There are plenty of things to do in Camden ME. This picturesque harbor town combines natural scenery, art, outdoor recreation, shopping, and restaurants in one small community.
A visit to Midcoast Maine wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Camden, a town that embodies this region’s quaintness, beauty, ruggedness, and scenery.
Nestled alongside Penobscot Bay, there are plenty of things to do in Camden ME. The downtown of Camden is a lively scene of shops, restaurants, and art galleries – the buildings of which are reminiscent of days gone by. And the harbor, steps from Main Street, is bustling in the summertime with schooners, impressive yachts, and lobster boats.
While downtown Camden is where you’ll find the most activity and visitors, venturing out into the wilderness and spending time on the sea gives a different perspective of this area and is well worth the effort if you have the time.
Visitors can take in much of Camden in a single day. But spending a few days here, while also visiting nearby Rockport, and Rockland, gives a true sense of what this region has to offer. You’ll find there are a surprising number of things to do in such a small, rural town as well as many astoundingly good restaurants to choose from.
Is Camden Maine worth visiting?
Camden Maine has been a popular vacation destination for generations.
Much of what visitors witness in Camden today has roots in the 19th century when some of the most wealthy and distinguished families in the nation would gather here in the summer. The shingle-style homes these families built, known as cottages, still line High Street and Bay View Street near the center of town and further from the downtown on Beauchamp Point.
While Camden is most certainly a tourist destination, it also has a well-established year-round community which adds life and character to the community. Camden’s citizens take great interest in education, the arts, and nature. The town has been the home to historian David McCollough, author Richard Russo, and former Apple CEO John Scully as well as many other influential people who continue to influence the life and culture of this small town.
Top 10 things to do in Camden ME
These are the best and most fun things to do in Camden ME when visiting.
Hike or drive up Mount Battie
One of the most popular things to do in Camden ME is to hike or drive to the top of Mount Battie.
The view of the town and harbor from this summit is spectacular. All of Penobscot Bay will be before you, and if the weather is clear, you’ll be able to see as far as Mount Desert Island to the north and Matinicus Island to the south.
Drivers can access the summit by driving north on Route One (the same road as Main Street) and turning left into Camden Hills State Park. There’s a fee of $4 per Maine resident and $6 per non-resident to drive to the top.
Once at the top, you’ll find plenty of parking. Note that the road may be closed between November 1st and May 1st due to poor weather or staffing.
There’s also a pleasant, but slightly challenging at times, hike up Mount Battie that reveals the view slowly as you ascend closer to the summit.
Hikers can access the trail by turning down Mountain Street (Route 52) from Main Street and then taking a right on Spring Street. In about the middle of Spring Street is a small road on the left that leads up to the Mt. Battie trailhead, including parking spaces.
See related: Mount Battie: What You Need to Know Before Visiting
Stroll through Camden’s downtown and harbor
Camden’s downtown, including most of its shops, restaurants, and art galleries, sits right on the edge of the town’s harbor and is definitely worth a stop while in the area. Wandering through these streets is among the best things to do in Camden ME.
The center of this picturesque village is at the intersection of Main, Mechanic, and Bay View Streets. On the corner of Mechanic and Main, you’ll find French and Brawn, the town’s small, nostalgic grocery store.
You’ll also encounter a plethora of art galleries in the village featuring the work of local artists and other stores filled with home decor, antiques, as well as the typical tourist fare.
After checking out the shops, stroll down to the boardwalk to get an up-close view of the many schooners and impressive yachts in the harbor.
At lunchtime, order a sandwich at the Camden Deli and take advantage of its view of the harbor. When you’re finished eating, continue up Main Street to Camden’s public library and enjoy the view of the harbor and village below.
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Take in Camden’s arts scene
Camden ME has a long history of being a destination for artists.
Every July and October, the town hosts a juried arts and crafts show where over a hundred artists and crafts professionals display and sell their work along Atlantic Avenue. During the rest of the year, visitors can stop in at one of Camden’s many galleries such as Camden Falls and Small Wonder down by the harbor or Carver Hill on adjacent Bay View Street.
Take a ride on a schooner
Among the fun things to do in Camden ME is to take a ride on one of the many schooners that dock in the harbor.
During warm weather months (Memorial Day through Mid-October), schooners take passengers out into Penobscot Bay to experience the surrounding islands, see lighthouses, spot seals, and take in Maine’s rocky shoreline. Most trips last approximately two hours.
Visitors can find information about schooner rides as they walk along the harbor’s boardwalk. Here, crew set up tables advertising their tours and selling tickets. It’s also possible to book tickets online for rides on Schooner Surprise and The Olad.
For a bigger adventure, look into multi-day sails through wind-jammer cruises. Passengers spend nights onboard in bunks and can help with shipboard activities as they sail along the rocky Maine coast.
Visit the Camden Snow Bowl
Nestled on Ragged Mountain is Camden’s very own ski slope, the only place in North America where one can catch a glimpse of the ocean while skiing down a mountain.
While the Snow Bowl is modest in size and far from fancy, it’s an excellent mountain for beginners, young kids, and anyone looking for a relatively inexpensive ski without the crowds or hassle found at other slopes.
If you happen to be in Camden during the month of February, check to see if the U.S. National Toboggan Championships are taking place at the Snow Bowl, as they do every year. Cross-country skiers can also glide along the Kuller Trail when there’s snow.
During warm weather months, visitors to the Snow Bowl can hike along Ragged Mountain’s hiking trails, 1-2 miles long, up to the summit for excellent views. And bikers can descend down one of the many mountain bike trails maintained by a local mountain bike club. Visitors can also view fall foliage against the setting of Penobscot Bay by riding the Snow Bowl’s chairlifts on Sundays in October. (20 Barnestown Road)
Stop in at The Owl and Turtle Bookshop and Cafe
Since 1970, the Owl and Turtle bookshop has had a presence in Camden – albeit in different locales throughout the town.
In addition to its wide variety of carefully selected books and a well-thought-out children’s section, you’ll also find a cafe featuring a variety of espresso drinks, teas, and cold drinks.
Events at the bookshop can also be a treat with local authors stopping in. (33 Bayview Street)
Visit Megunticook Lake
Among the outdoorsy things to do in Camden ME is a visit to Megunticook Lake.
Splattered across Megunticook Lake’s surface are dozens of islands and inlets making it an interesting place to kayak or canoe. Visitors can also swim at the Barrett’s Cove public beach located in a small cove with a relatively long expanse of shallow water.
The start of the lake is about a five-mile drive from the center of town, down Route 52. From there, you’ll see a number of areas to turn off and park, including parking for Barrett’s Cove beach.
Just across Route 52 is a mile long slightly rocky woodland path leading up Maiden Cliff that has great views of the lake down below. Adventurous hikers can continue on for another .8 miles up the Scenic Trail and see views of Ragged and Bald Mountains and the lake in its entirety.
See Curtis Island Lighthouse
Sitting on a small island just off Camden Harbor is Curtis Island Lighthouse. This tiny lighthouse, compared to those seen further south down the coast, is picture perfect – set on the edge of a rocky coast with its red roof contrasting against the blue water of Penobscot Bay.
Visitors aren’t allowed on Curtis Island, and it isn’t easy to get a good glimpse of it except by boat. But locals know that down Bay View Street, across from its intersection with Beacon Ave, is a small path known as the Curtis Lighthouse Overlook that leads to the coast and provides the perfect vantage point of the lighthouse. Walking to the path is possible from downtown or from nearby Laite Memorial Beach.
Eat dinner at Long Grain Restaurant
It may initially seem strange to include a Thai restaurant on a list of things to do in Camden ME. But Long Grain isn’t any ordinary restaurant, especially for this rural setting.
Started in 2010 by husband and wife team Ravin Nakjaroen and Paula Palakawong, nearly overnight Long Grain made a name for itself, capturing the attention of The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Saveur, and more.
Dishes are described as Asian home-cooked and street food that makes use of seasonal and local produce. Plan in advance if you want to eat here during tourist season – even in the off-season tables can go quickly and takeout can also be a wait so put your order in early. (20 Washington Street)
Visit Merryspring Nature Center
Among the fun things to do in Camden ME is to visit the 66-acre Merryspring Nature Center.
This center is only a six-minute drive from downtown and is the perfect place to take a break from tourist crowds and spend time in nature.
Visitors will find perennial and rose gardens as well as gardens of hostas, daylilies, and herbs. Take a walk through the center’s many trails, explore its arboretum, see its vernal pool, and take a look at its rare American chestnut planting. Admission is free but donations are welcome. (30 Conway Road)
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About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.