to take over- eventually you’ll find yourself on Mount Desert Island in the bustle of a harbor town that was once called Eden.
Now it’s called Bar Harbor; a perfect place to travel with your dog during the warmer months. Here are some things you’ll want to know about canine travel in the region.
Acadia National Park:
We decided to visit Bar Harbor because we felt we’d enjoy the area for the same reason our dog would- Acadia National Park. Acadia is a huge park (more than 4,000 acres). You and your pet (leashed dogs are allowed in most of the park), will enjoy the cool breeze that finds its way there in the summer, the walking trails, the hiking trails, and the deep forestation of birch, aspen, oak, and spruce- firs (once the area was dominated by spruce- firs until The Great Fire of 1947 destroyed 10,000 acres of the park, leading to the arrival of a more diversified woodlands). But before you do anything in the park, go to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center- just follow the signs- where you can pick up a pamphlet, ask questions, and pay the $20 week long park entrance fee (without this you will not be able to go to several places in the park).
At the visitor’s center, you’ll learn that the park has 45 miles of carriage roads to walk or bicycle (graveled or partially graveled), 27 miles of paved roads, and 120 miles of scenic hiking trails. In other words, Acadia is a dog’s walking and sniffing paradise. There are also guided tours if you want them. To ask about the tours or anything else, contact the park (contact information is below). In addition, if your dog is the kind that can run alongside you on a leash as you bike, you may want to rent a bike for the carriage roads (see Acadia Bike Rental Information below).
The views in Acadia are tremendous, and certainly there is scenery along some of the hiking trails that you will enjoy while your dog searches for just the right spot to mark his or her territory. But getting to some of the breathtaking scenery on hiking trails may be difficult for you and your dog (the carriage trails really don’t offer anywhere near the same level of picture quality beauty). If either you or your pet are unable or unwilling to travel some of the more difficult paths, you’ll want to drive Park Loop Road, a 20 mile scenic road that connects nearly every major site in Acadia. Perhaps tire your dog out and then try it as the drive can be long (get going as soon as you see the sun- remember, the fog can roll into Bar Harbor fast and without warning, seemingly intent on ruining your pictures). Park Loop Road will take you up Cadillac Mountain where you’ll have the opportunity to take some breathtaking shots of cliffs, valleys, and Frenchman’s Bay. Along the loop you’ll also be able to access some of Acadia’s mountain- fed lakes and Sand Beach (dogs are not allowed on this picturesque ocean front). However, the breathtaking cliffs along Sand Beach and crisp clean salt water air you’ll encounter there may compel you in for a look- see anyway. The great thing about northern Maine is that at times it’s cool enough to leave your dog in the car with the window open, depending of course on your dog, the day, and your pet’s medical circumstances, (while you explore for a short period of time). Of course, never take a chance with this when it’s hot.
Last, there is a piece of privately owned land within Acadia near Seal Harbor called the Little Long Pond Leash Free Area. There you’ll be able to let your little (or big) buddy off the leash to frolic if you wish.
Though Acadia is the Bar Harbor attraction that best dually suits you and your dog’s vacation needs, there are hosts of other things to do. Check out these and other things you may want to know about traveling to Bar Harbor with dogs below.
Acadia National Park (207-288-3338)
Acadia Bike (207-288-9605 or toll free at 1-800-526-8615)- On Cottage Street.
At low tide in Frenchman’s Bay, the water recedes and an island of sorts forms called Bar Island. During low tide one can walk out on land where only water had been earlier and take in the scenery (your dog can come and marvel as well). You can even take your car out there if you wish. However, make sure you don’t venture onto Bar Island when the water makes a turn for high tide. The locals tell plenty of stories about people getting stuck out there (either individually or with their cars!).
This is a pet store unlike any other that your loyal buddy is invited to enter (kind of like their version of an amusement park). They have all types of gifts for them there, and it’s sure to be a hit. Please note that Bark Harbor is located right on Main Street in town. Be sure to stop there.
Bark Harbor (207-288-0404 or toll free at 877-462-2659 to place orders)
Another good thing about Bark Harbor is that the staff there can point you in the right direction regarding things to do with your pet on the island. Ask them. For example, after contacting them, I can tell you unequivocally that they know a little something about the following sections.
Doggy Day Sitting:
Bar Harbor is known for its whale, seal, and house watching boat tours. Of course, your dog isn’t allowed on most of these types of excursions- though there are some they may be allowed on, contact Bark Harbor or individual tours for more information. Further, some hotels won’t allow you to leave your dog in the room unattended. To combat this problem, you may need some doggy day care.
We left our dog for the better part of a day in Acadia Woods Kennel (see contact information below). There was a flat fee at the time of $25 per day (no matter how long we left him for one day). The place looked clean, the workers were friendly, and we came back to the same dog we left there. They provide private covered runs and heated indoor areas for each dog. One thing of note is that the kennel is a bit farther from town than one would think (I believe it took us nearly 20 minutes to get there). So, keep that in mind in your travels.
Acadia Woods Kennel- 207-288-9766
Dog Friendly Restaurants:
Generally, Bar Harbor is a dog friendly place (many establishments, you’ll notice, actually leave out water dishes and treats for pets). Perhaps it’s because the deep forestation and abundance of nature beckons to the type of person that likes dogs. For whatever reason, check out these places if you want or need to bring your dog along for a bite to eat (always make sure that these restaurants have not changed their policy on dogs before going). Most of these establishments, if not all of them, require that your dog be leashed with you at all times.
China Joy (207-288-8668)- On Main Street in town.
Fish House Grill (207-288-3070)- On West Street in town.
Jordan Pond House Restaurant (207-276-3316)- Look for it near Jordan Pond in Acadia (it’s on Park Loop Road).
Jack Russell’s Brewpub (207-288-5214)- On Eden Street. Leashed dogs are allowed at the outdoor tables.
Mama Dimatteo’s (207-288-3666)- On Kennebec Place.
Not Quite on the Corner Deli- On Main Street in town.
Ocean Drive Dairy Bar (207-288-5239)- On Main Street in town.
Parkside Restaurant (207-288-3700)- On Main Street in town.
The Lobster Claw (207-288-0058)- On West Street in town.
Timmy B’s (207-288-4383)- On Cottage Street.
2 Cats (207-288-2808)- On Sand Point Road.
West Street Cafe (207-288-5242)- On West Street in town.
Dog Friendly Lodging:
We stayed at the Wonder View Inn. The staff was courteous, dog friendly (when we used their restaurant, they didn’t make a big deal about leaving the dog in the room), and willing to accommodate. In addition, the grounds were superb with a beautifully manicured front lawn that could’ve easily been used for an outdoor wedding. The inn is actually a part of author Mary Roberts Rinehart Estate, and the name Wonder View is fitting (the views of the bay from almost every vantage are outstanding). It was also helpful that the grounds were set back from the road so we weren’t worried about our dog escaping into traffic, and he wasn’t stressed by the motorists. The only negative- our room, a suite, was in need of interior updating, though it was quite clean. However, the other rooms in the Inn may have been quite modern.
More places to stay in Bar Harbor that take pets are listed below (this information was gleaned from online hotel information, Bark Harbor staff- they’re the best- and individual contacts with the establishments). Please always follow up on this when making reservations as policies may sometimes change without warning. Also note that most establishments charge fees for pets. Ask when making reservations.
Balance Rock Inn on the Ocean- 800-753-0494 (AAA Four Diamond Accommodation)
Best Western Inn- Bar Harbor- 207-288-5823 or 800-937-8376
Ledgelawn Inn- 800-274-5334 (they take pets at present, confirmed via email, for $10 per day)
Ocean Drive Motor Court- 207-288-3361
Primrose Inn Bed and Breakfast- 877-846-3424 or 207-288-4031 (they take pets currently, confirmed via email, for an extra $25)
Summertime I and II- 207-288-2893
Wonder View Inn- 888-439-8439 (they take pets currently, confirmed via our visit, for $10 per day)
Happy dog travel in Bar Harbor, Maine!