Winter Harbor Ferry (Everything You Need To Know)

The Winter Harbor Ferry is a sea ferry service that carries folks from Winter Harbor over to Bar Harbor, and from Bar Harbor back to Winter Harbor.

For those staying in the Winter Harbor area, it makes for an excellent means of transportation to Bar Harbor and back.

It does the same for those staying in Bar Harbor but who want to explore the Schoodic Peninsula section of Acadia National Park located in Winter Harbor.

Taking the ferry between the two locations is not only more convenient than driving and parking, but also offers you the unique ability to experience Frenchman’s Bay and some of its beautiful landmarks by sea.

And the crew of the ferry make the ride interesting and informational.

This guide will detail everything you need to know about the WInter Harbor Ferry, including:

  • Information on the ferry boat itself
  • What to expect on the rides over
  • The sights you’ll see while on the boat
  • Usual departure times from both locations
  • When and why the ferry may not run
  • Important tid-bits to know
  • Frequently Asked Questions

The Winter Harbor Ferry Boat

The ferry boat is a converted lobster boat named Miss Lizzie.

It features a rear deck seating area surrounded by benches that encircle the deck of the boat, along with an upper deck seating area complete with lawn chairs and surrounded by a protective fence for those who want an elevated view.

There is also minimal bench seating in the bow of the boat.

The boat comfortably seats 20 or so passengers, with trips routinely filling during the summer peak season.

The Ride

The ferry ride generally lasts about 45 minutes (just shorter than a drive would be), and offers a number of benefits over making the trek to either location in the car.

Those who take the ferry basically get a guided tour of the stretch of Frenchman’s Bay, and a number of islands and landmarks that occupy it, between the two locations.

The captain and crew are extremely friendly and will inform you about the sights you’ll see along the way and their histories, making for a quite entertaining ride.

Kids onboard often get an overview on lobstering and a look at some of the boat’s lobstering equipment.  

Some lucky kiddos have even been known to get a brief turn at the wheel with the captain during the ride.

And unless you go on a rough weather day, the ride is mostly smooth and those with sea sickness concerns should be just fine.

And the sights and views you’ll catch along the way are nothing like what you’ll be able to see from the land during a drive in the car.

Sights You’ll See On The Winter Harbor Ferry


A big benefit to taking the Winter Harbor Ferry over to Bar Harbor and vice versa is the chance to see a number of different forms of wildlife along the way.

Porpoises, harbor seals, waterfowl, and bald eagles are all commonly spotted along the route.

Ocean sunfish, which are very unique looking creatures, are known to be seen sunning on the surface of the water from time to time.

And if you’re lucky, there’s even an occasional whale sighting.

Grindstone Neck

Grindstone Neck is a small peninsula that extends out from the Western side of the Schoodic Peninsula into Winter Harbor.

Long known as a popular vacation area for the wealthy, a number of mansion-sized cottages dot the shoreline of Grindstone Neck and can be seen from the ferry as you travel past.

Ironbound Island

One of the best parts of riding the Winter Harbor Ferry is the stunning view you’ll get of Ironbound Island, the largest privately owned island in Maine.

Ironbound is beautiful, with tall granite cliffs that extend straight from the ocean giving way to forest at the top.

Even on the calmest of days, the waves crashing against these cliffs sending water splashing high into the air makes for an awesome sight.

And there are a number of seabirds that make this island home, which you’ll see darting in and out of the crevices in the cliffs where they nest. 

The boat generally gets you close enough to have an excellent view of all this island has to offer.

Porcupine Islands

Angling north towards Bar Harbor after rounding the southern tip of Ironbound Island, the Porcupine Islands will come into view.

This archipelago is made up of five islands – Long Porcupine Island, Burnt Porcupine Island, Bald Porcupine Island, Sheep Porcupine Island, and Bar Island.

They are home to various different sea life and are the islands you’ll see stretching out into Frenchman’s Bay from the awesome view of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia.

Winter Harbor Lighthouse

The ferry boat will occasionally circle the Winter Harbor Lighthouse on the way to Bar Harbor.  Many times this happens on the last ride of the day.

The Winter Harbor Light sits on Mark Island, a small island near the entrance to the town’s main harbor.

While it no longer serves as an active lighthouse, it still has the look of one of Maine’s classic lighthouses and makes for excellent viewing.

Departure Times

The Bar Harbor & Winter Harbor Ferry offers multiple trips back-and-forth between the two towns each day.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day during peak season, the ferry generally makes five daily trips to each location, with the first trip starting at 9 am from Bar Harbor and the last trip departing from Winter Harbor at 6:30 pm.

Standard Trip Times (Bar Harbor To Winter Harbor)

  • 9 am
  • 11 am
  • 1:30 pm
  • 3:30 pm
  • 5:30 pm

Standard Trip Times (Winter Harbor to Bar Harbor)

  • 10 am
  • 12 pm
  • 2:30 pm
  • 4:30 pm
  • 6:30 pm

Starting in September after Labor Day, the total trips to each location decrease to 4 per day with the latest two trips no longer offered to account for it getting dark earlier as the seasons change.

Departure & Arrival Locations

The Winter Harbor Ferry leaves from the Marine Center at 88 Sargent Street in Winter Harbor, which is located just off of Main Street in the main part of town near a cluster of Winter Harbor’s restaurant options and hotel options.

It arrives at the Bar Harbor Inn Pier at 1 Newport Drive in Bar Harbor, which is right downtown in the heart of Bar Harbor and within walking distance of the many restaurants and shops there.

Coming back over to Winter Harbor from Bar Harbor, the ferry loads at and departs from the same Bar Harbor Inn Pier and arrives at the same Marine Center location in Winter Harbor.

When The Winter Harbor Ferry Won’t Run

The ferry is occasionally affected by weather and forced to cancel some scheduled trips.

If there’s heavy rain or fog, it likely will not run.  But light rain or fog usually won’t prevent it from making its rounds.

You can check the webpage where tickets are available, along with their Facebook page, for daily updates that should reflect any changes in scheduling.

Important Tidbits About The Winter Harbor Ferry

  • Round Trip tickets are not available, so you’ll need to purchase a separate ticket for your ride to and from Bar Harbor or Winter Harbor.
  • There is a free Island Explorer shuttle that drops off and picks up at the Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor ferry locations, so guests can leave their cars and not worry about parking depending upon where they’re staying.
  • It is usually 10-15 degrees cooler out on the water than it is on land, so it’s recommended that you dress warmer with this in mind.
  • Those with bikes are welcome to bring them on the ferry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dogs allowed on the ferry boat?

Yes, as long as they are leashed.

Where can those not riding the shuttles park?

WInter Harbor – parking is available at the Schoodic Marina.

Bar Harbor – there is no designated parking for the ferry, but you may be able to park nearby in a pay lot or pay space for the day.

Are food and drink allowed on the ferry?

Yes, food and soft drinks are allowed on the ferry.  Alcohol is not allowed to be brought onboard.

Are there life jackets available?

Yes, adult and child life jackets are provided upon request but are not required to be worn while on the vessel.  Infant life jackets are not available.

Final Word

The Winter Harbor Ferry is an excellent way to cut out the need for driving and parking while exploring Acadia National Park.

But it’s much more than that, as it provides a unique experience you’ll only get on the water of Frenchman’s Bay.

For more unique experiences in the area, be sure to check out Jasper Beach and Sandy River Beach about an hour north of Winter Harbor.