Island Explorer logo
Acadia Free Shuttles
Picture of Frenchman's Bay
New Ways to Explore Acadia

News releases and service updates for the Island Explorer are posted here as they become available.
Picture of buses along the Bar Harbor Village Green

May 8, 2020 - Downeast Transportation, in consultation with its partners, has decided to indefinitely postpone Island Explorer bus service for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Service would normally begin June 23rd on Mount Desert Island and Memorial Day weekend on the Schoodic Peninsula, and run through Columbus Day.

To meet social distancing guidelines issued by the State of Maine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Island Explorer buses can only carry 12 passengers each as compared to the normal capacity of 30 seated passengers and 14 standing. During busy times of the season, the bus system often operates at capacity and requires passengers to wait in queues for the next bus with room for riders.  

“This is the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in my two decades with Downeast Transportation. We recognize that park visitors, residents, and commuters love the bus system, so we do not take this action lightly. But the safety of our employees and the general public is paramount. We’re confident that postponement is the right thing to do at this time.” said Paul Murphy, Executive Director at Downeast Transportation.

“Ensuring the health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and community members is the highest priority for Acadia National Park,” said Superintendent Kevin Schneider. “Postponing Island Explorer service at this time is the most prudent action to take.”

Murphy indicated that Downeast Transportation and its partners will continue to meet throughout the summer to evaluate whether conditions allow for operating the service.

“The Island Explorer is among the most popular programs that Friends of Acadia helps fund,” said David MacDonald, FOA president.  “So this is a tough decision to make, but we fully support the need to prioritize health and safety.   Together with our funding partners at L.L.Bean, FOA pledges to remain flexible and prepared to help in the future should there be a recommendation to resume some level of service later in the season.”

Downeast Transportation continues to operate commuter bus routes from Bangor, Ellsworth, Cherryfield, and Milbridge to Bar Harbor on weekdays. It also operates limited public transportation routes throughout Hancock County for travel deemed essential under Governor Mills’s guidelines. Downeast Transportation adheres to social distancing guidelines on these routes. It has also implemented a comprehensive cleaning regimen to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers.

October, 2017 - Island Explorer buses carried a total of 581,305 riders in 2017. Totals for 2017 were 1% above 2016, 9% higher than 2015, and 16% higher than 2014. The summer average in 2017 was 6,591 riders per day. The one-day peak was August 9, with 9,887 riders.

October, 2016 - Island Explorer buses carried a total of 575,397 riders in 2016. Totals for 2016 were 9% above 2015, 16% higher than 2014, and 37% higher than 2013. The summer average in 2016 was 6,568 riders per day. The one-day peak was August 3, with 9,179 riders.

October 22, 2013 - Visitors to Downeast Transportation and Island Explorer web sites can now sit back and listen to information about Hancock County transit services. The local bus company has partnered with the international technology firm BrowseAloud to provide improved accessibility for people who have difficulty reading web content, as well as for people who prefer to listen instead of read.
     "We have introduced BrowseAloud to make it easier for residents and visitors to obtain information about our services," said Downeast Transportation General Manager Paul Murphy. "Downeast Transportation has operated wheelchair accessible buses for 33 years, and we are now working to ensure that our information systems are fully accessible too," Murphy said.
     Visitors to the Downeast Transportation and Island Explorer web sites can activate a BrowseAloud link on either home page. To hear text read aloud from a desktop or laptop computer, simply move your mouse pointer over the text. From a touch screen devise, simply tap on the text to hear it read aloud.

April 25, 2013 - Beginning in 2013, Jordan Pond buses will offer direct service between the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and Jordan Pond . This will allow people traveling to the Jordan Pond House to enjoy their popovers without searching for parking. This route change also offers quick access from the Visitor Center to hiking trails at Bubble Rock.

October, 2012 - Island Explorer buses carried a total of 439,053 riders in 2012. Totals for 2012 were 9% above 2011, 7% higher than 2010, and 19% higher than 2009. The summer average in 2012 was 5,218 riders per day. The one-day peak was August 7, with 8,404 riders.

October 25, 2011 - Island Explorer buses carried a total of 403,754 riders in 2011. Totals for 2011 were 2% below 2010, 10% higher than 2009, and the same as 2008. The summer average in 2011 was 4,716 riders per day. The one-day peak was August 17, with 7,486 riders.

August 19, 2011 - Supporters of the Island Explorer greeted the bus system's 4 millionth passenger at the Bar Harbor Village Green on August 19. The Sherlock family of Cherry Hill New Jersey disembarked from the Sand Beach bus at 10:20 a.m. to the news that a member of their group was rider number four million. Representatives from Acadia National Park, L.L.Bean, Friends of Acadia, and Downeast Transportation applauded the family for using the environmentally friendly bus service and awarded them with a tote bag and fift card from L.L.Bean and a gift membership to Friends of Acadia.

November 3, 2010 - Island Explorer buses carried a total of 412,132 riders in 2010. The daily summer average was 4,832 riders per day. The one-day peak was August 71, 2009, with 8,010 riders.
     Since its beginning in 1999, free Acadia shuttles have provided 3.7 million rides to Mount Desert Island visitors and residents.

July 27, 2009 - On Monday, July 27, 2009, supporters of the Island Explorer greeted the bus system's 3 millionth passenger at the Bar Harbor Village Green.
     On hand to participate in the ceremony were representatives of Acadia National Park, Friends of Acadia, L.L. Bean, and Downeast Transportation.
     Since its inception in 1999, the Island Explorer has prevented emissions of more than 10,250 tons of greenhouse gases and 16 tons of smog-causing pollutants.
     According to Friends of Acadia, if all the cars and RV's removed from the roads by the Island Explorer since 1999 were placed bumper to bumper, the traffic jam would extend from Bar Harbor south to the Florida Keys and back up the west coast of Florida past St. Petersburg to Yankeetown.

The Island Explorer is operated by
Downeast Transportation
PO Box 914
Ellsworth, ME 04605
(207) 667-5796

For email inquiries, [email protected]