Camden + Rockport
As I drive up I-295 North, the snowflakes are thick, sliding off my windshield and sticking to the roadside. The drive is slow, but there’s something exhilarating about driving north
for a weekend of adventure.
5:15 p.m. @ Camden Harbour Inn This Relais and Chateaux boutique inn is covered in snow and illuminated by welcoming white lights. I hurry inside to the warm lobby. My room, Surinam, is luxurious, with a fireplace, Jacuzzi, king-sized bed, sauna, and steam shower.
7:40 p.m. @ Francine Bistro The streets are quiet on this chilly evening as I walk to Francine Bistro, but the restaurant is lively and inviting. Chip at the bar pours me a glass of Vietti, my new favorite wine, and I start with the poutine, which is warm, delicious, and filling— everything one needs on a cold winter night. From my seat, I can see into the kitchen, where chef Brian Hill is at work on his stove. Vinalhaven scallops over crispy rice and a semifreddo for dessert are spectacular.
9:35 p.m. @ Camden Harbour Inn Before heading up to my room, I chat with Camden Harbour Inn co- owner Oscar Verest, who tells me one of the best spots for a sunrise hike is Beech Hill Preserve—a treeless hilltop with sweeping views. With a plan for the morning, I head upstairs and sink into the comfort of my king-sized bed.
6:05 a.m. @ Beech Hill Preserve I’m up before the sun and make the day’s first tracks on the path to Beech Hill Preserve. As I climb, a sliver of a crescent moon hangs over Beech Nut, a historic sod-roofed stone building originally designed by Hans O. Heistad in 1917 as a picnic hut. I stand in front of the house admiring 360-degree views of the Camden Hills and Penobscot Bay as the sun rises, and yellows, pinks, and oranges tint the sky. I can understand why Heistad wanted to bottle this up.
10:30 a.m. @ Owl & Turtle Bookshop Cafe Everywhere I go, I seek out the local bookshop, and I am happy to enter through the green double doors of Owl and Turtle, owned by husband and wife Ricky and Selena Sheaves. I grab a fiction bestseller Selena recommends and a latte to go, although I could peruse the two stories of books for hours.
11:00 a.m. @ Goose River Exchange, the Cashmere Goat, and Swans Island Company Goose River Exchange is closed until May, but I peek through the store windows. Many have recommended this spot as a place to find antiquarian books, and vintage travel souvenirs and postcards. Across the street the Cashmere Goat has yarn in all colors and types from alpaca and cotton to cashmere, including organic varieties. Inside Swans Island Company’s light-filled shop on the corner, I fall in love with the soft hues of wool throws, scarves, and hats handcrafted by Maine artisans.
11:55 a.m. @ Leslie Curtis Designs, Starbird, and Surroundings My husband, Sam, has arrived and he meets me downtown. We are always looking for inspiration for our West End apartment and we search the inventory at the cluster of home-goods boutiques on Bay View and Main Streets.
12:50 p.m. @ Sherman’s Maine Books and Stationery Across the street, we stop into Sherman’s, where I buy a new Moleskine notebook to record our adventure.
1:15 p.m. @ The Drouthy Bear We grab a table by the fireplace and a pint at this Main Street spot, recently opened by Andrew and Shannon Stewart, who owned Hope General Store for nine years. Inside it’s bright and open, which makes a nice change from a classic pub on this sunny day.
2:05 p.m. @ Long Grain Sam and I love Thai food, so we stop into the highly recommended Long Grain, where Sam’s pad thai and my organic farmer greens with tofu don’t disappoint.
2:55 p.m. @ Camden Snow Bowl This weekend is Winterfest, billed as “Maine’s Mardi Gras,” we take the shuttle to the Camden Snow Bowl to watch a popular event—the U.S. National Toboggan Championships. Crowds gather around firepits and surround the chute, where teams of three race for the best time.
4:00 p.m. @ Sage Back in town, we walk into Sage. Owner Richard Ailes shows us his woven Pendleton blankets and tells us about all the items he collects on his frequent visits to New Mexico, where he has a relationship with a Native American tribe.
4:40p.m. @ Lily, Lupine & Fern I want to see if I can find the Vietti wine from last night, and sure enough Gary Anderson shows me his selection. I pick up a bottle to bring to a friend’s house later in the week.
7:30 p.m. @ Natalie’s at the Camden Harbour Inn Owner Raymond Brunyanszki has kindly made a reservation for two at Natalie’s. We decide to indulge in the lobster tasting menu prepared
by executive chef Chris Long. The courses include a housemade potato bun filled with black garlic
aioli, fried lobster, and Brussels sprouts; rich and creamy lobster bisque with squash, pumpkin seeds, and vadouvan; and pasta with butter-poached lobster, mushrooms, kale, and Parmesan. We know we will talk about this meal for months to come.
9:35 a.m. @ Boynton-McKay Food Co. Sam needs to leave to play a brunch in Portland, but I stay behind to explore. At Boynton McKay’s it’s busy with Sunday-morning breakfasters. I order a latte and an egg sandwich with veggies to enjoy in one of the booths.
10:45 a.m. @ Ducktrap Bay Trading Co., Maine Sport Outfitters, and French & Brawn Marketplace Annie Chapman shows me the wide array of art at Ducktrap Bay Trading Co., from Stefane Bougie’s carved-wood decoys to Consuelo Hanks’s paintings. I browse the selection of outdoor gear inside Maine Sport Outfitters. Then I wander into French and Brawn, where I learn that in the warmer months, the market delivers groceries to boats docked in the harbor.
12:50 p.m. @ Rayr, 3 Dogs Cafe, and Rockport Harbor Driving into Rockport, I want to stop into Rayr wine shop but unfortunately it is closed today. Instead, I grab a peppermint tea at 3 Dogs Cafe before arriving at Rockport Harbor. I’m the only one on the docks this afternoon and the harbor is a peaceful scene—I could snap photographs for hours.
2:10 p.m. @ La Bella Vita Ristorante at the Samoset Resort I take a drive to the Samoset Resort, which is on Penobscot Bay on the Rockport/Rockland Border. The Bella Vita Ristorante downstairs has an incredible view of a snowy golf course and the deep blue bay waters.
2:55 p.m. @ The Flatbread Company Sam and I can’t get enough Flatbread and as I won’t have time to go to the grocery store tonight, I stop in to pick up a Midcoast Community Flatbread
for dinner, which has caramelized organic onions, mushrooms, mozzarella, and Parmesan baked on organic dough.
3:05 p.m. on Route 1 On the ride home, I call Sam and we go through our weekend discoveries and discuss another trip to the area. In the summer, we’ll bring friends and hit all the spots we did this time, but a whole lot more and al fresco. I guess that’s what happens when you leave the midcoast after a weekend getaway—you try to figure out how to get back soon.