Vacationing in Maine, Part 2: Fun in Camden

This story was originally featured on Entertaining Family in August of 2015. In honor of spring break, we are sharing some of our favorite travel posts.

Camden, Maine is a picturesque harbor town with great food, lovely views, and terrific hospitality. From fishing boats, to open green spaces, to white churches with tall steeples that seem to touch the clouds, this town is breathtaking. In fact, the place is so beautiful, that it was the backdrop for the 1957 movie, Peyton Place starring Lana Turner. Sigh.

While vacationing in Camden, we stayed at the Hartstone Inn, a quaint bed and breakfast in the heart of downtown. It was a terrific location within walking distance of everything we wanted to do (hike, shop, eat really delicious food, sightsee…), and the accommodations were charming. Our suite was spread over two floors, making it spacious enough for our family to stretch out and relax (in fact, our daughter and her toys had their own bedroom on the top floor).

Camden is definitely a foodie’s paradise. The restaurants are plentiful, but here are some of our favorites!

1.) Fresh

Close to the waterfront, we chose to eat at this simple, elegant and understated restaurant not once, but twice. The food is prepared using local, seasonal ingredients and refined spices. If you go, you won’t just be delighted with the food, but taken with the service. Rada Valkova, the Owner/Manager who runs the front of house is a pro! She checks in on all of the guests, sets lovely blankets on each of the outdoor tables in case there is a cool breeze, and ensures that you are well cared for even after the check has arrived. The beer and wine lists are simple but well curated. And if you’re looking for recommendations, you can’t go wrong with any of the following dishes: oysters on the half shell, panko crusted green bean fries, quinoa falafel, tabbouleh salad, and the Balkani sandwich.

2.) Hartstone Inn 

Located on Elm Street in downtown Camden, our bed and breakfast also had an amazing kitchen. The proprietors of the Hartstone are a well-traveled husband and wife team who have published gourmet cookbooks with recipes tested in the Inn’s kitchen. Michael Salmon, owner and chef, was trained at the CIA and has worked in many different culinary settings. Today he runs his own kitchen and offers cooking classes to guests of the Hartstone. We found the dishes comforting, well seasoned and beautifully plated.

3.) Primo

A short drive from Camden, is this phenomenal farm/restaurant in Rockland, Maine. The farm is spread over four acres of land and visitors are able to walk the grounds and take in the sites. There are greenhouses with lettuces, micro greens and heirloom varietals, garden beds stretching for as far as the eye can see, and dedicated open spaces where the free-range chickens and pigs roam. Our daughter was in heaven, and quite honestly, my husband and I were too.

The restaurant is in a two-story farmhouse with a welcoming wrap-around porch. Having child in tow, we ate on the second floor which is the more relaxed dining area. There are cozy booths, warm tables, and a casual bar that serves a paired down menu. Whether you choose casual or formal dining, this place does it right and the chef is a two-time James Beard award winner.

This isn’t just a restaurant, it is an experience!

Aside from all of the great food, Camden also offers wonderful opportunities to explore nature. One of our favorite excursions was a gorgeous three mile walk that took us down scenic Bay View Street to Beacon Avenue and back on Chestnut Street. On the way we passed an ocean-front park, a picture-perfect lighthouse, a historic cemetery, and colonial homes that were build in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Just outside of the city is beautiful Camden Hills State Park with 30 miles of hiking trails. We parked the car, put on our walking shoes and ventured up to the top of Mount Battie. We were delighted with the breathtaking views of Camden in the distance. It is the perfect spot for a picnic or, like our daughter, a journaling session to capture the scenery!

After a few days of traveling, sometimes it is nice to spend a quite evening in. Towards the middle of our trip, we decided that rather than eating out once again we would sample some of the gourmet stores in town and have a picnic at our bed and breakfast. Our first stop was Lilly, Lupine and Fern, a well stocked wine shop that also offers imported cheese, crackers, nuts and sweets. We loved the owners, who were very patient and knowledgeable. I think they had a nice chuckle when our six-year-old daughter asked for some of their “softest, stinkiest cheese”. In addition to this wonderful store, there are plenty of shops along Elm Street where you can pick up groceries and specialty items.

Summer in Camden, Maine is magical, and we enjoyed our time exploring the city. We left feeling much more relaxed. It is a family-friendly and laid-back town, and we can’t wait to return. We were so grateful to all of the local residents who gave us tips on things to do and places to see! I hope you will consider putting it on your list of travel destinations.

Next Time: Portland, Maine.

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