Best Things to Do in Penobscot Bay from February to April
Special menus, wild scallop season, and tobogganing championships – we’ve got the top activities, attractions, and events you can take advantage of only during these months in Camden, Rockport, and Rockland, Maine.
Three, two, one, and you’re off – screaming down the side of a ski slope and straight toward the sea during the U.S. National Toboggan Championships. Surrounding you are competitors in costume, from Chiquita bananas to penguins and polar bears. It’s a bit chilly here – in February – at the Camden Snow Bowl, but no matter.
Welcome to Maine, in the months before the masses arrive. From February through April, Penobscot Bay sparkles with a winter wonderland that melts into a spring of new beginnings: lobster boats receiving a fresh coat of paint and museums curating contemporary exhibits. While the National Toboggan Championships occupy only one weekend, every day offers a different way to play on a unique bay.
ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS
See Some Part-Time Residents
While you can spot harbor and gray seals year around, from December through April, part-time residents harp and hooded seals appear along the 2,600-mile coast of Maine, with pupping season happening in February. So now is an ideal chance to try to spot the slick creatures right around the corner from Samoset Resort at the historic Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. For a prime viewing spot, hike nearly a mile out to the bay to the end of the pier, built with more than 700,000 tons of granite. This time of year, only a few ferryboats go to and from nearby Vinalhaven and North Haven Islands, making it a quiet time to contemplate the Atlantic action.
Ski The Sea
Midcoast Maine may be an unassuming ski destination, but Camden surprises with the gem of a hill, the Camden Snow Bowl. The only ski resort on the East Coast with views of the Atlantic Ocean, the 100-acre mountain serves up nearly 1,000 vertical feet – and has done so for the last six decades (it’s one of the oldest ski areas in New England, the retro base lodge channels the laid-back vibe of the 1960s). Ski or ride 20 runs serviced by a 4,000-foot triple lift, with snowmaking on more than 80 percent of the terrain, and 48 acres lit for night skiing. Plus, a ski lesson just might teach more than the sport, as several instructors double as schooner captains in the summer. Samoset Resort, meanwhile, offers snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on its golf course; rentals are at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport.
Embark on a Food Journey
This is an especially fine time of year to visit Rockland restaurant, In Good Company: Every Thursday, from the end of January to the middle of May, the loft-like space features a special Food Journeys dinner series. While 2024’s theme is still being determined, you can always expect something new and inventive from the owner and chef Melody Wolfertz. In 2023, she focused on the regional cuisines beloved by her favorite artists, like Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, and David Hockney.
Soak Up the Arts
Just because the temps drop, that doesn’t mean the region’s most notable art hubs, galleries, and performance spaces suddenly shutter up. After all, they don’t call Rockland the “arts capital of Maine” for nothing. Warm up on winter days with an array of captivating exhibits and programming at the Farnsworth Art Museum, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Owls Head Transportation Museum, Blue Raven Gallery, and the Strand Theater.
Savor Wild Scallop Season in Local Dishes
The Maine Department of Marine Resources allows divers and draggers to forage for wild scallops only from December to April, so that means when you’re here during these months, you must splurge on anything scallops – particularly because the waters of Penobscot Bay are known to produce especially sweet varieties. Dry Dock Restaurant (formerly Eclise of the Pearl) serves them lightly battered and deep-fried, Rockland Café sautés them in garlic butter, while Samoset’s Italian-inspired restaurant, La Bella Vita, will often fold them into their coastal shellfish stew.
2024 FESTIVALS & EVENTS
US National Toboggan Championships, 2/2-4
Thought to be the only organized wooden toboggan race in the country (maybe even the world), the US National Toboggan Championships draws more than 400 teams who compete rocketing down the iced-over, 400-foot-long, wooden toboggan chute at the Camden Snow Bowl. With a vertical incline of more than 70 feet, the chute zips riders down the hillside onto Hosmer Pond, some reaching up to speed of 45 miles per hour.
Bay Chamber Midday Music Series, 2/14, 3/3 & 4/10
The Maine hills are alive year-round with the sound of music as this family-friendly Rockport-based nonprofit presents a diverse display of talents during this regular hour-long 1 p.m. series. Expect featured performances by a string quartet, a bass-baritone singer, and one of the world’s foremost pianists and historians of vintage American popular music.
STEM Saturdays, Every Saturday 2/10 through 3/9
This this special series – hosted by the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum – is a weekly hands-on educational experience for families (always free to kids under 10) to do together. Activities include building race cars from legos and learning about aerodynamics in the process, demos in coding and robotics, and plenty of brain teasers.
Maine Restaurant Week, 3/1–12
Camden’s 40 Paper Bistro and Sea Dog Brewing Company are two of the dozens of restaurants participating in this palatable celebration of culinary talents, which features specially priced three-course meals.
Where to Stay Samoset Resort