Great destination for museums, scenery, fabulous inns, entertainment, great food and drink
Elizabeth Margolis-Pineo © Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram 2007
Tired of long lines, overbooked flights and lost luggage, we wanted a short vacation that was close to home. With something to celebrate, the trip had to be special and it had to be romantic.
Our first glimpse of beautiful Rockland is from an expansive and sunny deck at the visitor’s center overlooking the harbor. It’s all blue sky, boats and buoys. We take a deep breath of salt air and begin to relax.
Rockland has craggy islands, picturesque lighthouses and a working waterfront. Photogenic local wildlife includes puffins, seals and seagulls.
Home of the famous Lobster Festival, Rockland now hosts a variety of diverse fledgling festivals like Pies on Parade in January and the Chocolate March in, well, March.
A century ago, Rockland’s proximity to the water and natural resources such as limestone made it ideal place to live and to do business. More than 14 homes are listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. We stay at the LimeRock Inn, one of Rockland’s premier historic inns, in their elegant Turret Room. Our graceful claw-foot tub has a candleholder and a place for a wineglass.
This luxurious and welcoming bed and breakfast boasts amenities like wireless internet along with sumptuous private baths, fine linens and delicious breakfast prepared by co-owner, Frank Isganitis.
There are several historic B&Bs in the area, among them the impeccably restored, award-winning Berry Manor Inn, and the Captain Lindsay House, with European flair and old-world ambience.
Whether you’re a business traveler looking for a homey atmosphere or a tourist looking for elegance and comfort, these inns beat a hotel chain hands down. Several of these historic inns allow touring and are definitely worth a visit.
Don’t miss the Maine Lighthouse Museum. Collected by the late Kenneth Black, this 2-year-old museum is the proud home of the largest collection of Fresnel lenses, lighthouse artifacts and Coast Guard memorabilia in the country.
Our engaging guide worked the Vinalhaven lighthouse for 25 years. His lively anecdotes range from bells, buoys, horns, gongs, foghorns and whistles to quiet tales of tedious days polishing brass and painting. Lighthouse life, he says with a smile, “was a good life.”
The Amalfi Restaurant is a blend of Spanish, French, Greek, Moroccan and, of course, Italian influences. The wait staff is pleasant and knowledgeable, fielding questions graciously despite a very full house. Customers are greeted with a small container of hummus, a shallow bowl of lovely green olive oil and chewy focaccia, and the marriage of Mediterranean of Middle Eastern flavors is established.
Starter standouts include a dense crab cake served with remoulade and edible pea vines — delicate, redolent of the garden. The Kefta meatballs have Middle Eastern flavor and Down East soul, delicious! Artful salads included spinach and beets with goat cheese, or romaine and avocado with Parmesan crisp. The beets’ sweetness was matched by their deep red and tangerine color.
The wine list is substantial and multi-faceted. We tried we tried several Italian wines from Sicily, Orvieto and Friulli — and sampled a lovely Prosecco with dessert. My husband’s Spanish Ambar beer was a perfect complement to the more robust flavors on the menu. Standouts included duck over risotto with basil and spring vegetables. The skin was crispy and the meat succulent, “the way duck should be.” The chef also offers a wonderful hanger steak and delicious pan seared scallops.
Desserts at Amalfi also invite a “tasting” approach. We tried the apricot sorbet, a cinnamon gelato, a sticky sweet baklava and fresh raspberries. Just the thing with a Prosecco or a wonderful strong coffee.
Other highly recommended restaurants include Primo, a favorite of foodies and farm-fresh enthusiasts, and Café Miranda with its eclectic Italian-inspired menu and wood-fired oven. Locals recommend you sit at the counter at Miranda “so you don’t miss the show.”
While shopping Main Street or on-the-go, try the Atlantic Baking Company, a great place to stop for coffee and pastry. Sage Market on Main Street specializes in artisanal cheeses and meats, and a great wine selection under $10.
On Willow Street is Toast of the Town Catering, a gourmet take- away with incredible almond chicken tarragon wraps.
We picked up a 9-inch lobster tableau in dark and milk chocolate from Safe Harbor Confections, a sweet souvenir from the “Lobster Capital of the Universe!”
The historic Strand Theatre has been operating since the 1920s and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The theater underwent an extensive interior and exterior a few years ago. The brick facade was considered innovative when it was built in the twenties. The Strand offers classic and contemporary film, live musical performances and concerts, comedy, and other special events.
Other after-hours options are In Good Company on Main Street, a popular wine bar with a varied and affordable selection of wine and beer; Waterworks Pub, which features live music and beers brewed by local Rocky Bay Brewery; and the Black Bull Pub on Main Street where we enjoyed a few sets by a local folksinger.
OUT AND ABOUT
Captain Jack is a 7-year-old boy in a red striped shirt and green frog boots. Steve Hale, his grandfather and our tour guide, is asked if he’s been a lobsterman all his life. He replies with a sly smile, “not yet.” His old but sturdy fiberglass boat smells wonderful, briny and fishy, and it is a splendid day to be out on the bay.
Hale has been lobstering for 40 years and delights in the area’s history and lore. We learn that the Atlantic Ocean was once called “Herring Pond,” we learn how lobsters shed their shells, we learn how to tell a male from female and how lobsters have sex. Fascinating. And fun.
We hook a ride on the charming “All Aboard” wooden trolley from the waterfront back to the LimeRock Inn, where we enjoy a quiet moment in the garden before venturing out for more ocean adventures.
Captain Bob Pratt, rugged marine biologist and Maine guide, offers everything from two-hour sails to lobster dinners, sunset cruises, or overnights — with a full breakfast — on his beautiful 55-foot schooner, “Morning In Maine.” In a natural, easy manner, he points out the natural and historic features unique to Penobscot Bay.
Pratt has done office parties, corporate retreats, weddings, family reunions and more — and delights in tailoring each trip to the customer.
“We see Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and Owls Head Lighthouse, as well as Maine’s historic schooners,” he says, “or we can moor in a quiet cove to fish, count the stars, or just relax.”
Another option for a delightful evening is a Monhegan Boat Lines sunset cruise. We enjoyed a delicious lobster dinner “to-go” from the Dip Net Restaurant, conveniently located at the boat launch.