Rockland might be small, but this little town in the heart of Maine's mid-coast area is home to a huge number of attractions. With scores of unique boutiques, local businesses, first-rate galleries, fascinating museums, top-notch restaurants, and miles of natural coastal beauty to discover, there's something here for everyone. If you're planning a visit, these are the 20 best things to do in Rockland, Maine.
20. Check out the festivals
Rockland hosts a vast number of festivals throughout the year. The biggest and most well-known is the Maine Lobster Festival, a five-day extravaganza at the beginning of each August that draws hundreds of thousands of lobsters lovers from around the world. Expect carnival rides, entertainment, a marine tent, cooking contests, arts and crafts, vendors, a parade, a sea goddess contest, and a stonking twenty thousand pounds of lobster to tuck into. Other festivals to check out include the Summer Solstice Festival, which boasts both a family-friendly festival in the day with games, entertainment, and music, and a boozy adult-only festival in the evening; the North Atlantic Blues Festival in July; and the Festival of Lights at Christmas.
19. Enjoy some comfort food at Home Kitchen Cafe
If you're looking to grab a tasty bite, the Home Kitchen Cafe is the place to do it. Since opening in 2009, it's earned a reputation as one of the best places for comfort food in town, serving up a tasty range of breakfast and lunch dishes like lobster tacos, french toast, eggs benedict, and breakfast burritos. The portions are plentiful, the service is friendly, and the ambiance is welcoming - stop by between 7:00 am until 3:00 pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday or 8:00 am until 3:00 pm Sunday to check it out for yourself.
18. Take a tour of Harbor Square Gallery
On a rainy afternoon, beat the weather by escaping to the Harbor Square Gallery. Located in a beautiful historic building on the premises of a former bank, the gallery is home to a dazzling selection of work from over 90 national and international artists, all of whom have ties to Maine. There's a huge array of styles on display, including prints, sculptures, pointillist paintings, furniture, and an exquisite collection of jewelry. Most of the pieces are for sale, so if you see something you like, you have a chance of taking it home with you. While you're there, be sure to take the spiral staircase up to the rooftop sculpture garden to enjoy gorgeous views over Main Street and the harbor. The gallery is open every Tuesday to Saturday, from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm.
17. Indulge your sweet tooth at Chocolate at Bixby & Co.
If you've got a sweet tooth, don't miss Bixby & Co. As bucketlistjourney.net notes, what sets this candy factory apart from the competition is its dedication to creating confectionary using only the very finest non-GMO, gluten-free and organic ingredients. It's as close as chocolate is ever going to get to being a health food, leaving you free to fill up on sea-salted caramels and chocolate bonbons guilt-free. Regardless of whether you want to treat yourself or stock up on some gifts for friends and family, don't miss it.
16. Take a Maine Foodies Tour
Despite its small size, Rockland is packed with great places to eat and drink. If you want to take your tastebuds on a culinary tour around the city's best hot spots, take the advice of thecrazytourist.com and take a Maine Foodies Tour. The tour partners with restaurants, pubs, beverage artisans, and culinary based shops, giving you a unique opportunity to meet up with the owners, discover more about Rockland's food scene, and, of course, sample some of the city's best handmade breads, homemade desserts, pastas, cured meats, cheese, craft beers, and sweet treats.
15. Pick up some lobsters at Jess's Market
If you love cooking and have a passion for seafood, do as glencovemotel.com recommends and stop by Jess’s Market. With a huge selection of the very freshest fish and shellfish, it's a great place to pick up all the ingredients you'll need for your next feast. There's also a good range of beer and wine to choose from, along with plenty of seasonal local produce. Order can be called in ahead if you want to skip the line.
14. Tuck into some seafood at Claws
No visit to Maine is complete without tucking into some fresh-off-the-boat seafood. Claws offers seafood lovers a huge array of tempting dishes to salivate over. Whatever you order, you're in for a treat, with customers raving about the Wicked Good Calamari, Molten Lobster Dip, Maine Haddock Chowder, Butter Poached Lobster Tacos, and the Lobster Rolls in particular. If you don't mind going up a pant size or two, opt for the Claws Signature Broiled Haddock Sandwich, a giant fillet of flaky North Atlantic haddock topped with the house's secret sauce and served on a butter toasted brioche roll with lettuce, tomato, red onion and a side of homemade tartar sauce.
13. Take a stroll along the Rockland Harbor Trail
On a nice day, give your legs a stretch by taking a stroll along the Rockland Harbor Trail. The five-mile walking path meanders alongside Rockland's waterfront, passing by some of the city's main landmarks and attractions. The views over the water are gorgeous, with plenty of benches along the way to stop and admire the scenery. If you get hungry on your stroll, you'll find a good selection of cafes and restaurants nearby where you can grab a bite.
12. Enjoy a cruise around the waters
If you want to take a trip out onto the water, there are several different cruise liners that offer visitors the chance to enjoy Rockland's coastline and its offshore islands. Maine Windjammer Sailing Cruises offers nine windjammers and dozens of cruise options. The 150-year-old schooner Stephen Taber comes particular highly recommended, offering visitors the chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery in style with live music, gourmet food, and a team of incredibly friendly crew members.
11. Visit Maine Lighthouse Museum
As mainelighthousemuseum.org explains, The Maine Lighthouse Museum was founded by Ken Black, a decorated Coast Guard Officer and preeminent lighthouse preservationist who earned the nickname of “Mr. Lighthouse” in recognition of his valiant attempts to save a huge collection of lighthouse artifacts. Many of those artifacts are now on display at the Maine Lighthouse Museum, which boasts the largest collection of Coast Guard memorabilia in the US. In addition to the artifacts, there's a lovely collection of old photographs showing all the lighthouses in Maine, together with stories from lighthouse keepers over the ages. Before you leave, stop by the gift store to pick up some souvenirs.
10. Experience fine dining at Primo
One of the best places in Rockland, the award-winning Primo offers guests a choice of dining experiences at its historic farmhouse set on a hill overlooking the town. Choose between two intimate historic dining rooms on the ground floor for white-tablecloth service or head for the Primo room for a more contemporary ambiance. For something a little cozier, the Cocktail Lounge and the Counter Room on the second floor both offer a fabulous selection of cocktails, wines, spirits, and beers combined with top-notch Mediterranean -inspired dishes served with a local twist.
9. Get a cultural fix at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art
The Center for Maine Contemporary Art has been supporting local artists since 1952, providing a showcase for their work through a series of evolving exhibitions at its impressive glass-fronted structure in the heart of Rockland’s downtown arts district. Along with the exhibits, the center also has a gift shop to grab a few momentoes, an ArtLab classroom, and a pretty courtyard to explore.
8. Visit Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
Consisting of over sixty islands and four coastal parcels spanning over 8,200 acres of Mane's coastline, the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge is home to a huge array of wildlife and seabirds. To find out more about its work in protecting nesting seabird colonies, stop by the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in downtown Rockland. With an intriguing selection of exhibits, it's a great place to discover more about Atlantic puffins and other local wildlife.
7. Explore The Sail Power and Steam Museum
Rockland is home to several exceptional museums, including The Sail Power and Steam Museum. Ideal for the whole family, it's a wonderful place to find out more about Maine's marine life, giving visitors the chance to learn about the ships, boats, and steam-driven vessels that have dominated the state's waterways over the centuries. Key exhibits to check out include a working Foucault Pendulum that demonstrates the earth's rotation and a faithful reproduction of a steam-powered riverboat,
6. Take a day trip to Boothbay Harbor
If you don't mind leaving Rockland behind for the day, a day trip to Boothbay Harbor comes highly recommended. Located just a short 1-hour drive from the city, this charming little town offers a multitude of attractions, including a great collection of local boutiques, galleries, museums, and restaurants. It's also a great place to try some water sports, offering one of the best spots for sea kayaking in the state. Whether you want to shop, admire some art, or take an adventure out into the open sea, there's a little something here for everyone.
5. Tour Olson House
Olson House was built in the mid-eighteenth century and originally occupied by Alvaro H. Olson and his family. It was later taken over by Andrew Wyeth, a prominent local painter best known for the painting, Christina’s World. Today, the house serves as an outpost of the Farnsworth Art Museum, offering visitors the chance to admire both the exquisite collection of Wyeth's artwork and the gorgeous historic decor of the interior. Take a guided tour to learn more about Farnsworth’s collection and the other special exhibitions.
4. Soak up the rays at Sandy Beach
If the sun is shining, follow the flocks of locals heading for Sandy Beach. It's not the biggest beach in the world, but it's a lovely place to soak up some rays, take a dip and enjoy the lovely sea views. Even if the weather is less than stellar, it's still worth a visit for a stroll and the chance to check out the “Ridin’ the Rails to Rockland” sculpture, a spectacular work of art installed in 2013 that's made entirely from material sourced from the city's old railroads.
3. Visit Project Puffin Visitor Center
Since a group of local volunteers, local businesses, and private donors came together with Audubon in 2006 to open the Project Puffin Visitor Center, the center has become one of Rockland's most popular attractions, and for very good reason. As its name suggests, the center is dedicated to celebrating the work of Project Puffin, which works tirelessly to encourage puffins and other rare seabirds native to Maine back to historic nesting islands. There's a wonderful array of interactive exhibits to check out, including a live video stream of puffins and other seabirds, a gallery, and a theater showing a twenty-minute film that highlights the successes and challenges faced by the project.
2. Admire the art at Farnsworth Art Museum
Art lovers shouldn't miss a visit to Farnsworth Art Museum, one of Rockland's biggest tourist attractions and one that's guaranteed to keep art enthusiasts in hours of browsing pleasure. Boasting around twenty thousand square feet of gallery space, this giant museum is home to a vast collection of over fifteen thousand nationally recognized Maine-inspired and American artworks from artists that include Gilbert Stuart, Maurice Prendergast, Frank Benson, Eastman Johnson, Thomas Sully, Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, and Fitz Henry Lane. There's also one of the largest collections of Louise Nevelson sculptures in the country.
1. Enjoy the views at the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse
Set at the tip of a granite breakwater that extends over 4,340 feet into the Rockland Harbor, the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse is one of Rockland's most iconic landmarks. Built at the turn of the twentieth century, the lighthouse features a beautifully restored keepers' house that's open for tours every weekend during the summer months. It's also possible to climb to the top of the lantern to enjoy stunning panoramas over the lobster boats and historic schooners bobbing around the harbor. It's a bit of a trek to reach, but the sight of the shorebirds, harbor seals, and even the occasional dolphin around the breakwater make it an enjoyable one - just be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn