Camden’s stunning landscape—as best captured by the motto “where the mountains meet the sea”—has been attracting travelers looking for a summer respite for a little over a century. The area’s handful of charming accommodations, like the Camden Harbour Inn and newly refurbished Whitehall hotel (where poet Edna St. Vincent Millay once read), and emerging dining scene only add to the appeal. Late summer offers its own seasonal highlights, when the Camden International Film Festival and the Windjammer Festival, showcasing an array of olden and modern ships in the harbor, both take place.
Where to Stay
Camden Harbour Inn
Perched on a hill that overlooks the town and harbor of Camden, this Relais & Chateaux property checks off all the boxes for a New England inn: history (it was built in 1874), comfortable accommodations, and a wraparound porch. (The Surinam Suite, with bright orange and animal print accents, has the most character, and includes a sauna, feather beds, a sea-facing balcony, and a Champagne breakfast.) This summer, the hotel appeals to epicureans with the Lobster Like a Maine Native package (from $1,400 per person), where guests can catch their own lobsters on a boat excursion, take a cooking class with house chef Chris Long, and savor a five-course lobster tasting dinner paired with wine. 83 Bayview St.; 207-236-4200; camdenharbourinn.com.
New England-based Lark Hotels opened Whitehall last year after a total overhaul of the original Whitehall Inn, the historic hotel, built in 1901, where Edna St. Vincent Millay was “discovered” by an influential patron. The brand brings its same palette of colorful interiors to the 36-room property. There’s also a roomy front porch, fire pit, shuffleboard court, and one of the area’s best restaurants. 52 High St.; 207-236-3391; whitehallmaine.com.
Where to Eat
Pig + Poet
This year-old restaurant, part of the boutique hotel Whitehall, serves dinner and cocktails in a well-lit space with a sylvan aesthetic. This season, Maine-based chef Dirk Yeaton takes over from Brooklyn-based chef Sam Talbot, making the menu more reflective of New England classics: a raw bar, little neck clam chowder with crispy pork belly, lobster mac and cheese, etc. 52 High St.; 207-236-3391; pigandpoetmaine.com.
Though hardly new (it opened in 2007), Francine Bistro is Camden’s destination restaurant, helmed by two-time James Beard nominee Brian Hill. The 44-seat bistro has a romantic patio with seating under string lights and a creative, daily-changing menu—think: local oysters with turnip kimchee or cool lobster toast with seaweed butter.
An upscale seafood shack a stone’s throw from the boats on the harbor, Rhumb Line serves fresh seafood and homemade pies for lunch and dinner. Opened in May, this dockside eatery from the owners of The Slipway, in nearby Thomaston, Maine, is one of the summer’s most exciting openings. 59 Sea St.; 207-230-8495; rhumblinecamden.com.
In June, chef Sara Jenkins, who worked at top New York kitchens (Il Buco, I Coppi) and effectively put Italian-style roast pork on the culinary map with her restaurant Porchetta, opened trattoria Nina June in Rockport, a ten-minute drive from Camden. The menu changes frequently, and includes a mix of Italian (crab spaghetti), Middle Eastern (shakshuka), and anything Maine’s local flora and fauna inspire. 24 Central St.; 207-236-8880; ninajunerestaurant.com.
Things to Do
Camden Opera House
A recently renovated Victorian-style theater, the Camden Opera House stages cabarets, plays, films, music performances, talks, and more. This season, enjoy Everyman Theater Rep’s comedic parody of Casablanca (until July 30); a multi-media celebration of the Beatles (August 12-13); and more. camdenoperahouse.com.
The cuisine of Midcoast Maine—a handful of communities set between the city of Portland and Acadia National Park—has been garnering national attention, and for good reason. Yes, there’s lobster, but also a thriving craft beer scene, artisanal chocolate shops, acclaimed restaurants, and more. Maine Foodie Tours offers an itinerary in Rockland, a picturesque, small town a short drive from Camden, offering a glimpse into the gustatory essence of the area. mainefoodietours.com.
Camden Windjammer Festival
This annual festival, from September 2-4, celebrates the town’s longstanding maritime tradition with a parade of old-fashioned sailboats and modern yachts in the harbor. Visitors can book at two-hour cruise on one of the eight day boats (prices vary) to see windjammers out on the water in Penobscot Bay. Programming also includes silent auction for dinner aboard a schooner, tours of privately owned boats, jaunts to nearby Curtis Island, and more. camdenwindjammerfestival.org.
Camden International Film Festival
One of the most well respected festivals in the country, especially in the documentary genre, the 12th annual CIFF features four days of screenings (many followed by Q and A sessions with the filmmakers), musical performances, and interactive art exhibits. Highly anticipated selections this year include (T)error, a controversial documentary in which filmmakers follow an FBI counterterrorism sting operation and This Changes Everything, a film adaptation of Naomi Klein’s bestseller about climate change, among others. The event takes place from September 15-18. camdenfilmfest.org.