48 Hours in Camden, Rockport + Rockland
With unique, trek-worthy dining options and perhaps the best art scene in Maine, this midcoast region offers much more than a pretty coastal escape.
Sightseeing and locally sourced sushi
The natural beauty of the midcoast is one of the best reasons to spend a weekend here, so it makes sense to start your trip at Camden’s waterfront. Walk along the water from Harbor Park to the downtown for views of the schooners in the harbor, or grab a seat at one of the oceanside restaurants, such as the year-round Waterfront or the seasonal Peter Ott’s on the Water. A drive on Bay View Street provides ocean views without leaving your car, but you might want to get out at Laite Memorial Beach, which has picnic tables and a small beach for swimming. Keep an eye out for the Curtis Island Lighthouse Overlook sign at the side of the road, where you’ll find a small footpath leading to a view of a charming island and its lighthouse. Continue south on Bay View Street for a picturesque drive by historic homes.
Head to your weekend lodging destination, 250 Main Hotel in Rockland, for the 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. social hour. You can enjoy a free glass of wine or beer while admiring the art throughout the hotel (all of which is available for sale) or the views from the rooftop deck. This stylish hotel is open year-round and is pet friendly. Located on Main Street, it’s just south of downtown, within walking distance of the shops and restaurants.
Before dinner in Rockland, stop at In Good Company for a glass of wine (or two), and enjoy the cozy atmosphere of the wine bar. Just next door, Suzuki’s Sushi Bar is a must-stop, especially for chef-owner Keiko Suzuki Steinberger’s omakase option. Much of the fish is sourced from the Gulf of Maine, and local farms provide meat and produce.
Breakwater walk and Rockland exploring
Start your day at the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse for some morning exercise and stunning views. Built in the late 1800s to protect the Rockland waterfront from damaging storms, the breakwater has a lighthouse at its end, nearly a mile from the shore. If it’s windy, you can see the breakwater at work, with choppy water on one side and calm on the other. After working up an appetite, head to Home Kitchen Cafe on the way back to the downtown. Serving breakfast and lunch year-round, this homey cafe offers from-scratch comfort food and generous portions, along with outdoor seating when weather allows.
There’s an abundance of shops and galleries on Rockland’s Main Street. The Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) presents exhibitions from Maine artists and artists with ties to Maine in its modern, high-ceilinged space. Visit CMCA’s website to learn about upcoming shows, such as painter and printmaker David Row’s first major exhibition in his home state, starting June 27.
Just around the corner, the Island Institute’s Archipelago is a great source for Maine-made gifts. Both a gallery and store, Archipelago showcases Maine artists and makers, from jewelry and pottery makers to authors and photographers. If you’re in need of a snack, Main Street Markets has you covered. The store and cafe offers sandwiches, salads, and smoothies to go, as well as groceries and prepared food.
A short walk from downtown, near Rockland’s working waterfront, is Bixby and Company’s chocolate factory and tasting room. Visitors can browse life-sized chocolate lobsters, chocolate-covered potato chips, drinking chocolate, endless amounts of sea-salted caramels, and more. You’ll learn about where the beans are sourced and how the chocolates are made; if you’re lucky you may see a chocolatier at work through a large window in the tasting room.
Memorable lunch and an afternoon hike
Ask any local where to eat in Camden, and they’ll mention Long Grain. The atmosphere is cheerful and comfortable, great for either a date night or lunch with the family. Co-owner and chef Ravin “Bas” Nakjaroen, who was nominated this year for a James Beard award, often uses local ingredients in his creative Asian dishes. It’s best to share plates because you’ll want to try as much as possible on the menu, especially the pad kemao with handmade noodles and pork belly, and the coconut custard with black sticky rice.
For an afternoon pick-me-up, visit Owl and Turtle Bookshop Cafe. This friendly neighborhood stop offers a variety of books, including fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, and cookbooks, and brews their coffee from locally roasted beans from Coffee on the Porch in Camden.
Dinner on the harbor
For a swanky and cozy vibe and a glass of wine, drop into the Vintage Room at 16 Bay View in Camden before dinner. The hotel’s bar is open to the public and has a small-plate menu along with cocktails, beer, and wine.
Make a reservation in advance for Nina June, because the frequently changing menu and views of Rockport Harbor make this a popular dining destination. Chef Sara Jenkins pairs Maine ingredients with Mediterranean-inspired cuisines, serving memorable dishes such as pasta al limone topped with Maine crab meat, and honey-glazed duck breast.
Brunch and lighthouse looking
Just like lunch and dinner at Cafe Miranda, the brunch menu off ers a plethora of options. Don’t get too full of the house-made focaccia bread, because the portions at this Rockland mainstay are huge. One of their several renditions of eggs Benedict or a lobster sandwich smothered in parsley aioli will keep you full for the rest of the day. If you like Bloody Marys, Cafe Miranda’s version with house-infused horseradish, beet, and chili vodka is not to be missed.
On the way home, make a quick stop at Owls Head State Park, which is less than 15 minutes south of Rockland. From the parking area, it’s just a short walk to the lighthouse and breathtaking views of Penobscot Bay. Take a photo of the stout white and black light from the bottom of the stairs as a memento of your trip.
On Main Street in Rockland, 250 Main Hotel provides modern accommodations in a stylish and subtly nautical space, with ocean views from most rooms and local art covering the walls.
Located right on Camden’s waterfront, 16 Bay View is a dog-friendly luxury hotel with easy access to the downtown’s stores, galleries, and restaurants.
A classic Maine destination, the Samoset Resort offers gorgeous views and year-round activities for everyone in the family.
One of Maine’s most celebrated restaurants, the seasonal Primo in Rockland has its own farm and offers a fine-dining experience downstairs and a more casual feel at its upstairs bar.
You can’t beat the views of Rockport Harbor from the back deck of Seafolk Coﬀee, which has a small menu of creative breakfast and open-face sandwiches and freshly baked pastries.
With a regularly changing menu that doesn’t take itself too seriously and an interesting wine list, Sammy’s Deluxe in Rockland feels both of-the-moment and timeless.
Arts + Culture
Ralston Gallery in the heart of Rockport features the work of photographer Peter Ralston, who captures breathtaking images of people and places up and down the coast of Maine.
Exploring the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland and its extensive collection of work by renowned American artists, including N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth, is a worthy way to spend an afternoon.
The Strand Theatre in Rockland, built in 1923 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, shows first-release and independent films and hosts music and comedy shows, along with community events.