You can! The CAT ferry is the fastest ferry in North America. And let me tell you, if you're not into driving, it's a long way by road from Maine to Nova Scotia. It leaves at 8am from Bar Harbor and gets to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia 3 hours later...traveling a distance of 600 miles or 1000 km. It does run only from May to October, but it's not just any old ferry. From the numerous ads we heard and saw, it's apparently more like a short haul cruise ship, complete with movies and a casino.
It seems they don't post the fares anywhere but at the terminal and on the website which made me think it was going to be ridiculously expensive...they aren't that bad, really...
Getting around Maine is much more fun by car. You can stop where you like, when you like and see great old mansions like this one just outside of Camden. The coastal ride is only five hours from Bar Harbor to Portland and you can be in the mountains in a similar amount of time too.
Motor transport is the most practical way of enyoying Maine. It gives you the choice of exploring the enormous northern forests, the rugged coastline or the many interesting cities and towns. The road system is quite good, but it does get crowded along the coast during the summer months. On our last major excursion into Maine, we used our 1990 Plymouth Acclaim with a roof carrier since there were only 2 adults and 2 children to pack in (my beloved old van was long gone!).
As many other places it is better to avoid rush hours for driving , although there is a small population. there are large numbers of visitors from out of state so main roads get congested. Also many of the roads are narrow and not wide enough to accommodate seasonal traffic patterns in many instances so be aware of this and adjust your travel times. That being said it is really not possible to get around to see the state with out a private auto.
To explore Casco Bay you best rely on Casco Bay Lines whose ferries deliver mail, freight and visitors to the islands. Simply hop aboard one of those; they are quite comfortable even for a longer trip like we did to Long Island. They also offer touristy cruises in the bay. However, part of the fun for us was to watch the locals on the ferry, coming from doing business (or whatever) in Portland.
All ferries and cruises depart from Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal on Maine State Pier in Portland. Fares are inexpensive, but watch the schedules - the running ferries thin out in shoulder season. See website for more info.
If you wish to go from Bar Harbor, Maine to Nova Scotia and do not want to take the ferry, the fastest and easiest way to get there is to go back to Bangor and take I-95 north to Canada, and then the Canadian highway to Moncton . U.S. Hwy 1 along the coast was horrible and it took us 5 hours to get from Bar Harbor to Calais ( the border) . Really. There is construction on U.S. 1 at the moment that backs traffic up for miles. When we went, the flagger only let traffic from the other side through, for half an hour, while our side just backed up for I don’t know how many miles. So, we turned around, and took the next side road over to U.S. 3….which also had construction. They actually had some of the road surface taken up completely, and for like 10 miles we drove on something worse than a bad dirt road in the woods. Good thing I have a truck and good tires. It was not fun. On the sections they were not working on, the road was full of very large potholes and caved in on the edges in some areas. I did an average of maybe 25 mph. Forget it! Take the interstate…
Most of the small Maine Islands, (Calendar Islands 365,) Casco Bay in particular, have very little cars.....so the Golf Cart has taken over as the main transportation.
Golf Carts have expanded with new technology, the old timers who have been around a long time, love the new fancy carts, charged electric, space ship forms for protection from rain and even snow. The summer tradionalists will go for the old disposed carts with the bare essentials.
Bicycles are also varied, one of my favorites is a 1940's version painted bright yellow, with a great woven basket on the front handlebars.
Cliff Island Website below.
If you plan, like most people, to come up from Boston, and you want to get there reasonably quickly, you can would take Interstate 95 to Bangor, where you turn southeast on a fairly unremarkable and rather narrow tarmac road that leads to a causeway over to the island. This will take 5-6 hours. The other option, and the one I would recommend, is to follow twisting, scenic, US Highway 1, from which you can branch off onto side roads and visit the many interesting 'down East' fishing towns and villages scattered along one of America's most dramatic coastlines.
Photo: A topographical diorama of Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park in the Park Visitors' Center
Hey, this is the nation of the automobile. And that´s the way how I got around in Maine. With my Ford Focus rental car. Highways are good and usually not too crowded. At this picture I stopped at a beautiful lake.
Maine Dept of Transportation provides a great free catalog of bike routes in Maine. There are about 4 for the southern coast of maine and I have ridden all of them. They do a great job of providing info on facilities, where to park, if the roads are busy etc.
Many of the local bike stores (Kennebunkport) have the catalogs.
The Maine Department of Transportation has a good website for tourists who are driving through the state.
The website shown below has maps for accidents and detours and road constructions to help you drive your way around obstacles. There are webpages for realtime cameras on the major highways in the state. They have links to webpages that recommend tourist sites and predict weather conditions. They provide a phone number you can call while on the road to get the latest information to help your travels.
I found the website useful in planning our trip and avoiding some slow traveling areas.
During the main visitor season, May-September, one can take a Harbor Cruise around the smaller outlying islands. Here, one may see Harbor Seals, Gray Seals, Porpoises and an assortment of birds. The cruise takes 2 hours and is a must for any visitor interested in Natural History and Nature. Boats depart from the main pier in Bar Harbor.
One of the islands seen is Egg Island. In the picture, you see its lighthouse and a number of Harbor Seals basking in the sun.
Flew into the Bangor Airport. It's a very small airport, but is serviced by Delta, American, and some smaller carriers.
Rented a Blazer. It was good for transporting luggage and gear, and traversing the sometimes not-so-smooth roads.
Well, we came in from Quebec, Canada near Moose River, along US 201. It was a very small border station too, but the INS agent was very friendly. I think a lot of logging trucks go through here too.
US Route 202 takes you to much of Maine. You will see the back road areas, small towns, lakes, and the character of non-coastal region as well as the highway ends in Bangor. Bangor is an inner seaport with a tidel river where commercial barges travel.
Need the car... reminds me KEEP TO THE RIGHT except when PASSING is the law in Maine
Worst experience ever !!! We booked Hilton Honors reward reservation- a non-smoking room with double...more
Our family has stayed here several times over the past 25 years, usually in the Ocean Front Lodge....more
Only one of 2 campgrounds actually in Acadia National Park, Blackwoods is really in the middle of it...more