Friday, September 19, 2008

BHB – Bar Harbor Airport, Maine (Airports I Have Known)

This is an experimental entry. It could be the first of what could be a series of information sheets on airports I've passed through --“Airports I Have Known” -- or it might not be. The series is intended for impoverished travelers like myself who want to know some of the practical details about an airport before arriving. I am publishing it on the blog, rather than on a dedicated website, because I want to make it clear that this is a snapshot in time, reflecting information at the time of my visit, and that I don’t intend to actively maintain it. I don't know yet whether I will follow it up with other airport entries. (It seems a bit too representative of the Male Data Collection Syndrome - MDCS.)

Hancock County - Bar Harbor Airport, Maine.

Airport Code: BHB. Official Website

This is a small municipal airfield with a one-room terminal, just over the bridge from Mount Desert Island. For budget travelers, the most notable feature of the airport is that is served by a free community shuttle bus in the summer, providing easy access to Bar Harbor and all the attractions of Acadia National Park.

Location: In a rural setting on the mainland in Trenton, Maine, about 13 road miles from Bar Harbor.

Served By: a single commuter airline, Colgan Air (operating as US Airways Express), running 3-4 flights a day to Boston on 19-seat Beechcraft planes.

Services: Hertz and Enterprise car rental, in terminal. Vending machines; otherwise no food in terminal. Free coffee in the morning. About a 20 minute walk away are a small IGA supermarket, a lobster restaurant and a campground (“Narrows Too”).

Departure Advice: Arrive an hour before departure time (but there is no reason to arrive earlier than that). Check-in desk closes 30 minutes before departure time.

Wifi: No wifi at the terminal, but there is free community wifi (and some free power) in downtown Bar Harbor (on the Village Green and at the park near the dock).

Ground Transportation: Free bus system in the summer (Only mid-June to mid-October) called the Island Explorer. Buses to Bar Harbor stop at the terminal several times a day. From there you can connect to free buses to everywhere on Mount Desert Island. (Note: if you want to take one of the first or last buses of the day from the airport, you should call the bus company to make sure the bus stops at the terminal. I was waiting a long time for a bus that didn't come.)

Camping: The local terrain is heavily wooded, so you can get away with camping just about anywhere, but beware of potentially miserable Maine weather any time of year. Via the bus system, backpackers can access trailheads all over the island. Camping is probably prohibited in the National Park without a permit.

I camped in a hidden hollow in a field just a few hundred yards from the airport terminal. (Go straight out the terminal until you reach the fence, then follow the fence to a pond. Go right along the shore of the pond and you’ll find my spot. It’s completely invisible, at least in the summer.)

Area Attractions: The main local attraction is Acadia National Park, which heavily touristed in the summer. (The free bus system is an attempt to relieve traffic, but the buses themselves can be packed.) Admission to the park is $5 per person for pedestrians but appears to laxly enforced. Activities including hiking, biking, sea kayaking and gawking at cruise ship visitors in Bar Harbor. Bike and kayak rentals in Bar Harbor. Combining gypsy camping with the free bus system, backpackers can be entertained for days for virtually nothing. For a nice two-hour hike, take the bus to Echo Lake, then take the Beech Cliffs trail (involves climbing some steel ladders up the cliff) to the top of an adjoining cliff.

Bar Harbor itself is a standard quaint tourist town where the primary focus is lobsters and ice cream. For a tourist trap, it’s not outrageously priced. A ferry runs from Bar Harbor to Nova Scotia.

Airport Attractions: If you have time to kill, you can walk from the airport terminal to the ocean in about 10 minutes. Follow the main access road to the first road on your right (Ramp Road). Follow that road to the seaplane ramp.