NEMPQ: Camden, Maine

Visit Dates: September 8-9, 2023

After a few days in Boston, the road trip portion of our vacation was at hand. Road trips with your own car are great. You can throw whatever you think of into the car “just in case”. But a road trip with four adults in a small SUV (Toyota Rav4) after flying across country means you have to plan. We limited ourselves to one carry-on size suitcase and a backpack or similar. So, no “just in case”; we would have to live with our choices for three weeks. The night before we left Portland I decided to take out my small Sony RX100M7 camera *GASP* and attendant supplies. I committed to using my iPhone for all my photography.

After a quick breakfast in our Boston B&B we took a ride share to downtown Boston to pick up our reserved rental. Luckily we were able to fit everything and everybody in our Toyota Rav4. We even had some room for accumulating small souvenirs along the way. Our first stop was a Dunkin’ Donuts about an hour north of Boston. It had a weird vibe – and NO MAPLE BARS. I thought it was illegal to have a donut shop without maple bars. It turns out that they are mostly a west coast creation, though you may find them going under the pseudonym Long Johns (of which there were also none at any of the DDs we stopped at).

Our destination for the night was Camden, Maine. On the drive up we decided to get off the toll way and head closer to the coast. W saw Kennebunkport on the map and had to see what it was all about. All I know is that back in the day President George Bush (the elder) had a place there. We pulled up Yelp and other sites to figure out where to grab lunch. The Cape Pier Chowder House would be it.

Cape Pier Chowder House. Kennebunkport, Maine

After ordering inside you find a seat along the long picnic benches.

Protected eating area at the Chowder House in Kennebunkport, Maine

Jim had fried oysters while the rest of us tried the haddock chowder. Our friends Mike and Diane come from Maine and coached us on the places we should go, things we should do, and food to try. They told us repeatedly that haddock is the best fish for fish and chips and kicks the Pacific cod and halibut’s butts collectively and individually. But, like Maple Bars they are regional; haddock is a fish of the north Atlantic and checking at our grandkids’ globe the Atlantic ocean doesn’t touch the shores of Oregon. Now, we all LOVED the haddock fish and chips we had in Boston.

Haddock Fish a & Chips at the Hub Pub in Boston

The Kennebunkport haddock chowder was a bit of a let down; it was watery and didn’t have much haddock. It’s just not their signature dish I suppose. We also saw Whoopies – a cake/cream dessert which Diane and Mike told us to try if we found them.

Whoopie Pie at the Chowder House in Kennebunkport, Maine

We bought the last one at the restaurant and shared it 4 ways. My guess is that these packaged Whoopie Pies are not an adequate representative of the confection that wags Maine’s tail. We didn’t toss all of Mike and Diane’s recommendations on the basis of the dishes we ate here. We chocked it up as an outlier.

Across Cape Porpoise Harbor just outside the Cape Pier Chowder House we could see vacation homes of the people who make Kennebunkport famous (George and Barbara Bush). I don’t know that any of these make up their family compound; but they look like they could fit the definition of “country estate with expansive grounds”.

Looking across Cape Porpoise Harbor to beach homes.

The four of us swapped cameras to catch portraits ourselves after getting outside our lunch.

Terri and Jim outside the Cape Pier Chowder House in Kennebunkport, Maine
Howard and Carla outside the Cape Pier Chowder House in Kennebunkport, Maine

After lunch we got back in the car and headed up to Camden where we stayed at the Captain Swift Inn; we highly recommend it. The owners are retired nurses, are helpful and attentive.

Jim’s brother Bob and his wife Peg spend a lot of time each summer in Camden, where Peg is from. Peg’s family live on the ocean and showed us a great time. Bob, Peg and family trapped a bunch of lobster the day before for another couple of guests – Ryan and Brie, Jim and Terri’s son and his fiancé. There was plenty left over and they prepared lobster rolls for us. The best lobster rolls, we learned, are made from the claw and knuckle meat; not the tail. The lobster was dressed with just a bit of mayo and a few herbs, letting the lobster meat shine.

While Maine – and most of the rest of the world if Wikipedia is to be believed – may not have maple bars, they do have split top rolls. I first ran across these in Massachusetts in 1977. They are hot dog style buns but instead of a deep, narrow cut through the side of the bun, there is a shallow, wider slit in the top of the bun. This makes it much easier to top load the bun with your hot dog, sausage, or lobster with all the fixings. They are SO MUCH MORE PRACTICAL. How many times has your side split hot dog bun come apart at the hinge and you’ve had to keep your hot dog pressed between the two disconnected parts of the bun. Come on west coast! Let’s get split top buns out here!

Before dinner we spent time on the beach where Bob built a bonfire to accompany our drinks. The family really went all out. The stairway from their lawn down to the beach washed out during the last year’s storms. They rebuilt the stairs so we’d have easy access. Thank you!.

Jim’s brother Bob (right hand side) and Bob’s nephew Ryan, and Jim enjoying the bonfire.
Camden, Maine

Everyone we know who knows Maine told us we were out of our collective minds for not staying two nights in Camden. It is a beautiful seaside town with tons of shops, museums, places to eat and what not. Breakfast at our B&B, the Captain Swift Inn, was not to be believed. We made our choices the night before and we ended up with something like a four course breakfast. Here is a picture of the poached pear course. It was as delicious as it was beautiful


After breakfast we met up with Bob who was our tour guide through the greater Camden area. Our first stop was Camden Overlook in Camden Hills State Park. It looks down on the town and out to the Atlantic ocean.

View from Camden Overlook in Camden Hills State Park, Maine

Here is a bit more zoomed in view of the harbor.

Looking down on Camden harbor from Camden Overlook in Camden Hills State Park, Maine

Jim was on the hunt for an Andrew Wyeth print (Wyeth and his wife Betsy lived on a couple of islands nearby). Walking down a side street we found this. I don’t have any information as to the what or why; but it was an object d’art and I figured I better take a picture.

Camel sculpture in Camden, Maine

As much fun as it was seeing the Oreo cows and other sights, we needed to get on the road if we were to reach Acadia National Park before dark. Bob had us make one more stop in the harbor before leaving. Thanks for the tour, Bob.

Camden harbor. Maine

Once on the road we were feeling a bit peckish and decided to have lunch in Belfast, Maine. The first place we stopped out was mostly a beer joint with limited food options; wandering around we stumbled upon the Front Street Pub where I had the best clams and chips I have ever had. We were close to the bar and while we were eating we heard the bartender yelling at a customer – something along the lines of “No! I will not GIVE you a beer! Pay your tab.” Of course we snuck peeks. As we walked out I noticed his ankle monitor. I don’t know a lot about these things but isn’t the point of wearing one is to deter you from going into a bar? Looks to me like he’s trying to get his barman to stand him a drink.

Guy with an ankle monitor cadging a drink at the bar in Belfast, Maine

It’s interesting the little slices of life one sees when out and about. This was a first for me.

Just north of town we came to the Penobscot Narrows Bridge crossing the Passagassawakeag (I’m 90% sure I spelled that right) River. The bridge offers tours; of course we wanted to take it in.

One of the suspension towers of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.

We took the elevator up to that tippy top point. I’m not a fan of looking down from great heights; but after a bit I got comfortable enough to snap a couple of pictures.

Looking across the Penobscot Narrows Bridge from the top of one of the suspension towers

You can see the base from the original bridge to the left of the bridge. As we looked around we saw a tug boat pushing out to sea. Unfortunately there is a lot of reflective glare from the windows.

Looking at river traffic from the top of one of the suspension towers of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.

We pulled ourselves away and drove on into Bar Harbor, Maine which would be our base while we explored Acadia National Park.

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