The seaside town of Camden lent its visage to the 1957 movie Peyton Place, the classic film about a picturesque New England town with secrets seething behind its perfect lawns and colonial facades. Secrets aside, Camden could win an Academy Award for its role as a virtual museum of New England architecture, with its beauty providing a backdrop for generations of summer tourists. The town is framed dramatically by the Camden Hills, which—unusual for coastal Maine—march right up to the sea before plunging into a harbor forested with masts and sails.
The hills were sighted by Captain John Smith in 1614, but it wasn’t until 1769 that the first settlers arrived, fostering a growing economy based on shipbuilding, anchor making, and limestone production. In 1891, a portion of the town broke off to form the quieter town of Rockport, which survives today as a working fishing village. Shortly thereafter, Camden entered a new phase when steamboat runs from New York  and Philadelphia brought scads of tourists to breathe in its salt air. The boating crowd followed, founding a marina and summer yachting community that has become the town’s mainstay.
Camden is decidedly old-money, and therefore not cheap; but no other town on the coast matches its combination of natural and man-made beauty.