For most people who fall in love with Camden, it’s love at first sight – and then it’s love all over again whenever they come back. Some take the plunge and move here, like we did – and even then, they almost never get bored or fall out of love.
What’s not to love? Camden, Maine looks and feels like the typical coastal Maine village of your imagination: colorfully painted stores and restaurants line Main Street, and just a few steps from there is one of the most scenic Maine harbors, where sail boats of all sizes are waiting to take you out to sea. Looking back on the town from one of these boats, you see what makes Camden different from most other midcoast towns – the beautiful Camden Hills framing the village from the West! The combination of hills and harbor make Camden one of the two places on the Atlantic “where the mountains meet the sea.” Hikers, skiers, mountain bikers, and sightseers all enjoy the views from above, onto the white church steeples, the blue-green sea, and the dozens of islands floating in Penobscot Bay. In October, the foliage in the hills is unforgettable, and in the winter, you can ski with a view of the sea!
There is so much to do around Camden that it’s best to savor it for a few days before moving on. You could spend at least a week just in, on, and around the water: swimming in the ocean and in nearby lakes, paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, fishing, taking a Schooner or lobster boat ride, or just sitting on a beach. If you’d like a drink or meal with your sea view, there are plenty of options in Camden, Rockport, and Rockland harbors. And if you like islands, take the Lincolnville ferry to Islesboro, or the Rockland ferries to Vinalhaven or North Haven. In the hills and mountains, you can hike, bike, picnic and rock climb, not to mention take spectacular photographs. Scenic walks or runs are just minutes away: up Chestnut or Bayview Streets in Camden, in the Merryspring Nature Center or Beech Hill Preserve, on Rockport’s Beauchamp Point Loop or the Pen Bay Hospital trails. And if it’s not too windy and wet, walk out to the Rockland Breakwater and Lighthouse.
Yes, we have lighthouses! There is one on Camden’s Curtis Island, which you can see from Bay View Street or any of the two hour schooner sails you might sign up for. You could even kayak or swim there ( if you dare!). If you like to walk on boulders surrounded by water, and find a light house at the end, we recommend the Rockland Breakwater, only 15 minutes South. Want a beach and a gift shop – minus the crowds – along with your lighthouse? Owls Head Lighthouse is your closest choice, followed by Marshall Point ( about 40 minutes South) and Pemaquid Lighthouses ( roughly an hour South). And back in Rockland, you can always visit the Lighthouse Museum!
Visitors hungry for culture or history have many additional options: antique stores, museums, libraries and library events, theaters, galleries, music performances, kids’ events, lectures, walking tours — and of course numerous ways to enjoy food and drink: coffee shops, diners, wineries, cooking classes, lobster bakes, farmers markets…. and lots of good restaurants!
You probably won’t complain about a lack of food options. A 5 – 10 minute walk will get you to most Camden restaurants; only the Rhumbline and the Pig and Poet are a bit farther away, about a mile each. Rockport and Rockport Harbor restaurants are just a five minute drive down the road, and Rockland, a real “foodie” town, is only 15 minutes South. You could also take Route 1 North to Lincolnville and Lincolnville Beach, or continue on to Belfast, for more events, sea views, shops, and restaurants.
Camden Area Events and Festivals
- Throughout the year, there are numerous special events in the Camden area: starting from a big January festival devoted to pie, peaking with the three big summer festivals, and ending with Christmas by the Sea in early December, there is something to look forward to whenever you come visit.
- Looking for a fun and crazy thing to do in the not so dead of winter? Try Pies on Parade in the end of January, when all of Rockland’s downtown turns into a pie tasting adventure, or The National Toboggan Championships in early February, when hundreds of teams with silly names and sillier costumes turn frozen Hosmer Pond and the Camden Snow Bowl into a winter carnival.
- If you’re up for intellectual challenges, come visit during the Camden International Film Festival in September, stay for the Pop!Tech conference a few weeks later, and return in February for the annual Camden Conference. Each of these turns the town into a campus full of stimulating talks and presentations, with discussions about documentaries, technology and international events heard in every park, pub and coffee shop. And in the summer, there is also a Shakespeare festival and a lecture series at the Camden Yacht Club!
- Fairs are big in small town Maine, and the Midcoast has plenty to choose from, from antique shows to arts and crafts fairs, from the Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors show in August to the popular Common Ground Country Fair in September. And in between, find farmers markets and special events devoted to blueberries, pumpkins, classic cars, strawberries, apples and more.
- The North Atlantic Blues Festival is a mid July weekend event at the Rockland Public Landing, where top rated national blues performers entertain live all day. Vendors, crafts, street bands and a club crawl round out this very popular event.
- The Maine Lobster Festival is a five day celebration of one of the reasons people come to Maine: Lobster! Every year in the beginning of August, Rockland Harbor’s public landing is transformed into a fair related to all things lobster, from food stands and cooking competitions to tasting events, lobster gift stands, fun stuff for kids, and entertainment venues. The coronation of the Maine Sea Goddess and the big lobster festival parade are the highlights of the event. All in all, more than 20,000 pounds of lobster are served up to festival goers that weekend!
- The Camden Windjammer Festival, held every Labor Day Weekend, is Camden’s signature summer event, and probably our favorite. Seeing Maine’s entire Windjammer fleet sailing into Camden harbor on Friday afternoon is a spectacular experience – and we’ve honestly never seen cloudy skies on that day (knock wood). You can even meet the crews, and watch them participate in a talent show. Check out the competitive events on Saturday morning, including a lobster crate race, and enjoy the festival fair at the Public Landing. On Sunday night, a spectacular firework display over Camden Harbor makes for the perfect ending to summer’s last holiday weekend!
If you want to experience a classic Maine Windjammer adventure, you basically have two options: a 2-3 hour day sail, or a 3-6 day seafaring vacation, which you will have to book weeks, maybe even months, in advance. Here is more info on both:
Day Sails (these usually go out four times a day, with many sunset cruise options. The Heron leaves from nearby Rockport Harbor, the others from Camden):
3-6 Day Cruises:
The Great Outdoors
- Aldermere Farm is a 136 acre working farm and educational center, where you can learn all about sustainable agriculture and ecological diversity. It is also recognized as a world premier breeder of Belted Galloway cattle – affectionately known as “Oreo cows.”
- Merryspring Nature Center offers hiking trails, gardens you can work in or admire, classes, workshops, and lecture series. Occasionally, the center hosts weddings and social or networking events. A beautiful place for peaceful meditation and relaxation!
- Camden Hills State Park is just a five minute drive away. Enjoy hiking, biking, camping, winter sports, and spectacular views in all directions!
- Mt. Battie is rich in military history and widely known for its composition of quartzite in the geological bedrock. It is the signature location of Camden Hills State Park. You can hike or drive to the top for breathtaking views of the village, the many islands in Penobscot Bay, the Maine coast and fall foliage.
- Camden Snow Bowl is a four season destination. You can hike, bike, ski, tube or toboggan. At the bottom of the Mountain, Hosmer Pond is also a popular swimming and boating destination in the summer.
- Beech Hill Preserve is a nice easy hike in nearby Rockport, offering two trails to its open summit.The top offers spectacular coastal and mountain views, as well as an old sod roofed cabin. During blueberry season, one Saturday is devoted to free public blueberry picking!
- Mt. Megunticook & Maiden Cliff Trails are excellent hiking expeditions in the Camden area. The second highest coastal mountain on the Atlantic, Mt. Megunticook is known for spectacular views of Penobscot Bay, Mt. Battie, Megunticook Lake, and Cadillac Mountain.
- Ragged Mountain is an easy hike for the entire family. Near Bald Mountain, you can access it from the Camden Snow Bowl and enjoy impressive views across Penobscot Bay.
- Camden International Film Festival has been a world renowned annual event since 2005. Key industry decision makers and enthusiasts come to screen independent documentary films, and people come visit from all over the world.
- The Camden Opera House is a renovated Victorian opera house. Inside, you will find yourself transported from downtown Camden to an elegant venue from a previous era with detailed restoration and beautiful chandeliers. The opera house hosts concerts and dance performances, theater, lectures, and films; it is also home to the Camden International Film Festival in September, and the Camden Conference in February.
- Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center in Rockland celebrates Maine’s role in American art. With over 15,000 art works and 2000 square feet of exhibition space, there is always something new to explore. Visitors come from all over the world to see the Andrew and Jamie Wyeth exhibits in the museum’s Wyeth Center.
- The Center for Maine Contemporary Art features unique contemporary exhibits, an ArtLab, and a courtyard open to the public. It is located in a beautiful new space in walking distance to the Farnsworth, the Wyeth Center, and the Strand Theater (Rockland’s art district!).
- Maine Lighthouse Museum features the country’s largest collection of lighthouse, life-saving and U.S. Coast Guard artifacts, and tells you all you’d like to know about lighthouse keeping, including stories about lighthouse keepers and their families. It is located in downtown Rockland, overlooking Rockland Harbor and Penobscot Bay.
- The Cellardoor Winery, a member of the Maine Wine Trail, lives and thrives in a 1790’s farmhouse in nearby Lincolnville. Enjoy complimentary wine tastings, food and wine pairing events, and cooking classes.
- The Owls Head Transportation Museum permanently displays collection pieces of pioneer-era aircraft, automobiles and motorcycles. Annual shows and events attract collectors from around the country.
Water, Water Everywhere
- Nearby Megunticook Lake is a perfect spot to picnic, kayak, or swim in crystal clear waters – and if you don’t go on a hot midsummer weekend, there will be no typical summer crowds.
- Lincolnville Beach is a popular place to swim or launch a sea kayak. The half mile section of beach descends gradually to the bay. There is a parking area, but no facilities. Across the road you will find Lincolnville’s charming restaurants, shops and galleries.
- Camden Maine Kayak trips will provide a scenic way to view Penobscot Bay, Maine’s aquatic environment and wildlife.
- Lobster Cruises will take you on a traditional working lobster boat to see lobsters and a myriad of other sea creatures in their natural setting. Most of these cruises also function as very informative Lobster 101 courses, only without papers or a final exam!
- Puffin & Whale Watching Excursions leave daily out of Rockland, Boothbay, New Harbor, and Bar Harbor for the open waters. You will get unique views of marine wildlife, the rocky coast of Maine and our lighthouses.
- Tour Penobscot Bay on the Betselma, a Scallop Dragger. One and two hour excursions highlight various islands, lighthouses and turn-of-the-century summer cottages.
- Swimming! Check out our swim blog posts for some ideas.
Camden Restaurants (in alphabetical order)
- 40 Paper Restaurant and Wine Bar
- Boynton McKay Food Company
- Camden Cone Ice Cream
- Camden Deli
- Camden House of Pizza
- Fresh and Co
- Long Grain
- Marriners Restaurant
- Peter Ott’s On the Water
- River Ducks Ice Cream
- Scott’s Place
- Sea Dog Brewing Company
- The View, 16 Bay View Hotel
- Vintage Room, 16 Bay View Hotel
- The Waterfront Restaurant
- Zoot Café
- Lobster Pound Restaurant, Lincolnville: Lobster! Surf and Turf, sandwiches, ice cream, gift shop, ocean vhttps://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g40840-d6849045-Reviews-Claws-Rockland_Maine.htmliew
- Whales Tooth Pub and Restaurant, Lincolnville: a bit of everything, fireplace, happy hour deals, oceanfront dining
- Youngtown Inn Restaurant, Lincolnville: award winning French cuisine, beautiful setting
- Ports of Italy, Rockport, Route 1. Lunch, dinner, brunch, open seven days, outdoor decks and great food!
- 18 Central, Rockport Harbor: Oyster Bar, Grille, harbor views, outdoor deck
- Nina June, Rockport Harbor: Meditteranean trattoria, water views, outdoor seating
- Fox on the Run, Rockport Harbor: food truck, weather dependent!
- Offshore Restaurant, Rockport: Route 1 diner with seafood and salad bar
- Ada’s Kitchen, Rockland: Italian, fun drinks and good food, open late
- Archer’s on the Pier, Rockland: Lots of seafood, lots of options, water views.
- Cafe Miranda, downtown Rockland: big menu, veggie options, Italian, outdoor seating
- Claws, Rockland: Lobster, seafood, picnic tables, water views.
- Home Kitchen Cafe, Rockland: Lunch and breakfast, very popular!
- In Good Company, Downtown Rockland: good food and company!
- Rock City Cafe, Downtown Rockland: cafe with bookstore, bakery, lunch options, drinks, music events. And it’s employee owned, too!
- Rustica, downtown Rockland: Italian!
- Primo, Rockland: Upscale, farm to table, award-winning, Italian
- The Slipway, Thomaston