Down East 2013 ©
Once the tony retreat of wealthy families like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, Bar Harbor has since become something of a bargain, provided you know when to visit (late May and June) and where to avoid (tourist hangouts).
DINING The best way to eat on the cheap in Bar Harbor is to eschew the obvious. Follow the locals to (1) Reel Pizza (33 Kennebec Pl., 207-288-3828, www.reelpizza.net ), where you can grab a slice and a brew while you watch Johnny Depp onscreen, or better yet haul a pie outside and eat it on the Village Green. Wandering a bit farther off the beaten track will land you at (2) Lompoc Cafe (36 Rodick St., 207-288-9392, www.lompoccafe.com ), where a game of bocce pairs nicely with an Indonesian tempeh wrap. If you're heading out for a hike you can stock up on inexpensive trail food at (3) The Alternative Market (16 Mt. Desert St., 207-288-8225). And just because you're watching your pennies doesn't mean you should deny yourself a few guilty pleasures; (4) Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium (66 Main St., 207-288-3281, www.benandbills.com ),will satisfy any sweet tooth.
LODGING The cheapest and most authentic place to stay on MDI isn't actually in Bar Harbor at all: (5) Blackwoods Campground (five miles south of town on Route 3, 800-365-2267, www.nps.gov/ acad ). Where else can you smell the Atlantic for twenty dollars a night? If you require a roof over your head try (6) Hanscom's Motel & Cottages (273 State Highway 3, 207-288-0039 [offseason], 207-288-3744 [in-season], www.hanscomsmotel.com ), still quite reasonable for water access. (7) Wonder View Inn & Suites (50 Eden St., 207-288-3358, www.wonderviewinn.com ), offers standard motel rooms, but it's worth splurging on the (8) Ledgelawn Inn (66 Mt. Desert St., 207-288-4596, www.ledgelawninn.com ), one of the only homes in town to escape the great fire of 1947.
SHOPS A strict budget probably shouldn't allow any shopping, but check out the local crafts at (9) Island Artisans (99 Main St., 207-288-4214, www.islandartisans.com ), or convince yourself that a basket from (10) Gooseberry Hollow (119 Main St., 207-288-5419, www.gooseberry hollow.com ) is more an essential tool than an extravagance. If you missed the L.L. Bean outlet in Ellsworth, (11) Cadillac Mountain Sports (26 Cottage St., 207-288-4532, www.cadillacsports.com ) can deck you out in Gore-Tex.
ACTIVITIES The best deal in Maine has got to be the early-season, week-long Acadia National Park pass, just ten bucks until late June. Consider it your ticket to the greatest playground in America. Grab a copy of the park's Beaver Log for a listing of ranger-led programs that explain Acadia's geology, wildlife, and history. Use it to check the tide, too, so you can judge when you have time to hoof it out to (12) Bar Island, at the end of Bridge Street, without getting marooned. For a full-day excursion, the (13) Beal & Bunker Mail Boat (207-244-3575) to the Cranberry Islands from Northeast Harbor will let you sample island living.