Just A Few of the Things We Love To Do in the Camden Area
We are often asked what we would do if we had a few extra days in Camden. For those of you joining us for a 3 or 4 day trip here is an incomplete list of ideas we think you might enjoy right here in the mostly immediate Camden area. All of these day experiences you might enjoy after you have seen all of downtown Camden. Experiences in Acadia National Park are awesome and also pretty well documented. Acadia is about an hour and a half from Camden depending on summer traffic.
Hike the Camden Hills If you want to get out and stretch your legs you can walk from downtown to the base of the Mt Battie trail. A half mile and 662’ of steep scrambling later you will, on a sunny day, enjoy magnificent views of Penobscot Bay. From there you can hike to Maiden’s Cliff via Ocean Lookout, Mt Megunticook and the Ridge Trail. There are about 22 miles of hiking trails. You can also drive to the top of Mt Battie from the official park entrance for a fee. The park offers great camping with wonderful facilities as well.
Rockport- Rockport is right next to Camden. As a matter of fact they used to be the same town. Besides picking out of the dumpsters at the transfer station (Don’t be a Barry who takes it as a personal challenge to come home with more than he arrived with.) there are three cool things not many visitors know about.
Belties- If you have never seen a Belted Galloway you are in for a treat, Aldemere Farm has one of the premier herds of Belted Galloways in the country. One look and you will realize why they are called “cookie cows.” We enjoy the slow drive out Bayview St. from the crazy intersection in downtown Camden. Take a left when you get to the cemetery, go 100 yards and you can’t miss ‘em. Unless they aren’t out in the roadside pasture but you’ll see the Aldemere Farm sign.
Beauchamp Point- Make a quick stop by the Vesper Hill Children’s Chapel just off Calderwood Rd to enjoy the flowers and the open air chapel that looks out over Penobscot Bay. When you are finished there work your way around the dirt Beauchamp Point Rd. Keep your eyes peeled to find a small space where you can park without blocking the narrow road to go have lunch and go swimming off the rocks in Rockport Harbor.
Beech Hill- This is a favorite picnic spot. Park and hike the very short distance to the top of the hill for gorgeous views of Penobscot Bay. The small stone building is called “Beechnut.” You can purchase organic blueberries here in season. Watching the sunrise or moonrise over the bay from up here is “not half bad” as Barry would say. Want to fly a kite in the southwest wind. This is as good a place as any and better than most.
Lincolnville –Cellar Door Winery Even if you don’t like wine this is a cool place to just walk around. They offer wine tastings in a beautiful old renovated barn overlooking the vineyard. Visit their website to check out special events happening their throughout the year.
Union – The Union Fair Held during the third week of August every year this is your good old-fashioned county fair complete with carnival rides, cotton candy and lots of agricultural displays. If you are fascinated by big strong “draft” animals you will enjoy the annual oxen and horse pulling contests. We like the demolition derby where locals get one last gasp out of used cars before they head to the crusher. Too much going on to list here. The Union Fair Grounds are also home to the Moxie Wing of the Matthews Museum. Invented in 1884 by Dr Augustin Thompson Moxie (originally a nerve agent free of cocaine or alcohol) is a taste sensation like nothing else you have ever experienced. Got Moxie?
Savage Oaks Winery There are several local wineries in the area but this one boasts an annual summer concert series that brings in some of the biggest names in folk music in an intimate venue. Lyle Lovett played there last summer. The Indigo Girls the summer before. This summer Melissa Etheridge is performing the evening of June 16th. Visit their webpage to learn more about all the goings on.
Belfast– Thirty years ago Belfast was where the hippie back-to-the- land farmers living in rural Waldo County came to town on Saturday night. Locals claim it looked like the circus had rolled in complete with VW microbuses and vintage apparel from the 1800s. Belfast has transformed itself into one of the most happening places along Penobscot Bay. There are a ton of cute little shops and great restaurants. Here are a couple of our favorites.
Parent Gallery– Raised on black and white and living in Technicolor! That is Neal Parent and his beautiful wife Linda. Their little gallery at the cross roads in the middle of town offers some fabulous large format black and white images that capture the essence of Midcoast Maine over the last 40 years. Tell them you sailed on Mary Day. It might not get you a discount but it’s a conversation starter. Who wants cheap art anyway?
Rollies Bar and Grill Used to be that you could get quite the show just sitting at the bar. They have tamed things down a bit but they still serve a wicked good burger and a variety of local microbrews and everyday industrial favorites in a local bar atmosphere. Grab a table. The barstools will most likely be filled.
Rockland Once a rough and tumble industrial fishing community Rockland has transformed itself into an arts mecca. Maine street is full of cool little stores and art galleries.
Jim Dugan Though you’ll never find it this is where JimDugan.com has his studio. Of all the fabulous artists whose works adorn the walls of the many galleries and the Farnsworth Art Museum Jim Dugan is by far and away our favorite. Visit his webpage to see the fabulous maritime color images he has created many of which include your favorite schooner, Mary Day. If you contact him well ahead of time he might be able to sign and hand deliver a large format image so that you can actually meet the man, the myth, the legend. He can also ship it to you by mail if your heart can’t handle the excitement of meeting him in person.
The Farnsworth – Considered by some to be one of the finest art collections in Maine the Farnsworth Art Museum is a fabulous take. Their Wyeth exhibit, covering 3 generations of one of America’s premier art families, is so comprehensive it has its own building. Tour part of the collection, take a break for lunch in any one of the downtown restaurants and head back in to take in some more.
The Sail Power and Steam Museum Located in the South End of Rockland Harbor this nautical museum is a real hidden gem. Run by Jim and his lovely wife Meg Sharp there are all sorts of cool schooner and not-so-schooner related nautical exhibits. Jim has owned a slew of sails boats including a bunch of schooners one of which is the schooner Adventure now sailing out of Gloucester, MA. Bring your guitar on Sundays to the weekly hootenanny open to everybody. Probably the best interactive exhibit is Jim Sharp himself. Tell him you sailed aboard Mary Day and stand by for some colorful stories about the history of the Maine windjammer fleet.
The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse– The breakwater is 7/8s of a mile long and built out of granite stones. The walk out here during the early morning for sunrise is pretty cool. Bring your camera. The patterns in the granite, the lighthouse, lobster boats headed out of the harbor, sunrise with just a few clouds above the horizon. Yeah, you might want to take a few pictures.
The Owls Head Transportation Museum Just on the outskirts of Rockland you will find one of the coolest transportation museums in the country. They have examples of every form of motorized transportation you can imagine. Their antique car and plane collection is pretty amazing. And they offer special events all year round.
Headed South from Rockland Talk about off the beaten path, McLoon’s Wharf-If you just want to amble your way around the area by car we recommend grabbing a lobster roll or full lobster dinner at McLoon’s Wharf at the end of the road in Spruce Head. Lots of lobstering going on down here and you can watch the boats coming and going, unloading their catch or baiting up for the next day. This is the no frills, real deal. After lunch you ought to head over to Port Clyde and the Marshall Point Lighthouse to see just where it is Forest Gump ended his marathon run overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Monhegan Island– This can be a day trip or an overnight visit to one of Maine most scenic island communities. Take the Monhegan Ferry from Port Clyde. This place is bustling during high season so don’t expect to have the island to yourself during the day. Made famous by the numerous artists who summered on the island you’ll find wonderful hiking, a few little artist’s shops, even a microbrewery and more scenery than you can take in. Pack a lunch and everything you think you’ll need for the day. Locals out here fish during the winter. You will have to ask around to figure out why. There are several inns, large and small, if you want to spend the night. The island feels quite different after the day visitors leave. We personally recommend the Trailing Yew where our long time Mary Day cook Mary Barney ran the bake house for 25 summers.
A Less Than Comprehensive List of Things To Do- Acadia National Park
The most heavily visited national park east of the Mississippi there is no question Acadia is beautiful. But our whole schtick is to spend less time in the car burning dinosaur bones and more time doing. And remember this is a list of cool things to do in the Camden area. But if you insist here is a way less than comprehensive list with a couple of our preferences. There is so much information available online that figuring out what to do in and around Acadia should be relatively easy.
Acadia on Mt Desert– A day trip from Camden probably won’t do it but here is a park service web page to get you started on planning. Thunder Hole thunders best after a good ol’ fashioned No’easter. Sand Beach will packed by mid-day so visit this early in the morning or early evening. The view from the top of Cadillac Mt, accessed by auto road or hiking trail, is amazing on a clear day but plan on having company. Tea and popovers at the Jordan Pond House are delicious.
Isle Au Haut– Drive to Stonington, catch the ferry and discover the most remote part of Acadia. Half of Isle Au Haut is part of Acadia. The biggest draw here are the hiking trails. You can get dropped off in the village to get a glimpse of Maine island life and then hike to the south end of the island. Or you can get dropped off at Duck Harbor at the south end of the island where a ranger will meet you and help you get oriented. Either way there is more hiking here than a day will allow. Good news: If you plan ahead you could reserve one of only a handful of campsites for no more than a few days. Or if you want to spend a few nights in relative luxury try the Keeper’s House.
Islesford- Another island community that is relatively easy to get to from Mt. Desert is Islesford on Little Cranberry. From Islesford you can get some beautiful views looking back at Mt Desert and see why Champlain, back in 1604, thought he was looking at sand from 25 miles out. Hence the “island of the mountain desert.” Take the ferry out of Northeast Harbor. There is a cute little museum run by the local historical society right up the dock. Walking “up island” check out the stained glass in the tiny stone Star of the Sea church (74 Main St.) Our favorite thing to do is hike out to the beach (take the Bar road which turns into the Coast Guard road that goes to the “P” where the map says “Please respect private property.) Listen to the magical sound of the waves tumbling the pebbles in the surf. That beach has been playing “rolling stones” for a couple thousand years. Before you leave check out some of the local artists’ shops.
Beautiful Gardens- If you enjoy cultivated gardens these are a few “don’t miss” gardens to visit during your time on Mt Desert. Because these are not part of the national park they are often overlooked. Our favorite is the Thuya Garden. Right close by are the Asticou Azalea Gardens. And the Abby Garden in Seal Harbor won’t hurt your feelings either.