Rockland epitomizes old New England charm. Rooted on the rocky coast of Maine, this town continues to define itself as a working port with strong maritime tradition. The bounty of Maine’s coast and farmland contribute to the area’s vibrant agriculture and culinary scene, making Rockland a must-see on your drive along Route 1.
Where to Eat & Drink: A Few Favorites
Primo Restaurant – Having stumbled upon this restaurant a year ago, I cannot recommend it enough since visiting! Primo flourishes in their 18th season, as the restaurant and on-site farm continue with its to-the-moment seasonality. Their two greenhouses, acres of produce, and farm-raised animals make this farm-fresh cuisine possible. The more casual, funky counter room and bar are walk-in only and open at 5PM (don’t be afraid of the line out the door, as it goes quickly!). Reserved seating in the refined downstairs dining room begins at 5:30PM.
Fox on the Run – Often situated in beautiful Rockport Marine Park, this food truck serves up a selection of fresh and healthy dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. Menu items are a bit unexpected in the most pleasant way. The cuban sandwich, bahn mi, and kimchi bowl are a few that pique my interest! This truck is generally open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, but be sure to check their Facebook page for updates!
Nina June – This dining space could be straight out of your (very chic) grandmother’s kitchen, lined with cookbooks, cupboards, flowers, and linens. The clean, fairly minimalist interior invites you to bask in the chef’s alluring Mediterranean cuisine. Mindful to use local ingredients, Maine’s farms and ocean are both highly celebrated here.
18 Central – This restaurant’s outdoor seating area with a view of Rockport Harbor will have you craving their chilled oysters and a cool cocktail. You’d be hard-pressed to find a deck as picturesque and casual as this one. Dine under their string lights and enjoy a selection from the Maine coastline.
Francine Bistro – A true gastronomic hot spot near Camden’s harbor, Francine Bistro and its twinkling lights look quite magical by dusk. Chef and owner, Brian Hall, has worked wonders in his efforts to create an ever-changing menu focused around local organic produce, meats, and seafood. Sip on a glass of good wine and indulge on the freshest ingredients from Maine’s land and coast.
Things to Do: Explore Rockland
Farnsworth Museum – This is the perfect place to take in pieces dedicated solely to American and Maine-inspired artists. The current collection of Andrew Wyeth’s watercolors and drawings will certainly immerse you in the whimsical maritime tradition of the area. The “Andrew Wyeth at 100: Maine Drawings” exhibit can be seen through September 9th, while the “Andrew Wyeth: Maine Watercolors, 1938 to 2008” exhibit will be on display through December 31st, 2017.
Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light – While we all associate Maine with its beautiful array of lighthouses, the Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light is rather iconic. Take an early morning stroll down the 7/8-mile long breakwater to avoid any crowds. A fantastic view of the coastline and maritime bustle is worth the trek!
Schooner Surprise Day Sail – The Maine coastline is sprinkled with beautiful, historic schooners. Take a ride on the Surprise Schooner for the afternoon, during sunset, or even under a full moon. Booking availability and rates vary, so be sure to check their website ahead of time. This particular ship first touched the water in 1918 and has even been entered on the National Register of Historic Places.
Aldermere Farms – A wonderful spot to admire herds of Belted Galway cattle (or “oreo cows,” as some call them!). The farm itself is owned by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and spans 136 acres, all of which are dedicated to the conservation of pastoral beauty and working landscapes. If interested, farm-raised beef is available for purchase year round at the farm office.
Vesper Hill Children Chapel – Built above a small rock ledge, this outdoor chapel offers a lovely view of Penobscot Bay. Beautiful gardens also adorn the bottom of the rock upon which this chapel stands. A small walk through the grounds can most certainly evoke calmness and tranquility on the busiest of travel days.
Barnswallow Books – Tucked away from the main drag, this hidden gem was a true treat to stumble upon. Inside the bookstore, you’ll find organized shelves of well-curated books and a number of cozy nooks just begging to be enjoyed. The small outside porch even boasts a quaint bistro table to sit and read. Moreover, the Barnswallow hosts a slew of events, all of which are listed on their Facebook page. You can visit this store Tuesday through Sunday, from 11AM to 5PM.
Mount Battie – Mount Battie’s auto road provides delightful scenery in both the fall and warmer months. Located just north of downtown Camden, one can drive to the mountain’s peak for sunset and still make it down for a late night ice cream cone or dinner reservation. The top of Mount Battie yields expansive views of Penobscot Bay, with its tall-mast boats and numerous islands. An entrance fee of $6 will grant you access to the park. Hiking is also an option here! The trails of Camden Hills State Park allow you to enjoy Maine’s natural landscape on your journey to the summit.
Swans Island Company – Well-known for quality and beauty, Swans Island’s handwoven blankets and woolen goods exemplify Maine artisanship. Natural fibers, traditional techniques, and New England craftsmanship are the qualities that define and distinguish Swans Island from other makers. Visit their boutique shop in downtown Camden or their Northport studio to learn more about their process.
What are your favorite spots in Rockland? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Kelby Cushman is a writer and photographer in mountainous New Hampshire. As the original contributor for The Jackson House Inn’s blog in Woodstock VT, she found passion in telling the stories of farmers, chefs, and makers through words and images. Follow her adventures and photography on her website.