If you have never been to Camden, Maine … what are you waiting for? This town is gorgeous and rightfully self-described as the “Jewel of the Maine coast.” Located in mid-coast Maine and framed by the expansive island-dotted Penobscot Bay and steep granite rock faces lies beautiful Camden. The harbor sits quietly and safely tucked into the town while the flanking mountains tower above.
We parked the RV at Camden Hills State Park (SP),
a place we have camped before and absolutely love. The park is conveniently
located just a few miles from downtown Camden on Route 1 but has a total state
park feel. Here you are surrounded by towering trees, have numerous hiking
trails at your doorstep, and well-spaced campsites set amongst trees. Camden
Hills SP encompasses 5,700 acres with several mountain tops including Mount
Battie and Mount Megunticook (the highest mainland mountain on the Atlantic
Coast) and features attractive parklands south of Route 1 that slide gently into
the coast and offer stunning views of Penobscot Bay.
The campground offers water/electric (30/50 amp) sites and dry camping sites which are well-spaced and the majority sit in a wooden setting. A handful of sites are in an open field with full sunlight. These sites easily fit our 45’ rig and we liked the idea of full sun this time of year to warm the coach on these chilly fall days and nights. (Click here for a link to the park review we did two years ago.)
The next morning had us up early as we wanted to catch the sunrise from the top of Mount Battie. There are two ways to reach Mt. Battie – one being a moderate/difficult 3- mile hiking trail and the other being a short drive up an auto road. While we have hiked up the mountain before, it seemed more appropriate to drive at 6:30 in the morning which gave us a couple more minutes of shut-eye. The view from the top is always spectacular but the fall spectrum of colors that began to glow with the rising sun were amazing. The vantage spot lets you see Rockport and Rockland and the many islands rising up from the the horizon.
In the afternoon, we decided to head downtown Camden stroll the streets and visit the many shops and galleries that line the quaint downtown. Camden differs vastly from other popular Maine coastal towns like Bar Harbor and Kennebunkport that see masses of cruise ship passengers and have become overrun with tacky t-shirt shops catering to people who just want a quick souvenir. In contrast, Camden has art galleries, appealing boutiques, food specialty stores, and one of the best wine and cheese shops around (that my Dad has threatened to buy).
Like other coastal towns, Camden is rich in maritime history. Ship building dates back to the late 1700’s and numerous businesses like foundry's flourished making anchors, winches, blocks and more for ships. Today, the harbor is home to ten historic schooners that offer sailing excursions and gracefully glide across Penobscot Bay and reemphasize the ties this town has to ship building and a rich maritime history. The harbor is the hub for tourist excursions whether it be on a schooner, kayaking trip, or venturing out on a lobster boat for a few hours.
After exploring the downtown, we headed to Cellardoor Winery for a wine tasting and to enjoy the views from their property. Their wines encompass a variety of different grapes that come from Maine, Oregon, and California.
One of our reasons for stopping in Camden was to eat at some of the amazing restaurants that have cropped up in the area. Don’t let Maine fool you, it has become an astounding foodie destination, especially the Portland area. But just down the road from us was a restaurant – Primo – that we have heard of through many avenues and really wanted to try. At the helm is a James Beard Award winning chef (Melissa Kelly) who creatively produces dishes that wow critics and literally draws lines of eager diners that spill out the door and wrap around the building. The restaurant is a true farm-to-table experience with two greenhouses and acres of farmland sprouting a myriad of produce and livestock. Guests are encouraged to grab a cocktail and meander around the farm while waiting for a table. Our dinner exceeded our expectations and was certainly memorable. The pork rillette (a favorite of mine) was flawlessly executed and a wonderful introduction to the tender halibut I had for an entree. Betsy opted for their fried chicken leg (which they are known for and you order by the piece) and the cocoa nib and espresso grilled duck breast. Our nightly dinning experience continued and we also found ourselves seated at 40 Paper and Pig and Poet restaurants – both of which did not disappoint with the food and we loved the vibe and cool spaces that adorned each. It is odd for us to eat dinner out three nights in a row so you know the restaurants must have been a serious draw.
Our last day started with a nice walk to a “ski shelter” we saw on the Camden Hills SP trail map. Not up for strenuous hiking to mountain tops we decided on the 4 1/2-mile easy-moderate walk along a fire road to see what the ski shelter was like. The walk was beautiful and just how we wanted to start our day. The ski shelter is a replica of a rustic Civilian Conservation Corps structure originally constructed in the 1930’s. Unfortunately, vandalism fell on the shelter and it had to be rebuilt. The shelter is available for overnight accommodations and is pretty luxurious in the scheme of things and totally affordable at under $40/night. Inside the fully enclosed and very spacious structure are bunks for six, a stone fireplace and floor, picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, a woodstove and beautiful pine walls. Lots of windows make the interior light and cheery. Outside there are more picnic tables, a pit toilet, and a woodshed chock full to keep warm on cold nights.
In the afternoon, we drove down to Owls Head to check out the lighthouse and visit another winery. The station was established in 1825 and the present lighthouse. constructed in 1852. The fourth-order Fresnel lens stands tall upon the bluff warning mariners and captivating lighthouse enthusiasts.
On our way back home, we popped into the Breakwater Winery for a sample of their wines and were greeted by a very happy black lab. Our tasting was enjoyable and we loved talking to the women who was hosting the pouring. She was from the area and shared stories about her lobstering family and mentioned that the Owls Head General Store was known for their “7 napkin” hamburgers. Unfortunately, we were not hungry and couldn’t be persuaded but will definitely put it on the list for next time and always feel it is our duty to share locations of fattening, delicious hamburgers with you all.
This post just touches on a few of the things there are to do in the Camden, Rockland, and Rockport area but there is so much more that we have described in a previous blog post. We always love stopping in the area and always marvel at the coastal beauty that Maine has to offer.
Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.