We're back with part 2 of our trip up and down the coast of Maine. If you missed Part 1 or our Pictorial Guide to Maine you can find them via the links! In Part One we traveled from New Hampshire to Ogunquit, fell in the with the charm of Kennebunkport, and had quite the adventure in Acadia and Bar Harbor.
Today's trip will take us south along the coast to what locals call mid-coast Maine where we'll explore Camden and Rockland then continue to our final destination: Portland.
Let me back up for a moment. We left Under Canvas Acadia at 9am a bit battle weary and not quite 100% after the unfortunate run-in with lobster (eating) and wolves (far away howling) the previous night. Our next destination was 250 Main Hotel in Rockland that night but we had no plans other than find good food and good coffee – honestly, when is that not our plan?
We had such a good experience taking life a little slower and driving Highway 1 up the coast so we hopped back on that road and headed south just a few miles until we ran into the cozy little town of Blue Hill.
We stopped for lattes at a tiny little roadside coffee shop - Bucklyn Coffee - and then turned the corner in search of our first stop, Blue Hill Books. Blue Hill Books is an independent, community based bookstore with the most comprehensive collection of modern, classic, indie and local literature I've ever come across. Founded in the 80s, the unassuming white house protects not just the books inside but also the members of the community that clearly sustain the business. It's one of those rare places that's far from home but immediately feels like home.
After our bookstore adventure we were ravenous and found on Google Maps a local, organic market and grocery store just around the corner. If you're wandering around Blue Hill and looking for food on a weekday you're best bet is to stroll around Blue Hill Co-Op for a bit and pick up a wrap and a drink then sit outside in the sunshine munching on organic chicken salad and discussing how to open a bookstore.
Now we head toward Camden feeling much better about our travel decisions.
Camden Hills State Park
Right off Route 1 just before the town of Camden sits the state park. Filled with hiking trails and picnic areas it's a gem of the area. But the true magic lies in the center of the park up top Mount Battie. You can hike up the top but why hike when you can drive. And drive we did - an easy 6 minute trek up - to a big parking lot and a quick little walk out to the rocky edge where Penobscot Bay stretched out in front of us and Camden Harbor lay to the right.
In my honest opinion, this was a much better experience and view than Acadia. Again, just my personal opinion but for $6 you enter the park, drive up, and can sit for hours in the sun watching schooners and sailboats drift along, picking out cabins nestled in the woods far below, and breathing in chilly ocean air. I would go back to Camden Hills in a heartbeat. It will be a very long time before I venture back to Acadia.
From the state park we passed through Camden on our way to nearby Rockland and decided then we'd come back the following day to explore everything it had to offer.
Once safely in Rockland we checked in to the stunning 250 Main Hotel.
I worked with this hotel for the duration of our stay and in exchange for content produced they gifted us the stay. All opinions, however, are my own and I reached out to them in the beginning of the partnership because I knew we wanted to stay here!
With hallways more like an art gallery than a hotel and a room large enough for six of us we found ourselves truly in the lap of luxury and it was the perfect place to reset and recharge.
Notes About 250 Main Hotel
- We stayed in a Fantastic room that truly lived up to its name
- Walking distance to everything Rockland has to offer. 15 minutes from downtown Camden
- There were the nicest staff members working at this hotel - from cleaning to the GM.
- They had a water filling station in the lobby. You just ask for these beautiful liter glass bottles and they have two taps - one for still and one for sparkling water.
- Mini fridge in the room!
- Malin and Goetz toiletries
- Free breakfast
- Rooftop patio to watch the boats in the harbor
After a much needed afternoon of long hot showers, airing out our campfire clothes, and sipping coffee on our beautiful balcony, we decided to walk downtown Rockland to dinner at Ada's Kitchen a fun, slightly funky, delicious pasta restaurant. Just the meal we needed!
The next morning was overcast with a high chance of rain. Our original plan was to go-go-go with a big trip out to Monhegan Island to hike for the day. But the evening before I still wasn't feeling 100% and we didn't want to be stuck out on an island with two buildings and no cars while it was pouring rain. So we had a lazy morning in then headed down the road to Camden. Where we absolutely fell in love with the town.
Some of the best shopping we found in Maine is in Camden. Boutiques, art galleries, artisans, bookstores...
- Zoot Coffee for a pick-me-up
- Swans Island company for stunning Maine-made wool blankets
- Sugar Tools
- Topo Gallery and Goods
- Owl and Turtle Bookshop and Cafe
- Bagel cafe for lunch
Just to name a few. But do yourself a favor and just wander. Find the local library that is now my dream to work in. Eat lunch in park across the street. Find the falls that run through the middle of town and sign the petition to keep the harbor front preserved.
After you've gotten your fill of Camden (which, let's be honest could be days) head back to Rockland for a bit of shopping at Daughters and Curator Vintage. Wander through the renown art museum and end the day with a 2 1/2 hour dinner at Primo.
It was two days we will not soon forget.
On to Portland
Where we Stayed: The Francis
Highlights: Portland Head Light and Fort Williams Park, Ember Maine, Portland Dry Goods,
Good Eats: Tandem Bakery, Pai Men Miayke,
Although we were here for almost 2 days, we didn't really give Portland a fair shot. When you near the end of a trip - especially a fun-packed road trip like we did - it's easy to feel fatigued. We took to the streets of Portland after checking into the quaint Francis Hotel and walked 6 or 7 miles to get a feel for the city.
We likened it to a mix of West Coast Portland and Asheville, NC. It's very clear that the downtown is going through a bit of a revitalization which is exciting to see but it doesn't feel like there's too much going on.
Our last full day in Portland we spent walking more of the city, sitting in tea rooms watching the people pass by and then (unfortunately) spending the afternoon on the phone with our A/C repair man after we got a notice our A/C had broken that morning.
Things We Would Do Differently A Second Time in Maine
To travel is to let go of a slight bit of control and let things come as they may. Of course you can travel (or rather vacation to) the same places and do the same things over and over until you're so familiar with it all the unknown is eliminated completely. That's awesome. But traveling really means you can plan all you want but things might not be perfect the entire time - and that's where you learn and grow.
A few things we'd do differently on our next trip to Maine:
- Visit 2-3 places instead of four locations just so we had a bit more time in each spot.
- Go to Kennebunkport and Camden but likely not Acadia or Portland
- Be a bit more prepared for the weather - it was MUCH warmer than we were anticipating for September
- Explore more of Cape Porpoise
- Stay this time in downtown Camden - but honestly 250 Main Hotel would be difficult not to stay in again
- Avoid eating lobster (for me)
- Take it a little slower