The Coast of Maine.
It is a part of the world that has inspired and motivated artists for centuries.
Visit just once, and you will immediately know why it serves as both muse and escape; as refuge and lover. You can see it in the landscape and taste it in the air. The rolling mountains wind down to the shoreline; the craggy rocks and islands are marked with tall evergreens that stand sentinel over its harbors.
The village of Rockland in Midcoast Maine cherishes its reputation as a mecca for artists. It celebrates and supports classic and contemporary work – showcasing both in local museums, galleries, and shops.
Rockland is a short drive from Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. There is so much to do that you can plan a full, active weekend, or a leisurely vacation.
Its mission states that it celebrate’s “Maine’s role in American Art” and that charge is on full display in each of the Farnsworth’s beautifully appointed galleries. A signature institution in Maine and across the United States, the Farnsworth’s collection features works from American masters including The Wyeth Family, Louise Nevelson, Alex Katz, and Robert Indiana. Rotating exhibitions like “Slab City” and its progressive children’s school programs, bring the legacy of Maine’s impact in the art world to life. The museum is a must-see while in town.
Exit the Farnsworth and you will find yourself face-to-face with the charming Caldbeck Gallery. Artists like Katherine Bradford and Sam Cady have their work on display in rotating exhibitions. The charm of the gallery comes not only from the art, but the connection and accessibility to the proprietors Cynthea Hyde and James Kinnealey. You can easily end up in a wonderful conversation about color and light, or the playful use of brushstrokes.
The Center for Maine Contemporary Art moved from neighboring Rockport in 2016 to a refurbished section of the Rockland working waterfront. Architect Toshiko Mori designed the space to seamlessly fit into the downtown lot, successfully capturing the feeling that the CMCA has “been there forever” and is also new, breathtaking, and deeply original.
Exhibitions at the CMCA are outstanding, the likes of which locals and visitors are known to exclaim: “THIS is in Maine?!” The CMCA answers with an astounding, “Yes!” Chief Curator and Executive Director Suzette McAvoy and her team work to support contemporary artists and local school programs with their open house classes and rotating exhibits. You will know what “Wow!” really means when you visit the CMCA.
Find yourself in an engaging visitor’s center that successfully combines education, engagement, and the arts – all of which support programs to renew and protect Maine’s precious shore wildlife and habitats. Situated just off of Rockland’s Main Street, the center features a life-sized coastal habitat that brings a shore bird sanctuary to life. Children and adults alike can play in dories and on the rock ledge, placing eggs and models of birds in stone nests.
The main building is home to an education center and gallery, filled with work by professional artists and local children. Educational programs run year-round and guests can learn how to visit the coastal bird sanctuaries.
This historic Ice-House-turned-Chocolaterie is the home of Bixby Chocolate. Owner Kate McAleer is an outstanding confectioner, and the fruit of her labor can be seen in the tasting room and on the shelves of the Chocolate Store.
The outfit grinds and conches its own chocolate, creating a signature coverture that is unique to Rockland, Maine. Kate and her father Gordon McAleer purchase cacao beans from Fair-Trade purveyors around Central and South America. Take a tour and learn how the Bixby team makes their signature sweets from bean-to-bar.
This sweet Main Street Café serves up fresh sandwiches and signature salads in sizable portions. Proprietors Jackie and Glenn Lawrence combine their love for their family’s Scottish History and cuisine at the café. The menu is themed around the names of their family members. Salads like the “Lorelei” made with chicken, apple, grapes, feta, walnuts, red onions, and spring greens are sensational; the “Breton MacLaren” is piled high with turkey, provolone, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and olives, is deeply satisfying.
Get your lunches packed to-go and take it out to the Breakwater to enjoy views of the harbor.
Chef Lynn Archer opened this signature Maine Coast restaurant in a former corporate boathouse. The menu is comprised of hearty New England classics, made from scratch daily. Archer’s food is gorgeously executed – the crab rolls are packed with fresh meat and are served up with hand-cut french fries. The chowder is creamy and light, full of littleneck clams, herbs, and diced potatoes. Take a stroll to Archer’s from downtown along the Rockland Harbor Walking Trail. Ask for a table on the deck and enjoy views of the Breakwater and working waterfront.
Get your “Flamingo On” at this staple of the Maine Midcoast. Beloved Chef and Author Kerry Altiero is a fixture on the seacoast for good reason: His food and hospitality have been pleasing guests for over 25 years. Café Miranda was at the helm of the region’s food renaissance. The portions are markedly generous and the menu is beyond extensive. There is something for everyone.
Try the “LET’S GET DANGEROUS” -fire roasted house cured tamarind glazed leg of duck spiced with Szechuan peppercorn & clove, served with Asian egg noodles, garlic, ginger, basil & spinach in a coconut curry peanut sauce. Share a signature pizza like the “SLEEPER” – topped with cured smoked beef, artichokes, red onions, parsley, mozzarella & romano cheese.
The side porch is great for pre-dinner drinks and taking in the signature flamingoes that are part of the café’s decor.
Rockland is home to the Ferry Terminal that takes locals and visitors to Vinalhaven, North Haven and Matinicus Islands. Find out the daily schedules here.
This newly rebuilt, refurbished, and reconstructed hotel has been a mainstay for ferry-goers and day-trippers to Maine’s Islands. Now, after its total refresh, it is the perfect weekend home for visitors to Maine’s Art Capital. Every room overlooks the harbor and the sunrise is spectacular. The beds are heavenly, as are the linens and pillows – you won’t want to get up even though the sunrise and fresh coffee are calling. Enjoy in-room coffee from your deck, and fill up on a full, hot complimentary breakfast in the lobby that includes, waffles, fruit, cereal, eggs, muffins, bacon and eggs, juice and of course, more coffee.
A short walk from all the downtown attractions, the Rockland Harbor Hotel is a traveler’s delight. Find out more about the room rates and availability here.
Have you been to Rockland, Maine? We would love to hear your tips and must-see-do-eat-stay suggestions. Share your comments on Facebook and see more photos of my trip to Rockland on Instagram.
A special thanks to Maine’s Midcoast and Islands for supporting me on this trip. An extended hand goes to the team at the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber, The Farnsworth Museum, The CMCA, The Rockland Harbor Hotel, Bixby Chocolate, The Caldbeck Gallery, Archer’s on the Pier, Friends of Maine Coastal Islands, Clan MacLaren Café, Rockland Main Street, and Café Miranda,
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