The New England states contain a plethora of relaxing vacation spots. The Maine town of Camden is no exception. Located at the mouth of Penobscot Bay, this city provides a picturesque view of both the mountains and the ocean.
Camden has historical landmarks, New England cuisine, and plenty of accommodation for outdoorsy types. Continue reading to learn what to expect on your trip.
A History Lesson
Initially, Camden was a plantation occupied by settlers since 1768. The settlement received township in 1791 as part of Massachusetts. Maine wasn’t a state until 1820. The city got its name, supposedly, from Charles Pratt. He was the Marquis of Camden that provided the original land grant to Brigadier General Samuel Waldo.
The city has its industrial roots in shipbuilding and all things nautical. In fact, Camden shipbuilders created the first six-masted schooner. During World War II, the primary shipyard saw 30 ships built.
Tourists arrived in the 19th century via Boston steamship. Wealthy travelers began building summer homes, many of which stand to this day. The city sees a yearly migration of tourists and semi-permanent residents. Amenities and attractions cost less during the winter than during the summer because of the climate.
What’s the Weather Like?
Camden, Maine weather feels mild in the summer. Highs in July and August hover around 76 degrees Fahrenheit, while lows are a balmy 59 degrees. You can safely pack summer clothes, but bring a light sweater to keep you warm at night.
On the off chance you travel in the winter, be prepared for below-freezing conditions. Even the average high in January only hits 30 degrees. Lows can potentially dip into the negatives. Pack multiple layers of clothing, including ear and hand protection. Layering heats your body more efficiently. Should your clothes get wet, it’s easier to remove one layer than to change into a whole new outfit.
Precipitation varies little from month to month, but November tends to see the most. Maine is also a humid area. Because of this humidity, you’re likely to experience severe summer thunderstorms, so be safe when camping outside. Also be wary of driving through dense fog in the mornings.
Back to Nature
You can enjoy camping near Camden, Maine at Camden Hills State Park or Camden Hills Campground.
Camden Hills State Park
Camden Hills State Park, located two miles north of the city, occupies Mount Battie and several other rugged hills overlooking both Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay. The park is open from 9 a.m. to sunset every day. The main attraction, Mount Battie Road, may be closed between November and May. Call before traveling to find out.
For those just visiting for a day, consider taking a nature hike along Maiden Cliff Trail. The end of the trail is at the edge of a cliff and travels a mile at moderate ascent through the forest.
Fall is a great time to visit or camp at Camden Hills State Park because of the famously colorful fall leaves. If you drive up Mount Battie Auto Road, you have a gorgeous view of vibrant foliage on both sides.
Camden Hills Campground
Camden Hills Campground provides you with full amenities for an RV hookup. Reservations are available daily, weekly, and seasonally, but spots fill fast so you should book early. The typical camping season here runs from June 15 to Labor Day. The off-season is May 15 – June 15 and September 4 – October 15.
If you’re here during the summer, consider attending one of the many summer festivals that take place at Camden Hills Campground. Music fans might enjoy the North Atlantic Blues Festival in the second weekend of July. More into the seafood scene? Come in August for the Maine Lobster Festival.
What’s for Dinner?
Hiking through the wilderness is bound to make you and your family hungry. When you get back to town, consider dropping in one of the local eateries for a hearty meal. Here are a few recommendations.
Here, you can enjoy a hearty lunch or dinner seven days a week. Some of the menu highlights include clam chowder, gazpacho, phyllo-wrapped Brie, and fried seafood caught fresh from the harbor. The Waterfront is open all year every day at 11:30 a.m. Closing time is 9 p.m.
Fresh & Co.
This family owned and operated restaurant draws its influence from a variety of cultures. The menu combines Old World dishes with New England seafood to create savory flavors, such as Maine lobster ravioli topped with marsala chili glaze and garnished with Savoy spinach.
The restaurant is open for dinner only, starting at 5 p.m. It does not open on Wednesdays or Thursdays.
Peter Ott’s on the Water
This Bayview Street restaurant gets its name from its scenic view of the harbor. Here, you can experience some of the best seafood Camden has to offer. Start your lunch off with Peter Ott’s lobster corn chowder or go with the classic New England clam chowder.
In addition to the standard salad choices you would find at a restaurant, you can try fried calamari and arugula, or go Italian with a Caprese salad.
The choice of entrees includes burgers, seafood sandwiches, quesadillas, and of course, Maine lobster.
The restaurant is open five nights a week, closed Sundays and Mondays.
Camden House of Pizza
If you’re not a fan of seafood, don’t despair. Camden House of Pizza is a great spot to pick up some tasty Greco-Italian food with friendly service. This restaurant serves made-to-order pizza, gyros, sandwiches, salads, and more.
The Owl and Turtle Bookshop
It may not be a full restaurant, but the Owl and Turtle Bookshop is a cozy place to sit with a coffee and browse a selection of books. This coffee shop has been in operation since 1970 and provides a rotating catalog of fiction and nonfiction books for readers to buy or browse. It’s a quiet nook perfect for relaxation.
You can visit from Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tourist Attractions and More
People from all walks of life can find things to do in Camden, Maine. Camping and outdoor living have long been a mainstay of the area’s culture, but plenty of entertainment can occupy the less adventurous types. Camden boasts a vibrant historic district, art galleries, and places to buy souvenirs.
Ducktrap Bay Trading Co.
This local gallery gives over 200 artists across the United States and Canada a place to display and sell their work. The primary focus is marine and wildlife art, using natural media like wood, rock, and bone. You can also view scrimshaw. Men at sea created this art form during the Age of Sail to pass the time during long voyages. Scrimshaw artists carve images on bone and occasionally dye them.
Ducktrap Bay Trading Co. is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Camden Opera House
If you feel like experiencing a bit of theater, take a seat in Camden Opera House. This renovated Victorian opera house presents a wide selection of plays, musicals, and operas. You can buy tickets to your show of choice directly from the website.
The Camden Town Office operates from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., allowing you to purchase tickets in advance, while the box office on-site provides tickets up to one hour before the event.
The Smiling Cow
Camden, like many smaller towns, has its share of quaint gift shops. The Smiling Cow is one such shop that got its start nearly a century ago. You can buy apparel, small decorations, or artwork to hang on your wall. Want to learn how to cook some Maine dishes? Pick up a local cookbook from the Cow.
Even if you don’t visit the Cow on your trip, you can still shop online and have packages delivered via USPS. You’ll receive an invoice along with your item.
Keep up with the website to determine opening and closing times, and be aware that the Smiling Cow tends to close for the winter.
Merryspring Nature Center
The Merryspring Nature Center is located on 66 acres of land, filled with tranquil nature trails and gardens. Visitors can enjoy both flower and herb gardens and are allowed to take packets of seeds for planting at home. One of the highlights of the nature center is the Hexagon, a gazebo located near the entrance to the grounds.
Throughout the year, the staff of Merryspring gives classes on topics ranging from watercolor painting to horticulture and local ecology. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn about the local wildlife and gain some skills.
Merryspring Nature Center also advertises itself as a possible wedding venue. With a plethora of rose gardens, the gazebo, or the Rose Cottage, wedding parties have their choice of beautiful outdoor settings.
Vacation in Camden
Camden’s location on the coast of Maine gives the city a quintessential New England small-town character. The lush forests, rugged mountains, and bays set a backdrop of natural beauty without an overly-harsh climate. The town’s selection of restaurants and bars offers a mix of Maine cuisine with a multitude of ethnic food influences. By taking a vacation in Camden, Maine, you’re sure to have a memorable time no matter how long you stay.