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Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

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Nashville, TN
posts: 19
Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

OK, you loyal readers of this message board have watched me twist and turn over the booking of a July "dream trip" for me and the love of my life.

I've been considering the Holland Inn in Bar Harbor, but very recently got feedback from a couple of friends here in town who said they thought I'd much prefer Southwest Harbor (quieter). I panicked and found a place at The Moorings. Their waterfront cottage there, which has a screened porch and living room as well as bedroom. Sounded rather large and an affordable price.

But NOW I've found a friend of a friend who's stayed in Southwest Harbor and says The Inn at Southwest or the Lindenwood would be far preferable. Smaller rooms, but better all around, he says.

HELP!!! I've gotten information overload, but I SO want this trip to be special. We've waited a long time for this trip, and it's important that it be as nice as we can make it.

Price is a factor, and we're not frilly or fussy people. But we do not want a motel-like setting. We want something with some charm and personality -- though over-the-top Victorian is NOT the look we're comfortable with. We plan to do a lot of walks and hikes, and love getting out in the outdoors.

Final thoughts? please ...

posts: 287
reviews: 77
1. Re: Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

There are so many choices for accomodations and it seems like you've already narrowed them down to a list of places that appeal to you. No matter where you stay I think you'll have a great time but since your friends know you best, it might be wise to stick with their recommendations.

But just to add my .02: While there are places to walk and hike around SW Harbor, we find Bar Harbor to be closer to many of the hikes we enjoy. If you think you'll be doing a good amount of walking, hiking, or biking, maybe thats something to consider.

Bar Harbor, Maine
posts: 3,351
reviews: 7
2. Re: Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

Oh my goodness! You are the same person, right, who dumped the Inn at Bay Ledge because you wanted to be able to stroll to the Shore Path and for an ice cream cone in Bar Harbor??!!

Well, now you have dumped the Holland Inn where you could have done those things plus have a choice of about 20 really fine restaurants within walking distance. At the Holland Inn you would have had luxury linens, fluffy towels, and a full served breakfast in a charming breakfast room. The Moorings is essentially an older motel located on a working waterfront. If you stroll, hand in hand, from the Moorings you will be walking past boat yards where luxury yachts are made and are stored for the winter. Not an ice cream shop in site.

Bar Harbor is a quaint little village with sidewalks, two nicely landscaped parks, a shore path for strolling. Southwest Harbor has one main street which is also the highway that carries all the traffic on that side of the island. No parks or park benches to speak of. One decent restaurant plus a few other eating places. One coffee shop that never seems to be open.

One test of your choice of the Moorings would be to look up the recommendations for it here at tripadivsor. I see none. That should tell you something right there.

Wabash, Indiana
Destination Expert
for Wabash
posts: 175
reviews: 3
3. Re: Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

KatylnTN, I can really identify with all your planning and researching to make your "dream trip" as nice as possible. Before my husband and I go on vacation, I always spend hours and hours planning.

Right now we are planning our first visit to Bar Harbor (going in June), so I have been reading this forum and getting lots of helpful info.

So, I hope your dream trip is everything you hope it will be and I admire all your careful planning, but, OK, this is none of my business, but I hope you're not making yourself crazy over it. I would just like to pass along something my husband and I have experienced over the years. We have had some really wonderful vacations, but probably not one of them has gone 100% according to plan. One time we got to a destination and our hotel had burned down after I had made the reservations and nobody had let us know! (Maybe the reservation records burned up.)

Anyway, we have 3 "rules" that "go into effect" as soon as our vacation begins: don't worry, don't complain, and don't second-guess your decisions. In other words, after we make our plans, we try to "go with the flow."

I'm only saying this because it sounds like you deserve the wonderful vacation you have waited and planned for, and I just thought this suggestion might help if anything doesn't live up to the plans and expectations you have worked so hard for.

Obviously, since we haven't been there yet, I have no opinions on your lodging choices, other than, whatever you choose, enjoy it, have a great time, and don't waste a second worrying whether you made all the right choices.

Just my two cents worth. Happy traveling!

Gorham, Maine
posts: 619
reviews: 67
4. Re: Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

Stay in Bar Harbor, you'll find everything you need/want there. I agree with the post of bonniemave above and do not recommend the Moorings or Southwest Harbor, no need for me to repeat their post but as a local I totally agree, SWHBR is a nice little town, but for a "dream trip" I would stick with Bar Harbor no question.

Nashville, TN
posts: 19
5. Re: Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

Thanks to all who are shaking their heads in wonder at my over-thinking on this vacation! And thanks for sticking with me ...

Your points about Southwest Harbor are all well made. That was my initial feeling when I first started my planning -- and was why I chose the Holland Inn in Bar Harbor.

But then a couple of friends of friends here in TN told me that Bar Harbor was far from the cozy and quaint harbor town that I imagined. said it was very "urban" these days and very congested, and they thought i'd enjoy smaller Southwest Harbor more. The quietside of the island, so to speak. and there do appear to be a number of restaurants there these days.

so I guess I just don't have a clear idea of the difference between the two towns. I love, for example, the downtown area of Asheville, NC -- little galleries, interesting restaurants, winding streets. European in many ways. And that's what I'd been thinking Bar Harbor might be like. And then I began thinking that I'd sorely misjudged it, and that Camden might be that way ... so I was opting for extra nights in Camden and adding Monhegan and trying to get away from it all.

So... the general consensus right now is to stay with Bar Harbor and the Holland Inn .... does anyone think Southwest Harbor has any advantages?

thank you all...

Cincinnati, Oh
posts: 315
reviews: 15
6. Re: Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

Whenever I'm in Bar Harbor even for an overnight stay or a day trip I enjoy going to Southwest Harbor. It is very much smaller than B.H but has some nice shopping and some good places to get a bite to eat. I like driving the loop, going to Manset and spending a little time at the Seawall. There is a nice little park there and a good place to have a little picnic on the water. A drive to Bass Harbor and then back to B.H. through Southwest & Somesville. This year I'm going to make a stop at "A Port in a Storm" bookstore. I've passed it so many times, but not this year!!! I think staying in B.H. is your best bet and take a side trip to "The Quiet Side".

Bar Harbor, Maine
posts: 3,351
reviews: 7
7. Re: Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

How very interesting that someone from Tennessee would call Bar Harbor "urban". I moved up here ten years ago from East Tennessee. I'm sure you have been to Gatlinbury and Pigeon Forge. Picture the exact opposite of that and you'll have Bar Harbor! Really!

Bar Harbor could never be urban. It just isn't big enough. It isn't quaint in the same way that some of the neighborhoods of Asheville, NC could be. That's because it isn't extensive enough to have neighborhoods. But it does have the art galleries and the coffee shops and the century-old buildings.

Yes, it can get crowded, especially these days when the cruise ships are visiting. But there is a rhythm to the town. At 7 or 8 in the morning, when you are having breakfast, the town is still waking up a bit. By eleven in the morning, the town has emptied out, because most visitors are in the Park. There will be some cruise ship activity on the sidewalks. But many of those people go right from the ship tender that brings them to the town onto buses to tour Acadia or go to a lobster dinner. Around 4 p.m. the bicyclists start rolling back into town to leave their bikes off at the shops and go wash up for dinner. At 7:30 the restaurants are sort of crowded, especially in July and August. At 9:30 the "romantic" couples are back in their B&Bs and the town is a bit noisy with the younger crowd who are looking for "fast-paced". What that means, though, is that the sidewalk is crowded with a line to buy an ice cream cone.

But there is no strip development as there is in Pigeon Forge. There are no neon lights and observation tower and motels cheek to cheek like there ares in Gatinburg. The town is very much a strolling town. It's only four or five blocks square. I'd estimate it as about 1/5 the size of central Gatlinburg. The shops vary from art galleries to hand-crafted items to t-shirt shops to some rather tacky souvenir trinket shops. It's a nice mix. There's a book store, lots of restaurants, and a few coffee shops and ice cream stores.

I hope this gives you a better picture.

Bar Harbor
posts: 6
reviews: 2
8. Re: Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

You know, you're going to enjoy either place you stay and the differences between southwest and bar harbor will neither make nor break your vacation.

In Bar Harbor, you will having walking access to more activities and shops. in Southwest you will be closer to the western park lands and a great kayaking outfit (National Park Sea Kayak Tours). it is possible to find a quiet inn in Bar Harbor. The Holland Inn is on a quiet side street as is my place, the Moseley Cottage (www.moseleycottage.net). It is true that Bar Harbor can get noisy, but the noise is well-contained to the two main streets in town. Any inn on a quiet side street will keep you sleeping soundly.

All in all, stop fretting. Go with your instincts, book a room and consider your romantic getaway planned. It's going to be a wonderful time!

California, Maine
posts: 13
9. Re: Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

All previous advice is good, you want to be in Bar Harbor for what you are looking for. If we're all wrong and SWH really is the town for you the Moorings still is definitely not it. You will not be able to walk to anything (well, the Hinckley yard or the Manset dock maybe). You will not walk for morning cofffee, afternoon shopping, or evening dinner. It is a long way from the Moorings to 'downtown' SWH.

Ah Port in a Storm - well worth a stop though more so on a rainy day than when you could be out and about. Parking can be impossible...

Bar Harbor closer to the hikes you like? Um, familiarity is a nice thing but the quiet side has Acadia Mountain, and that nice ladder trail up behind the beach at Echo Lake, and Ship Harbor, Flying Mountain if it's not closed....

Nashville, TN
posts: 19
10. Re: Bar Harbor v Southwest Harbor

well, I wanted to thank all of you ! and let you know that I FINALLY made up my mind (I think) and have decided on Bar Harbor and the Holland Inn.

I decided on two nights at the Hawthorn Inn in Camden, followed by 3 nights at the Holland Inn and then 1 night left to be found, somewhere around Portland (not too far from a 2 p.m. flight home from Manchester).

If anyone has a great suggestion for that one night (which happens to be a Saturday in July), I'd love to hear it. One person suggested I might want to just stay near the Manchester airport (which sounds dreary for a final night of vacation) ...

Again, thanks to all who wrote and took the time to give me direction on this. I know we'll enjoy every minute of wherever we are, but I think this will maximize our time.