By Travel Editor Tracey Minkin
Is there any better spot in America, in the summer, than on the coast of Maine? Hard to argue with this vista:
I’ve been up in New England this week checking out the openings of several new coastal hotels, and while I settled in at the gloriously fun Whitehall in Camden, it took one walk into town to remind me (and tell you) why this Maine town is summer-perfect. Those crisp, clear waters, those green-topped islands, that lobster and fresh seafood pulled by your local fishermen and -women for your table. Plus Mainers, who are just about the finest people around.
Need more convincing why you should tell Siri to guide you north next weekend? Here are five more things I found, and loved, in delightful Camden.
I’ll be writing more about this inspiring reinvention of the classic coastal hotel in an upcoming issue of the magazine, but let me preview by saying that this is your iconic summer hotel stay, updated and sassed up by a terrific redesign, and then glorified by one hell of a new restaurant on the premises. Just opened, The Whitehall delivers the old-school pleasures of broad porches, rockers, eaved rooms with claw foot tubs, dormers that peek out to West Penobscot Bay, and a shuffleboard court beneath fir trees. Now, in addition to all those good, historic bones, there’s a bright and contemporary interior design by Rachel Reider that makes for more fun and sense of possibility. Not to mention homage to poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who got her start — literally — in the parlor here. Check out her bright portrait near the grand piano.
Add to that the arrival of chef Sam Talbot and his profound sense of local flavors and on-point pairings of textures and influences, and you’ve got a destination restaurant in his Pig + Poet (I won’t give away why it’s named that here… you need to tuck into a cachaça cocktail at the bar, order up some of the day’s oysters, and chat up the staff). P+P is reason enough to head to Camden, and the soft and beautifully appointed beds at The Whitehall make the weekend a must-do.
2. Coffee in Camden
It’s a civilized summer outpost that gets the importance of coffee, both to lobstermen before dawn and to day-trippers before sundown, and how great to see two spots thriving. On Main Street, Zoot Coffee has the cafe scene down, all the way to a hushing of cellphones, and features great iced coffee. Just down Bay View Street along the harbor, the Owl and Turtle Bookshop Cafe has a hidden gem of a coffeehouse, featuring local roast from Coffee On The Porch and excellent pour-overs. Further, they post a copy of what the barista is reading–always a sign of good people on all fronts.
3. Sugar Tools
Former New Yorker Amy O’Donnell has brought her exquisite taste and sense of the item that while a pure indulgence, feels absolutely necessary, to her enchanting Sugar Tools shop on Bay View Street that offers items for home, body and garden. The blend is Brooklyn and Maine in equipoise, and you’ll want to buy everything here.
Like everything here:
Plus these tea towels:
And garlic baskets, hand-woven in Maine. (Trust me, I could do this all day; just get yourself to Camden and see… and buy… for yourself.)
The perfect complement to Sugar Tools and practically right across Bay View Street, this 40-year-old classic in nautical style does it just right, as in perfectly. Admiral’s Buttons has deep stock in brands that are hard to find — imagine racks of Saint James tunics, dresses and slickers and Paul & Shark men’s shirts — along with small purveyors of needlepoint belts (and flasks!) and anchor-festooned wristlets.
The more you look, the more classic items you’ll be dying to own. A delightful institution, and with good reason. (And yes, they’ve got lobster shorts!)
Who doesn’t love a coastal dog boutique? The Maine Dog, with its treats behind the counter for four-legged visitors and constantly-filled water bowl at the door, is ready with canine love and a top-notch line of dog-prep leashes and toys:
And for those in town with dogs, what says more about the heart in Camden, than the fact that local Amanda Glenn runs All Creatures Pet Adventures for visiting four-leggers who need a little extra love and/or attention while their masters are out shopping and eating and carrying on? My favorite: Glenn and her own canine pal, Felix, will take your dog hiking for the day. And for a splash in that Maine water, making it your dog’s Best. Trip. Ever.
One of the best ways to enjoy the waters of Maine is to get out on them, and this beautiful 86-foot wooden Windjammer that pulls out right from Camden Harbor will deliver that joy under sail for two salty, maritime hours. Help the crew hoist the sails and enjoy the Appledore’s broad deck as you cruise out past Curtis Island Light and out into the broad reach of West Penobscot Bay. She’s just come up from Key West, and she’s ready for the whole summer in Maine. A great sailing adventure for all ages. And the perfect way to make it a classic, Maine summer weekend.
What’s your favorite coastal summer weekend spot? Tweet at me at @traceyminkin on Twitter, post on my wall on Facebook, drop me a comment on Instagram @tminkin or leave me a comment below. Maybe it will be my next stop for Coastal Living!