Maine Cruise: Days 4-5 – Camden and Rockland, ME

Lobster fresh from the pot -- for-- the Lobster Bake Lunch in Rockland
Lobster fresh from the pot — for– the Lobster Bake Lunch in Rockland

ONBOARD INDEPENDENCE- Known by its slogan “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea,” Camden is yet another quintessentially pretty New England village. Set against the backdrop of the Camden Hills, the town’s busy harbor is well-known as home to a fleet of tall-masted windjammers that ply Penobscot Bay for both day-trips and extended excursions.

A large group of passengers chose to join a narrated bus tour (a $55 option) featuring a visit to Camden Hills State Park where Mt. Battie affords a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Camden Harbor and the panorama of Penobscot Bay and its many islands. Melinda and I decided instead on a complimentary walking tour led by ACL’s guest Speaker Lauri DeGaris.

Camden Harbor Park provides a great-- view of the town's harbor and waterfront
Camden Harbor Park provides a great– view of the town’s harbor and waterfront

Like many most of Maine’s mid-coast towns, Camden thrived on shipbuilding during the 1800s. The H.M. Bean shipyard, in fact, had the distinction of launching the first-ever six-masted schooner. Boasting such a heritage, it’s not at all surprising that Camden carries on the tradition with its fleet of windjammers. There were woolen mills here as well, powered by the Megunticook River. They’ve gone the way of most such New England mills but the river still rushes through town, forming a scenic waterfall as it tumbles into the harbor.

Our stroll led through peaceful Camden Harbor Park, which overlooks the river and its waterfall and offers a great view of the harbor and waterfront. Our guide Lauri noted that the park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (best known for his design of New York City’s Central Park) and that it’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Crossing the Megunticook on a flower-bedecked footbridge, we wandered along Main Street for a while, perusing the various gift shops, boutiques and galleries, but Camden’s busy harbor called us back – and we sat on a bench at the wharf for some time watching a fascinating nautical parade of kayaks, dinghies, lobster boats, windjammers, mega-yachts and minor yachts. No doubt about it – this place is a mariner’s paradise.

Flowers brighten this footbridge-- crossing the Megunticook River in Camden
Flowers brighten this footbridge– crossing the Megunticook River in Camden

Rockland presented a day filled with activities and tour options. One of the town’s more enterprising lobstermen, Capt. Steve Hale, has taken his trade public, offering two-hour hands-on tours onboard the Capitan Jack for up to six guests who learn some of the skills and secrets of trapping those scrumptious Maine lobsters. Quite a number of Independence passengers joined Hale for this interesting adventure (a $35 option).

Speaking of lobsters, ACL’s traditional and overwhelmingly popular Lobster Bake Lunch is a complimentary event staged during each of its Maine voyages on the grounds of the Sail, Power & Steam Museum on Sharp’s Point in Rockland. Just about everyone onboard turned out for this feast, which featured lobster, mussels and corn freshly boiled/baked in seaweed and served with a variety of salads and a blueberry-chocolate dessert.

Preparations for ACL's traditional-- Lobster Bake Lunch in Rockland
Preparations for ACL’s traditional– Lobster Bake Lunch in Rockland

Tours of two premier Rockland museums – the Farnsworth Art Museum/Wyeth Center and Owls Head Transportation Museum — rounded out ACL’s day 5 offerings, each priced at $40.

The Farnsworth, which occupies a three-acre campus at Main and Museum Streets, boasts one of the nation’s finest collections of American art – and is the only U.S. museum dedicated solely to the contributions of Maine artists – among them Wilson Homer, Fitz Hugh Lane, Edward Hopper, Childe Hassam and Rockwell Kent. The adjacent Wyeth Center houses the art and archives of three generations of the Wyeth family (local summer residents), N.C., Andrew and Jamie.

While the Farnsworth was our favorite, the Owls Head Transportation Museum houses a really extraordinary collection of antique planes and automobiles, along with a large assortment of historic engines.

Posted on July 10, 2014

Photos by David Houser

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