Camden, Maine, is one of only two places on the East Coast where the mountains meet the sea. Arrive by boat to the mid-coast harbor and tree-covered Camden Hills State Park rises above town. The view from the top of these mountains looks over island-studded Penobscot Bay. But you’ll probably be traveling by car, and if you’re coming from the south, you’ll arrive in downtown Camden via Elm Street, where you’ll pass Long Grain (31 Elm Street; longgraincamden.com), a cherished Thai-inspired restaurant, where there’s usually a crowd, but the curries and stir fries make it worth waiting for a table.
Along Main Street in Camden, there are shops to pop into year-round. Swans Island Company (2 Bayview Street; swansislandcompany.com) has a collection of wool blankets, scarves and hats handcrafted by Maine artisans. Just off Main Street, the Goose River Exchange (23 Bay View Street; gooseriverexchange.com) has curated a collection of vintage books, posters and photography. Nearby Francine Bistro (55 Chestnut Street; francinebistro.com) is a romantic sight as it glows from the street with twinkling lights and James Beard-nominated chef Brian Hill is at the stove creating French cuisine using seasonal ingredients (share the poutine—fries, gravy, cheese and no regrets).
Up the way, a Relais and Chateaux experience awaits at the Camden Harbour Inn (83 Bay View Street; camdenharbourinn.com); the inn’s restaurant, Natalie’s, has a rotating tasting menu creating a dinner to remember. In the winter, the town has the Camden Snow Bowl (20 Barnestown Road; camdensnowbowl.com) and the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, in the fall there’s Camden International Film Festival (pointsnorthinstitute.org), and in summer there are sunsets on schooners and camping in Camden Hills, but whatever season you decide to explore this midcoast town you’ll be swept away by its natural beauty and be filled up with fine local food.