Meet Bar Harbor’s dog about town, Brady, and get the inside woof on what makes him wag most in dog-friendly Bar Harbor and Acadia. From coffee bars and dog boutiques to ponds and trails, you can ruff-it like a Rockefeller.
When you visit Bar Harbor, you can definitely feel the dog-friendly Maine vibe but when you’re “from away”, it always feels good to get the inside woof from a wagging professional. Brady, a local yellow Labrador, is indeed the dog about town. He has a local beach named after him, the biggest photo on the wall of fame at Bark Harbor and according to the store owner, Gale Abbott, “Brady should have his own key as he helps keep Bark Harbor in business during the quiet winter months”.
I met Brady a few years ago outside the Bar Harbor Inn. He was lounging on the grassy verge and I just had to take his photo and chat to his Mom, Kristen. The beauty of always having my doggles on is that these types of casual dog interludes often translate into new found friendships with like-minded people. On a recent mid September visit to Bar Harbor, I reconnected with Kristen Cameron and Chris Torrey and asked if their fur-kid, Brady, could take me on a tour of his favorite places. Unfortunately, it turned out that Brady had been using his four-paw drive with such vigor that he was laid-up recovering from a fractured ankle. So my Brady guided tour became an arm-chair tour over breakfast with the help of Brady’s Dad, Chris, who grew-up in Somesville and knows the Mount Desert Island area like the back of his hand. Chris and Brady have “hiked every trail on the island without a ladder”.
Brady likes to stop for coffee breaks at Coffee Hounds on Main St. This 1 year old establishment is owned by Chris and Jen Keegan who not only have a passion for serving good coffee but also welcome dogs. When you visit with your dog, they get to have their photo taken and added to the Coffee Hound’s of Bar Harbor Facebook page. The owners are dog-lovers with a rescued dog from Arkansas, Arlo, whose favorite Acadia hike is the Stair Trail on Dorr Mountain. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet their coffee hound as he was off on a latte break. The woof on the street is they are opening a Coffee Hounds at Sunday River Mountain this winter.
This boutique dog-store should be on every dog-loving visitors list and has been a favorite pit-stop for me every time I visit the area. We popped by for a chat with Gale who pointed out the numerous smiling Brady faces on her wall and confirmed his top dog status around these parts. Brady has a habit of putting on the brakes whenever he walks by Bark Harbor store and has been known to stage a protest lie down when they’re not open.
We picked up some store treats for our dog, Ted, and some Buggle, a local product that I discovered on my last visit that “scares the socks off the bugs and smells so good you’ll wear it all day”. Bark Harbor has a link to dog-friendly Mount Desert Island establishments to help you plan your stay.
According to Brady, Stewman’s is the tail-wagging place to dine with a view over the harbor, so we lunched on the deck alongside a couple of other families with fur-kids. The traveling dog duo, Mace and Cayenne, from Ohio were licking their chops when we met them across the road from Stewmans. According to their Dad, they had just devoured their own steamed Maine Lobster and I don’t think he was pulling my leg.
Molsen Gold Fountain Dog
One four-paw summer attraction that Brady didn’t mentioned was Mo, the Fountain dog, who loves to play fountain ball, much to the amusement of the cruiseship tourists. I have a feeling his Dad, Jim, loves the attention as much as his golden boy, named after Molson Gold Beer. Mo likes to sport doggles when he’s touring around and is a self-professed member of B.A.A, aka ball-a-holics anonymous.
West St Hotel
When it came to recommending dog-friendly hotels that welcome wags, Brady was all about The West St Hotel, just across the way from Stewman’s. Brady’s loyalty could be due to the fact his Dad, Chris, is the General Manager for this property and the nearby Harborside Hotel and Marina. The West St Hotel has a boutique vibe with beautiful wood floors, coffee stations on every floor, complete with a jar of complimentary dog cookies. The hotel’s room doors have special door hangers to let staff know there’s a wagging resident inside. Like many hotels, the official low weight limit of 35 pounds seems to be pretty flexible. If you call ahead and ask before making reservations, it’s unlikely that your dog will be asked to step on the scales; they’re just looking for well-behaved dogs who won’t impact the enjoyment of other guests.
The outside patio of the West Street Hotel’s Irish pub and restaurant, Paddy’s, is dog-friendly and is a good place to soak up the Bar Harbor scene. The hotel closes after leaf-peeping season but will open up again in May.
You don’t need to be in Bar Harbor for very long to notice the procession of people at low tide over the sand bridge to Bar Island; an hour and a half before or after low-tide is the recommended window. Accessed via Bridge St, this sandbar trek is fun to do with your four-paw drive. As you begin your walk across to Bar Island, you can look back towards the Harborside Hotel on the waterfront and you’ll see the beach front that is dubbed “Brady’s Beach”.
Once you get to the island, you can pick a trail and work your way up the hill. At the top, you’ll find a tongue-hanging view back towards The Bar Harbor Inn. You might see the historic Schooner, The Margaret Todd, moored or under sail. This Bar Harbor maritime icon is known for it’s Newfoundland furry deck hands and also welcomes mellow salty sea dogs on their sailing excursions.
Little Long Pond, Seal Harbor
Little Long Pond is a gem of a recreational area with miles of carriage trails, grassy fields, a pond and a boathouse; no wonder it’s Brady’s favorite hangout. Thanks to the generous Rockefeller family, this idyllic hiking sanctuary is open to the public with no park fees and is all about dog-friendly off leash trail play. As you pull into Seal Harbor, divert your attention away from the ocean and you’ll see the pond. Parking is pot-luck along the road and then you enter through a wooden gate.
Assuming your dog is under good voice control, let him off leash to romp along the pond-side trails to The Boathouse. There are plenty of spots to swim around the pond but The Boathouse is where local dogs like to head for a doggie paddle and social wag hour.
Depending on your leisure schedule, you can continue to loop your way around the pond which is about 5 miles. You can even link up to the trail network which will bring you over to Jordan Pondhouse for popovers. Little Long Pond regulars feel very lucky to have their Rockefeller rover retreat, be sure to continue their legacy of good dog-owner etiquette. No bikes are allowed on these trails but horses are, so you need to be mindful of that.
If I’d been on Mount Desert Island for a few more days and Brady had been leading the pack, we would have loved to have made it over to some of Brady’s other favorite trails.
Bear Brook Trail (now known as Champlain North Ridge), on Acadia’s eastern most peak, Champlain Mountain.
Little Harbor Brook Trail on an inlet not far from Seal Harbor with a hike up Eliot Mountain delivering views over Northeast Harbor from the ledges near the top.
Norumbega Mountain’s – Goat Trail with a steep .6 miles ascent and views over Somes Sound and then a more gradual loop down Shady Hill Trail to lower Hadlock Pond.
Dorr Mountain – Another favorite peak for Brady. Arlo, from Coffee Hounds, likes to ruff-it on the Stair Trail.
My armchair guide, Brady, is still in rehab mode but making good progress. I’m happy to hear that part of his four-paw therapy includes early morning swims with his Dad at Little Long Pond. Brady’s trying to take it slow, but it’s not always easy to find the slow gear when you are an exuberant dog who loves life. He has a reputation to uphold as the Bar Harbor dog about town and the Acadian wag who has “hiked every island trail without a ladder”.
Special thanks to Chris Torrey and Kristen Cameron for sharing their happy places and some great photos of Brady. Sending healing wag vibes to Brady, Ted can’t wait to play it forward and show him around our neck of the woods soon.