About three years ago, we went on an unforgettable road trip through Maine. On the return leg of our journey, we passed through the small, coastal town of Camden. While it was not a predetermined stop on our itinerary, just driving through the center of town was enough to convince us that we needed to come back someday. It took three years, but finally we made it back, and it lived up to expectations in every way possible. So many people overlook Camden, and the entire midcoast region for that matter, just like we did. It’s a farther drive from Boston (3.5 hrs) than places like Kennebunkport and Portland, and it doesn’t have the nationally recognized name brand that Acadia possesses, so it’s not on as many people’s radar. It’s unfortunate, because Camden has a little bit of everything to offer.
The center of town is quintessential New England, with rows of quaint shops and restaurants. It’s lively in the summer, but not to the same overwhelming extent as other New England summer hot spots like parts of Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard. Many of the restaurants and shops have decks overlooking the harbor, which is dotted with sailboats and lined with palatial summer homes.
Where to Stay – Hawthorn Inn
For our weekend getaway, we stayed at the Hawthorn Inn, which is located only a couple of minutes walk from the center of town. This was the ideal place to stay in Camden. It was everything you would hope for in a New England B&B, and the location was perfect .
Where to Eat – The Rhumb Line
Although there are several places to eat on the water, the Rhumb Line came highly recommended. It had a casual vibe, great views across the harbor at sunset, and the food of course was delicious. It is located on the opposite side of the harbor from Main Street, so it provides a unique view of the town and the mountains as a backdrop.
On Sunday morning, we had a stroke of luck. We had booked a two-hour boat ride aboard the Lazy Jack II, a schooner with a max capacity of over 20 people. When we arrived at the dock, the captain Sean told us that we were the only ones who had booked a ride so we’d have the entire boat to ourselves. We spent an absolutely perfect summer day sailing around the scenic Penobscot Bay in this incredible vessel that Sean had built himself back in 2004. The views looking back into the harbor with the mountains in the background were picturesque and we were fortunate enough to see a porpoise as we started to head back in to the dock. Sean was as friendly as they come, and we had a blast just hanging out with him and his first mate Leo.
Our final activity of the weekend gave us a somewhat different perspective of Camden Harbor. Similar to Acadia, the stretch of coast where Camden is located is lined with mountains that dive straight into the ocean. Mt. Battie, the main attraction of Camden Hills State Park, is an 800 foot peak that can either be reached via multiple different short hiking trails or via the auto road. Regardless of how you reach the summit, Mt. Battie provides sweeping views of Penobscot Bay including distant views of Cadillac Mountain. One of the best parts of the Maine coast is the ability to be rewarded with ocean vistas when you summit a mountain. You really can’t get this type of experience anywhere else on the east coast.
Off Season in Camden
Within hours of leaving Camden, we already started contemplating our next trip. The main attraction that will definitely bring us back in the winter is the Camden Snow Bowl. We aren’t big skiers, but the idea of skiing with views of the ocean sounds amazing. Obviously we wouldn’t be doing any swimming that time of year, but from what we’ve gathered there is still a ton to do in Camden year round. Every Christmas, Camden hosts a “Christmas by the Sea” festival with a parade, dining specials, Santa riding on a lobster boat, and a star on top of Mt. Battie. Not to mention the area is probably beautiful when blanketed in snow. Nearby Rockland also has several museums that would be worth a visit. We loved Camden in the summer, but it might be difficult to wait a full year to go back.