Camden Maine Vacation Guide | Best Things to Do in Camden This Year
The town of Camden is the self-described Jewel of the Maine coast. Located in midcoast Maine, Camden is a haven for ocean lovers, foodies, shoppers, and outdoor adventurers.
In the summer months, the population more than triples due to visitors and seasonal residents, many of whom reside in gorgeous ocean view estates around the harbor.
Getting to Know Camden Maine
Despite some early exploration of Camden Hills, then known as Penobscot Hills in the 1600s, Camden didn’t become a permanent settlement in Maine for another 150 years.
James Richards was the first recorded settler of Camden in 1769 when the first real settlers to the area arrived. The town’s name comes from Charles Pratt, the first Earl of Camden, and was named after the Revolutionary War in 1791.
In its first 100 years, Camden prospered in industries such as shipbuilding, anchor manufacturing, and lime production. The lime industry was located in the town of Goose River which separated from Camden in 1891 and was renamed Rockport.
In 1892, most of downtown Camden burned in a large fire. Buildings downtown were subsequently rebuilt with brick, and today Camden’s historic downtown has become an iconic part of the city.
With its access to the harbor and natural beauty, Camden has long been a popular summer resort destination, especially for wealthy families. By the late 19th century, sprawling estates and mansions dotted the area around Camden.
Today, many of those estates have become bed and breakfasts and Camden’s popularity as a resort town led to much development in the town, including the creation of the Camden amphitheater, the public library, and much more.
Fascinating Facts about Camden Maine
- Camden is home to the only ocean-view ski area on the Eastern Seaboard – Camden Snow Bowl! Here the annual National Toboggan Championships are held every February.
- Most of the 1995 kids’ movie Casper was filmed in Camden because the production crew felt it had an authentic field.
- Besides Casper, several movies have been filmed in Camden, including Captains Courageous, Carousel, Peyton Place, Head Above Water, and In the Bedroom.
- Captain George Weymouth of the ship Archangel first saw Camden Hills in 1605. He and Captain John Smith, of Jamestown and Pocahontas fame, arrived to explore Camden and the surrounding area.
Camden Maine FAQs
Q: Where is Camden Maine?
A: Camden is located in Knox County in Maine’s mid-coast. It’s about 90 minutes from Portland, and less than an hour from Augusta
Q: What is there to do in Camden Maine?
A: A better question is what isn’t there to do? You can explore Camden’s historic downtown, visit a nearby lighthouse, visit a local park, eat some fresh Maine seafood, and so much more.
Q: When is a good time to visit Camden Maine?
A: Summer and winter are considered to be the peak seasons for activity in Camden. But locals may tell you April-June is the best time because it offers a more relaxed pace before the busy tourist season.
Q: What is special about Camden Maine?
A: Camden is full of rich history. There’s stunning architecture, plenty of places to shop, and more than enough beautiful scenery.
Things to Do in Camden Maine
There is something for every traveler, whether you are looking to actively hike and explore Camden Hills State Park or relax on a sailboat as it glides over the cool ocean waves in Penobscot Bay, Camden has it all.
Boat Tours in Camden Harbor
Located right on Penobscot Bay, Camden is a sailor’s dream. Camden Harbor is home to numerous schooners and tall ships that offer daily sailing tours and excursions. Visitors may choose to charter their own ships, or sail for several days on a majestic ocean vessel, learning to hoist the sails or relaxing on the deck in the cool ocean breezes.
A Camden harbor cruise is a fun way to see the beautiful boats and schooners that port here, and venture out to a few lighthouses and beautiful Penobscot Bay – one of our favorite places to sail in all of Maine! Lively Lady offers harbor cruises from Camden’s docks daily.
Enjoy a Schooner tour in Camden aboard Schooner Surprise – we suggest a sunset cruise. As sails are raised, the wind is in your hair, and you see wildlife, and the coastline, with only the power of the wind on this authentic 1918 race ship.
A ride around the harbor will pass island ferries, mega-yachts, powerboats, fishing boats, Maine windjammers, and more!
Penobscot Bay itself has been said to be one of the best and most scenic sailing areas in the state of Maine. Camden remains a working harbor, with lobstering and fishing boats traveling in and out of the Bay each day to catch fresh seafood and lobster.
Shopping in Downtown Camden
Downtown Camden is a delight of upscale shops, antique shops, general stores, seafood eateries, and cafes, plus the most beautiful waterfront Camden Public Library which is surrounded by a lovely park for picnicking.
Pop into Uncle Willy’s Candy Shoppe, The Smiling Cow, French & Brawn Market Place for the perfect picnic provisions, and Maine-made yummies. Explore Owl and Turtle Bookshop, Ducktrap Bay Trading Co, and the Cashmere Goat.
Reny’s is a Maine shopping adventure in Camden…you won’t know you need it till you find it here!
Pay A Visit to Merryspring Nature Center
Open daily from sunrise to sunset, Merryspring Nature Center is a paradise if you love nature. Spread across 66 acres, the park is free to visit and there’s so much to see.
Marvel at Merryspring’s specialty gardens that include a dazzling array of roses, daylilies, annuals, and perennials. If you want to explore even further, Merryspring has 10 different nature trails that wind around the property for visitors to explore on their own.
Merryspring is also a non-profit educational center and routinely offers talks on topics dealing with plants, gardening, wildlife, and so much more.
See a Performance at the Camden Opera House
If you’re looking to soak up music, history, and culture all in one spot, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Camden Opera House.
This 500-seat venue is more than 100 years old and continues to draw visitors for its Victorian-era architecture and details. If you love historic buildings, you’ll be in awe of the large chandeliers, the antique moldings, and even the stenciling. The detail here is immaculate!
Best of all, the opera house hosts a fun variety of entertainment including films, classical music concerts, musicals, comedians, and more. Watching a performance here is a highlight of any trip to Camden.
Visiting Camden Hills State Park
Looking for things to do in Camden, Maine? A trip to Camden Hills State Park will give visitors the opportunity to view a gorgeous sunrise or sunset over Penobscot Bay from the top of Mt. Battie.
Camden Hills State Park encompasses 5,700 acres, including over 30 miles of hiking and walking trails. You may choose to tour the park on your own or with a local Maine Guide.
Camden Hills State Park is great for families with children because the hiking trails are not very strenuous or long and usually have very moderate inclines. However, if you don’t feel like hiking, drive the Auto Road up Mt. Battie for panoramic views of the Bay and nearby islands.
The Park is also home to over a hundred campsites and a large picnic area for those visitors who wish to stay a little longer.
Maiden’s Cliff is one of the more popular hiking trails, an 800-foot rock cliff that provides spectacular views of Lake Megunticook and the Maine countryside.
Explore Some of Maine’s Best Beaches
Beachgoers will love Barrett’s Cove, a freshwater beach on Megunticook Lake. This beach is a quiet and relaxing escape from notoriously busy Camden in the summer months. It is often not crowded and the lake water remains relatively warm during prime season.
The beach is open to the public with designated swimming areas, public restrooms, and showers. There is also a grassy picnic area with tables and outdoor grills and a playground for the kids to enjoy.
Laite Memorial Beach is small but scenic, overlooking beautiful views of Camden Harbor just a short distance from downtown. Laite Beach is part of a grassy park that slopes down to a pebble beach along the water, perfect for searching for shells, sea glass, and other ocean treasures.
The park itself has swings, picnic tables, grills, and restroom facilities. There is a swimming platform offshore for those brave enough to swim in the chilly harbor waters.
Lighthouses Near Camden Maine
It is worth a day trip to visit one of Camden’s outlying islands, Isleboro, Vinalhaven, North Haven, Isle Au Haut, or the many other smaller islands in the area, accessible by boat or ferry out of Camden Harbor.
Many of these islands are home to great hiking and biking trails, quaint seaside villages, and picturesque Maine lighthouses. In fact, there are 18 lighthouses within a 40-mile radius of Camden, some of which include:
- Curtis Island Lighthouse is located at the entrance to Camden Harbor and is still actively used by the US Coast Guard.
- Vinalhaven is home to Brown’s Head Light and Heron Neck Light. Vinalhaven is also famous for its resident swordfish captain and author Linda Greenlaw who wrote The Lobster Chronicles, A Hungry Ocean, Slipknot, All Fishermen are Liars, and her own Maine Cookbook, Recipes from a very small island.
- Goose Rocks Light is located between the islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven, marking the dangerous rock ledge beneath it.
- Isle au Haut is home to Isle au Haut Light. Visitors to this light may also choose to stay at the original Innkeeper’s house, which has been turned into a quaint bed and breakfast with no electricity!
Fun Events in Camden Maine
Although the summer months bring thousands of visitors to Camden, it truly is a year-round community with something fun to do every season!
In the summer, Camden is home to the annual Parade of the Tallships and Maine Windjammer Days, festivals celebrating the rich sailing history of Camden, and a chance to show off some beautiful ships.
The Harbor Arts and Camden Jazz Festival draw a large community to appreciate the local artists and musicians.
There are plenty of things to do in Camden during the winter as the town becomes a hot spot for winter sports. The Camden Snow Bowl is a community-owned ski area on Ragged Mountain and the only Eastern ski area with a view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Skiers and snowboarders alike will enjoy this picturesque ski mountain in Camden. In February, Camden Snow Bowl is home to the North American Toboggan Championships. Ice skating and cross-country are also popular winter activities that many Camden visitors enjoy.
Camden is full of rich history, which can be seen throughout the town’s many museums and architecturally stunning buildings like the library and the Camden Opera House.
The town itself is great for shopping and browsing, with many art galleries and boutiques filled with hand-made crafts from local artists.
Great Places to Eat in Camden Maine
Camden is also known for its unique restaurants and top Maine chefs. So when you’re ready to grab some food to start the day or you’re hungry after a day of exploring Camden, a whole town’s worth of culinary delights awaits you.
There are many delicious restaurants lining the downtown and waterfront areas, where guests may enjoy freshly caught seafood and other scrumptious meals or take an order to go and head to one of the many public parks in the area for a scenic picnic.
Some of our favorite places to dine in Camden include:
Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn
Located at Camden Harbor Inn, this is an award-winning eatery that gives up vibes of a French Bistro. Formal wear is expected and the menu is everything a visitor might expect in a fine-dining experience.
The Waterfront Restaurant
This Camden Harbor institution offers great views of Penobscot Bay and is a great place for outdoor dining. Treat yourself to some fresh Maine seafood or an American classic.
Fresh & Co
If you’re looking for something a little different, this is a great place to visit. If you come with an open mind, you just might enjoy everything on the menu from the bread to the soups to the caviar.
Peter Ott’s on the Water
If you love lobster, you can’t go wrong with a visit to this eatery on Camden Harbor. You can get steamed lobster, lobster corn chowder, lobster BLTs and so much more.
Locals love Marriner’s because it has the comfortable feel of a local diner and serves a great meal. Stop in for breakfast and order an omelet with fillings of your choice or a big stack of pancakes with real syrup.
If you’re craving Asian cuisine in mid-Coast Maine, this is the place to go. The chef-owners specialize in colorful soups, noodle dishes, and Asian fusion dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.
Camden House of Pizza
Operating since 1998, this pizza shop serves up a delicious array of specialty pies and also serves pizza by the slice. If you’re craving something different, try a pasta dinner, a gyro, a burger, or one of several other tasty options.
River Ducks Ice Cream
If you’re craving something sweet on a perfect Maine day, this ice cream stand is family-owned and offers nearly two dozen flavors of ice cream. You can also get sundaes and milkshakes. Enjoy your treat and treat yourself to a view of the river.
16 Bay View’s Rooftop Bar
This is an iconic rooftop bar and terrace in Camden and features breathtaking views of Camden Harbor and Camden Hills State Park. Treat yourself to a cocktail and choose some delicious from the small plates menu.
Here visitors can find delicious Italian fare made with a Mediterranean twist. The menu can change depending on the availability of ingredients, but you can find delicious pasta dishes made with local fare.
Located in a scenic cottage, this is a great place to get a good meal. The menu features Southern staples as well as seafood specialties and French classics.
Owl & Turtle Bookshop
If you’re in the mood for a good cup of coffee to start your morning, this is a great spot to stop in for some joe and a fresh-baked pastry. You can also find specialty coffees and teas here. Grab your favorite beverage and sit near the harbor with a good book.
Zoot is all about fun and happiness and you’ll find both here as well as lots of yummy food. Start with a cup of coffee or espresso in a coffeehouse setting and order a quiche or baked goods to go with it. You can also order all-fruit smoothies, made with organic fruit and natural juices.
The Best Places to Stay in Camden Maine
If you’re planning a trip to Camden, you may be wondering where you’re going to stay during your trip. Fear not, because Camden has plenty of options to cater to all visitors.
Lodging in Camden can be very unique, as there are many Historic Inns and charming bed and breakfasts to stay at. For larger groups or families, motels, hotels, and waterfront resorts are able to accommodate and please all guests at affordable prices.
Camden weddings have become very popular, as the town is such a picture-perfect spot for your rehearsal and wedding reception, and the ideal starting place for your honeymoon touring the Maine coast.
Lincolnville is Camden’s neighboring town to the north Coast with several great lodging establishments and a Maine winery. Many love visiting the quaint villages of Rockport and Rockland and Owls Head just south of Camden.
Other Nearby Attractions You Need to See
Camden Harbor Park by the beautiful Camden Public Library is a lovely setting for a stroll or a picnic with a picturesque view of all the sailboat masts in the harbor. There’s an Amphitheater here for Camden’s frequent outdoor concerts.
Visit Rockland’s Breakwater made of gleaming granite harvested locally, and then browse the Farnsworth Museum – home to Andrew Wyeth and his family’s artwork.
All of Rockland has an artsy cool vibe and several exceptional galleries – like the newer Center for Maine Contemporary Art across the street!
The Puffin Project Visitor Center in Rockland is also a cool place to visit. Opened in 2006, the center’s goal is to inform residents and visitors about Project Puffin: an effort to bring puffins and other Maine seabirds back to their nesting areas.
At the visitor center, visitors can watch a video system that allows them to see puffins and other Maine seabirds in real-time. It’s a great way to learn about how these fascinating birds live and the challenges they’ve had to overcome.
Start Planning Your Trip to Camden Maine Today
If want to experience the best of everything that Maine has to offer, Camden is the place where you can find it all. With a historic downtown, waterfront beaches, restaurants and parks, festivals, and much more, there’s something for everyone to enjoy when visiting Camden.
There’s so much to see and do in mid-coast Maine, so start planning your trip to Camden today. Whether you’re looking for culture, history, fresh seafood, beaches, or you just want to see the ocean, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you may just want to come back and experience all of it all over again.
There are so many things to do in Camden that we recommend staying for at least a few days. A trip to Camden is one the whole family will enjoy and remember for a lifetime!