The Best Things to Do in Camden, Maine

Last updated on February 9, 2024

Otis at Barretts Cove in Camden Maine.

Close your eyes and imagine a charming New England town set beside the sea. Think historic wooden buildings, characterful mom and pop shops, and a marina filled with boats. For us, this is Camden, Maine. Set on the Maine coast beside Penobscot Bay, Camden is a popular summer vacation spot that stole our hearts on our epic New England road trip.

It blends an intriguing mix of quaint old world charm, peppered with hipster newness. One moment, you’ll be walking past retirees at a classic seafood restaurant, and the next you’ll be in a natural wine bar.

Despite its popularity, we stumbled upon it by accident when a home exchange popped up there. It went on to become one of the highlights of our Maine trip. So here’s our round-up of the best things to do in Camden, Maine, and all our top tips for Camden restaurants, cafes and bars. We hope you love it as much as we do.

Bridges and Balloons’ favourites in Camden, Maine

  • The Owl and Turtle bookstore for small-town charm in abundance
  • Pastoralia for amazing natural wine
  • Barrett’s Cove for a beautiful afternoon by the lake
  • Zoot for the best coffee in town
  • Goods for hipster aesthetic items and evening meals
  • Day trip to Belfast, making sure to stop in at Chase’s Daily

The best things to do in Camden, Maine

Wander the charming downtown

For me, the biggest joy in Camden was simply walking the downtown and soaking in that village charm. There are only two main streets of shops, plus little side streets and the harbourfront, so a stroll won’t take you long – unless of course you’re distracted by all the cute boutiques and photo spots! Which takes me on to the next point…

Shop the cute boutiques

Camden is filled with independent shops, selling everything from nautical homeware to second hand books and antique jewellery. You certainly won’t be short on ideas for gifts (or things the kids want to buy!!). Some of our favourite shops include:

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Hang out at the Owl and Turtle bookstore

This could go in the shopping or café section, but I love it so much, I think it deserves its own spot! The Owl & Turtle Bookshop Cafe is the type of place I dream of owning – a little warren of books with plenty of cushions and cosy chairs for reading, and a café on the ground floor serving top-notch coffee and cakes. Otis and I made a ritual of going there every afternoon to read and play cards while Arlo napped in the stroller. Bliss.

Take a sunset walk along the harborside

Coastal view of Camden Maine

Sunset is a special time of day in Camden when you can stroll the harbourside and take in the views of the pretty Penobscot Bay. One of the best places to see it is from the rooftop of the 16 Bay View Hotel. Or you could also take a sunset sailing cruise. And Peter Ott’s on the Water is another waterside dining option.

Relax in Harbor Park and the Camden Amphitheater

Harbor Park and the Camden Amphitheater are nicely landscaped gardens next to the water, perfect for a picnic or relaxing with a book. The Harbor Park in particular has lovely views of the water and boats. It’s right next to the Megunticook Falls , which run through Camden. You can also see the falls in town, from the Tannery Lane Footbridge, and from the deck at The Jack Camden.

Go on a boat trip

Camden Maine Harbor.

The waters surrounding Camden are begging to be explored, and there are plenty of tour operators in Camden. You’ll find them all along the Public Landing on the waterfront, including Camden Harbor Cruises and Schooner Olad & Cutter Owl. From full day cruises, to sunset sails, there are plenty of options for exploring the bay. You can even do overnight trips on a windjammer sailing boat.

Explore other nearby towns

Camden is right next to Rockport, another charming Maine fishing village. But our favourite nearby town was Belfast. It’s much more a lived-in town, rather than a tourist destination, but also has an attractive waterfront and lots of cute shops to explore. We particularly loved Chase’s Daily, a combined café and farm shop.

Belfast is about a 25-minute drive from Camden. Another option is Lincolnville, which is known for its antiquing, especially at the Red Barn Market.

Hike Camden Hills State Park

The 5,700-acre Camden Hills State Park has 30 miles of hiking trails, suitable for all different levels. It also includes the 750ft Mount Battie, which you can either hike all the way up from town, or take the easier option and drive (which is what we did with the kids). The Mount Battie Tower is at the top, an 100-year-old stone tower with epic views of Camden and the bay.

Spend an afternoon at Barrett’s Cove

We spent a gorgeous afternoon at Barrett’s Cove on Megunticook Lake. The small beach is ideal for families with picnic benches and toilets. Plus a cordoned-off area for safe swimming. It has great views of Mount Battie and was quiet even in August.

Do some watersports at Laite Memorial Beach

Another nice spot by the water in Camden is the Laite Memorial Beach. It’s a popular place for paddleboarding, kayaking and swimming. Plus, there’s a little playground, making it ideal for kids.

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See a show at the Camden Opera House

I love it when a tiny town has an impressive theatre, and Camden’s is the Camden Opera House. We didn’t get to visit, but check their programme for shows while you’re in town. It tends me be mostly music, and they also host comedy, films and theatre.

Take some photos at the Curtis House Overlook

One of the most iconic Camden photos is of the Curtis Island Lighthouse, which you can see from the Curtis House Overlook on Bay View Street. It’s just over a five-minute walk along from the Laite Memorial Beach.

Go to the Montessori playground

Montessori Playground in Camden, Maine.

If you’re travelling with little kids, the playground at the Montessori school on Elm Street is a winner. Our boys wanted to go there every day. It has a fun climbing frame and other homemade play equipment, and is only about a 5-minute walk from the centre. We met some nice local families there too.

Go to a local festival

A fun way to get involved in the local community is to go to one of the many festivals and events that go on throughout the year in and around Camden. One of the most popular is the Camden Windjammer Festival over the Labor Day Weekend where you get to tour windjammer boats, and do activities like boat building and lobster crate racing! The fireworks display on the water looks epic!

Other highlights include the Camden Jazz Festival, Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, and the Union Fair and Maine Wild Blueberry Festival. In the winter, there’s also the popular three-day Christmas by the Sea event and an annual tobogganing championship.

Try a round of mini golf

We love a game of mini golf and it’s an easy win with the kids. There’s a fun one between Rockport and Maine at Golfer’s Crossing Mini Golf. It’s a lovely setting amid the trees, with lots of water features. And they do ice cream too!

Ski with a sea view in winter

In the wintertime, there’s a community-run ski resort, the Camden Snow Bowl, where you can choose the snow sport of your choice across 20 different runs. The slope has ocean views, which is a unique selling point for east coast ski destinations.

Experience Camden in fall

Camden is known for being one of the most beautiful places to see the famous New England fall colours, especially from the top of Mount Battie where you get a view of all the foliage in Camden Hills State Park, backed by the sea.

Visit Merryspring Nature Center

Between Rockport and Camden is the 66-acre Merryspring Nature Center. There are lots of trails, an arboretum, landscaped gardens and plenty of wildlife. It’s a nice place to spend an afternoon and a good option for kids. They have little explorer kits you can take home too.

Where to eat in Camden Maine

The first thing to know about eating out in Camden Maine is that places close pretty early around 9pm with last orders around an hour before that. We got caught out the first night when we wanted to get a takeout after the boys were asleep, and the only place left for food was a brewpub.

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But if you’re early enough (and remember to book in advance), these are some excellent options.

  • Zoot Coffee – the place to go for hipster coffee in Camden.
  • Owl & Turtle Bookshop Cafe  – our favourite spot in Camden. A charming bookshop with a cute cafe downstairs – what’s not to like? 
  • Long Grain – book in advance for Camden’s wildly popular Asian restaurant.
  • Mixed Greens – go here for a healthy fix of salad bowls and grains.
  • Goods – a minimalist hipster cafe and deli, plus a bar on weekend nights.
  • Lucky Betty’s – an eclectic, colourful bar, serving great cocktails.
  • Peter Otts on the Water, The Waterfront and Franny’s Bistro are three of the most highly recommended seafood options.

Where to stay in Camden, Maine

Here are some options for places to stay in Camden. Also see our guide to the best Maine family resorts.

The Lord Camden Inn

Our home exchange was canceled so we stayed at The Lord Camden Inn, a charming boutique hotel on Main Street with exceptionally friendly hospitality.

The elegant, traditional rooms are comfy, some with cosy fireplaces. And they serve a daily buffet breakfast, including a freshly baked treat.

Our kids (and I!) loved the free cookies in reception.

Check availability and book here. 

16 Bay View

View from 16 Bay View, Maine

16 Bay View is the sister hotel of the Lord Camden Inn. We were given a free drinks token for their bar when we checked in, so visited one day.

It has a sophisticated bar downstairs, plus a rooftop bar and restaurant with fabulous views of the harbour.

16 Bay View is slightly more modern than the Lord Camden Inn, but has the same focus on elegance, comfort and top notch service.

Check availability and book here. 

How to get around Camden, Maine

View of Camden Maine

Downtown Camden is completely walkable. And you could feasibly visit without a car as there are coaches and shuttle services that take you from Portland airport and other towns in Mid Coast Maine. However, it’s easier with a car, especially if you want to visit some of the other towns or sights outside of town.

Once in town, a rideshare like Uber is unlikely, but there are some taxi companies, including Craft, which can take you to nearby sights (just be sure to book in advance).

Map of things to do in Camden Maine

New England travel guides

We LOVE New England and have loads of tips to help you make the most of your trip. And just let me know if you have any questions!

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