Camden, Rockport + Rockland in 48 Hours
While the midcoast region has long been a quintessential Maine tourist destination, in recent years these towns have become decidedly hipper, thanks to new boutiques, galleries, and eclectic, creative dining and drink options.
Welcoming digs and local eats
Start your weekend by heading straight to 18 Central Oyster Bar and Grill and grabbing a seat at the bar for oysters and drinks overlooking scenic Rockport Harbor at sunset. Afterward, continue 20 minutes up the coast to your home base for the weekend, Camden Maine Stay Inn. Peter and Janis Kesser, friendly Memphis lawyers turned Maine innkeepers, will welcome you with a tour of the charming bed-and-breakfast they took over four years ago. The Tierney Room, named for previous innkeepers Bob and Sally Tierney, is furnished with plenty of floral wallpaper and textiles, along with elegant furniture from Maine-based Thos. Moser.
It’s a short walk to the other side of town for dinner at the newly opened Wolfpeach, a stylish restaurant with creative takes on seafood dishes, like smoked eel tots (served with a side of wet wipes) and fried Acadian redfish perched on a perfectly spicy remoulade. The regionally focused beverage program features creative cocktails like the Dirty Carrot, made with Old Tom Juniper Gin from Rockland’s Luce Spirits, which is perfectly balanced with a subtly dry carrot brine. Owners Gabriela Acero and Derek Richard purchased and renovated the property in the middle of the pandemic, running it first as a pop-up barbecue joint and now as an elegant, candlelit, highly Instagrammable year-round restaurant. (And if you’re wondering, the name comes from Solanum lycopersicum, the scientific name for the tomato species; the second half literally translates to “wolf peach.”)
Downtown stops and hip hangouts
Head to Zoot Coffee for a morning coffee and fresh smoothie in a bright, spacious spot on Camden’s Main Street. While some shops downtown close during the off-season, the candy-striped awning and waving flag of Uncle Willy’s Candy Shoppe make it a beacon of openness. There you’ll find a remarkable array of Pez dispensers, all the Jelly Belly flavors you can imagine, and store-made candies, including hot chocolate bombs. Next, head to Owl and Turtle Bookshop Cafe, where upstairs you’ll find an expansive kids’ section, including the complete collection by Camden resident and author/illustrator Chris Van Dusen, whose work is also featured at Page Gallery down the street.
Refined homewares stores and galleries abound in Camden, including standout Jessie Tobias Design, the new storefront of the interior designer’s eponymous company, with all the well-curated textiles, furniture, tableware, and clothing for a chic and understated coastal home. Head a few doors down to Topo Gallery and Goods, where owner and recent Colby College grad Keenan Boscoe runs a gallery and gift shop geared toward emerging local artists and art collectors, with the lofty goal of democratizing art.
Step away from downtown shops and into nature with a short walk through Harkness Preserve, just down the road in Rockport. The milelong trail, managed by Coastal Mountains Land Trust, loops past views of Rockport Harbor. After working up an appetite, head a few more minutes south to Rockland for lunch at locally famous Wasses, which also has hot dog stands in Thomaston and Belfast. The midcoast mini-chain is known for tender hot dogs cooked in peanut oil and topped with fried and fresh onions, mustard, and relish.
Continue walking down Main Street to check out Rockland’s high-end galleries and hip shops, including Curator Consignment. True to its name, it’s a well-curated vintage consignment store with lots of rad ski sweaters, jeans, and other clothing and accessories for both men and women. Rockland has established art institutions like the Farnsworth Art Museum and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, but you should also spend time in the downtown’s art galleries, like the spacious Dowling Walsh Gallery. Rock City Coffee, an employee-owned coffee cooperative, is currently housing the Goblin Market, a new vending machine pop-up described as “a punk rock flea market in a box.” You may find yourself torn between options like a tarot reading, a bag of fried crickets, or a notebook made from playing cards with Christian Slater’s mugshot on the cover.
It’s a short walk back down Main Street for dinner at Sammy’s Deluxe, an offbeat, decidedly unpretentious American restaurant whose interior feels like a cross between a flea market and your grandmother’s house. The eclectic menu includes pelmeni (Russian-style dumplings), smelt, brown bread, and a killer burger. The friendly and understated chef and owner, Sam Richman, may offer a taste from a mysterious vat behind the bar that contains a surprisingly smooth and earthy mushroom-infused vodka. If you’re looking for a nightcap, next door to Sammy’s is Luce Spirits, a distillery and tasting room that offers cocktails and tastings.
Lighthouses and cheese puffs
Get up early to make it to Ruckus Donuts in Rockland before they’re all sold out (or, if you plan ahead, preorder doughnuts for pickup). If you prefer a more leisurely morning, stick around Camden Maine Stay Inn to enjoy Janis’s home-made French toast in the cozy sunroom overlooking the inn’s wooded property. Return to Rockport to walk the scenic Calderwood Lane, with sweeping ocean views and picturesque estates that abut the gorgeous Hog Cove. You can loop around to Beauchamp Point Road, which overlooks Rockport Harbor. Back in Rockport’s village, visit the quaint Barn Swallow Book Shop, which has new and used books and a cozy reading nook with one of the best views of the harbor.
Stop by Bleecker and Greer at the corner of Pascal Avenue and Commercial Street in Rockport for gourmet sandwiches and to ogle the extensive assortment of Maine-raised meat. The store started as a full-service butcher shop before moving to its current location—an artfully restored one-room schoolhouse—and expanding to include a cafe and high-end grocery. Then it’s off to the humbler but no less charming Owls Head General Store for a few more snacks before visiting the famously picturesque Owls Head Light. Located in Owls Head State Park, the lighthouse looks out at the islands of Penobscot Bay.
Before leaving town, visit Lucky Betty’s to take advantage of the bar’s limited schedule and enjoy a late-afternoon beer and cheese puffs. The converted autobody garage, formerly home to the gallery and restaurant Betty Forever, was recently rebooted as a bar and art studio by bartender Daiva Deupree. It’s a perfect way to cap off your weekend in the midcoast.
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