The best water views in town are from the foot of Main Street at grassy Agamont Park, which overlooks the town pier and Frenchman Bay. From here, set off past The Bar Harbor Inn on the Shore Path, a wide, winding trail that follows the shoreline for half a mile along a public right of way. The pathway passes in front of many elegant summer homes (some converted to inns), offering a superb vantage point from which to view the area's architecture.
The Abbe Museum, 26 Mount Desert St. (tel. 207/288-3519; www.abbemuseum.org), opened in 2001 as an in-town extension of the smaller, simpler museum at the Sieur de Monts spring in the national park . showcasing a top-rate collection of Native American artifacts. A 17,000-square-foot gallery, this downtown branch has an orientation center and a glass-walled lab where visitors can see archaeologists at work preserving recently recovered artifacts, along with changing exhibits and videos that focus largely on tribes from Maine and other parts of New England. From late May through October, it opens daily from 10am to 6pm; then, from November through late April, it's open Thursday to Saturday (same hrs.). In late April and most of May, it's open Friday to Sunday only. Admission is $6 for adults, $2 for children ages 6 to 15.
A short stroll around the corner from the new Abbe Museum is the Bar Harbor Historical Society, 33 Ledgelawn Ave. (tel. 207/288-0000 or 207/288-3807). The society moved into this handsome 1918 former convent in 1997, where it has showcased artifacts of life in the old days -- dishware and photos from the grand old hotels, and exhibits on noted landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. Leave enough time to spend a few minutes thumbing through the scrapbooks about the devastating 1947 fire. The museum is open from June to October, Monday to Saturday from 1 to 4pm; admission is free. Even during the off season, entrance can sometimes be arranged.
At the north edge of town on Route 3 is the College of the Atlantic (tel. 207/288-5015), a school founded in 1969 with a strong emphasis on environmental education. The campus, a blend of old and new buildings, features the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History (tel. 207/288-5395; www.coamuseum.org), at 105 Eden St. It features exhibits that focus on interactions among island residents, from the two-legged to the four-legged, finny, and furry. From mid-June to Thanksgiving, the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm; the rest of the year, it's open by appointment only. Admission is $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for seniors, $1.50 for teens, and $1 for children ages 3 to 12.
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