Where to go, what to see when you visit Camden, Maine
Camden is the jewel of midcoast Maine
I arrive in Camden, and the world that I typically know -- one of freeways, stripmalls, errands, stoplights, and punctuality -- gives way entirely to a vision of the way America used to be, the way we want to believe it still can be. In fact, it’s not unlike arriving at Main Street on Disneyland, heresy though it may be to say. As you grow up, you realize what Disney’s Main St. is trying to evoke -- the enduring sense of nostalgia and pleasure in the memory of what America used to be like before scale, transportation, and population encroached on that lifestyle. Everyone you’ll speak to who remembers the 50s will regale you with stories about how much smaller the world seemed, how they knew everyone in town, how it felt safe to let your children run outside and see them in several hours’ time. And while Disneyland’s version is artificial and sickeningly commercial (though the child in me is still in love with it...), arriving in Camden hits many of those notes of nostalgia and preservation of the past, though it comes by the comparison with a breathtaking authenticity -- and this is what I celebrate about this town. You roll into Camden down a real ‘avenue’ -- a wide street lined with old New England churches, B&Bs, and mighty oak trees while the road gently bends down to follow the coastline. Restaurants, curio shops, and coffee houses dot the sidewalk with occasional inlets between the buildings that lead you from the ‘avenue’ down to the water. And once you reach the water, you have reached a part of America that is deeply special; the kind of place that forms a club, a bond, for all those who share it and can recall a vision of it in their minds. This is a glittering coastline, old, new, celebrating a rich history of seamanship while inviting families and children to enjoy an afternoon ice cream. It beckons to artists. It whispers to those seeking solace and a quiet hour to reflect. It greets the rising sun with a bracing pragmatism as the working boats go out to sea, and gently nurtures the sun’s wayward journey across the sky until the shadows lengthen, the day’s work is done, and the late evening light can be celebrated with good food, good beer, and good company.
I am still deep in the throes of raising children, where every outing is far more about managing them and the rise and fall of their moods, than it is about savoring the small moments and seeing where the day takes you. And so I use these trips to Maine to fantasize about what an utterly free day in a town like Camden can bring. Perhaps this June I’ll give this ‘day out’ a try -- with or without the children.
A Perfect Day in Camden, Maine
Things to do in Camden, Maine during your Maine vacation
First things first: I’m going to assume you stayed at Nightingale House, our Maine vacation rental situated lakefront on Washington Pond in Washington, Maine. Why? Because...I honestly can’t imagine why you would want to stay anywhere else. But - I’m biased. So be it.
It’s about a 40 minute drive from Washington Pond into Camden down Route 17, and beautiful lake-dotted countryside all the way.
We recommend starting your perfect day in Camden with a hike up Mount Battie at Camden Hills State Park, just a few minutes north of Camden. Make it to the summit and send us a picture!
Photo credit: http://blogs.gonomad.com/milestogo/2012/12/best-hike-of-2012-mount-battie.html
All in all, if you leave the house at 8:00 and climb Mt. Battie, you should be parking on Elm St. sometime between 10:00 and 10:45am.
Photo credit: maineanencyclopedia.com
Arriving in Camden the Morning
As you arrive, you are likely going to want coffee and a little mid-morning snack.
We recommend stopping in at Zoot Coffee.
31 Elm Street, Camden, Maine 04843
Once you’ve recharged, it’s time to stroll through town. Check out these spots before it’s time for lunch.
Offers free tours of the Camden downtown in the summer. The building itself is a National Historic Landmark.
Lunch in Camden:There are a number of amazing places to eat in Camden, Maine, both for lunch and for dinner.
Today, try stopping in at Valentina’s -- the reviews are incredible.
Dinner in Camden:
Pizza at Seabright
The next day: you’ll want to follow up with a visit to one of the islands immediately offshore from Camden: Isleboro, Vinalhaven, North Haven, or Isle Au Haut. Plenty of walking and biking trails and lighthouses to see!
If you hit the time of year just right, you may hit the Camden Arts and Crafts show - July 18-19, 2015.
Keep in mind that in the summer, Camden is home to the annual Parade of the Tallships (July 10, 2015) and Maine Windjammer Days (this year June 21-27 2015), which are festivals celebrating Camden’s sailing history.
Things to do this season:
4-6 (Labor Day Weekend): Camden Windjammer Festival
17-20: Camden International Film Festival
22-24: POP! Tech