What’s New in Camden, Maine

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Top hotels, restaurants, and reasons to visit the beautiful Midcoast Maine city this summer.

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 & Châteaux 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 brings back their popular Lobster Like a Maine Native package (from $1549 per person), which includes a 2-night stay, a morning spent lobstering with a local lobsterman, a private cooking class with chef Chris Long, and a 5-course lobster tasting dinner. 83 Bayview St.; 207-236-4200; camdenharbourinn.com.

New England-based Lark Hotels opened Whitehall in 2015 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, and shuffleboard court. A year after taking over for Sam Talbot, chef Dirk Yeaton is fully settled into on-site restaurant Pig + Poet, wowing guests with a menu focused on dressed-up New England classics—think clam chowder with pork belly and potato croquettes; lobster rolls with avocado and crispy leeks; and a blueberry white chocolate parfait. 52 High St.; 207-236-3391; whitehallmaine.com.

Where to Eat

Francine Bistro
Though hardly new (it expanded to its current size in 2007), Francine Bistro is Camden’s destination restaurant, helmed by three-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. 55 Chestnut St.; 207-230-0083; francinebistro.com

Long Grain
Also a staple of the Camden dining scene for several years, Long Grain’s food is still exciting as ever. Chef Ravin Nakjaroen nabbed a James Beard nom for Best Chef Northeast this year for his creative plates influenced by Thai and Vietnamese street food and dishes from Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan. Try the bulgogi, claypot-baked crab and cellophane noodle with local ramps and shiitake, and pad sataw (spicy turmeric stir-fried local fiddleheads with shrimp). 31 Elm St.; 207-236-9001; longgraincamden.com.

Things to Do

Camden Opera House
A renovated Victorian-style theater, the Camden Opera House stages cabarets, plays, films, music performances, talks, and more. This season, enjoy Kate Schrock performing with Glen DaCosta (August 12), a multi-media celebration of the Beatles (August 26-27), and more. 29 Elm St.; 207-236-7963; camdenoperahouse.com.

Food Tour
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 a 2-hour happy-hour tour in Camden, as well as an itinerary in Rockland, a picturesque, small town a short drive away, offering a glimpse into the gustatory essence of the area. mainefoodietours.com.

Camden Windjammer Festival
This annual festival, being held September 1–3, 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 day boats (prices vary) to see windjammers out on the water in Penobscot Bay. Programming also includes a 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 13th annual CIFF features four days of screenings (many followed by Q and A sessions with the filmmakers), musical performances, and interactive art exhibits. Last fall, founder Ben Fowlie expanded the reach of the festival by helping to launch the Points North Institute, an organization which will continue the film festival as well as play an active role in programs of every kind for nonfiction storytellers, from retreats and residences to workshops and fellowships). pointsnorthinstitute.org.

Sloop Anjacaa
This summer, a new 54-foot sloop will offer 2-hour day sails, private charters, and special events like full moon sails for a max of 6 passengers on Penobscot Bay. Guests are encouraged to get hands-on and help with sails if they desire. Anjacaa sails from Lyman-Morse at the Wayfarer Marine docks. sailanjacaa.com.

For more on what’s new in classic American beach towns, see our complete slideshow »