Located in the northernmost US state of Maine, not for nothing is the beautiful seaport town of Camden known as the “Jewel of the Coast”. Its visual appeal has even attracted the attention of Hollywood, leading to Camden serving as the setting for numerous movies down the years. Inevitably, most visitors gravitate towards the picturesque harbour that’s lined with sailboats, but there’s plenty more to keep you occupied, including a diverse programme of festivals held here each year.
Alas, word has long since got out, leading to Camden becoming one of the busiest destinations on the Maine Coast. From June to September, the town is crowded with visitors, but don’t let that scare you away: Camden is worth it. If you need any more convincing, we’ve picked out 7 of the very best things to see and do here. We hope it inspires you to visit.
1. Camden Toboggan Championships
Said to be the only organised wooden toboggan race in America – and possibly the world – the National Toboggan Championships is one of the highlight of Camden’s sports and entertainment calendar. Held over a weekend each February at the Camden Snow Bowl ski area, home to some the best ski mountains in Maine, the event sees more than 400 teams competing in front of crowds of over 5000 spectators who come to marvel at the daredevils voluntarily plunging down the iced-over, 400-foot long, wooden toboggan chute. The weekend’s competitive racing culminates with an awards ceremony for the fastest teams in various divisions.
2. Maine Foodie Tour
Join a Maine Foodie Tour in beautiful Boothbay Harbor and taste your way through town. Tours offer guided, educational walks with tastings and talks with the chefs at some of the area’s finest restaurants. Learn about sustainable acquaculture, local agriculture, history and town events while meeting the talent and tasting it all. Tours are 3 hours long and fill you up for lunch. They run from May through to October.
3. The Drouthy Bear
Perched on Camden’s main drag, The Drouthy Bear is the epitome of a cosy, atmospheric and family-run neighbourhood pub. Opened by a Scottish expat and his wife, a Camden local, almost a decade ago, this popular watering hole offers an impressive drinks menu including several craft beers, exotic cocktails, and an extensive whiskey and scotch collection – testament to its co-owner, Andrew’s, Scottish roots. Classic board and card games ensure patrons are never short of entertainment, while a roaring fireplace offers a warm and inviting sanctuary during the winter months and there’s a pretty outdoor patio area for when the weather’s kinder. Kids are welcome and dogs can be kept in the outside areas during the warmer months (service dogs year round).
4. Cellardoor Winery
The phrase “wine country” may not prompt you to think of the rocky coast of Maine, yet the state’s moderate ocean climate makes for very happy grapevines. And nowhere is this more evident than at the Celladoor Winery, located 5 miles inland from the Camden waterfront. Spread across some 68 acres, the acclaimed winery features a 200-year-old barn-turned-tasting room, a gift shop, and a verdant vineyard. Visitors can join a complimentary wine tasting and tour, or book themselves onto a more intimate VIP tour that also includes delicious cheese and cured meat platters.
5. Camden Windjammer Festival
Camden’s long and distinguished maritime history is celebrated each year at the Camden Windjammer Festival. Taking place in Camden Harbor, visitors descend from far and wide to witness – and often take part in – an array of events and activities, including a boat parade featuring everything from sailboats to motor yachts to schooners. There’s also the chance to learn basic sailing skills under the helm of an experienced instructor, as well as to participate in a “build your own boat” contest using materials provided by some of the local businesses that continue to play a role in Camden’s enduring love affair with the sea. Live music, fireworks and films complete the extravaganza.
6. Camden Opera House
History, art and culture all combine at this magnificent 120-year-old opera house. Featuring a 500-seat auditorium, its adorned with beautiful Victorian-era details such as antique moldings, gilt stenciling and large chandeliers. The venue hosts a variety entertainment, including ballets, musicals, comedians, films and classical music concerts, so be sure to check out the schedule when you’re in town.
7. Camden Hills State Park
Keen walkers can enjoy a pleasant two-hour hike up the Camden Hills that takes you to the verdant 5,700 acre Camden Hills State Park. Offering 30 miles of hiking trails through the forests and picture-postcard views of surrounding lakes and hills on every corner, the park is the ideal spot for a day of outdoor adventure. The Maiden’s Cliff Trail provides stunning vistas of scenic Megunticook Lake, and the park’s 800 foot rocky summit Mount Battie offers similarly impressive views of Penobscot Bay and the nearby islands.