Camden is quintessential Maine and upper New England. It is a community that looks as if it were something plucked from Paramount's back lot or the architectural version of central casting.
Perhaps more so than any of its neighbors, this community echoes the arts of paint, clay, wood and melody. Now it is little influenced by the grimier commercial aspects of the sea while catering to the cleaner commerce of pleasure sailing. Thus, Camden has a softer visage than most of its neighbors, with the possible exception of the elegant, affluent and adjacent Rockport peninsula.
Today, Camden's artistic heritage is reflected in its nearly two dozen galleries, its dramatic and musical theatres and an architectural heritage that is second to none in the area. The large mills are gone; what commercial fishing there was, is largely spent.
Now commerce is focused on tourism, hosting a few business meetings and credit card processing--both in retail stores and at MBNA's massive new processing center established in a rejuvenated mill.
Camden's port is jammed with sailing and engine-powered boats during the summer months. She, along with Rockland and Rockport, is a primary home port for the Maine schooner fleet. Camden is home for the schooners Angelique, Grace Bailey, Lewis R. French, Mary Day and Mercantile.
Cushing is probably best known the location that inspired the poignant depiction of "Christina's World" painted by Andrew Wyeth. The Olson House toward which Christina is grasping in that widely recognized work has been maintained by the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, and is located several mile off of Maine 97.
The Olson House is easily reached from Rockland and Thomaston, but once you arrive there you'll realized that the magic a painter infuses into his work was indeed present in this work.
The main attraction of the Cushing area is its rolling hills and pastoral quiet.
Artists and photographers will find good subject matter in the soft and harsh confrontations of the terrain. Low bush blueberries provide seasonal changes in both palate and texture.
The Damariscotta Region is a delightful introduction to Midcoast Maine. The area's chamber proclaims that "You will find our unique shopping, our quaint shops and cottage businesses warm and friendly," and they are not exaggerating.
From this community hub, the Damariscotta Region radiates in all directions including the south where it entwines with glacial river fingers, then empties into Atlantic southwest of Muscongus Bay. Designed by the ages and preserved by locals, this community boasts pristine fresh waters of small lakes and ponds each shrouded by the seasonal diversity of coastal forests.
The region has numerous sites of historic interest, real "working harbors" and provides numerous locations for picnicking, hiking and camping.
Damariscotta itself is home to many craftsmen and their shops, owner-operated Bans and inns, rustic restaurants, a sampling of Maine's requisite antique dealers, and ship captains offering ocean-going adventures of varied durations
Located on a spur south of US 1, Damariscotta is not on the main traffic route, but close enough to be a "don't miss" community. Nonetheless, during the June-to-August season, the town plays host to hoards of travelers. Even during this peak season it is not as completely overrun with tourists as are some other more well known areas farther up the coast.
The community and its namesake region are an easy drive up US 95 and US 1 from the nearest large jumping off point, Beantown. However, coming from Boston, expect peak-season traffic backups at the Hampton, NH, tolls. An inland alternative route around the first toll plaza might be considered.
True to the name Friendship, this is a quiet and congenial village of about 1,100 residents, most of whom are spread sparsely across three peninsulas: Bradford, Davis and Martin Points. Davis Point and the more distant Friendship Long Island are seen at right from Martin Point during a typical sunrise; this one was in April.
Despite today's pleasant name, early hostilities toward the native population were commonplace in 1743 when this area, known as the Meduncook Plantation, was settled by Europeans. However, after two generations such unpleasantness abated and the broad community was chartered as Friendship in February in 1807.
Contributing to the community's quiet character today is its good fortune of being situated at the end and convergence of two roads---Maine's 220 and 97---down which you will travel only if you wish to arrive a Friendship. This is not a pass-through town. Thus, Friendship has been able to maintained much of its hospitable character without submitting to the tyranny of tourism. However, the area's population of permanent transplants and seasonal people "from away" continues to grow, and contribute to local business cash flow and the government's tax base.
All of this activity keeps three churches populated on Sundays; the library open a couple days a week; the Friendship Museum open during the summer; Wallace's market busy all the time, and the "town office" is filled with a steady stream of business. And---despite its relatively remote location---Friendship's Post Office  has exhausted its supply of PO Boxes, and local tending to the housing needs of seasonal residents has become an important industry in its own right.
Friendship Harbor itself and nearby Hatchet Cove provide a mid-coast home for one of the state's largest and most prosperous lobstering fleets. The generally stable, family-oriented nature of life in Friendship is characterized by the names many local fishermen give their lobster boats, christenings that represent their children or wife; thus, "Lisa & Lori," "Haley & Amy," and Miss Kristen." Then, there are the fishermen who choose to go a different direction, or simply don't have girls' name to emblazon on their transoms, thus: "A-Bill," "Two Boys" and "Disturbed," among other similar discontinuities. The last one remains an enigma--- even within the fisherman's family.
Near Hatchet Cover on the northwest side of Martin Point Road lies Crystal Pond, which is shown in winter at left and in early August below.
Once the center of local ice farming for Portland and Boston markets, this idyllic spring-fed fresh-water body is now the source of inspiration for the occasional artist and a serene destination for kayak paddlers. While the pond's small scale offers experienced kayakers no challenge, it provides an abundance of soulful harmony with local flora and opportunities to view American bald eagles, who reside above on the south shore of the pond, and examine the construction methods of a beaver family.
[On Hatchet Cove, Great Blue Herons and Caspian Turns are regular visitors among the gulls, Mallards and other more common birds.]
Like the rest of the Friendship community, Martin Point traffic is largely comprised of locals, who regularly motor down and back up the road just for the serenity of the place, permanent resident "from away" and summer vacationers. Because of its fortunate not-on-a-main-road location, tranquility has been largely preserve
Port Clyde is a crowded little pouch of land at the end of the road. Next stop is Monhegan Island, by ferry. Despite its compactness, it reeks charm, especially after the ferry leaves and fewer people are standing around.
The Monhegan Boat Line's ferry departs from Port Clyde in the early morning, at mid-morning then early- afternoon. It returns from Monhegan at noon, mid-afternoon and in the late afternoon. Check the Boat Line at 207-372-8848 to be certain of precise times and impending schedule changes
The Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland runs July 29 through August 2, 2009, from noon to 10 pm with tickets ranging form $8-a-day to $32 for the entire event. There's a bunch to do, see and eat! And, of course, there's free stuff too. Here's the schedule of events.
Knox County also claims of 14 of the state's 63 lighthouses, and the city itself has a growing cultural base.
Rockland is proud of its growing number of galleries and museums, perhaps the most noted being the Farnsworth Art Museum and the Wyeth Center, both at 352 Main Street on this north bound stretch of the bifurcated US 1 that runs through the center of town.
Focused on American art, The Farnsworth boasts of over 5000 works spanning three centuries. Included are pieces by the three generations of Wyeths: N.C., Andrew and Jamie. Works by Hopper, Nevelson, Indiana and Bellows---among other contemporary artists---are included in the collection.
This charming village sandwiched between Rockland and Camden is most notable for its secluded elegant homes on the harbor and nearby hills as well as the tiny harbor itself.
While a few commercial professional establishments ply their trades here, Rockport has managed to survive quite well secluded off of the main road and without an abundance of commerce.
Practically every town on the Maine coast considers itself “the loveliest…,” but Rockport has the distinction of actually being included among the Forbes Magazine’s 2008 list of “America’s Prettiest Towns.”
Tenants Harbor is the less busy neighbor to Port Clyde, five miles away, where you catch the Monhegan Ferry. Farther up the coast are Rockland, Rockport and Camden, making Tenants Harbor, in our opinion, an ideal "base station" for exploring the mid-coast area while also claiming a large amount peace and quiet.
This is a beautiful area, where the focus is on settling into your rented cottage and planning on when you, too, are going to buy there. The "excitement," such as it may be, is up the coast. Tenant's Harbor is for realizing.
The primary attractions in Tenants Harbor---beside which clapboard home you want to buy and hole up in---are the Friendship Sloop Surprise and The East Wind Inn.
Surprise takes passengers on three excursions daily: morning, afternoon and evening/sunset. There's nothing more peaceful that sailing with a steady breeze [or wind] off your quarter, and with someone else to mind the tiller. Contact Surprise at www.FriendshipSloop.com.
The East Wind Inn is an established guest facility in an idyllic location with some accommodations that echo its earlier days. The lowest priced rooms are with a shared bath. From there you can singles, doubles, suites, apartment or cottage.
The Inn's restaurant serves three meals a day. Meeting facilities are available and light food [including lobster rolls] can be obtained at the wharf where Surprise moors. Contact the Inn at www.EastWindInn.com.
Seems that every third community in this part of New England has been called "the Prettiest Village in Maine" by someone at one time or another, and Wiscasset is no exception.
When such things were first becoming important, Wiscasset laid claim to yet another title of quaintness. In a 1930s edition of Samuel Chamberlain's Old New England Villages, the town was noted as one of the best preserved New England villages in Maine, the regional business association tells us.
A decade ago when ship building, fishing and lumbering were mainstay industries in Maine, Wiscasset boasted of being the largest working harbor above Boston. That legacy has long since passed and even the wrecks of the Hesper and the Little Luther---which protruded from Wiscasset's harbor waters for six decades---are now gone. [Community beautification, we assume.] And fishing today is confined to a few local professionals, weekend anglers and tourists.
Tourism is today's staple industry and the business association describes the local appeal this way: "Visitors can stroll the town's pleasant brick sidewalks and visit churches, old graveyards, the Sunken Garden, antique shops, art galleries, fine stores and restaurants." And they're not wrong.
This little community with the funny sounding---and decidedly New England sounding---name is worth your time to stop and stroll before you continue motoring north and east into Midcoast and Down East Maine.
Addendum: Across the Wiscasset River is the 1774 town of Edgecomb. Once more of a farming community than a commercial center, this town is characterized by its classic wooden farmhouses perched above the Sheepscot and Damariscotta Rivers.