Winter Weekend in Camden, Maine

A winter getaway to Camden, Maine, offers an off-seasonal coastal escape that’s worth savoring.

By Katy Kelleher

Jun 13 2022


The property’s vintage A-frame lodge.

Photo Credit : Greta Rybus

If you know Midcoast Maine only in summer, a winter surprise awaits. In Camden, they don outlandish costumes and compete in the U.S. Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl, and they watch fire dancers twirl in the outdoor amphitheater as part of their weeklong Winterfest. They take polar plunges into the harbor to raise money for local charities, drink craft cocktails in chic bars, and snowshoe up mountains. Camden’s dedicated year-round community makes this town an ideal hub for a weekend of exploring the region’s hip museums and deserted beaches.

Tending to winter chores in Camden’s working harbor.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus

From Camden, drive a few miles north to find yourself at the edge of the sea, watching waves deposit shells and whole sand dollars on Lincolnville Beach. Drive eight miles south to Rockland, and you’ll be immersed in one of Maine’s most vibrant artistic communities. And though all the charms of Maine are still intact during the colder months (some would even say they’re amplified), inns, hotels, and B&Bs tend to cut rates now to entice visitors. For instance, a room at Camden’s Hawthorne Inn that tops $300 in summer is yours in January for $119. With deals like that, you may discover what many Mainers have long known: the subtle majesty of a coastal winter day.

Winter Weekend in Camden, Maine


Check into the local castle.

Located in the historic High Street section of Camden, the Norumbega Inn, built in the late 19th century in the style of a European castle, has been transformed into a lavishly decorated 11-room bed-and-breakfast, with pretty chintz curtains and jacquard upholstery and so much carved cherry wood furniture. While the Library Suite provides the most indulgent overnight experience, no matter which room you book you’ll have access to the sweet little fox-themed reading nook on the first-floor landing. Bring a Gothic novel, crack open a bottle of wine, and settle in for the evening.

A peek inside the 19th-century Norumbega Inn.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus

Then, head to Franny’s.

For years Francine Bistro was a favorite on the Camden dining scene, so its closure in 2018 caused a lot of heartbreak. But soon after, Franny’s Bistro (named to honor its predecessor) opened in the same white clapboard building, decorated with the same twinkling lights and garlands of wintery greenery. The food is homey and cheerful: earthenware dishes filled with house-made tagliatelle covered in short-rib ragu, and roast young chicken with root vegetables and addictively creamy garlic herb sauce.

Franny’s Bistro smoked shrimp spring rolls.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus
The interior of Franny’s Bistro restaurant.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus


Fuel up for the day ahead.

A bonus for staying at the Norumbega is the three-course breakfast cooked up by chef and co-owner Phil Crispo, a former Culinary Institute of America instructor—it’s a feast fit for a castle. [Editor’s note: The Norumbega changed ownership in 2022; please see the inn’s website for details.] For those sleeping elsewhere, a hearty pile of diner pancakes can be similarly fortifying, and Mariner’s Restauranthas the best in town.

See the sights in Rockland.

Just south of Camden is Rockland, an artsy little city built for strolling and window-shopping. Pop into Trillium Soaps, where you can get handmade botanical-infused soaps in scents like rosemary-lime and Maine seaweed, and browse the shelves at Hello Hello Books. For one-of-a-kind clothing, check out Daughters, where owner Ariel Birke stocks a mix of vintage finds and apparel by independent designers; the boutique’s overall vibe is hip yet welcoming, much like Rockland itself.

Trillium Soaps founders Peter and Nancy DiGirolamo, who have said they got into soapmaking because it was a business they could enjoy with their two children.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus
A selection of their soaps, which are all made in the couple’s Rockland workshop.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus

Before or after shopping, check out one (or both) of Rockland’s acclaimed art museums. At the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, whose bold exhibitions range from climate change to immigration, you’ll get a feel for what Maine artists are thinking about now. The Farnsworth Art Museum, meanwhile, offers a deep dive into Maine’s artistic past as it showcases works by such icons as the Wyeth family, Winslow Homer, and Robert Indiana.

Maine Center for Contemporary Art.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus

Go multicultural for lunch.

While in Rockland, don’t miss a chance to sample the eclectic, multicultural cuisine of Maine chef Kerry Altiero atCafé Miranda. While many local fine-dining spots are open only for dinner, Café Miranda serves the midday crowd, too, with options including house-made empanadas (stuffed with pulled pork, potato, and black beans) and lobster mac and cheese (with roasted greens and “lotsa cheese”).

Take a hike.

Back in Camden, take a trip just outside town to visitCamden Hills State Park, where you can walk off lunch and enjoy one of the most famous views in Maine from the summit of Mount Battie. (If the snow is deep, you may want to consider renting snowshoes from Maine Sport Outfitters.) Among the hikes to choose from are trails that lead to multiple peaks and end at the frozen shores of Lake Megunticook, as well as the half-mile trek up Mount Battie. All paths will let you gaze upon the islands of Penobscot Bay, the sleeping ships in Camden Harbor, and, if the day is clear enough, the distant blue swell of Mount Washington to the west.

Camden Hills State Park.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus

Explore the great indoors.

Open daily year-round, the Camden Public Library is a glorious feat of neoclassical architecture. Decked in nautical paintings and scattered with plush armchairs, the upper-level reading room feels like it exists outside time; you could spend hours just reading in front of the fireplace. Still in the mood for shopping? Stop by Once a Tree to discover some hand-carved treasures, or pick up a new tote at Sea Bags, which makes its wares from recycled sails.

The Camden Public Library.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus

Darkness comes early in winter, so be ready to welcome it with a cocktail before dinner. At chic watering hole 40Paper, the libations are creative enough to keep you guessing What’s in this? but not so wild as to shock the palate. Try the Mortal Eyes, a mix of Dutch gin, applejack, allspice, lemon, and chocolate bitters whose claim to fame is a mention on public radio’s “The Dinner Party Download.”

Go Long for dinner.

Intimate and down to earth, Long Grainis always packed, even in the dead of winter, so be sure to make a reservation if you want to try its delicious interpretations of Thai and Vietnamese street food and Indonesian and Japanese staples. Every option—from the steamed mussels in coconut-lemongrass broth to the stir-fried kimchi with pork belly and rice cakes—is fresh, perfectly spiced, and masterfully prepared.

Opened in 2009, Long Grain is beloved for its tasty homemade Asian food, such as this Thai mussel pancake known as hoi tod.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus
Paula Palakawong, who co-owns Long Grain with husband Bas Nakjaroen.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus


Ski by the sea.

Camden Snow Bowl is the only ski mountain on the East Coast with ocean views. It’s small, but don’t let that put you off, because this hidden gem has 26 trails and glades — and short lines. And even if you’re not into Alpine skiing, it’s worth a visit: You can hang out in a lodge whose retro charm channels the laid-back vibes of the ’60s, or rent snowshoes and explore the fragrant pine woods and lovely views of nearby Ragged Mountain Preserve.

Getting ready to hit the trails at Camden Snow Bowl, which opened in 1936, making it one of the oldest continuously operating ski areas in New England.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus
The property’s vintage A-frame lodge.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus

Plan a beach outing (seriously).

Lincolnville is a bit sleepier than its coastal neighbors, but the beauty of Lincolnville Beach alone makes it a visit. You may have the beach to yourself—and if you’re lucky, and if the day is really cold, you may even get to witness frozen waves the texture and color of mercury rolling slowly toward the shore. It’s a rare natural phenomenon and a mesmerizing reminder of nature’s power.

Afterward, warm up with a cup of locally roasted coffee at Green Tree Coffee & Tea, where you can also do some last-minute souvenir hunting. Raw unfiltered Maine honey from Swan’s is a tempting treat (its creamy consistency makes it ideal for spreading on toast), but there’s also plenty of bagged coffee, boxes of tea, and other locally made goodies.

The Lincolnville General Store.
Photo Credit : Greta Rybus

For a final bite before hitting the road, stop in at the old-timey Lincolnville General Store, which sells not only night crawlers and fishing gear but also fresh bread and craft cider and beer. Sidle up to the counter in the back to order a wood-fired pizza. Resist the urge to get it to go and rush home. Take your time. After all, even Route 1, which in summer is socked in with travelers, will be all yours. 

This post was published in 2019 and has been updated.

See More: Scenes from Winter in Camden, Maine