After leaving Bar Harbor, we wanted to explore Central Maine’s coast, so we spent two nights at Megunticook Campground near the towns of Camden, Rockport, and Rockland. It’s a super friendly park, with a sweet doggy in the office and lots of space and amenities. Early in the season (just before Memorial Day) it was pretty empty, but like everywhere in Coastal Maine, it gets very busy in the summer, so reserve your campsite early.
Camden, Rockport, and Rockland are close neighbors, all with shops, restaurants, and quaint streets. Megunticook Campground is between Rockport and Rockland, but only a ten-minute drive from downtown Camden, the biggest of the three towns.
For a quick lunch (with the requisite lobster roll) we popped into the Brass Compass Cafe–but we (or at least bacony J) should have had the lobster club because it’s so famous that Bobby Flay came to Rockland to challenge owner Lynn Archer to a lobster club throwdown! The lobster roll was a bit smaller than we’d been used to, with a little more mayo and smaller chunks, but overall delish. Lobster at a diner… what does that make you think of?
More lobster? Yes, please! After a short wait, we scored awesome window seats for sunset at The Waterfront, a bustling and kind of dated-but-upscale (like your grandparents would have taken you for a special occasion) seafood joint in Camden. We kept our lobster streak going with lobster stew, and–surprise–I had fish tacos. Yum.
We met a rep from Bangor’s Orono Brewing at Lompoc in Bar Harbor and he recommended the Japanese street food at Kurafuto… which happens to be inside Blaze Brewing in Camden. Perfect! More on Blaze later but the lobster noodle bowl pictured above was phenomenal. (The Orono rep also recommended Hoxbill, next door to Kurafuto, for fine dining.)
…although we could have made a meal of River Ducks Ice Cream. River Ducks’ colorful stand is at one end of the footbridge in downtown Camden and since experiencing Maine ice cream was on our to-do list we couldn’t resist. It was worth every calorie. (ha–like we were counting calories on this extra-gluttonous-even-for-us trip)
Bleeker & Greer in Rockport is a sophisticated roadside cafe with a local-meat butcher and local-goods market; J stocked up on local meat there to take back home.
French and Brawn, on the main drag in Camden, is another gourmet grocer specializing in local and seasonal products. The pastries were gorgeous but we were holding out for that ice cream!
Last but not least, local cheese! State of Maine Cheese Company is another fun roadside local foods shop where we bought some necessities: Maine cheese and Maine beer.
Blaze Brewing Co shares a space with sibling restaurant Kurafuto, the purveyor of the ridiculous lobster noodle bowl I mentioned above. The two juicy, hazy IPAs they had on tap were fantastic, and scrolling down their Facebook page, it looks like they’re always coming out with creative and scrumptious-sounding IPAs (and other beers but IPAs are typically our favorites these days).
Liberator Brewing in Rockland has a neat WWII Army Air Corps theme and a cutie doggy, but the beer wasn’t our cup o’ tea; nor was the slow service despite the taproom being empty. I do appreciate that Liberator has a “…Farm Sustainable license, which stipulates that a certain percentage of the ingredients in the beers must be locally produced” per the local newspaper.
Also in Rockland, Rock Harbor Brewing Co is a brewpub with a bar serving a variety of Rock Harbor and non-Rock Harbor beers. It’s obviously a locals hangout, and the energy at the bar was fun, but our tasting flight didn’t wow us.
And last and least, we stopped into Sea Dog Brewing Co in Camden for research purposes, despite it basically being a big and unappealing restaurant. We shared a small beer and couldn’t finish it because it was terrible, and also because the patron next to us complained about her food and the bartender responded thusly: 1. He said “really?” 2. He walked away. Don’t bother going there.
Not beer (well, still kind of beer)
40Paper is a gem of a bistro in Camden. We went for a pre-dinner cocktail during happy hour (it was packed–their happy hour deals are really good) and then returned after dinner because they had a Bissell Brothers IPA on tap! You’ll read more about Bissell in our Portland post (spoiler) but it was #1 on our Maine beer drinking to-do list and it was everything we hoped it would be. Definitely go to 40Paper for drinks, and if you’re craving Italian food, that’s the place to eat. (We wanted to hit an authentic New England seafood joint, so this was our Waterfront night.)
We stopped for coffee and tea at Zoot, a welcoming neighborhood spot we stumbled upon after striking out at a few other places looking for espresso drinks. Glad we waited; Zoot was a great place to chill for a bit.
Camden has a charming little downtown area that’s perfect for exploring on foot. Well, all three towns do, but Camden’s is the biggest so is arguably the best walking destination. Be sure to include the harbor area in your adventuring.
For a fun and unique tourist activity, walk the mile-long granite Rockland Breakwater out to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. The lighthouse was closed (it’s open for tours on summer weekends) and the wind out on the jetty was chilly, but the granite pier was very impressive and overall it was an interesting jaunt.
We were still in hiking mode since we’d just left Acadia, so we popped up to the nearby Camden Hills State Park for a couple hours. The park is just a few minutes north of Camden, and offers nine miles of hiking trails, and panoramic views of Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay from the top of Mt. Battie… on a clear day, that is. Our day was clear up high, but alas, a blanket of fog sat over the harbor. We also had to contend with tiny gnatty flies that swarmed us as soon as we stood still (it was mid-May, so ’tis the season). We still had fun trekking through the pretty woods up to Adam’s Lookout and Mt. Megunticook.
The NYT came out with a 36 Hours travel piece (we love those for travel research) for Camden/Rockport shortly after we got home, so consult that too when you’re planning your trip.