From the top of Cadillac Mountain, the sun appears red as it rises on Aug. 7, 2022, in Acadia National Park.  Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

Acadia National Park had its second busiest year ever in 2022 with 3.97 million visits from tourists.

The high number of visitors at the national park comes one year after a post-pandemic surge in tourists pushed Acadia’s annual visitation total over 4 million visits for the first time in its 104-year history.

The past few years have seen significant changes to the tourist industry in Acadia and Bar Harbor, mainly because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourism cratered in early 2020 because of the disease and emergency restrictions imposed by the state, resulting in the lowest annual visitation total to Mount Desert Island in six years. But that was immediately followed by a surge in visits beginning in the fall of 2020 that carried all the way through 2021.

The pandemic resulted in almost no cruise ships coming to Bar Harbor in 2020 or 2021. The ships’ return in 2022 may have helped buoyed visitation numbers this past September and October, which historically have been the two busiest months for cruise ship visits to Bar Harbor.

The future volume of cruise ships visits to Bar Harbor remains in question. It likely won’t be resolved until a judge rules on a lawsuit brought against the town by local businesses over a successful citizen’s referendum last fall that calls for steep cuts in cruise ship visits.

The growth in popularity of renting houses by the week through online short-term vacation rental services also has contributed to the increase in tourists visiting Bar Harbor in recent years — and to a surge in housing costs on Mount Desert Island. The lack of affordable housing on MDI has been a cause of concern for several years for local employers because prospective employees often cannot find a place to live within a reasonable distance of where they work.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....