19 May Summer Weekend Road Trip – Camden, Maine
“Where the mountains meet the sea” …
Camden, Maine has easily become a favorite destination of mine since visiting for the first time when Pippa was just one month old. While that particular 24-hr trip was a bit of a blur, now looking back, it wasn’t until I went back last summer that I was able to explore and discover the many wonders of this Mid-Coast gem. Camden is a quintessential New England town located on the Penobscot Bay between Portland and Bar Harbor.
Depart Early. No matter where you are departing from in the Northeast, I always suggest heading out to any of the New England summer weekend spots early in the day to avoid traffic, traffic and more traffic.
11:30 AM – Once you pass Portland the drive is picturesque and mainly two-lane, through some of Maine’s treasured little towns. If you are like me, I enjoy researching places I would like to stop and see along the way either for a meal or a photo. Plan your lunch stop on the early side and visit Red Eats in Wiscasset for one of their famous lobster rolls. The roadside lobster shack is hard to miss as there are almost always cascading lines down the street. It is hands down one of the biggest and best lobster rolls. Definitely worth the wait.
1:00 PM – A little further up the road en route, I took a detour and headed towards Boothbay when I stumbled upon the prettiest little white barn with bright blue shutters. I stopped to photograph the barn not realizing what was inside. The barn is home to the simply divine Down East Gallery. Here you will find a collection of some of Maine’s finest contemporary art. Paintings, pottery and much more also can be found tucked away inside. The property itself sits amongst the pastoral fields of flowers of Maine’s Mid-Coast. With walking trails available for exploration, I wish I could just have stayed there all day. Before leaving, I was greeted by the kind owner and chatted with him for a few minutes before carrying on my journey to Camden. Since my stop, I have been following them on Instagram (@downeastgallery) and highly recommend if you are interested in local Maine art. I definitely look forward to stopping back at the gallery on my next trip to Camden.
2:00 PM – Arriving in Camden on a Friday afternoon in June, the Americana seaside town is starting to see the first of the summer visitors and locals. The air smells of salt and summer. However, in early June there is still a nice crisp chill to the air. Rich in history, the charming town is filled with 19th century homes and architecture. The town sits on the harbor filled with its beautiful yachts and historic wooden sailboats. The downtown is vibrant and colorful. A visit to Camden, Maine will provide you with a feel of what the coast of Maine is all about. I just love it here.
3:00 PM – Check-in to the historic icon, The Whitehall Maine hotel. The boutique hotel is located just a short ten minute walk from the heart of town and sits up on a hill nestled in amongst Maine pines. Pick up the fresh notes of pine and birch as you make your way from the car to the front porch.
The New York Times refers to Whitehall Maine as – “A dreamy postcard summertime of a century ago”. I was instantly drawn to the modern yet rustic design and décor. One of the Lark Hotels, plan to expect modern amenities throughout.
(Interiors by Rachel Reider Interiors @rrinteriors)
5:00 PM – The inviting over-sized porch with its wide plank floors and wooden rockers is the perfect spot for that pre-dinner cocktail before heading into town for dinner.
7:00 PM – There are many restaurants to choose from in Camden. Usually the first night after a long car ride I prefer to keep it casual. Long Grain is a very popular choice in town. The Thai restaurant rings in seasonal and local sources of Maine ingredients to all dishes. Another casual option is 40 Table. This Italian wine bar/ restaurant has outdoor seats, heated lamps, and a fun, lively vibe.
9:00 PM – Once back at Whitehall, wind down your evening by the fire pit or participating in a game of corn-hole. Take in all the sights, sounds and feels of Maine. The nights are chilly so bring along a cozy fleece and layers.
5:00 AM – Rise and Shine! I like to rise early and get exercise in. Take note, the sun rises very early in eastern Maine, especially in June (which is when I love to visit). In June, the sun will rise as early as 4:40 am. Yes, that is right! For all of you early risers, this allows you to get out there and exercise. If you are a cyclist and have room for your bike, – bring it! The roads are wide, beautiful and empty that time of day.
8:00 AM – Enjoy that first cup of coffee on the porch followed by the beautiful breakfast at Whitehall.
10:00 AM – A must for any trip to Camden! Pre-book a 2-hour tour on Penobscot Bay on the Schooner Surprise. Touring by water is by far my favorite means to experience a destination. Penobscot Bay is spectacular. The tour includes some of Mid-Coast Maine’s waterfront summer estates as well as the Curtis Island Lighthouse. The 1830’s lighthouse beam shines out six nautical miles. There are also sunset cruises available should you prefer. The crew could not have been any better!
12:00 PM – Disembark the Schooner Surprise and walk 50 yards to the popular waterfront eatery, Peter Ott’s for a casual brunch. Super fun location to people watch and just take in the sights of the waterfront.
2:00 PM – Town! Stroll and shop your little heart out in and around town. There is no shortage of unique, family owned retail shops. Some of my favorite in town that are not to be missed:
Jo Ellen Designs is a sweet home décor shop. Pick up some of that favorite enamel ware, or a new coffee table book. I love their children’s selection. When Pippa was just one month old, we visited and I picked her up a beautiful book.
Starbird – another lovely home interiors shop with plenty for the blue and white home lover.
Swans Island Company – This store is so special. Maine’s fine handcrafted home textiles, apparel and more! I wanted to bring home so much. Their blankets probably are my favorite.
Margo Moore Interiors – This is a MUST! An interior design shop and retail store housed in a gorgeously appointed home, just a couple of minutes from downtown. I was really drawn to the bright and colorful aesthetic and stylish designs. A carefully curated space, with all of my favorite brands. Each room filled with more inspiration than the last. From bed linens, to glassware, to rugs, we love to display these items throughout our home. I loved meeting the owner’s daughter, Megan and learning of their first store in Darien, CT and the family history starting to Darien/ New Canaan.
The Owl and Turtle Bookshop & Cafe – stop in to this cozy cafe, gathering spot and book store for a afternoon cup of small batch artisan coffee ” Coffee on the Porch “ I first discovered “Coffee on the Porch” coffee during that first trip to Camden. Dan’s Maine roasts are flavorful as they are complex. There is a roast for everyone! Dan’s coffee can also be purchased at Camden’s cute as a button grocer, French and Brawn Marketplace, right in the heart of town.
5:00 PM – Rest & Relax back at the Whitehall before heading out to dinner.
7:00 PM – Enjoy a special evening of dining at Natalie’s at the Relais Chateaux property, The Camden Harbor Hotel. This fine dining option is set inside the old Victorian with panoramic views of Camden Harbor and the mountains. In love with the simple and elegant design of the dining room, with its cherry red chairs and accents, I could not help but feel as if I was eating in the heart of Paris. The eclectic menu is hyper local from the sea to the area farms. A special culinary experience for sure!
Head out early to explore the neighboring town of Lincolnville. Less than 10 minutes from Camden, Lincolnville offers so many sweet spots before heading home.
8:00 AM – Fuel Up for a morning of exploration with breakfast at Dot’s, located a short drive from the Whitehall. “Mornings at Dot’s start with a cornucopia of homemade muffins, scones, croissants, quiches and our super popular breakfast sandwiches and burritos. Steaming hot coffee, barista drinks & teas are waiting to boost you up for the day.”
9:00 AM – Discover the natural beauty from up above! Visit Camden Hills State Park. Located just a short couple miles from the Whitehall, and in between Camden and Lincolnville, the state park offers some of the best views from atop Mt. Battie. The most stunning views can be found here.
If you and your family are hikers, I definitely recommend hiking the trails or if you are time crunched, you can easily drive to the top to take in the views and get that spectacular photo of Penobscot Bay, Camden Harbor, the mountains to the west and Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.
11:00 AM – Lincolnville – Just down the road from Camden, less than ten minutes is the sweet and small coastal town. Stop in at one of the Antique shops en route for some Maine treasures varied from wooden American flags to colorful, old fishing buoys. Stop off at the Lincolnville Beach if you would like to spend a couple of hours beach-going. If you have more time hop the ferry over to the island of Islesboro. The tiny island in Penobscot Bay is located 3 miles off the coast and is a 20-minute ferry ride. Enjoy what small island life in Maine feels like.
1:00 PM – I would recommend a stop at the charming Lincolnville General Store for lunch and goods. Their wood fire oven is busy making up delicious artisan pizzas and breads. Sit outside and enjoy the country air over pizza and wine or a local Maine craft brew. This general store (owned by the drummer of the band Pfish) is just the cutest little stop!
2:00 PM – Caffeine for the road please! As you prepare to head back towards Camden to head home, this is a must stop for all coffee and tea lovers, Green Tree Coffee & Tea. This little wooden roadside cabin, with its welcoming porch filled with Adirondack chairs was one of my favorite stops along the way. I stocked up with plenty of coffee to take home and enjoyed a nice conversation with the owner. The coffee is way too good to pass up!
I hope you enjoyed my weekend road trip to Camden, Maine. If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.