Getting down and grungy with the best camping spots in Maine

Fri, 09/14/2012 - 2:00pm

Whether you're one of those purist camping types, who will only bring whatever you can physically carry in/carry out; i.e., chamois towel the size of a Wet-Nap, fire-starting flint, two-ounce micro stove, or you're a cram-everything-you-can-into-your car-type (three-foot cooler, hand-blended fruit purees for the evening's happy hour cocktail, air bed and 15 pillows), you're going to love what Lafe Low, author of Best Tent Camping In New England, has to say about the best car camping spots in Maine.

The book was first written in 2002, featuring Acadia National Park on the cover, and has now gone into its fourth edition. Low, who comes up frequently from Boston to the Midcoast to visit family, first moved to the Midcoast in 1991 to be the editor of a graphics magazine.

“The ad said a desired northern New England location and I knew right away that was Camden, because there was this bizarre connection between Camden, Maine, and Peterboro, N.H., where all these computer magazines had sprouted up," said Low. "And I remember saying to my wife as we drove into town, 'Well the hell with this, even if I don’t get this job, we’re moving here.' I felt more at home here than I’d felt in a long time.”

'So after going back and forth a little bit, I agreed to be that wing nut.'

When Low eventually did move to Camden, he took the editor position and eventually gravitated toward his what he’d always been passionate about personally, as well as professionally—the outdoors. With a partner, he started an outdoor magazine in 1995 called Explore New England.  “I started the magazine with the intent to…retire at age 30?… Yeah, that didn’t happen. Actually, the intent was to produce a magazine sort of like Outside, but just for New England. And although the magazine did not succeed, I’m just as convinced today for the editorial need for that kind of resource. You just got to find a way to do it and stay alive.”

In the next few years, Low would explore a lot of what New England’s outdoor regions had to offer with every new position he took. He worked as editor and editorial director for the Adventure Club of North America and as an editor for the Globe Pequot Press. He made a lot of good contacts in those jobs and one day, having moved back to Boston to work for the award-winning CIO and Redmond magazines, an opportunity dropped in his lap.  

“I’m sitting there at work one day and the publishers at Menasha Ridge Press contacted me and said, hey, we’ve got a series of campground books and we’re looking to do one in New England and we need some wing nut to write one," he said. "So after going back and forth a little bit, I agreed to be that wing nut.”


The Top 3 Best Places In Maine To Camp

“I’m totally a creature of habit,” said Low. “I’ll go to the same places over and over if I like them. But writing the book had to make me spread my wings a bit.”

Of the 14 best spots in Maine Low reviews in his book, his personal his top three that he would visit over and over are:

  1. Mt. Desert Campground: This is my favorite campground that has been in every edition and will stay in every edition. When I first sat down to write this book with a mild sense of panic, this was the first profile I wrote. I love this place, absolutely love it, just the character and the feel of the whole place. It has a ton of water sites, right on the coast at the apex of Somes Sound. The sites aren’t huge, but they are nicely spaced from one another. It’s peaceful and relaxing. If you go in the off-season in September or October, try to make a reservation in the A peninsula.

  2. Hermit Island: Drive to Bath, heading to the ocean, and keep driving until your front wheels are wet. It’s at the end of one of those fingers of land. It’s pretty big, and has a lot of sites. It’s got everything, some deep, densely wooded sites, some sites that are on this nice, still water facing the land. Sites on the beach carved out of that dense beach foliage. Sites up on a bluff overlooking Muscongus Bay. It’s fabulous.

  3. Cobscook Bay State Park: Clearly the woods and water are a powerful combination, which is why I love this one, too. There are tons of sites right on the water. And they’re not giant, but I don’t need a plot of land I can build a house on to go camping. The character of the sites gives you a real nice feeling of isolation in the area.

There are still some beautiful months to camp this fall. Whatever you do, respect the camping credo: Take only good craft beer; leave only memories.