This Ferry Connecting the U.S. and Canada Resumes Service After 13 Years

See Maine's Acadia National Park by day and Nova Scotia by night.

The CAT Ferry, a route can take you from Nova Scotia, Canada to Bar Harbor, Maine.
Photo: Courtesy of The CAT

In busy Bar Harbor, one of my favorite spots has always been the town pier, where even as a kid, I was mesmerized by the sea of boats, ferries, and cruise ships that would moor their vessels for a beat. I loved to watch the coming and goings of passengers, the excitement upon arrival, and the final glance back as they depart.

For whatever reason, it was The Cat that always stood out — the ferry that brought passengers between Maine and Canada.

A few decades later, with children of my own, I finally got to experience The Cat for the first time, as the service between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia resumed after a 13-year hiatus.

"Personally, I think the best indication for whether or not The Cat's return to service is a success is how many folks come down to the water on either end of the route to wave us in," said the vessel's captain, Stu Coniglio, who recalls seeing the "rubberneck effect" in Bar Harbor after training routes began.

The ferry has evolved since my childhood days. In fact, it's an entirely different boat, docked in a different location, and the route is completed even faster these days. In just 3.5 hours (less than half the driving time), visitors and their vehicles can arrive in another country.

Mere minutes after stepping aboard The Cat (named Alakai for its Hawaiian roots), I said to my family, "If I could always travel this way, I would." Of course, The Cat is not a cruise ship, but the interior is so pristine and the onboard amenities so plentiful that I was hooked.

There are three places to grab snacks, a full meal, specialty coffees, or local beer and wine. Our kiddos were especially excited about the gelato options. Meanwhile, the on-site gift shop offers unique souvenirs with a variety of goods made by local artists.

With so many seating options, we found ourselves bouncing around a bit to take in the ocean view from varying perspectives. The front tends to be the most crowded, due to the floor-to-ceiling windows. If this is the view you're after, be sure to arrive at least an hour before the departure time. On a warmer day, when the sun and breeze are in perfect harmony for sitting outdoors, you'd find me enjoying a spell on the observation deck. But that was not the case for my most recent trip.

Upon approaching Yarmouth, the visibility was just enough to see nearby fisherman holding up their phones to capture The Cat's arrival. And just like captain Stu noted, the pier itself was dotted with people waving in the ship, doing their daily check to make sure she made it home. I suppose that's what I was doing as a kid, too.

How to Book and What to Know

The Cat departs Bar Harbor daily at 3 p.m. EST, and Yarmouth daily at 9 a.m. AST. The ferry is pet-friendly, and service runs from May through October. For this season, up to three passengers ride free with the purchase of two adults fares and a vehicle.

Note that fully vaccinated passengers do not need to take a COVID-19 test, but all passengers must fill out mandatory forms at ArriveCan.

Where to Stay in Bar Harbor, Maine

Less than a five-minute drive to the ferry terminal, Harborside Hotel has the ultimate downtown location, in addition to being less than a mile from Acadia National Park. Families, ask for the room with bunk beds. Couples, meanwhile, can find respite at the adults-only rooftop pool at the West Street Hotel.

Where to Stay in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

For those who aren't bringing their car on The Cat, the Rodd Grand Yarmouth is located right on Main Street, within walking distance of several shops and restaurants. Those traveling with kids will love Tru by Hilton's indoor waterslide and complimentary waffle bar with all the toppings.

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