Bar Harbor steamboat landing, ca. 1885
According to Harper's Magazine rusticators, such as those seen arriving in this photograph, found Bar Harbor alive with vehicles waiting to sweep them up whirl them to their hotels.
In the latter 1800s, visitors traveled to Mount Desert Island by yacht, train, steamboat, or stagecoach—or a combination of these. As for Wabanakis, some followed tradition, paddling age-old canoe routes. Others rode the same trains, steamboats, and stagecoaches as everyone else, placing their belongings—including canoes—in the cargo holds. Most Wabanakis had third class tickets. Travel fares were sometimes reimbursed by Indian agents who controlled the tribes’ annual budget of state-allocated funds comprised of money set aside from the sale or use of Indian lands.
Before 1857, steamboat service to Mount Desert Island had just one port of call: Southwest Harbor. That changed when store and innkeeper Tobias Roberts built a simple wooden wharf at the end of Main Street in Bar Harbor, making it possible for the steamboat Rockland to add the town to its run. In 1867 the wharf was expanded, and the Lewiston began making regular stops there as well. With two steamboats making stops tourism took a great leap forward. In 1881 the Mount Desert Herald reported: “Thirteen years ago the little steamer Rockland made one trip a week between Rockland and Millbridge, touching at Bar Harbor. Now we have steamers City of Richmond, Lewiston, Mt. Desert, Little Buttercup, Acadia, and Queen City of Bangor all running to and from this port.”
In 1884, a railroad extension from Bangor through Ellsworth connected to a new Mount Desert ferry terminal. From there it was just a short ride to Bar Harbor by steamboat or canoe.