1. Where to Stay
Avoid the frilly décor of the area’s bed and breakfasts at the historic Captain Lindsey House Inn (from $188), which houses nine well-appointed rooms (five with fireplaces) accented with oak paneling, Persian rugs, and nautical antiques collected by the retired sea captains who run the inn. Spend a couple of hours perusing four decades of National Geographic Magazine with a glass of port and freshly baked scones in the parlor or in the private garden.
Sleep in a Victorian mansion in the town’s historic district at the LimeRock Inn (from $159), where eight uniquely decorated rooms are filled with period furnishings. Request the Island Cottage room for its classic white country furniture, whirlpool tub, and private deck overlooking the garden. After the leisurely three-course breakfast, feel free to take advantage of unlimited water bottles and the snack pantry throughout the day.
Get a great deal just a few minutes outside of town at Ledges by the Bay (from $89), a cheery, 41-unit motel where you can look out at seals and small islands in Penobscot Bay from nine waterfront acres. It’s one of the area’s few properties with access to the shore, plus it’s full of bright, summer-home touches like shell-encrusted lamps and nautical-themed artwork.
2. Where to Eat
Have a farm-fresh dinner at Mediterranean-influenced Primo, where chef Melissa Kelly, a Chez Panisse veteran, raises chickens and hogs and grows vegetables and herbs like sorrel and green garlic. Skip the standard menu for the Counter Room’s lower-priced but equally appealing dishes, like housemade wild boar salami ($8) and Maine diver scallops with shingiku, radish, citrus, and capers ($15). If you’re dining on a Sunday night, order a selection of $1 oysters harvested in local waters.
Try a Maine classic that isn’t lobster at local institution Wasses, which has been serving hot dogs ($1.30-$2) griddled in peanut oil and served on steamed buns since 1972. Customize your order with sauerkraut, chili, onions, baked beans, cheese, or bacon before grabbing a picnic table in the parking lot and washing it down, as the locals do, with a bottle of strawberry or chocolate milk.
Find the best wine selection in town (bottles start at $18) at In Good Company, a relaxed restaurant that evokes a living room with couches and small wooden tables. Choose from a list of more than 200 bottles to pair with small plates like goat-cheese-stuffed sweet and spicy peppers ($6) and affordable entrees like tarragon-roasted king salmon with baby potatoes ($22).
3. What to Do
Reap the benefits of this season’s lobster glut during Rockland’s five-day Maine Lobster Festival ($5-$8, $25 for a four-day pass, free on Sunday) in August. The annual festival, now in its 65th year, served up nearly 20,000 pounds of lobster last year. Events include live music, an amateur-only seafood cooking contest, races, and even a parade. The food rightly takes center stage, with pickings like lobster rolls ($10), crab cakes ($6), and the “shore dinner,” which includes a whole lobster, steamed clams, and an ear of corn ($24).
Learn about Maine’s role in American art history at the Farnsworth Museum ($12), where the collection of more than 10,000 works celebrates artists whose careers were closely associated with the state, including a large selection of paintings made by three generations of Wyeths. Current exhibitions showcase local artist Frank W. Benson’s impressionist works (through October 21) and a collection of Andrew Wyeth’s early-career watercolors (through November 4).
Stop by Hello Hello Books for its smart collection of new and used books, including locally minded titles like Annie Mahle’s new cookbook, Sugar & Salt: A Year at Home and Ben Ames Williams’s Fraternity Village, a collection of short stories set in rural Maine. In addition, you’ll find hip magazines like Lucky Peach, and an eclectic range of non-literary items like handmade jewelry, tote bags, cards, and vintage artwork.
4. Insider’s Tip
You’ll find the best provisions for a picnic at local co-op the Good Tern, which is open to the public. Pick up items like pesticide-free blueberries ($5.49 a quart) and Bilinski’s chicken sausages ($5.85). The best place for a picnic is on one of the hidden tables along the rock bluffs at Birch Point State Park ($2 for parking), where you’ll also find a grill for preparing your meal (bring your own charcoal).
5. Oddball Day
Experience classic Maine culture outside of Rockland for a day. Start out in nearby Rockport at Willow Bake Shoppe, a quaint house on Route 1 that serves old-fashioned molasses doughnuts ($4.80 for a half-dozen). Next, head to the Maine Lighthouse Museum ($5) on the harbor, which houses the largest collection of Fresnel lighthouse lenses. Drive about an hour south to Bristol to visit Pemaquid Point ($2), where you can walk along the rocky coast before climbing to the top of a lighthouse built in 1827. Be sure to stop into the neighboring Fishermen’s Museum, which houses a 28-pound stuffed lobster caught in the seventies, colorful buoys, and various fishing tools and lobster traps from the nineteenth century. Head back north on Route 32 and stop for lunch in Round Pond at Muscongus Bay Lobster, for your choice of hard-shell lobster ($9.99 for two pounds) or soft-shell lobster ($6.99 a pound). On Upper Round Pond Road, take a refreshing post-lunch dip at the swimming hole at Bristol Dam, whose water is a much more manageable temperature than frigid Pemaquid Beach nearby. On the drive back up to Rockland, stop at Moody’s Diner on Route 1 in Waldoboro for solid diner food that’s satisfied customers for more than 80 years. Order the haddock fish and chips with coleslaw ($9.99) or the homemade chicken croquettes with gravy (two for $5.69 or three for $6.89) if you need a break from seafood. Make sure to save room for a piece of their famous pie; local favorites are blueberry or coconut cream ($3.69 or $5.38 à la mode).
The Penobscott Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce offers up-to-date information about visiting Rockland, including an extensive guide to lobster.
Check Rockland Main Street to learn about events, shops, and restaurants on the town’s main drag.
Read about current events and news at the Free Press, mid-coast Maine’s local newspaper.
Research other regional attractions and plan side trips on Maine’s official tourism site.