Rethinking Christmas: A Holiday on the Coast of Maine

Christmas tree in New England TownRethinking your plans this holiday season? This December, plot a course for mid-coast Maine and head toward Camden, the “Jewel of the Maine Coast,” for a long, ‘getaway’ weekend. For centuries, travelers have embraced the stark, rugged beauty of the Coast of Maine throughout the four seasons. No wonder, with its breathtaking landscape, it is one of the most enchanting places to visit in all of North America. Low mountains on the eastern frontier rise up sharply by the sea. In their shadows, rocky shorelines grace hidden coves and overlook majestic harbors and expansive bays dotted with islands, trawlers, schooners, and sailboats.

Only a few hours northeast of Boston, one the best Maine getaways is the easily accessible, Camden. The town kicks off the holiday season the first weekend of December with its “Christmas by the Sea” celebration and the festive atmosphere continues on through New Years. When you arrive, the glow of the Christmas Star high atop Mount Battie floats like a beacon to welcome you, and also signals the advent of Christmastime.

Where to Start

A stroll through town is always in order when visiting Camden. It’s a quintessential old Maine working seaport and manufacturing town. The idyllic abounds, whether you’re looking at the mountains above or out on the harbor. Christmas lights and decorations line streets filled with an assortment of shops, artisan galleries, boutiques, bookstores, cafes, and restaurants. As you walk the streets, take note of the Village Green. Designed by one of the towering landscape architects of the twentieth century, Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., his ‘other’ works can be found at the National Mall, Acadia, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Everglades, and Yosemite, to name a few. Up the street, you’ll find the town Christmas tree lighted in Harbor Park, which was designed by Olmstead and his brother John. Or stop by the Camden Opera House to see what Christmas film, show or performance is scheduled.

Neighboring Rockport holds its annual ‘Holiday on the Harbor’ the second weekend in December, featuring the Songs of Solomon Gospel Choir at the Rockport Opera House, Odeon Brandenburg Ensemble at Union Hall, and a tree lighting at Rockport Marine Park followed by Fireworks on Rockport Harbor.

Warming Your Soul and Your Belly

Hungry? To be sure, foodie’s can find traditional fare of chowders and lobster in just about any restaurant, but if you’re seeking a culinary experience like no other, visit Natalie’s, nestled within the friendly confines of the Inn. Overlooking Camden Harbor, it was awarded the prestigious OpenTable Diners’ Choice, ‘Top 100 Best Restaurants In America.’ In nearby Rockland, discover Primo’s Restaurant. Upscale dining, Primo is noted for its farm-to-table Italian cuisine. You’ll find intimate and cozy parlor rooms to dine, or funky nooks and crannies to wine.

Art, Custom Furniture, and More

Take an afternoon to plan an art crawl! Mid-coast Maine has emerged as the hub of a flourishing art scene. The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland holds the largest collection of works by all three of the Wyeths. The Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport features the work of artists, emerging and established, with ties to Maine. Windsor Chairmakers shop in Lincolnville offers a wide range of unique handcrafted furniture made on site—fifteen rooms filled with custom tables, chairs, beds, desks, buffets and Shaker-inspired furniture. Galleries like Asymmetrick Arts and Carver Hill Gallery in Rockland, or Camden Falls Gallery or Ducktrap Bay Trading Company, abound and showcase original fine art and sculpture from both emerging and established artists.

A Real Maine Getaway Must-See

And there is much to do throughout the area. Just a short drive from Camden, the biggest and brightest Christmas light show in all of Maine can be found at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. Noted as the signature event of the Boothbay Festival of Lights, the “Gardens Aglow” runs from November 17 through December 31, and is a must-see event for travelers and locals alike. Hundreds of thousands of lights decorate the buildings and central gardens. Wildly popular, the purchase of advance tickets is recommended.

As you make your way back along the coast of Maine, stop by Freeport and discover the enchanted Christmas Discovery Forest on the grounds of LL Bean’s flagship store. Walk along a winding path of 600 lighted trees and breathe in. The fragrance of the forest is magical and will lift your spirits. In the midst of the forest, stop by the festive 30-foot yurt to warm your bones.

Christmastime is here, and so is the perfect holiday diversion along the Coast of Maine, rethink your holiday plan: it’s never too late to venture down east.