48 Hours in Camden + Rockland

The midcoast’s natural beauty has inspired generations, and its heritage of marine industry and fine arts continues to thrive in this quintessential region of Maine.

Shipwrights and showcases

It’s the middle of winter, and the tourists in Rockland are here for art, world-class dining, and the drama of the Penobscot Bay coastline. Rockland’s coffee shops, restaurants, and bars are filled with a stream of happy reunions, fish tales, and talk of a big storm this weekend. My friend Tom and I hope to see firsthand what makes this place special.

Our first stop is Sabre Yachts and Back Cove Yachts, where we take a tour of the double facility. These shipwrights craft each boat by hand, honoring the Maine tradition. We step aboard a 66-foot yacht that was lowered into place on a series of chains. We watch as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and painters outfit every inch of the soon-to-be-seaworthy vessel.

Once in downtown Rockland, we photograph the iconic marquee sign outside The Strand Theatre, a single-screen movie theater and local landmark. Main Street is lively and vibrant with an eclectic mix of new and old establishments. I spot the sign for Sea Bags, a store selling handmade bags from recycled sailcloth.

After shopping we stop at Cafe Miranda, where the waitress describes the ordering process as an exercise in decision-making. There are over 100 choices on the menu. I order the tastiest (and largest) bowl of fish chowder I’ve ever had and a side of chef Kerry Altiero’s famous focaccia.

Inside the Farnsworth Art Museum is an impressive collection highlighting the work of American greats such as Robert Indiana, Louise Nevelson, Alex Katz, and Andrew, N.C., and Jamie Wyeth. Tom and I are in the right place at the right time and get to meet Annie Bailey, a Maine artist who has a window installation at the Farnsworth called Abbie Burgess, Lighthouse Heroine. The installation tells the story of Abbie Burgess, the daughter of a lighthouse keeper.

Lemongrass and libations

Our next stop is Rock Harbor Brewing Co., where local fishermen are at the bar discussing plans for the season. We order a few rounds of Copperhouse ESB and Sprucehead Stout.

We head to Camden and check in at 16 Bay View. Inside our two-room suite is an electric fireplace that provides a cozy respite from the winter weather. Off the back room is a balcony overlooking Camden Harbor.

After a short rest we walk to Long Grain, a restaurant that offers traditional Thai food as well as dishes inspired by cuisine from Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. We start off with pan-fried rice cakes and steamed mussels in a lemongrass broth before ordering entrees of kimchi and pork belly stir-fry.

After dinner we head back to 16 Bay View and sit at the bar. We order two glasses of whiskey on the rocks, which make for a nice end to our first day in the midcoast.

Breakfast and beaches

For breakfast we go to Boynton-McKay Food Co., which is buzzing with both locals and tourists. We order a couple of hearty breakfast sandwiches and coffee. Before leaving Camden, we stop in to some shops on Commercial Street. At Maine Sport Outfitters I find a pair of deerskin gloves, and Tom picks up a warm winter hat.

We drive to the small town of Owls Head, stopping occasionally to take in the views of the coast. The Owls Head Village Post Office is striking with its bright red widow’s walk and porthole window on the second floor. This charming building has been the post office since 1931. Farther up the road is Owls Head State Park, where we put on our winter gear, walk to Owls Head Light, and photograph the panoramic views of the coastline.

Breakwater walks and flannels

After the walk, a hot chai latte from Seafolk Coffee hits the spot. This friendly gathering place in Rockport offers good food, drink, and conversation. Across the street is Ralston Gallery, showing the works of the prolific photographer Peter Ralston. The space also doubles as his printing and writing studio.

We decide two lighthouses are better than one and make our way back to Rockland, where the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse sits at the end of a mile-long jetty. The walk out is cold and blustery but worth it. From the lighthouse more of the Penobscot Bay coastline can be seen, as well as Samoset Resort, a popular and iconic mainstay of the Rockland hospitality scene.

While in Rockland we stop in at Curator, a shop offering both vintage and contemporary finds. The walls are lined with an eclectic mix of New England attire, including dreamy winter coats, vintage L.L.Bean flannels and boots, and a range of accessories and decor. I leave with a silver belt buckle depicting two bull moose in a forest.

A pub dinner in Camden

For dinner we go to The Drouthy Bear, a pub run by Andrew and Shannon Stewart. The inspiration for the pub came from Andrew’s time in the British Isles, including his home country of Scotland. Dinner consists of the Game Keeper’s Pie, a flaky pastry filled with rabbit, venison, gravy, and veggies. We top off the meal with a flight of single-malt scotches before walking back to 16 Bay View for the night.

Blizzards and books

We stop in at Rock City Cafe in downtown Rockland for coffee and breakfast wraps. The space is shared with Hello Hello Books, a charming independent bookshop offering new and used titles. Our last stop is the Maine State Prison Showroom, a furniture gallery in Thomaston that features woodwork made by inmates. After the showroom, we drive to Portland with great memories and a plan to come back once summer arrives.