Shore Excursion Review: Town of Mount Desert Tour with Oli’s Trolley
Bar Harbor, Maine
August 17, 2014
By Lisa Plotnick
As we had been to Bar Harbor many times previously, most recently in 2011, we wanted
to see a part of Mount Desert Island that would be new to us. Typically, our family
prefers to take tours sponsored by the cruise line, for a number of reasons. However,
I had heard so many positive reviews of Oli’s Trolley in Bar Harbor that we decided
to give them a try.
It turned out to be a great decision. We selected the Town of Mount Desert Tour,
which Oli’s Trolley billed as the “quiet side” of the island. And, for just $25 per
person for a two-and-a-half hour tour, it seemed ideal for our timing and budget.
The featured stop of the tour was Northeast Harbor, one of several small harbor towns
along Mount Desert Island’s south coast. Yet, it was an unplanned stop within the
town that turned out to be the highlight for us.
From our cruise ship, ms Veendam, we boarded a tender – a larger boat, not one of
our lifeboats – at roughly 9:45 a.m., and reached the small dock in Bar Harbor at
10:10. This was just enough time for me to exchange our e-tickets for tour passes.
(I had ordered them online a few months prior to the cruise, and we were instructed
to present our e-ticket to the booth attendant 30 minutes prior to our 10:45 boarding
time.) All went smoothly.
After receiving our tickets, we were directed to the outdoor waiting area, where
there were separate lines for each of the morning’s departures. A gentleman from
the company guided everyone to the proper line. We met our driver, Ed, and we were
on our way.
We started by driving down West Street, passing some of the summer cottages and rocky
beaches. The beauty of the surrounding scenery caused me to lose track of our location
of the map for a bit after that point. I picked up our location again on Route 3
as we cut through one of the roads within Acadia National Park.
We continued to the southern coast, and then turned west to our first stop, Seal
Harbor. A small park featured monuments and memorials recognizing United States military
veterans. The area around the Seal Harbor Yacht Club was beautiful – we were told
that the only way to gain membership is to inherit it! The Ford estate was nearby,
on the cleverly named Dodge Point Road. Tides were low, so we saw much of the rocky
From there, we went to the Northeast Harbor, population 2,000, the selling point
of this particular tour. On our way over, Ed mentioned some nearby gardens, which
caught the interest of several us. Ed gave us a choice of spending our allotted 45
minutes in Northeast Harbor or 25 minutes in Northeast Harbor plus 20 in the gardens.
I’m glad our trolley passengers chose the gardens, as I could not fathom finding
much to do in Northeast Harbor to fill three-quarters of an hour.
Ed parked the trolley behind the Great Harbor Maritime Museum (125 Main Street) –
and what a great museum that was! The exhibits were mostly photographs, yet there
were a couple of small vessels from older times. One was a rowboat a man built for
his daughter in 1870 so that she could get to church!
We were then off to the Asticou Azalea Garden in Northeast Harbor, which was modeled
after a traditional Japanese garden. There was a nice path leading to a lake, a small
bridge, decorative stones, stepping stones, and a sand garden. And, of course, there
were many stunning azaleas!
I will let the photos do the talking.
Both the maritime museum and the garden were free.
We traveled back to Bar Harbor via a road that bordered Acadia National Park. At
one point, we passed one of the carriage trails – these are not open to motorized
vehicles, so we saw its peacefulness from a close distance.
Our tour trolley was not crowded – we had just 19 passengers, not all of whom were
from the cruise ship. We liked this as we could share tales of our different travels.
Overall, this was a wonderful tour. Our driver and guide, Ed, gave us informative
narration without corny jokes, a nice deviation from past tour experiences elsewhere.
And, the tour was easy to book in advance, and every staff member we encountered
was most pleasant. I would definitely do another tour with this company.
Yet, it was the stop not on the itinerary – Asticou Azalea Garden – that brought
this tour from good to great. I recommend that Oli’s Trolley add this stop to its
Northeast Harbor route. It was a marvelous setting that reminded us that the beauty
of New England is not confined to the coast.