Summer in Camden
If you have been fortunate to experience those three words then they can unlock an abundance of feelings and memories: the overwhelming fragrance of thousands of wild beach roses in full bloom on Curtis Island, local fish frying and lobster pots bubbling on the downtown Camden wharf and the farmy smells of Aldermere farm when walking towards Beauchamp Point to take in the ocean vistas.
What about the feel on your skin after a dive into the outer Camden harbor from Laite Beach? You’ve dried off, but the traces of salt on your body tingle the rest of the day. Or the satisfaction of hiking to the top of Mt. Megunticook, muscles aching but eyes popping at the incredible views of ocean, hills, forest and lake. There’s nothing like Megunticook Lake for providing that classic experience of throwing caution to the wind and leaping off a boulder into cold fresh waters.
Hike or drive to the top of Mt. Battie in the Camden Hills State Park for a quiet reading of local literary legend Edna St. Vincent Milley’s classic lines etched in bronze:
“All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in a bay.”
Climb the circular steps of the tower atop Mt. Battie as the wind whips through your hair and see what made the town of Camden laid out before you. The river that powered the mills; the industry that made the ships that sailed out of the natural harbor with the church steeple that welcomed you into this world and sent you off to the next; the school building and the little frame houses where one spent the intervening time. And always the utter beauty of land and sea that brings the visitors that are this area’s current industry.
Take in the rich smells of Aldermere Farm in nearby Rockport, home of the much-adored and often-photographed Belted Galloways. Enjoy a simple hike around Beauchamp Point to take in the ocean vistas or stop for a picnic lunch on the rocks overlooking Rockport Harbor. Head up to the Swans Island Studio in Northport to watch and listen to the clickety clack of shuttles flying back and forth across the looms as skilled artisans practice the time-honored task of weaving blankets. Finish off this feast for the senses with an evening stroll around farm and gardens and dinner at Primo in Owl’s Head, where Melissa Kelly, one of the country’s most acclaimed practitioners of the farm-to-table movement, creates incredible cuisine.
So, how does one actually avail themselves of the smells, sights and flavors of the ultimate Maine summer in and around Camden? Read on . . .
Visit Curtis Island
Located at the head of Camden Harbor, this island is actually a town park. It consists of a thirty foot wide swath of mowed green right up the middle of the island that concludes at the light house and the keeper’s home. In the middle of that green is a swing on the end of a fifty foot rope that will take you right back to childhood, or provide a glorious first-rope-swing memory. The rest of the island consists of a wooded path that encircles the island and is dotted with benches overlooking open sea to one side and Camden harbor and surrounding hills on the other. The sea roses grow wild throughout and permeate the environment from about mid-June through mid-July.
The Conover family has tended this park for the past twenty five years or so. Pack a picnic lunch from French and Brawn in Camden village or Maine Street Meats in Rockport and enjoy the view of sailing ships nodding to the wind. Ducktrap Kayak will drop a boat at the harbor for you.
Shop and Dine in Charming Downtown Camden
Come in to the Swans Island shop at the head of Bayview Street in the center of town for a recommendation or simply walk along the wharf or one of the side streets and pick an eatery that suits. Two places we highly suggest are Wolf Peach for fresh local fare and local favorite Long Grain for superior dine in or take out Thai cuisine (noted in the Boston Globe and NY Times).
Stop to See the Most Photogenic Cows in Maine
Take Chestnut street out of Camden for a scenic ride to nearby Rockport and you’ll pass Aldermere Farm, home of the belted Galloway breed of cattle. This non-profit farm runs various programs and sells its all-natural, pasture-raised, grain-finished beef at the farm. Walk past the farm and see the cattle lowing in the fields which run to the ocean.
Take a Hike
There are many great hiking trails surrounding Camden. For an easy walk with stunning harbor vistas, just continue past the farm, turn left at Calderwood Lane and you will find yourself headed to Beauchamp Point Road, a little-known scenic byway which will take you around Rockport harbor and allow you to get up close and personal with its protected waters.
If you seek a more rigorous day of hiking, trek to the top of Mt. Megunticook to take in those spectacular vistas of the lake, harbor, village and Penobscot Bay. The entrance to the Camden Hills State Park is just north of Camden on Route 1 with plenty of parking and trail maps. From there you can also motor or hike up to the top of Mount Battie with its poem inscription, viewing tower and equally stunning vistas.
Maiden’s Cliff is a more moderate trail off Route 52 with breathtaking views of Lake Megunticook. At the top there is the iconic white cross that’s visible from the lake below.
Beech HIll Preserve in Rockport, another local favorite, has easy parking and a gravel road to walk up, making this family-friendly hike a perfect choice for all ages. A grassy area and charming stone hut at the top provide a perfect picnic spot with stunning views across organic blueberry fields towards Penobscot Bay. If you’re lucky enough to come during blueberry season you may be able to partake in the free community pick-your-own blueberries days. Check with Coastal Mountain Landtrust for dates and sign up information.
Go Jump in a Lake
For those a bit older, but still able to walk a little and jump into the lake, head north on Route 52 to Fernalds Neck Preserve in nearby Lincolnville. This off-the-beaten-path gem managed by Coastal Mountain Land Trust is quiet and pristine. Walk through the woods and come to Balance Rock, a seemingly precariously balanced boulder left behind when the glaciers receded and a great spot to experience one of the most beautiful Maine lakes.
Or for easy kid-friendly beach access, visit Barrett’s Cove on the other end of Lake Megunticook in the town of Camden.
Partake in the Ultimate Farm-to-table Dining Experience
Primo Restaruant in Owls Head is the home of award-winning chef Melissa Kelly. Check out the two dollar oysters at the 0km Bungalow, but stay for a memorable meal. Located just on the border of Owls Head and Rockland, Primo is a twenty minute drive from Camden. We recommend securing a reservation in advance for the main restaurant, but during summer months the open-air bungalow has picnic style first-come-first served seating on Sunday afternoons.
Come Visit Us at Swans Island Company
Voted in 2012 by readers of Down East magazine as Maine’s #1 Prettiest Village, Camden is of course not to be missed. From the beautiful views at Harbor Park to charming shops that line Maine street, Camden is the quintessential picturesque Maine village.
Swans Island’s flagship boutique is right in the center of town in a bow-shaped brick building built by shipbuilders in the 1833. The redesigned interior showcases the orginal hand-hewn beams crafted by the shipwrights along with a wide assortment of Maine-made blankets, throws, American-made linen bedding and apparel. If you’d like to take home a piece of Maine to remember your visit, many styles of handwoven blankets are made just up the road.
“The Swans Island weaving studio is a close hop up from Camden. Tours of the studio are encouraged, the showroom is open and the experience is memorable.”
The Swans Island Northport studio is a close hop up from Camden. Head north on Route 1 for about eight miles and you’ll see our 1790’s farmhouse on the left. Tours of the studio are encouraged, the showroom is open and the experience is memorable. Take home a handwoven piece of Maine to bring back memories of your visit for years to come.