Best Places: Camden

On vacation every day.

Photo by Susan Cole Kelly</5>
Population: 4,847
Median household income: $54,826
Percent of families below poverty level: 4.2%
Median home sale price: $320,000
Median age: 53
[C]amden is not hip, not reinventing itself, and not up-and-coming. That’s because it never down-and-went. The town nestled between a boat-filled harbor and steep granite-topped hills has long been secure in its identity as a yachty New England village. It’s also one of the most beautiful towns in the country.

“I am constantly on the Internet looking at real estate in Camden,” says reader Virginia Turner, a born-and-bred Angeleno who visits Camden frequently and hopes one day to put down roots. “I love the shopping. I love the fine dining. I love going out on the schooner Olad. I love getting up and going to the Y — everyone there is so nice. The other thing I love is the history. Camden looks much the same as it did when Peyton Place was made there [in 1957].”

One might be tempted to dismiss Turner’s description as the romantic ramblings of a visitor, but Camden residents are equally enthusiastic. “Camden is the perfect conjunction of everything you’d want in a place to live,” says Kristen Lindquist, whose roots in Camden are two generations deep. “We’ve got lots of cultural things going on year-round. With the Camden Conference, PopTech, skiing at Camden Snow Bowl, festivals, and plays, winter sometimes seems busier than summer.” And if you want a dose of up-and-coming, Belfast and Rockland are just 15 minutes away.

“I get very emotional about Camden. The last time I was there, I cried when it was time to leave. The place just talks to me.” — Virginia Turner, Los Angeles

Some of the best dining in the country is found in and around Camden’s vibrant village — Natalie’s, Francine, Long Grain, and Primo have all received national recognition.

Newcomers from urban areas might be unnerved at first by Camden’s small, tight-knit community. “It’s hard to be anonymous in this town,” Lindquist acknowledges, “but when you’re down on your luck, people knowing your business and offering support is a big thing.” You’ll know you’ve been accepted when the cashiers at French & Brawn greet you by name. The small grocery, which sells everything from salt pork to Chilean sea bass, has anchored the village for nearly 150 years.

An avid birder and naturalist (and occasional Down East contributor), Lindquist is the development director at Coastal Mountains Land Trust, whose preserves expand upon the generous trail system in Camden Hills State Park. “You can walk right out your back door and hike in the state park or the preserves,” she says. “We’ve also got Camden Harbor and Megunticook Lake. Camden has everything!”

Next up: Hallowell: The Little Easy.
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