If you check the license plate, Maine is Vacationland. But it’s also SummerCampland. There are so many camps in Maine that we couldn’t possibly list them all (Maine Summer Camps has listings of more than 125 camps at mainecamps.org but there are plenty more that don’t participate in that organization). Welcome to our list, curated for categories your potential camper might fit into. We skewed it more toward the girl side of things, but you’ll find a few boy’s camps in these pages. Our list ranges from the posh to the more financially accessible, with an emphasis on specific passions (music, math, even pole vaulting). The commonality is Maine, and that’s key. When Town & Country Magazine put together their list of the 19 best summer camps in the U.S. in 2017, it included seven Maine camps. “Top camps,” the magazine said, are “frequently located in Maine.” Yeah, we know.
FOR THE CAMP TRADITIONALIST
Alford Lake Camp
On Alford Lake in Hope
Since 1907 Alford Lake campers (girls only) have slept in white canvas tents and awakened to reveille. Mail is no longer delivered by horse, and bathing suits are made of Lycra rather than wool. But days are still filled with swimming, hiking, horseback riding, archery, canoeing and sailing—and lots of singing. For returning campers in high school, Alford Lake Camp also offers Global Challenge Trips: five weeks in the Alps, seven weeks on the Appalachian Trail or seven weeks in Nova Scotia.
On Great Pond in Belgrade Lakes
This all-girls camp in Belgrade Lakes has also been around since 1907. Campers come for a whole season (June 25–Aug. 9) or half season. Activities include paddling, crafts, sports, drama, sailing, riflery, ropes course, wilderness trips, English horseback riding, water skiing, challenge tower, zip line and Junior Maine Guide training.
On Sebago Lake in Raymond
Wohelo girls come from all over the world and from 24 states (so far) for either 3 1/2 weeks or 7 weeks of lakeside exploration—sailing, canoeing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, playing tennis, silversmithing, weaving and making pottery, staging drama and swimming for miles. Founded in 1907 on a mile of Sebago Lake shoreline, there are two independent camps, Little Wohelo (ages 6–12) and Sebago Wohelo (ages 12–16), which meet up for Sundays and special occasions.
On Moose Pond in Denmark
The 200 girls who spend half or all of the summer at Maine’s oldest continuously running camp call it simply “Wyo.” The camp is among cathedral pines on the shores of Moose Pond in the foothills of the White Mountains. Campers enjoy waterfront and wilderness activities, horseback riding, challenge courses, creative arts, tennis archery, riflery and all-camp evening programs. A family camp, offered in late August, is an option for families considering Wyonegonic for their daughters for the following summer.
On East Pond in Smithfield
Camp Somerset for Girls sat idle for 30 years and reopened in 2018 with a campus rebuilt from the ground up. On this technicality, Somerset is the newest camp in Maine. Girls can go for the “Full Somer” (seven weeks) or for a “Half Somer” (3 1/2 weeks) or, for first-timers, a “Short Somer” (two weeks). Girls stay busy with four subtypes of activities: adventure, waterfront, land sports/athletics and arts and movement. There’s a mother-daughter weekend Aug. 9–11 for current and prospective families.
FOR THE OUTDOOR ADVENTURER
With camps for boys and for girls and wilderness trips for teens, Chewonki programs are designed to foster a love for the outdoors. Campers plunge into the rivers, lakes, mountains, woods and coastline of Maine and eastern Canada. Both the boys camp, based out of Wiscasset, and the girls camps, which are based in multiple locations, focus on progressive outdoor skill building. For older co-ed campers (ages 14–17), Chewonki offers 3- to 5-week wilderness adventures, some of which require a passport for travel into Canada.
Rippleffect, based on Cow Island in Casco Bay, is known for its youth development and leadership adventure programs. But the Summer Tripleffect Multi-Sport Trek for high school students looks to be epic. The teens will leave July 30 for backpacking and rock climbing in the White Mountains before heading to the ocean for a multi-day sea kayaking expedition.
University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center at Bryant Pond
On Lake Christopher in the mountains of western Maine
Core camp programs are divided into several program paths: primitive skills, woodscraft, naturalist, teen leadership and Maine woods adventure. The camp offers ropes courses, an indoor climbing wall, hiking trails, archery, a rifle range, a stocked trout pond and plenty of fields and forests to explore. Two camps are offered in partnership with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Maine Warden Service: Warden Camp for kids interested in what wardens do, and Camp North Woods, an outdoors skills camp that is so popular there’s a lottery for it. (Lottery closes March 29.)
FOR THE ATHLETE
Salt Pump Acadia Teen Climbing Camp
Your teen rock climber can head to Acadia for camping, classic hikes, a lobster dinner and lots of rock climbing in this teen trip appropriate for all levels, ages 13–17. Climbing highlights include Otter Cliffs, hanging over the ocean while the waves crash below. There’s a five-day trip July 8–12 and a four-day trip July 23–26. Salt Pump Climbing Co., based in Scarborough, offers several other outdoor overnight trips as well as indoor climbing day camps for younger kids.
On Panther Pond in Raymond
Slovenski Camps offer everything from an a cappella camp to SAT prep and girls session (Athena). There are windsurfing sessions and, for serious track athletes, several camps focusing on specific skills, including pole vaulting coached by longtime track coach Dave Slovenski, who held the Ivy League indoor record when he competed for Princeton.
Surf Camp Maine
Scarborough Beach State Park
Maine’s original surfing day camp is just the place to learn to surf, make new friends and hang out on Scarborough Beach.
FOR THE BUDGET-MINDED
Center Day Camp
On Sebago Lake in Windham
Imagine all the magic of a classic lakeside summer camp—but with buses instead of bunks. The Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine runs Center Day Camp on 25 acres in lower Sebago basin, with programs for campers of all backgrounds ages 5–15. With bus transportation from 10 Southern Maine communities, optional after-care and reasonable weekly rates, this is a camp experience affordable enough to be used as child care and fun enough to keep campers coming back year after year. Days are filled with waterfront activities, athletics, theater and the arts, mountain biking, tennis, dance, ecology and exposure to Jewish culture.
Baxter State Park, Millinocket
Not a Girl Scout? That’s no reason to miss out on this rustic one-week overnight camp for girls going into third grade through high school. Just add $40 to join Girl Scouts to the reasonable camp fees and you’re good to go.
On Adams Pond in Bridgton
Again, don’t let lack of Girl Scout troop membership put you off from this woodsy camp in the foothills of the White Mountains. Pondicherry—or “Pondi” for short—offers day camps, one-week camps, and troop and family camps and horseback riding specialty programs.
YMCA Camp of Maine
The YMCA Camp of Maine on Cobbosseecontee Lake in Winthrop is intentional about maintaining some of the lowest camp fees in the state. This overnight camp for boys and girls ages 8–15 offers more than 50 activities—a mix of classic camp pastimes and the programs offered at YMCAs.
Camp Susan Curtis
Not everyone can afford to send their kids to sleepaway camp—and that’s where Camp Susan Curtis comes in. More than 300 referral partners across the state—mostly schools—nominate kids for this completely free camp on 100 acres of conservation land in western Maine for kids ages 8–18 who qualify for free or reduced price lunch according to USDA guidelines. Campers spend two weeks in comfortable log cabins with electricity, full bathrooms and wide outdoor porches surrounding Trout Lake, one of the cleanest lakes in Maine. They enjoy hiking, sports, science and nature, arts and theater, and it’s all free, thanks to the Camp Susan Curtis Foundation. “We’re like a lot of Maine summer camps but more intentional with some of skill development,” said Director Terri Mulks. “Summer learning loss tends to hit economically disadvantaged children a lot harder. Having the kids with us for two weeks, we do literacy activities, read to the kids every night before they go to sleep, and have a cabin library so they can follow along if they want to.” One way to support Camp Susan Curtis is to attend its Leadership Celebration March 22 at Portland Sable Oaks Marriott in South Portland. Tickets are $150 per person.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Wolfe’s Neck Farm Camp
Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment, Freeport
Farm Campers get their hands dirty taking care of livestock, tending gardens and making new friends—both human and animal—while exploring 626 acres of farmland, forest and coast and learning about sustainable agriculture and the environment. These are day camps, but farm camp families who stay at Wolfe’s Neck Oceanfront Campground get discounts on site fees.
Broadturn Farm Camp
Broadturn Farm, Scarborough
At this organic farm, children feed and water animals, collect eggs, practice using farm tools, try floral design and other art projects. They learn about homesteading and farm-to-table cooking. There are half-day camps for ages 4–5 and full-day camps for ages 6–10 and 11–14, each camp running one week and some already filled to capacity.
FOR THE BUDDING SCIENTIST
Acadia Institute of Oceanography
Seal Harbor, on Mount Desert Island, near Acadia National Park
For the aspiring marine scientist, Acadia Institute of Oceanography offers hands-on curriculum for ages 10–19, combining biological, physical and chemical oceanography with field, classroom, offshore and lab work. One group might collect specimens for cold water tanks in the wet lab while another sights offshore seabirds and cetaceans in binoculars and another finishes a profile of the beach. Just another day at Acadia Institute of Oceanography.
SailMaine STEM Adventure
58 Fore St., Portland
This two-week afternoon class is for adventurous teens who not only want to sail a keelboat but also understand the science behind it. What better classroom for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) than Casco Bay?
Day camps for multiple age groups, from “Sprouts” (3–5) up to fifth graders, all at the conservation nonprofit’s Gilsland Farm location in Falmouth. They’ll learn about animal adaptation, birds, insects and pollinators. Weeklong sessions starting June 17 for the littlest campers.
Maine School of Science & Mathematics Summer Camp
Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone
This week-long camp for kids ages 10–14 offers hands-on science, technology, engineering and math courses and staying in dorms as well as traditional camp activities such as sports, crafts, laser tag, rock climbing and evening programs.
FOR THE FOCUSED MUSICIAN
New England Music Camp
On Messalonskee Lake in Sidney in the Belgrade Lakes region
Here’s a place where campers spontaneously break into six-part harmony. Mornings are for challenging musical education, afternoons for classic camp recreation and evenings for social activities and recitals. Programs include orchestra, band, choral, jazz, musical theater, chamber music, piano and classical guitar. The camp enrolls about 180 musicians, ages 11–18, half boys and half girls.
Maine Academy of Modern Music (MAMM) Rock Camps
MAMM Summer Rock Camps give kids the chance to play in a band, perform covers, write original music and meet with music professionals. There are day camps in Portland, Augusta and Bangor and an overnight camp at the University of Maine at Machias with time for evening jam sessions. Specialty camps in Portland include a songwriting and recording camp, a covers camp, a strings camp and a camp for girl rockers.
The Telling Room
225 Commercial St., Portland
“Camp” at The Telling Room is a time for young writers to use Portland’s Old Port and the surrounding islands as their muse. Themed day camps run three to five days, with forays into topics such as Art-Inspired Writing, Sportswriting, Map Making or Food Writing. If your teen wants to spend mornings working on college admissions essays and afternoons sailing Casco Bay, there’s a camp for that. And if you have an LGBTQ+ teen interested in Marvel-style comic writing, there’s a camp for that too. Or, if getting out of the city gets the words flowing, there’s a hiking and writing retreat at a hike-in hut near the Bigelow Range and Sugarloaf Mountain.
To talk with camp directors in person, check out Maine Summer Camps’ camp fair at the East End Community School in Portland on March 24, 1–3:30 p.m. In past years, 70 camps and about 650 people have attended.