Maine : Safety by City
- Bar Harbor
- Carrabassett Valley
- Presque Isle/Caribou
- South Portland
If you truly want to get away from it all, we strongly recommend you check out Bar Harbor, Maine.
This community is on its own island and shares the neighborhood with the much larger Acadia National Park.
Mount Desert is the name of the island where Arcadia National Park and Bar Harbor are located.
Bar Harbor is quite exciting before you even leave the town limits, with its namesake “bar” jutting out to Bar Island.
You need to time this trek perfectly, or else you’ll be stranded by high tide.
You can also visit Nova Scotia (a Canadian Province) using the CAT ferry for a 3.5-hour trip, and cars can also be ferried.
International travelers need to review the ferry’s website under the “Travel Requirement and Check-In” to see if there is additional paperwork to visit both countries.
Bar Harbor is also a popular stop on cruises throughout New England, especially in the fall, to enjoy the changing foliage.
This was once the wealthy retreat in Maine, with a section called Millionaire’s Row.
1947 changed everything, as it is well known as “The Year Maine Burned.”
More than 17,000 acres were destroyed, along with the affluent homes and several historic locations.
People were trapped on the island by the flames until boats could rescue them or until a path was carved right through the massive flames.
Bar Harbor continued to flourish in the years after the fire, but it was no longer the wealthy destination it once was, and today, you can hardly notice the changes to the forest that had to literally rebuild itself through time and natural restoration.
Today, it’s a remote resort town with plenty of hotels, motels, and inns, with campgrounds, cabins, and more hotels throughout the island.
You can take a ferry to Swans Island from Bass Harbor on the other side of the island, where Burnt Island Lighthouse (no relation to the 1947 fire) is open for tours.
Warnings & Dangers in Bar Harbor
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Bar Harbor is rated as the most family-friend in Maine by Travel Pulse, and crime statistics from 2021 show that it's a safe community with low risk. Navigating tides, weather, and seasonal wildlife and critters will be your biggest challenges.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Getting to Bar Harbor has several options - coach buses, the Downeaster water ferry, and rental cars. Once you're there, you can use the Island Explorer to get from the town to Acadia National Forest or use water taxis to get around the island. Rental cars are available in Bar Harbor if you arrive here another way. Electric vehicles are also available for rent at Acadia GEM.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
This is a low risk, which is quite impressive for being such a resort community. There were no pickpockets reported in 2020 and just 28 thefts overall. You should still limit what you carry to the bare essentials and don't leave luggage or equipment in plain sight in your car. Get a larger four-wheel drive vehicle, so you can better hide your belongings if you bring a lot of gear.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Obviously, wildfire is a risk, but that's largely dependent on the perception in a year and the drought status. Hurricanes, tropical storms, nor'easters, and winter storms are also risks. Coastal flooding and storm surges are two of the most dangerous risks. All weather events come with plenty of warnings, and most injuries during storms result from people not heeding warnings.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There hasn't been a robbery here since 2018, so this is another low-risk. Robbery risks across the coastal cities of Maine are also relatively low if you'll be stopping at different locations along the way, but read our other articles to get more specific information.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is a low risk as it's a remote area surrounded by water and nowhere near a major population center or critical military base.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Rental scams would be the only risk to worry about, and that involves someone posting a fake listing and luring tourists in with a great deal. If you're wondering why Maine rentals are so expensive, it's because the state is quickly becoming a high-demand vacation destination - more so than ever before. Never wire money to secure a reservation, and start with a call to the Chamber of Commerce to get local rental agency recommendations.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
You'll need to have outdoor safety knowledge and survival skills in this rugged region, but there's no elevated risk for women. Avoid any temptation to dress up here, as comfort and warmth are more important than any fashion trend.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows no violation and full compliance with all standards. To check the water quality of the surrounding oceans and bays, you'll visit Maine.gov and look for the Department of Environmental Protection for updated testing of water bodies.
Safest Places to Visit in Bar Harbor
VisitBarHarbor.com is the official tourism website with an extensive list of things to do and travel advice.
This is a four-season destination, but there will be limited hours for some attractions and closed trails during winter in dangerous areas.
There could also be places open in the winter that aren’t in the summer, like ski resorts.
Bar Harbor takes up about half of the Mount Desert, while the west side includes Southwest Harbor and Tremont.
Arcadia National Park spans much of the area covering 48,000 acres, including several smaller islands that can only be visited by boat.
We talked earlier about the massive fire that destroyed many mansions.
Some of the ones that did survive the fire still live on, as do reports of ghosts inside.
Several ghost tours are offered during fall, and you’ll tour homes, businesses, and the shoreline to hear about spirits and sea monsters.
The La Rochelle Mansion and Museum is a less creepy side of history, showcasing the island’s history and its development, destruction, and rebuilding.
The mansion is one of the most authentic from the Gilded Age.
It sits on the shoreline and gives you a true taste of a late 1800s lavish lifestyle.
Walking tours and boat rides of different kinds are available, and we’re talking about more than the shuttle and ferry boats.
- Whale watching
- Fishing charters
- Sailing tour of islands
- Working lobster boat
- Puffin tour
- Lighthouse tour
- Seal watching
- Plane tours
- Trolley tours
- Private chauffeured driving tours of the island
- Nature tours
Acadia National Park is obviously one of the biggest draws to this region.
It’s not as simple as just going to the park since it covers many landscapes and ecological regions.
The website NPS.gov/acad will have the official information, but the Bar Harbor tourism site offers some insider tips too.
- 27 miles of roadway
- Nearly 160 miles of hiking trails
- 45 miles of carriage roads
- 60 miles of coastline
- 33 miles of scenic roads
Four million people visit here annually, many of which stay on the east side of the park, which is considered east of the Somes Sound.
However, if you have time, you should explore both sides because there are unique features and places at every turn.
East Side: More congested region
- Compass Harbor: One of the closest parts of the park to Bar Harbor
- Sieur de Monts Nature Center
- Sand Beach
- Thunder Hole: Where waves crash upon the rocky cliffs
- Otter Cliffs: One of the best scenic views on the island
- Cadillac Mountain: Highest point of the entire Eastern seaboard
West Side: More remote and secluded region
- Bass Harbor Head Light Station
- Acadia Mountain
- Beech Mountain
- Echo Lake Beach
- Carroll Homestead: Seasonally open for tours
- Seawall: Large rocks stacked on the shoreline, moved by powerful ocean storms over centuries.
Tours are available to Baker Island, which runs about five hours round-trip.
Small children and anyone who can’t easily get around on two feet would be better to take a less rigorous tour as this island is rocky and rugged.
Lighthouses In/Near Arcadia:
- Bass Harbor Head: The only one on Mount Desert Island.
- Bear Island
- Burnt Coat Harbor
- Egg Rock
- Bake Island
- Mount Desert Rock
- Great Duck Island
Acadia has several campground locations in different parts of the island.
Reservations are required, and you should book as far in advance as possible, especially in the summer.
Places to Avoid in Bar Harbor
You don’t have to worry about dangerous neighborhoods or unsafe parts of town in Bar Harbor or anywhere on Mount Desert Island.
The communities have low crime rates and very friendly locals, on top of the millions of people visiting here each year.
If you want to book a trip as soon as the worst of winter is over, you should know that Maine refers to the six to eight weeks of thawing as “Mud Season.”
This outdoor region can become a bit limiting and frustrating as melting snow turns trails into mudslides and roads into mud pits.
The concern isn’t about getting dirty – it’s about getting stuck knee-deep in mud or having a car stuck in two feet of muck.
Don’t believe me?
Do a simple “Maine Mud Season” Google search, and you’ll see what I mean.
Water this far north will rarely be warmer than 55º(F), so you should bring or rent a wetsuit if you plan on swimming, even in the heat of summer.
Cold water can send your body into shocking, leaving you paralyzed in the ocean or lake.
You should also check with Maine.gov’s water quality testing site each day to see if there are elevated pollutants or chemicals in the water.
Stormwater runoff can bring dangerous chemicals to the shorelines.
You can cross the “Bar” of Bar Harbor to get to Bar Island, but you need to know the tide schedule.
The crossing is only walkable 90 minutes before and after low tide.
If you time it wrong, you could get to Bar Island and be forced to wait nine hours for the tide to rise and fall again.
You can call for a water taxi rescue, but it will set you back $150 and take at least an hour to get there.
Take the phone number of a water taxi in town with you just in case.
The walk is rocky, and your feet will still get wet, so wear proper shoes.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Bar Harbor
- Bar Harbor has 14 police officers on staff during each season. You can call (207)288-3391 if you want to ask any specific safety questions. The email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer to communicate that way. The department does have a Facebook page but doesn’t update it often.
- Most Maine cities have overnight parking bans during the winter, and Bar Harbor is no different. You can apply for an overnight parking permit at city hall. The website is thepermitportal.com to learn more.
- Follow @HancockCountyEMA on Facebook to get updates from emergency management. This could include inclement weather, road closures, or civil threats.
- Download the National Park Service app to get all the details of Acadia National Park in the palm of your hand. You can also check alerts daily to see if trails are closed or there are plant/animal warnings.
- You’ll need bug spray to keep mosquitos away, and you always do a full body scam for ticks after a hike. However, a bigger concern in Maine is the Browntail Moth. This invasive species has led to a public health alert. During the caterpillar phase of growth, poisonous and toxic hairs grow along the body. Touching the hairs or inhaling them can lead to allergic reactions. Since you don’t know you’ll react, bring anti-allergy medication and calamine lotion with you. If you are prone to bad allergic reactions, talk to your doctor before you go into the wild. You can avoid touching the caterpillar, but you can’t completely avoid the risk of inhaling hairs blowing the wind. This invasive species is easy to spot by the reddish-orange dots at the end of the tail.
- The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issues the fishing licenses and if you’re over 16 years old you’ll need one to legally fish.
- Check the cruise schedule before you plan to spend a day in Bar Harbor. The ships can lead to large crowds, which also bring theft risks and can quickly take away from the quaint nature of the town. Cruise season begins in April and runs through October.
- Pick up a map at the Acadia Visitor’s Center because you won’t be able to rely on your phone for service in this remote region. Even if you can use your phone, you’d likely need GPS coordinates to find what you’re looking for anyway. Bring a battery-operated weather radio with you as well to stay on top of weather alerts and warnings.
- Rock climbing classes are available in Bar Harbor. If you want to climb but don’t have a lot of experience, please take the time to learn. Great rock climbing is available, but this is also a remote region, and you could wait hours for rescue if you’re injured during a climb.
- Visitors love places like Thunder Hole where the waves crashed into the rocks. They love it so much they sometimes lose all common sense and try to climb on the slippery rocks to get closer to the water. These powerful waves can (and have) wash people away and carry them out to sea in the strong current. Stick to the designated viewing areas and even then, don’t turn your back on the water.
So... How Safe Is Bar Harbor Really?
Bar Harbor is very safe by crime statistics.
Eight violent crimes happened in 2021, seven of those were at private homes, and not one involved a victim who didn’t know the assailant.
Of the 28 thefts, just three involved car break-ins, which might the lowest number I’ve seen thus far in my research of Maine.
I mentioned that Acadia National Park offers camping, but you must make a reservation or else you’re camping illegally.
This has become a larger problem since the pandemic and on top of the affordable housing crisis in Maine.
People who have jobs don’t make enough to keep up with the exorbitant price of housing, and have been forced onto the streets or into community funded hotels across the state.
Nearly 200 cases of illegal camping were reported at Acadia in 2021.
That means you could be sharing a campsite with someone who is living there illegally, or see people living out of their cars during your adventure.
While it’s not a direct crime threat, it can be a little unsettling.
You can check with the Maine Department of Public Safety for crime reports at the park to see if there is anything else trending closer to your visit.
This is truly a wonderful area to visit, but you need to know rugged wilderness survival skills.
You should also use a large dose of common sense.
Even a journey to get close to the rocky shore can quickly lead to a broken ankle if you aren’t careful or ignore warning signs.
How Does Bar Harbor Compare?
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- Visas - All international visitors need a U.S. Visa from the State Department. Residents of certain countries are eligible for a Visa Waiver. If Canada is on your itinerary, check with the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizens Canada Department (IRCC) to learn about visa requirements there.
- Currency - Some of the businesses in Bar Harbor are cash-only. Don't wait until you get here to exchange currency. You'll get the best value and lowest fees by exchanging your currency in your home country. Don't carry all your cash in one place and only bring what you need each day.
- Weather - The warmest average temperature in Bar Harbor is 80º(F), so pack accordingly. Winds can be intense here, which can make it feel cooler than it is. Plus, you'll be changing elevations throughout Arcadia, which can lead to cooler temperatures. Ensure you have a waterproof outer layer and sturdy hiking boots or snow boots. Don't wear boots you haven't already broken in at home or else you could get blister and foot pain. Bug spray and sunscreen is important too.
- Airports - Cape Air offers flights to and from Boston out of Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, which is still 20 minutes from Bar Harbor and on the mainland. Bangor International Airport is a little more than an hour away. Portland International Jetport is a three-hour drive, but longer if you're driving in winter weather.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance just makes sense in Bar Harbor. Too many weather risks can lead to flight delays or cancelations. You also risk being stuck in a connecting city due to weather or bad weather leaving you trapped on the island. You can also explore camping and wilderness insurance to help with the costs of injuries or accidents along the way. Inclusive travel insurance is available specifically for Acadia National Park.
Bar Harbor Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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