Camden, Maine, “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea,” is a delightful seaside town just a little over a half an hour’s drive from Captain Nickels Inn. Peaceful and historic, Camden was rated number one in New England as one of the most beautiful towns in the United States.
Camden is a popular MidCoast Maine destination well known for its rich history, local shops, and natural beauty. The Penobscot tribe, who have lived in the area for thousands of years, knew the area as “Megunticook.” This loosely translates as “great swells of the sea,” comparing the shape of the Camden hills to the nearby waves of the Atlantic.
European settlers, arriving in the 1770’s, were not immune to Camden charms. The natural, scenic beauty and accessible harbor attracted wealthy residents and visitors alike, resulting in a bustling and prosperous settlement. Early local industries included production of lime, wool, anchors, and especially ship building.
By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Camden was a popular, Gilded Age summer resort. Sprawling estates and opulent mansions popped up all over, along with such iconic buildings as the Camden Opera House, Camden Harbor Park Amphitheater, and the Camden Public Library.
Camden suffered a terrific fire in 1892 that almost consumed the entire downtown. The city wisely decided to use brick and stone when rebuilding, rather than flammable wood, resulting in the picturesque downtown historic district you can still see today.
Modern day Camden is a popular destination for ocean and nature enthusiasts, shoppers, and outdoor adventurers. So much so, in fact, that visitors and seasonal residents more than triple the town’s population every summer. Though affluent, Camden retains a friendly and open, small-town feel, making it a real pleasure to visit and explore.
Explore Camden, Maine
History buffs will find plenty to enjoy in Camden. Visit the High Street Historic District and its collection of 19th-century homes and the beautiful Camden Public Library with its landscaped amphitheater. The restored Camden Opera House, across from the Camden Village Green, is also architecturally stunning and continues to stage music, film and dance. Follow the map and walk the streets where the 1957 movie Peyton Place was filmed. Those wanting to dig deeper into Camden’s past should consider a visit to the nearby Camden-Rockport Historical Society museum in Rockport, ME.
Looking to do some shopping? Camden is home to a wide variety of shops, boutiques, and galleries filled with unique items and hand-made crafts. You’re sure to find something at the Owl and Turtle Bookshop, French & Brawn Market, Uncle Willy’s Candy Shoppe, The Smiling Cow, Once A Tree, or one of Camden’s other many popular shops.
Hungry? Distinctive eateries like Fresh & Co, Franny’s Bistro, and Long Grain line Camden’s downtown and waterfront. You can also just grab some hot, fresh seafood takeout and enjoy it at one of Camden’s many lovely public parks. Yum!
While the town has plenty to do and see, the real star of the show is Camden’s natural beauty.
Outdoor Adventure in Camden
When it comes to outdoor adventure, Camden just about has it all. Beaches, parks, islands, trails, and more await.
One of the first places you’ll want to visit is Camden Hills State Park. The view from atop Mt. Battie provides sweeping views of Camden, Penobscot Bay, and the surrounding islands. In fact, on a clear day, you can even see distant Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park!
The Camden area is well known for its fall colors. Leaf-peepers come from all over to see Camden’s parks, preserves, and scenic drives under autumn’s colorful spell.
Hoping to hit the beach? Camden’s Laite Beach is a small but nice beach for paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, and beach combing. For smaller crowds, check out Barret’s Cove, a fresh water beach on Megunticook Lake.
Camden Boat Tours, Lighthouses, and More
Camden, Maine is located right on Penobscot Bay, one of Maine’s best sailing areas. The town’s working harbor is filled with fishing boats, island ferries, pleasure craft, and windjammers.
Numerous companies offer a wide variety of sailing tours and excursions from Camden Harbor. Maine lobster boat experiences, Camden Harbor tours, island trips, wildlife and lighthouse cruises, and more.
Speaking of lighthouses, no MidCoast Maine visit is complete without seeing at least one of these iconic coastal towers.
Camden’s nearest is the 1836 Curtis Island Lighthouse, located at the entrance to Camden Harbor. This still active light is not open to the public but can be seen by boat or from the Curtis Island Overlook, located at 148 Bay View Street, Camden.
Lighthouses and other attractions can also be found on the nearby islands of Isleboro, Vinalhaven, North Haven, and Isle Au Haut. Destinations reachable only by boat or ferry but well worth your time.
I mentioned the U.S. National Toboggan Championships above. Camden also hosts the annual Jazz in June music festival, the Camden Windjammer Festival on Labor Day weekend, and Christmas by the Sea. In fact, Camden has a special event of some kind or another nearly every month!
On the Road to Camden, Maine
Camden is just a little over a half-hour’s drive south of our Searsport bed and breakfast, Captain Nickels Inn. The drive is and easy and delightfully scenic one that takes you down Maine’s MidCoast on U.S. Highway 1.
Starting off from Captain Nickels Inn, you’ll want to head south (left) on U.S. Highway 1, Main Street in Searsport. Stay on Highway 1 until you find yourself in lovely Camden, Maine. Your route will take you through Belfast, ME, past state parks, scenic overlooks, and more.
Worried you might miss something fantastic? Let us know what kinds of things interest you and we’ll help plan your itinerary, so you won’t miss a thing. We love sharing Maine with our guests!
Updated March 2023