So you made it Mount Desert Island. Congratulations! (And if we are getting ahead of ourselves, check out our previous post about getting to MDI without a car.)

The joy of our Island is that all the villages are pretty much walkable and most have the basics available, so if you’re looking for transportation to get to places and things you want to do, this is for you. Some ways go get around MDI include:

Taxis, Uber & Lyft

Obviously for time constrained events and appointments, your best bet may still be one of the taxi services, Uber or Lyft. We have to say that both Uber and Lyft are relatively new to the Island and we’re not sure how many drivers there are or what seasonal demand and supply logistics are. If it’s vital, make a reservation in advance during the summer is our advice!
Most of the taxi companies have a tour component if you’re looking to explore the Island as a tourist and there are many small and large private tour companies.

Downeast Transportation

Downeast Transportation uses Bar Harbor as its island hub. They have a Tuesday Bar Harbor shuttle route designed to allow residents of Bar Harbor’s retirement communities to access the downtown area, with stops at Hannaford, the hospital, and the YMCA, but they are happy to welcome all riders and it’s just $1. This bus connects with the Tuesday buses to Ellsworth. There are additional bus services to Ellsworth Monday-Friday, with continuation to Bangor on Mondays and Fridays.

Do you remember the mention about planning effort?  Seriously though, especially for those living here for the whole summer or year round, it’s worth figuring these schedules out and many people aren’t aware that you can get to lots of places, especially if you can afford to be flexible.

Island Explorer

From Late June until Columbus Day the Island Explorer offers extensive routes around the island for both worker and visitors. Routes vary slightly from year to year and are reduced after Labor Day, but you can get pretty much anywhere. (Sorry Seal Cove Auto Museum and Pretty Marsh, you are one of the few areas not covered!) You’ll still need to figure out alternative transportation to get up Cadillac Mountain, for early mornings and late nights though. All Island Explorer buses have bike racks, so you can combine transportation methods! They also happen to be dog friendly.


There are bike rentals in Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor and you can rent from 1/2 a day upwards. For getting around, bikes are great as parking isn’t an issue, but you do have to be prepared to ride in traffic or think about taking back roads. You can rent both road bikes and hybrids (you’ll want these if you are planning on exploring the Carriage Roads too).

I should probably also remind people that the island isn’t very flat, so you’ll get a complimentary workout with your rental.  If you find that thought a little disturbing, maybe consider renting an electric bike from Bar Harbor Bike Shop or Pedego (Note: these bikes are not allowed on the Carriage Roads) or using the Island Explorer for those uphill bits!

If you live on the Island you’ll probably be aware that you can buy new and used bikes from the rental shops, and if you can wait until the end of the season, you could score a great deal on a gently used bike. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for local groups that have bike sales, like the Bar Harbor Police Department. Numerous bikes are abandoned and unclaimed each year and  are sold off at this event. (Another useful resource is BIKE MDI Facebook group for routes, riding buddies, etc.)


Many residents swear by their scooters in the summer months, and they (and motorcycles) might be the perfect option for residents who want to get around quickly and easily. Visitors can also rent them for, those further afield trips when the buses aren’t running. Yes, if you have the nerve for it, this could be your way up Cadillac! Our only caveat to these rentals is that you will want a bit of practice before you just take off and it may be a bit scary for some. Remember, you’ll have to either put a large cash deposit down or leave credit card info for deposit/insurance.

By Sea

If you’re a resident of one of the outlying islands, you probably have your own boat or are pretty familiar with your ferry services, but here are few notes for the visitors.

Ferry Services

Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor (Schoodic Peninsula) to Bar Harbor – This route is operated seasonally (late May to early October) by the Schoodic Ferry and the Bar Harbor/Winter Harbor Ferry. Bikes can be taken on the Winter Harbor Ferry and bike/kayak rentals are available on the Schoodic Peninsula. The Island Explorer runs a bus around the Loop and local towns that connects with these ferries.

Cranberry Isles Ferries – There are several ferries heading from MDI to the Cranberries:

  • Cranberry Cove Ferry leaves from Southwest Harbor(Public day parking) and Manset Dock (Permit Parking for Island residents) to Cranberry Isle May -September.
  • Beal and Bunker – Year round service to Cranberry Isles from NE Harbor.
  • Cranberry Isles Commuter –  this is a experimental commuter service with early and late boats from NE Harbor.

Bass Harbor to Swans Island & Frenchboro –  Daily ferry operated by State of Maine operates year round. (Note: Frenchboro  Wed. – Fri.). Boat can accommodate standard vehicles.

Water Taxis

Don’t like the ferry schedule? Stayed late enjoying your Islesford Dock meal? Water taxis can transport you as needed:

These primarily serve the Cranberry Isles, but serve surrounding areas.

Boat Rentals

There are numerous boat trips and charter options, but for the purposes of this piece, here are a few options to rent a boat that you’ll pilot yourself. This is not a cheap option, but might be worth for someone here for a longer stay with mooring access.


This is a tough one, whilst Mount Desert Island is generally a very safe place, hitchhiking is always risky, especially if you’re alone. On the Island you should also consider that many of our roads don’t have side walks and streetlights, are somewhat narrow and they sport many delightful curves, which whilst very pretty make it difficult to see whats coming and who is on the side of the road.  We don’t really recommend this but we’ve seen enough people to it to say it is technically a way to get around. The MDI Rideshare Facebook group mentioned in our last post might be enough like hitchhiking for our purposes here.

As you see, while having a car can make things easier in a rural area like MDI, we have many options for our small population for you to enjoy your stay/life here without your own vehicle.

Think we forgot something? Leave a comment below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.