Walking to Bar Island During Low Tide While Visiting Bar Harbor, Maine

by Janis on May 19, 2017

We’ve visited Bar Harbor on Maine’s Mount Desert Island multiple times, most frequently via a cruise ship. In addition to being a popular summer vacation destination, the town of 5,200 is a popular port stop on Canada and New England cruises. The town of Bar Harbor offers a picturesque backdrop for exploring on foot, with a shore path that dates to 1880.
View of Rotterdam from path to Bar Island during low tide in Bar Harbor, Maine
When we visited last September via Holland America’s 7-Day Canada and New England Discovery cruise, we were lucky to be in port during low tide.

It is only during low tide that visitors are able to walk on the gravel sandbar to the small, uninhabited Bar Island that is situated just across from the town of Bar Harbor.  This tidal island is a part of Acadia National Park.sign post directing visitors to Bar Island Path, Bar Harbor, MaineTo reach the path, we turned right out of the waterfront pier where cruise ship tenders drop passengers, and headed up West Street. A sign post indicates where to turn onto Bridge Street to reach the Bar Island Path.

Bar Island Path map from Bar Harbor, MaineIf your visit coincides with high tide, you will run into water at the end of Bridge Street. During low tide, however, a sand and gravel bar appears that connects Bridge Street in Bar Harbor to Bar Island.

walking across the gravel "bar" at low tide from Bar Harbor to Bar Island in Maine At low tide visitors often walk across, or park cars on the exposed bar. The gravel and sandy surface remains somewhat wet at low tide. As you walk, it is possible to dig in the sand, find shells, seaweed and other organisms that live on the bar through its twice a day tidal flow of up to 12 feet. This natural land bridge is accessible as much as 2 hours before low tide and 2 hours after low tide.  Vehicles are allowed onto the bar, but drivers are cautioned to keep a close watch on the tide.

entrance to Bar Island, part of Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, MaineOnce you reach Bar Island, a sign indicates that you are entering part of Acadia National Park. A park pass is required to continue into the island, but you need to have purchased a pass before crossing the sandbar.  There are walking trails on the uninhabited, forested island.

warning signs on Bar Island, near Bar Harbor, MaineDespite the warning signs, visitors have been known to return from a hike to find their cars submerged, and/or that they are stranded on the island until the tide recedes.

view from Bar Island, MaineIf you are lucky to be in Bar Harbor during low tide, we recommend this scenic walk across the sandbar on a sunny day. Just be sure to take some water, and watch the tides.

You might be interested to know that the tiny Bar Island inspired the town of Eden, Maine, to be renamed to Bar Harbor on March 3, 1918.  The town now called Bar Harbor was incorporated on February 23, 1796 as “Eden”, after Sir Richard Eden, an English statesman. Learn more about this area in 17 Fun Facts About Bar Harbor, Maine.

Another interesting fact about Bar Island: despite repeated attempts by the town of Bar Harbor to obtain jurisdiction over its namesake island connected by a sandbar, a 1903 court decision confirmed that the distant town of Gouldsboro, Maine retains jurisdiction over Bar Island under its 1798 articles of incorporation.

Learn more about Bar Harbor, Maine with these resources:

Lost Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor in the Roaring Twenties: From Village Life to the High Life on Mount Desert Island

Acadia: The Complete Guide: Acadia National Park & Mount Desert Island

For more on cruising in Canada and New England: 

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