Bar Harbor Whale Watch and Puffin Hunt

Bar Harbor Travel Blog

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We got to see the sunrise again!

After breakfast we headed back into town, parked in the free lot, and walked through a park and down the hill to arrive at the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company.    I had called to book our tickets over the phone, and we arrived in plenty of time for the 8:30am departure.  We simply had to wait in a short line, show our ID's, and pick up the tickets I had purchased over the phone with a credit card.  Then, down the stairs and out the back door, and we were right out on the dock, ready to board the boat!   There was a crowd of people there that all had the same idea, but it was a large boat with room for all, and boarding was an orderly process.

Time for breakfast!
  You could sit outside on the upper deck, or indoors, we chose the latter because it was a little overcast and chilly.   The captain informed us over the loudspeakers that it would be about an hour before we got to the whale watching area, but first we were going to look for Puffins.  

Puffins are seabirds that look a little like penguins.  There was a small island with a lighthouse on it that is also a puffin sanctuary.  We got up pretty close to the island, before we suddenly saw this huge lighthouse, looming out of the fog!  I was kind of surprised the light wasn't on, considering how hard it was to see the island under these conditions.  One of the crewmembers was narrating the history of the area, the lighthouse, the sanctuary, and the puffins, over the loudspeakers of the boat.

Fishing boat in Bar Harbor
  He pointed out several puffins, but they were too far away and it was too foggy to get any good shots of them.  We spent about 20 minutes watching them, then we headed out to look for whales!

The Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. advertises a 95% success rate in finding whales... this is because they know where the feeding grounds are!  A certain part of the ocean where the krill they eat is more plentiful, and the depth is just right for feeding...  so, they simply head for that spot and wait!   They cut the engines, and everyone went outside on deck.... everyone scanning in every direction to see who could spot one first.  It wasn't long before we saw a medium sized humpback break the surface.   Immediately, everyone jumped up and headed to that side of the boat!      I was on the bow and lined up for a shot, when suddenly I had a dozen heads in my way!!   He stayed on the surface and dove down again.

This island with the lighthouse is a puffin sanctuary
  The captain moved the boat closer to where he thought he might resurface.  5 minutes later, he did, this time a little closer to the boat.   He would stay on the surface for a minute or two, dive again, and come back up for air again about 5 minutes later.  He repeated this cycle several times.   All the while, the "narrator" was telling educational stories about the whales, and their feeding and migratory habits.   We hung around the area for awhile, but we never saw any others.  Oh, well!  at least we got some pictures of this one!  

After about an hour or so at the whale feeding grounds, we turned and headed back to shore, which was about another hour away.  They had a concession stand on the lower deck, selling snacks, coffee, sandwiches, etc.

The whale would stay on the surface for about a minute, then dive back down again
   I got us each a cup of hot chocolate... which served as hand warmers as well as a drink!  On the way back, they had a big screen tv where they played a discovery-channel type show about the area, and the narrator guy on the boat was telling us all about the history of the lobster fishing industry there.   One interesting aspect of the history was the fact that  in the 19th century, lobsters were considered a "trash food"...  good for poor people, prisoners, etc.  In fact, there was a case where the servants of the rich folk that lived there actually went on strike to protest being fed lobster several times a week!!  It wasn't until the 1920's that the folks of "high society" starting eating lobster at parties and social events, that it developed a reputation as the delicacy that it is known as today!

After we returned to Bar Harbor, we walked down the road a little along the waterfront.

Trying to get the classic "fin" shot
  Since it was low tide, we decided to explore an exposed sandbar that led out to a small island.   We got about halfway out, when the tide turned, and we couldn't go any further!  The water came over the far end of the sandbar pretty quickly, and some folks who were already out there had to wade back through the chilly water.  We could actually see the water rapidly moving in to cover the sand... tides here are pretty extreme!  One of the crewmembers on our whale watch boat told us that sometimes cars come out here on the bar, and wind up getting completely flooded before the driver comes back from the island!   We were just walking, and had to hurry to get back!   We returned to our car, and decided to go find a place to have lunch, and maybe do a little more exploring around the island.

jamartin39 says:
I love puffins! I have never been able to see one that was not in a zoo or aquirium
Posted on: Mar 21, 2011
KeikoCreative says:
Congratulations on being featured on this blog! Great job!
Posted on: Nov 26, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
He popped up about every 5 minutes or so

After using up most of my cameras memory card taking numerous pictures of the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, we headed back to the hotel to take advantage of the free continental breakfast.  An interesting thing was, the sun hadn't yet risin at sea level... so when we got to the bottom of the mountain, it was still in the pre-dawn hours!  We got to see the sunrise again, over the horizon on the road in front of us, as we drove back into town.   We stopped briefly in downtown Bar Harbor, I wanted to get somer pictures of the local streets with no people in them.  It was still only around 6:30 am, and the town was pretty much deserted.  An area that had been crowded with hundreds of people only 8 hours ago, was now almost completely devoid of activity!  Well, I'm sure that will change, soon enough! I took a few shots, hopped back in the car, and in just a few minutes, we were back at the Days Inn.

Walking out to the island
 We parked and went straight to the breakfast area. Getting up early makes me hungry!!

 It wasn't even 7 am yet, but they start putting the food out around 6.   I've stayed at many hotels where the breakfast offered was nothing more than muffins and coffee, but this place had a decent selection.  A large rack of cereal, oatmeal, breads, muffins, cinnamon rolls, as well as pre-packaged items like fruit cups, yogurt, etc.  Individual servings of milk cartons, fresh fruit, and a juice dispenser that had orange juice, cranberry juice, and a machine for coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.  They even brought out a container of hard boiled eggs, already shelled for you.  Plenty of things for us to fill our bellies and get ready for the day ahead!  We were planning to go on a whale watch soon, and maybe do some hiking after.  After sating our appetites and getting some caffeine in us, we headed back to the room to shower and change and head back into town.  I grabbed some apples and banannas to put in our packs for an afternoon snack later.   There was no one else in the breakfast area when we were there... I guess it was still a bit too early for everyone else!!  People tend to miss so much of the day, by sleeping! hehe

We got to see the sunrise again!
We got to see the sunrise again!
Time for breakfast!
Time for breakfast!
Fishing boat in Bar Harbor
Fishing boat in Bar Harbor
This island with the lighthouse is…
This island with the lighthouse i…
The whale would stay on the surfac…
The whale would stay on the surfa…
Trying to get the classic fin sh…
Trying to get the classic "fin" s…
He popped up about every 5 minutes…
He popped up about every 5 minute…
Walking out to the island
Walking out to the island
Heading back to the hotel
Heading back to the hotel
Downtown Bar Harbor at 6:30 am
Downtown Bar Harbor at 6:30 am
This corner was a bustle of activi…
This corner was a bustle of activ…
Now, we are pretty much the only c…
Now, we are pretty much the only …
These streets wont be empty for l…
These streets won't be empty for …
Sunrise over Frenchmans Bay, from…
Sunrise over Frenchman's Bay, fro…
They breakfast area was empty, exc…
They breakfast area was empty, ex…
They had a pretty good selection i…
They had a pretty good selection …
Not bacon & eggs, ... but its goo…
Not bacon & eggs, ... but it's go…
Overlooking Bar Harbor from the pa…
Overlooking Bar Harbor from the p…
Just down the hill is the Bar Harb…
Just down the hill is the Bar Har…
Cruise ship in the harbor
Cruise ship in the harbor
Melissa & I grabbed seats inside!
Melissa & I grabbed seats inside!
Pulling out of the harbor
Pulling out of the harbor
We went to the front as it pulled …
We went to the front as it pulled…
four-masted ship at anchor
four-masted ship at anchor
There were upper and lower levels …
There were upper and lower levels…
Nice looking boat!
Nice looking boat!
fog bank rolling in!
fog bank rolling in!
is that a puffin?
is that a puffin?
everywhere, there are lobster trap…
everywhere, there are lobster tra…
Bird flies into the viewfinder...n…
Bird flies into the viewfinder...…
A lighthouse looms out of the fog!
A lighthouse looms out of the fog!
Well, no close up vierws of puffin…
Well, no close up vierws of puffi…
Old Glory on the back of the boat
Old Glory on the back of the boat
big jellyfish floated up next to us
big jellyfish floated up next to us
...is that a whale??
...is that a whale??
Everyone jumps up to look!
Everyone jumps up to look!
Thar she blows!!
Thar she blows!!
lone humpback whale surfaces for a…
lone humpback whale surfaces for …
stays on the surface, briefly....
stays on the surface, briefly....
...then dives back down again!
...then dives back down again!
he popped back up again after a fe…
he popped back up again after a f…
a little closer this time!
a little closer this time!
back down again!
back down again!
leaving behind a whale footprint
leaving behind a whale "footprint"
Time to head back now
Time to head back now
passing by the cruise ship in the …
passing by the cruise ship in the…
that fishing boat is still here
that fishing boat is still here
a fog has rolled into bar harbor
a fog has rolled into bar harbor
other whale watch boats at dock
other whale watch boats at dock
Bar Harbors famous sand bar up ahe…
Bar Harbors famous sand bar up ah…
Well, that was fun!  No close ups …
Well, that was fun! No close ups…
Thank you all for joining us!
"Thank you all for joining us!"
Our boat was the big one at center
Our boat was the big one at center
Side shot of the Whale Watch build…
Side shot of the Whale Watch buil…
low tide now
low tide now
Whale statue in a nearby courtyard
Whale statue in a nearby courtyard
The sandbar at low tide
The sandbar at low tide
..very low tide!
..very low tide!
pretty dog we met on the sandbar
pretty dog we met on the sandbar
looking back at Bar Harbor from th…
looking back at Bar Harbor from t…
still cold & foggy out
still cold & foggy out
I think the tide is starting to tu…
I think the tide is starting to t…
yep!  The water is coming in now
yep! The water is coming in now
the water starts to creep in
the water starts to creep in
you could literally see the pools …
you could literally see the pools…
I dont think were going to make …
I don't think we're going to make…
Tide coming in fast!
Tide coming in fast!
Some people had to wade through wa…
Some people had to wade through w…
its already underwater at the nar…
it's already underwater at the na…
The adults in this family were try…
The adults in this family were tr…
The cruis ship we passed earlier, …
The cruis ship we passed earlier,…
looking back towards Bar Harbor...
looking back towards Bar Harbor...
....looking ahead to the island! N…
....looking ahead to the island! …
This water came across pretty quic…
This water came across pretty qui…
The guy on the boat told us that s…
The guy on the boat told us that …
ok, can we go get lunch now?
"ok, can we go get lunch now?"
Bar Harbor
photo by: vances