Although the Mid-Maine coast encompasses more than Camden, Rockland, and Rockport, they are very close to each other. They are also some of our favorite Mid-Maine areas. Not only are they charming towns, each has its own beauty, personality and offer lots of activities, but they also have the best restaurants and galleries east of Portland.
Camden Maine is one prettiest town on the central Maine coast which offers the additional benefit of close proximity to Rockport’s museums, galleries and restaurants. It is also the place in Mid-Coast Maine were usually stay. Camden is made for walking and browsing. While relatively small, it is loaded with restaurants, interesting shops, galleries, and has a beautiful harbor. The town also has a millstream and a small waterfall that flows through the middle of downtown.
What To Do in Camden
We always like to take a walk past some of the pretty High Street mansions with beautifully-restored former Ship Captain homes (many of which have been converted into inns) and churches. Once we catch an owner combining a spirit of the Halloween season and a love of football, with appropriately attired skeletons kicking, passing and catching passes and admonishing oneself for missed catch.
Take a spin through the Chestnut Street Historic District which contains a cross-section of the town’s architectural history, and of its transition from a shipping center to a summer resort community.
Hike in the Camden Hills State Park. It has lots of easy to moderate hikes that provide beautiful views.
And don’t forget to walk along and window shop in the pretty downtown. Several interesting galleries include the Carver Hill Gallery and the lovely turned wood bowls and weaved baskets of Once a Tree.
Don’t forget to get on the water. There is no shortage of ships that offer cruises. We went on the Appledore II, a lovely 86-foot schooner that was built in 1978 and splits the year between Camden and Key West. It is lovely and comfortable, and the crew was efficient, friendly, and informative. We fully enjoyed the cruise, and the fact that it was a warm, sunny day certainly didn’t diminish our enjoyment.
Over the years, we have stayed in Camden B&Bs as well as hotels. B&Bs are more interesting (and more expensive) but they are generally a few blocks away from the main street. Unfortunately, one of our favorite B&Bs, the Hawthorn Inn, is now closed.
The Whitehall bed and breakfast is about a 10-15 walk outside the main part of town on High Street. The first room we were given had a bathroom the size of a postage stamp. We asked to be changed and the next room was much better. As this is an older renovated building, each room is slightly different, which means it is a crap shoot on what you might get. The new room was comfortable and the bathroom was much better. The breakfast is a little unusual with its food. All were small bites of various items. For example, avocado toast, some type of grain which changed daily, small bites of bite and other interesting small bites. Very different from what one might expect but very good.
Riverhouse Hotel and Inns. This is a more moderately priced place hotel with free parking right in the town. While not as interesting and as intimate as one of the inns on High Street, it is comfortable and serves a continental breakfast.
Lord Camden Inn also is right on Camden’s main street. Parking is free but is in a lot that is 2 blocks away. The elevator was very slow and the bathroom was squeezed into the space that was a little awkward to access part of the countertop and the door blocked things. The breakfast buffet was pretty standard. While it is comfortable, it was nothing special.
The multi-building museum has a nice collection of American art starting at the 18th century. The works focus primarily on artists who lived or worked in Maine. Represented artists included Winslow Homer, George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, and Edward Hopper O’Keeffe, and Nevelson. Its Wyeth Center is devoted to all three generations of the Wyeth family’s artists—N.C., Andrew, and James.
Its exhibits continually change. On our 2023 visit, the museum was celebrating its 75th anniversary with a special exhibit of hundreds of pieces that it had not previously displayed. The Wyeth family focus of the museum’s work included an exhibition of roughly 30 watercolors that Andrew produced while living on the Alvero Olson family farm, focusing on Alvaro’s hard work running the farm.
Another exhibit had a number of Andrew Wyeth’s Rockland paintings paired with roughly 20 Edward Hopper painting. Hopper had spent a couple months living and painting in Rockland 13 years prior (1926 for Hopper and 1939 for Wyatt). Both focused on issues including the closing of the region’s quarries, the replacement of wooden sailing ships with steel steamships, the changes to the fishing industry, and how these were changing the face of Maine.
The primary anniversary exhibit included several of the works of better known late 19th and early 20th-century artists who produced works in the state. The artists included Bellows, Innes, Kent, and N.C. Wyeth. They were organized by themes including the land, the sea, Maine industry, identification and community.
Previous exhibits had a number of N.C.’s paintings that interpreted American poems that represented the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and WWI periods. Another exhibit included portraits that Jamie and Andy Warhol created of each other. Still another exhibited Andrew Wyeth’s Rockland Watercolors, Temperas and Studies (1940-1988) with a number of lovely works, a number of which traced their lineage through preliminary drawings.
The museum also has a small sculpture garden and a nicely preserved 19th-century home (of which regular tours are given) of the home of the Farnsworths, the family that initially funded the museum.
There’s More Art in Rockland
Rockland’s newest Art Museum is the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) pulls together new developments in contemporary art. But if you don’t feel like going to another museum, check out some of the galleries. The museum has also attracted far more and better galleries that one would expect for a small tourist city three hours up the Maine coast.
Although Main, Elm, and Winter Streets have a number of nice galleries, one of our favorites is the Harbor Square Gallery which is an old bank building that was converted into a gallery. The space is as enticing to explore as the art itself. It has a broad selection of art, some of which is exhibited within the huge bank vault, and a roof top sculpture. Art Space Gallery, also on Main Street, features Maine artists exhibiting a diverse range of media including painting, sculpture, photography, and jewelry design. Other worthwhile stops are Caldbeck Gallery and Dowling-Walsh.
Rockport Maine is a smaller harbor-front town between Rockland and Camden that has a lovely harbor. Its roughly 10-building “downtown” consists of a handful of well-regarded restaurants, a spa, a hair stylist, a photography gallery and little else. Pretty to see.