When you think about vacations, the last thing that will come to your mind has to be a school visit. It’s sort of a paradox really. School and vacations really don’t mix but the truth of the matter is that there are some schools that you should really take a guided tour of. You can go there for extra knowledge, or you could even go to these schools while you are scouting for where you want to study next. One of the acclaimed campuses around the world is the College of the Atlantic at Bar Harbor. Since being founded in 1969, this school has been the center for various fields of study including environmental sciences, international studies, and sustainable food systems.

The college has a small population of around 364 students and a full-time faculty of 35 and 15 part time faculty. The College of the Atlantic is renowned for being one of the most environmentally considerate schools in the world. Furthermore, it was the first college to be carbon neutral and the first to divest fossil fuel holdings.

Located in Bar Harbor, Maine, The College of The Atlantic is a small campus that consists of 37 acres on Frenchman Bay. In and around it resides two organic farms, two off-shore island research stations, and a 100-acre protected area. The farms are Beech Hill Farm and Peggy Rockefeller Farms. These also serve as living laboratories for classes and student research as well.

The Peggy Rockefeller Farm provides local produce including livestock, crops, orchards and more. These goods are directed to the dining hall of the campus so what the students and visitors eat are as fresh as they could get. On the other hand, the Beech Hill Farm provide organic produce, eggs, and meat. Aside from these facilities, the off-shore island properties including the Alice Eno Field Research Station on Great Duck Island also provide students with more learning ground. For instance, the Edward McCormick Blair Research station on Mount Desert Rock has become the center for the study of marine mammals and oceanographic issues.

As you can see, the College of the Atlantic is more than just a school campus. It’s also an establishment that’s just begging to be explored. If you are in the Maine area, it would be a mistake to not check out what this place has to offer. We know that you are probably curious as to why this school made it to our website but before you begin packing your bags for the trip ahead, here are some important tips and reminders.

How to Get to College of Atlantic

Getting to this college is fairly easy and there are even a few options available. It would be best if you take a car to get to the college so you can enjoy the trip at your own leisure.  Here are directions straight from the college themselves.

  • From Boston (this route would take you approximately 5 to 6 hours to get to the College of the Atlantic)
    • Take Interstate 95 North to Interstate 395 in Bangor. From there, take Route 1A from Bangor to Ellsworth.
    • Follow Route 3 East to Bar Harbor. Keep left after crossing the bridge onto Mount Desert Island.
    • College of the Atlantic is on the ocean side of Route 3, about 19 miles from the Ellsworth shopping district (eight miles from the head of Mount Desert Island).
    • Turn left at the COA main entrance and park in the provided areas. The admission office is located in Kaelber Hall, the building with the arch overlooking the water as you come onto campus.
  • From the Bar Harbor Airport (this route, unlike the previous one, would take you approximately 20 minutes to get to the College of the Atlantic)
    • Follow Route 3 East toward Bar Harbor. Keep left after crossing the bridge onto Mount Desert Island. From there follow the directions under “From Boston.”
  • From the Bangor International Airport (this route will only take an hour to get to the College of the Atlantic)
    • Take Tower Road toward Griffin Road and turn left at Griffin Road. Take the 3rd right onto Union Street. Continue on Forrest Parkway to Interstate 95 South. Take Interstate 395 in Bangor. From there follow the directions under “From Boston.”

While in the college, you’ll have to walk your way around. Keep in mind that the place itself is very large so be sure to bring water with you just in case you’ll need it. There are canteens and stores around wherein you can buy drinks but it would be best if you bring your own just to lessen the expenses.

Best Time to Visit College of Atlantic

Obviously, the best time to visit or take a tour around the College of Atlantic would be during the school season. Particularly, you may want to visit from October to November. During these months, the weather is just about cooling up and the students are still in school. Moreover, the weather will be perfect to enjoy the College of Atlantic.

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Of course, you’ll also have to consider the availability of accommodations nearby. During that season, the hotels rates will be at their regular but if you head from December onwards, expect to pay a heavier fee for the accommodation as the Christmas season will bring higher prices with it.

If you are hoping to visit when there are fewer people, then you definitely want to be at the college during summer time or Spring Break. However, do take note that since there are fewer students, you might not get access to some of the features and amenities in the college. You can tag along guided tours of other students as well so you can partake in some of the unique activities.

A Look Inside the College of the Atlantic

The Bar Harbor: College of the Atlantic is one beautiful college that you shouldn’t miss to see. In fact, it is named as one of the most beautiful colleges throughout Maine. It may not be totally a tourist attraction but it is worth visiting, especially if you are looking for a nice school to get into. Aside from the courses that the school offers, the Bar Harbor: College of the Atlantic also has a nice atmosphere that you will definitely love to stay at that will not just inspire you to study but will relax you as well with the nice views that it offers. To give you a better idea, here’s a peek at what kind of environment that the Bar Harbor: College of the Atlantic has.

1Community Garden

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A glimpse of the plants located at the College of the Atlantic’s Community Garden (Source)

This spot at the Bar Harbor: College of the Atlantic was, apparently, initially built to serve as a facility for the growing organic produce that the campus uses in its kitchen. However, it doesn’t serve the way it did before today. Rather, it is now open for public use as its name suggests – a community garden facility that is dedicated to the Mount Desert Island community that offers plots every spring. However, it is on a first-come-first-served basis. This spot is located on the north end part of the campus.

2Newlin Gardens

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The beautiful flowers at the College of the Atlantic (Source)

Established in 1992 by Mount Desert Island resident Elizabeth Battles Newlin, this garden is made to serve as a monument to the late E. Mortimer Newlin. Eventually, when Elizabeth died in 1995, the Elizabeth Battles Newlin Chair in Botany was established to honor Newlin’s landscaping and environmental work and legacy.

3Beatrix Farrand Garden

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College of the Atlantic’s Beatrix Farrand Garden (Source)

This garden, located behind the Bar Harbor: College of the Atlantic’s Kaelber Hall, is made to honor the Bar Harbor resident Beatrix Farrand. She was the one who designed the landscaped gardens for Dumbarton Oaks Library in D.C. and the Morgan Library in New York. This garden has rock-walled quiet reflection rooms that will definitely relax you and even help you concentrate more as you study. What’s impressive is that the original rose bush that was planted by Farrand are still visible in the said garden even until today, along with a perennial border that was made to evoke the landscaper’s traditional style.

4Turrets Seaside Garden

This spot, on the other hand, offers more stunning views of the islands of Schoodic Peninsula and the Frenchan Bay. Apart from that, you can get to enjoy 4,000 square foot garden facility which, by the way, was fully restored to its historic condition just this 2005. Here, you can get to see what the original formal beddin gpattern looks like as it has been recreated with sustainable and lower maintenance plantings that includes lavender, fairy roses, Siberian iris, and astilbe that shows the classic grey and blue hues of the landscape of landscape designer Gertude Jekyll. In addition to that, you can get to see a beautiful fountain that was installed in 2009 and designed by COA alumni Dan Farrenkopf.

5Sunken Garden

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The Sunken Garden redesigned to grow wilds edible plants (Source)

Another beautiful spot to be and see is the Sunken Garden that is also located in the Bar Habor: College of the Atlantic. This was created by the original turrets owners Lela and John Emery. It has been fully restored by the group of seniors from graduating class of 2009.

6Arboretum of Eden

The Arboretum of Eden is also one of the Bar Harbor: College of the Atlantic’s gardens that makes it one of the most beautiful colleges in Maine too. This is due to the fact that it features more than 10 species of both non-native and native trees and shrubbery that even includes imported plants from Japan, Korea, China, and the Mediterranean. Some of the notable plantings also include white pine, Eastern hemlock trees, and copper beech. And you can enjoy it all in a 35-acre space in the campus. Plus, it serves as a living museum facility that highlights botanical diversity as well as the relationship of the environment and the humans.

And the best part of it is that you can enjoy all of these beautiful gardens even if you aren’t enrolled yet as the College of the Atlantic offers tours so you can get a glimpse of what it’s like to study there. The tours are offered Mondays to Fridays at 10 AM and 2 PM throughout the year. During the school year, you can sit in on classes, eat in the dining hall, and even get to talk to the school’s current students as well as its faculty. However, you need to schedule a visit first. Don’t worry, though, it’s easy. Just check this out so you can schedule your visit. If you’re done touring the campus, you can visit some nearby attractions too as the school is just a stone throw away from several restaurants, museums, and theaters. Here are some of them.

Nearby Attractions and Restaurants

7Abbe Museum

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Art works inside Abbe Museum (Source)

The Abbe Museum is a place to visit near the College of the Atlantic because of the dynamic and stimulating exhibits that it has. Here, you can get to know more about the history of the city as well as its native people’s culture. And, of course, the works itself are worth talking about too.

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8Acadia National Park

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The Acadia National Park from afar (Source)

If you plan to go on a kind of all-out vacation after you tour the campus, you can head to the Acadia National Park that is also near the College of the Atlantic. Here, you can go camping and enjoy a number of outdoor activities such as birdwatching, boating, climbing, fishing, swimming, hiking, and horseback riding. There are tidepooling and winter activities as well.

9Criterion Theater

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Inside the Criterion Thater (Source)

If you are not into camping and would just like to go for a really quick side trip, you can watch a play, musical performance, or a movie at the Criterion Theater. If you’re lucky enough, you might even get to watch your favorite artist or your most awaited movie or play. Just this June, Criterion Theater screened Rocketman, a film about Elton John’s breakthrough years. The trio Lula Wiles also performed. Spider Man: Far from Home also screened and more.

10Jesup Memorial Library

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A glimpse inside Jesup Memorial Library

At first glance, you might think that it’s just a normal and boring library. However, this place has a lot to offer more than what you think. Aside from its books, you also have more than 7,000 eBooks to borrow, approximately 2,200 movies on DVD and VHS, plus thousands of music and Book CDs and downloadable audiobooks. The Jesup Memorial library also holds several events that will make every visit fun and memorable.

11Reel Pizza

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The comfortable seats inside Reel Pizza

Say goodbye to popcorn as you watch a good movie as Reel Pizza, as its name suggests, offers a different movie experience. Here, you will not just get to enjoy a good movie but good pizza as well. And they have several flavors for you to choose from.

12Side Street Café

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The lobster roll at the Side Street Cafe (Source)

Speaking of delicious food, you can also get to enjoy it at the Side Street Café which is also near the College of the Atlantic. What’s even better is that they have a good selection of beer, cocktails, and wines aside from the mouth-watering dishes that they serve.

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Choco-Latte’s menu (Source)

This café offers gourmet house-made chocolates, bagels, paninis, organic local coffees, and more. It’s also a perfect place to relax after a long day of touring the College of the Atlantic. And if you’re already a student in the said school, it’s the perfect place to unwind for a while away from the stress of school works.

14Siam Orchid

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Pickled daikon roll at the SIam Orchid (Source)

Don’t get this place wrong, though. This isn’t a garden or whatnot unlike what its name kind of says. Apparently, it is a restaurant that serves flavorful and fresh dishes. What makes it worth the visit after touring the College of the Atlantic is that it offers a nice view in its outside seating.

Tips to Take Note of Before You Go

  • Check the season

Since this is a college, it is much recommended that you visit this place during school season. In this way, you can get to really see, feel, and/or even imagine what it’s like to study here as you chat with the college’s previous students as well as its faculty. During the school season, you can also sit in on some classes so you can see how well does the school teaches its students, what the class rooms are like, or whatnot.

  • Stay hydrated

The College of the Atlantic has a huge campus. Also, it has several gardens that will leave you in awe. However, don’t let this make you forget to stay hydrated. Again, the school is a bit huge so it can be a bit tiring exploring its grounds so always make sure that you have water to drink.

  • Check nearby accommodations

Especially if you live miles away from the college, it is much better to always check if you have a lodging to stay in. Also, with this, you can get to enjoy the nearby attractions more.

  • Schedule your visit

We’re not quite sure if the College of the Atlantic accepts walk-in visitors. Thus, it would be much better to make sure that you schedule your visit through their website first. In this way, they can fully accommodate you.


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