Top 10 Best Things to Do in Camden Maine

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 view of downtown Camden, Maine from Mount Battie in the autumn
A view of downtown Camden, Maine from Mount Battie in the autumn

A visit to Midcoast Maine wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Camden. This town embodies this region’s quaintness, beauty, ruggedness, and scenery. 

Nestled alongside Penobscot Bay, there are plenty of things to do in Camden ME. Downtown Camden is a lively scene of shops, restaurants, and art galleries – the buildings 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 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 offers. You’ll find a surprising number of things to do in such a small, rural town and many excellent restaurants to choose from.

Top 10 things to do in Camden ME

When visiting, these are the best and most fun things to do in Camden ME.

Hike or drive up Mount Battie

Mount Battie. One of the many things to do in Camden ME
This small stone tower sits at the top of Mount Battie, where a former hotel once stood. At the top, visitors can see expansive views of Penobscot Bay.

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 can 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 hike up Mount Battie that slowly reveals the view 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 the middle of Spring Street is a small road on the left leading 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

Main Street in downtown Camden Maine
Main Street in downtown Camden, Maine. Photo credit: Idawriter

Camden’s downtown, including most of its shops, restaurants, and art galleries, sits right on the edge of the town’s harbor and is worth a stop 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, and the typical tourist fare. 

After checking out the shops, stroll down to the boardwalk to get an up-close view of the harbor’s many schooners and impressive yachts.

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.

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 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. 

Camden’s Opera House also features a variety of live performances, musical gigs, and other events throughout the year, including Jazz in June and The Camden Shakespeare Festival in the summer.

Take a ride on a schooner 

A schooner in the harbor. Taking a schooner ride is one of the things to do in Camden ME
A schooner docked in Camden Harbor. A handful of schooners take passengers on rides during warm weather months.

Among the fun things to do in Camden ME is to ride on one of the many schooners that dock in the harbor.

During warm weather months (Memorial Day through mid-October), schooners take passengers 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. Booking tickets online for rides on Schooner Surprise and The Olad is also possible. 

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 while sailing along the rocky Maine coast. 

See related: 10 New England Small Towns That Feel Like Stars Hollow

Visit the Camden Snow Bowl

Nestled on Ragged Mountain is Camden’s own ski slope, the only place in North America where one can glimpse 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’re in Camden in 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)

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Stop in at The Owl and Turtle Bookshop and Cafe

Since 1970, the Owl and Turtle bookshop has been 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

An aerial view of Mount Megunticook
A view of Megunticook Lake from Maiden Cliff. Photo credit: Fyn Kynd/ Flickr

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 in a small cove with a relatively long expanse of shallow water.

The lake starts about a five-mile drive from the center of town, down Route 52. From there, you’ll see several 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 with great views of the lake below. Adventurous hikers can continue for another .8 miles up the Scenic Trail and see views of Ragged and Bald Mountains and the lake.

See Curtis Island Lighthouse

Curtis Island lighthouse. One of the many things to do in Camden ME

Sitting on a small island just off Camden Harbor is Curtis Island Lighthouse. Compared to those seen further south down the coast, this tiny lighthouse 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 getting a good glimpse of it is challenging 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 nearby Laite Memorial Beach.

See related: Curtis Island Lighthouse: Everything You Need to Know Before Visting

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 street food using 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 and gardens of hostas, daylilies, and herbs. Walk through the center’s many trails, explore its arboretum, see its vernal pool, and look at its rare American chestnut planting. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. (30 Conway Road)

Is Camden Maine worth visiting?

Camden, Maine has been a popular vacation destination for generations.

Much of what visitors witness in Camden today is rooted in the 19th century when some of the nation’s most wealthy and distinguished families 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 town center 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.

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A photo of Kerry Flatley leaning against a wall

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.

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