Ellsworth goes from ‘gateway’ to destination

Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 6:31 PM EDT
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ELLSWORTH, Maine (WABI) - All the rain at the start of the season certainly impacted many things this summer, including tourism trends.

Bar Harbor still had plenty of visitors this season, but Ellsworth businesses have seen some fluctuation in traffic.

“A lot of our local business owners have... they’ve said it’s just hard to really gauge everything. Because one day they’re up 20% then the next day it’s raining and they’re down 20%, so it’s harder for them to gauge this year because of the rain. But we’re strong stock in Hancock County, so we always persevere,” said PJ Keenan, Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce executive director.

At the same time, Ellsworth is seeing another shift in tourism.

“Usually, we’re the Gateway to Acadia. Everyone has to drive through us to get to Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor, but this year we have actually seen a lot of people that Ellsworth is their destination. During COVID, a lot of people were just traveling within their own state. So, a lot of people from southern Maine in northern Maine we’re coming to this area and they fell in love with Ellsworth, which is wonderful. And they should, it’s amazing,” said Keenan.

And businesses downtown are seeing it firsthand.

“Definitely. I mean, in the previous three or four summers, we’ve been downtown people are always about Bar Harbor. And now they’re like, ‘Well, we’ve done Bar Harbor, we’ve come back three years in a row. And so, we want to see kind of what surrounding’ are like, ‘It is the cutest little downtown. We didn’t know about all these shops.’ And so it’s really encouraging and then they always ask, you know, ‘Where would you go to eat or where would you visit?’ And so, we give him some, you know, off-island recommendations to kind of help spread the love around,” said Amanda Beals, Poppy and Polka Dot owner.

And folks in town see that it could even lead to something more.

“I like it! I think Ellsworth offers people a glimpse of what it could be like to live here. If you visit Bar Harbor, you might decide I want to live in Bar Harbor, the housing is more challenging, there are other things are more challenging. But they come to Ellsworth and are like, ‘Oh wow! I can... you know there’s houses here that are in my price range.’ So I think it’s been, it’s been really good at we’ve been able to showcase Ellsworth, and people not to decide (just) to stay here, visit here, but come back multiple times and some a lot of people even moved here,” said Paul Markosian, Flexit Cafe owner.

For more information on offerings and happenings in Ellsworth, click here.