The town of Bar Harbor began life as an exclusive resort, summer home to the Vanderbilts and the Astors; the great fire of October 1947 that destroyed their opulent "cottages" changed the direction of the town's growth. It's now firmly geared towards tourists, though it's by no means downmarket.
Bar Harbor's main tourist information office is at the ferry terminal (Tel:207/288-5103). In summer, there's another in the Municipal Building at 93 Cottage Street. Both offices offer many free and comprehensive maps of the area. In high season, up to 21 different sea trips set off each day, ranging from deep-sea fishing to cocktail cruises. Among the most popular are the whale-watching, puffin, and seal cruises offered by Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company, 1 West St (June– Oct at least twice daily; Tel:207/288-2386, Web: www.barharborwhales.com ), and the two-hour cruises on the impressive four-masted schoonerMargaret Todd from the Bar Harbor Inn (daily June– Oct; $32; Tel:207/288-4585, Web: www.downeastwindjammer.com ). Lulu Lobster Boat Rides ($27; Tel:207/963-2341, Web: www.lululobsterboat.com ) offers authentic lobstering trips where Captain John raises his lobstering traps and woos riders with seafaring folklore and lighthouse sightings.
The native Wapanaki heritage is preserved in the Robert Abbe Museum, 26 Mount Desert St (mid-May to Oct daily 10am–6pm; rest of year Thurs– Sat 10am–4pm; $6, admission includes entrance to the original Sieur de Monts location; Tel:207/288-3519, Web: www.abbemuseum.org ), which has gorgeously constructed exhibit spaces full of light and pale wood panelling. Although the opening displays on Wapanaki culture are well put together, the Abbe's knockout piece is the "Circle of the Four Directions," a contemplative, circular space built of cedar panels.