If you have a desire to visit Canada for part of your trip, a quick and easy way to Nova Scotia is the "Cat". A superfast ferry that will take you and your car across to Yarmouth, NS in less than 3 hours. The office is on Main Street.
I'm researching an upcoming trip to Acadia National Park and came across the bummer news that the high-speed ferry between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to/from Maine is no longer operating as of the 2010 season... http://www.nfl-bay.com/cat-statement-2009.html.
The Island Explorer buses are sponsored by Acadia National Park and L.L. Bean and are free of charge to all passengers. They run on natural gas and are part of the Acadia's efforts to reduce carbon emissions and improve the air quality in the Park and on Mt. Desert Island. The buses travel all over the National Park, including its campgrounds, Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island itself, including most hotels and attractions. All bus lines leave from downtown Bar Harbor's Village Green every 30 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes after 3 pm. They are a great way to get around, especially if you plan on going to downtown Bar Harbor to shop or have dinner because there is pretty much nowhere to park. I also recommend taking the bus if you want to spend the day at Sand Beach because the beach parking lot is packed full by 9 am! Buses run from the end of June through Columbus Day weekend.
We saw the Island Explorer bus while we were driving through Acadia National Park and wondered if it was free. It is free BUT (and this is a big but!) if you go into Acadia National Park you still have to pay for the $20 entry pass for your family or group. So while I think it's a nice idea, if you have a car like most people who visit this area, you have more flexibility than you do with the bus. Too bad they couldn't figure out a way to make it discounted to encourage more people to use it and cut down the traffic and pollution in the park.
The Island Explorer bus service does not run year round, only from June 23 through October 8, 2007 this year, check the website below for more information.
There is only 1 land route to Mount Desert Island. From Bangor, drive east on Route 3 (Access is easy from the mall in Bangor). It will take about 1.5 hours (in bad weather) to drive to Mount Desert Island. There are several labelled entries to the park.
Next time we visit Bar Harbor Karen and I are scheduling an extra day, or maybe more, to take the Cat Ferry from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. This enormous ferry, carrying up to 900 passengers and 240 vehicles is much more than just transportation. It is an amazing attraction within itself. Daily trips and multi-day tours are offered in season. Click in the web site below for a schedule and rates.
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is east and slightly south of Bar Harbor, across the Bay of Fundy, which boasts the most extreme tides in the world. The trip takes just under three hours each way.
Those who wish to explore Mt. Desert Island, with it's many nearby quaint villages and the Acadia National Park may do so free of charge on The Island Explorer. These propane-powered shuttle busses may be boarded at the square in downtown Bar Harbor. The route takes visitors to and from hiking trails, beaches and downtown centers on Mount Desert Island. Stops also include many motels, inns and campgrounds. There are eight different routes offered. Click on the web site below for route and schedule information.
Taxi service is also available, but it isn't free. Vermont Transit Lines also offers daily service to and from Boston, Portland and Bangor.
L.L. Bean sponsors environmentally-friendly buses that go around Acadia. There is no charge to use them. The buses have bike-racks which came in useful when I was on the other side of the island, and needed a lift back.
The Island Explorer is a excellent way to get around on Mount Desert Island. It is advertised as free but is actually included in your pass to enter Acadia National Park. Nobody asks for it though and we only found out after two days of using it. The shuttles to the campgrounds run until late in the evening but some other services don't. Verify that you have a bus back to town when climbing Cadillac Mountain or you are in for the long way down to blackwoods campground like us!
By car: It's easy an easy drive because it's mostly on Interstate highways from metropolitan areas of the Northeast.
By Air: Bangor Internation Airport is 45 miles away and Portland Airport is a 3 hour drive.
By Sea: The Bluenose Ferry makes daily trips between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, which takes about 6 hours.