Cruise destination travel guide - - Bar Harbor - - Maine, USA - - Walking the Shore Path
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Bar Harbor can be spectacular on a sunny day and an easy way to experience some of its beauty is to take a walk along the Shore Path. As its name indicates, this is a public trail that runs along a portion of Bar Harbor's rocky coast line. Since it does not take long to walk the Path, it can be combined with shopping and/or visits to other attractions. The Shore Path begins near the heart of town and is open to visitors without charge.
Finding the Shore Path is not difficult. Bar Harbor is a tender port and so all cruise ship passengers travel by boat from their ship to the Town Pier. Once you have disembarked the tender and have traversed the pier and its associated buildings, you come out into the public streets. If you go straight ahead, you are in the Bar Harbor business district. However, if you go left you come to the entrance to the Shore Path. It is just beyond the park with the gazebo.
On the seaward side, a long pier juts into the bay. A multi-masted sailing vessel, the Margaret Todd, docks there. She is an impressive ship to see. However, inasmuch as she does excursions, that ship is not at the dock all the time.
The Bar Harbor Inn is on the slope on the other side of the path.. It looks like a traditional New England seaside hotel. The Inn incorporates the Reading Room, a curving structure with windows that look out at the shoreline It was constructed in 1887 purportedly to serve as a library. reading room and cultural center for the wealthy elite who spent summers in Bar Harbor during the Guilded Age. However, it also served as a place to escape Maine's prohibition laws (enacted in 1861) and thus, the Reading Room was notorious as a drinking venue.
A little further on, the Shore Path makes a right turn. This begins the prettiest part of the path. In front of you, on one side you have the shoreline, on the other you have lawns and gardens interspersed among tall trees.
The shore consists primarily of shelves of rock, cut haphazardly and disappearing into the water. There are also occasional loose rocks and boulders.
Most famous of the boulders is the Balancing Rock. Geologists call this precariously perched rock a “glacial erratic.” It was carried 40 miles from its place of origin by the massive glaciers that once covered this part of Maine.
At various locations along the path, steps have been built that enable you to go out on the rocky shore. Quite a few people seem to venture out onto the rocks, some creating distinctive piles of stones. However, this area can be treacherous. The rock shelves are not as flat as they look from a distance and since the rocks spend part of the day submerged, they can be wet and covered with seaweed, which makes them very slippery. It is very much enter at your own risk.
A much safer alternative is to admire the rocks from the Shore Path. To this end, a number of benches have been constructed at or near the most picturesque vistas.
Beyond the shoreline, the dark blue waters of Frenchmen's Bay are dotted with pine-covered islands. In addition, one of Bar Harbor's cruise ship anchorages is in this part of the bay and so you often see a cruise ship relaxing in the sunshine.
Naturally, these spectacular views led the turn-of-the-century elite to construct mansions along here. The most prominent of these is the Tudor-style Breakwater Estate built in 1908 for a grandson of John Jacob Astor. (In that same year, Nelson Rockefeller was born nearby at Briars Cottage but that house is no longer in existence).
The seaside section of the Shore Path ends at a small wooden bridge. The path turns to the right here and goes through a pretty section of Maine woods, which has flowering trees in the Spring and colored leaves in the fall.
Eventually, you come to the public road. If you walk straight ahead on Wayman Lane, you quickly come to Main Street (Route 3), which is the main road that goes through Bar Harbor. Turn right onto Main Street and you will soon come to the business district and then the tender pier. Alternatively, you can walk back along the Shore Path and see the views from a different perspective.
In all, the Shore Path is only about a half mile in length. Since there are exits onto the public streets at various points, it is also possible to do a shorter stroll.
Except at the beginning, the surface of the Path is not paved but rather is pebble-covered dirt. It can be uneven at places, especially near the edges.
Above: The Shore Path begins near the Bar Harbor Inn.
Below: Scenes from the Shore Path.
Above: Adventure of the Seas with the Balancing Rock.
Below: The Balancing Rock with Brilliance of the Seas.
Above: A viewing area along the Shore Path.
Below: Several mansions are visible from the Shore Path including the Breakwater Estate.
The Path diverges from the sea just after a wooden bridge (above). It then proceeds through a wooded area (below).