Bar Island Trail one of a kind in Acadia National Park

One in a series of historic trail highlights leading up to the Acadia Centennial

The Bar Island Trail is one of a kind in Acadia National Park.

The wooded, rocky island can only be reached at low tide each day, starting at a sand bar that begins at the end of Bridge Street in Bar Harbor.

It’s great to walk along the ocean on the bar and then on the other side, ascend the trail through the woods on the island.

From a small hill on the island, people can get great views back to Bar Harbor and Acadia peaks. Along the way, a Porcupine Island rises from the ocean horizon.

The catch is that Bar Island can be reached just 1.5 hours on either side of low tide.

Strange enough, cars are allowed to drive on the bar, even though it’s less than a half mile long. Some people break a rule, park their car and leave it behind for a walk on the island.

cruise ship acadia national park

A view from Bar Island puts into perspective one of the many cruise ships visiting Bar Harbor.

A prominent sign on Bar Island’s shore warns people that the tide rises quickly, but inevitably an inexperienced few lose track of time and find themselves stranded on the island when the tide comes in and washes over the sand bar.

It seems like a summer never passes without stories about swamped cars or people needing to be rescued from Bar Island at high tide.

The mishaps are hard to understand but they are as sure as the tides themselves on Bar Island.

Bar Island Trail steeped in history

First described in 1867, the trail was reopened by the National Park Service in the 1990s when the island was still privately owned.

The park completed ownership of the island in 2003 when it purchased 12 acres from former NBC News correspondent Jack Perkins and his wife, Mary Jo, who lived for 13 years in a small home they built on the island.

Perkins called Bar Island his “garden of Eden” and described his life there in his book, Finding Moosewood, Finding God. He and Mary Jo co-wrote Parasols of Fern, A Book about Wonder, a children’s book inspired by a girl named Eugenia, who frequented Bar Island a century ago.

You can still see remnants of the Perkins’ home on the island. And you can imagine what it must have been like living there, for the Perkins and for all those before them.

bar island

Only at low tide can you walk across the sand bar to Bar Island. It’s safe about 1-1/2 hours on either side of the tide; otherwise you risk getting stranded.

11 thoughts on “Bar Island Trail one of a kind in Acadia National Park

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  4. Jeanette Matlock

    We are planning to do this when we are in Bar Harbor in October. What type of footwear would you recommend wearing? Is the bar wet/muddy from being covered by water during high tide?

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Hello Jeanette – glad to hear you’ll be able to do Bar Island in October! Here’s the tide chart for October for Bar Harbor – it’s safe about 1-1/2 to 2 hours on either side of low tide:

      It’s more of a gravel bar, than a sand bar, and isn’t too wet. Regular hiking boots or sneakers would be fine, and possibly even Teva sandals (but be careful of rocks or shells).

      Happy trails!

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