We live in a very small town in the hills rolling inland from Penobscot Bay in midcoast Maine. It has a surprising wealth of amenities for such a little place–a good market, friendly post-office, library, farmers’ market, winery, distillery, two restaurants, and TWO tractor dealerships–everything we need, really.
As an added advantage, we also are close to four towns strung along the coast–Belfast, Camden, Rockland, and Damariscotta. Each has a distinct personality. When we visited this area while traveling in our RV in 2014, we spent most of our time in Camden and Belfast. But we didn’t spend much time in Rockland.
Since moving here, each town has developed a niche in our lives—certain things are best in one, others in another. But Rockland has become our overall go-to town. I’m a little surprised at how quickly I have come to love it. When we were house hunting, well-heeled and well-intentioned folks in Camden (a picture perfect coastal village) warned us that Rockland was … well … a little dicey … higher crime, more drugs, more problems. And our initial impressions were not particularly favorable. To be blunt, it just seemed uglier than the other towns. Objectively, that’s probably a fair assessment. Although all the coastal towns draw tourists, Rockland remains more of a working class town than its neighbors, with viable waterfront industries, including the only carrageenan (a seaweed extract) plant in the country.
A harbor view. The left smokestack is a cement factory down the road from Rockland. The downtown brick buildings and old courthouse are just visible in the middle of the photo.
Here’s a closeup of the lovely 1874 old courthouse tower.
This seaweed likely has no relationship to carrageenan, but I like it.
Rockland has pockets of poverty and depressing living conditions. It is a regional center for shopping and services, so there are strings of unlovely big-box stores on the town’s outskirts.
End of the tracks.
As with many things, however, as we got to know it, Rockland became a lot less ugly and veered towards beautiful.
Breakwater and lighthouse are just below the horizon
At first, it was the shopping and services that drew us there. It was the most convenient place to find the things that our little town does not provide. Over time, the town grew on us more and more.
Lobster traps and buoys.
The people are remarkably friendly, there is a lively downtown, colorful history and architecture, ferries running to the nearby islands, and the backdrop of a stunning breakwater stretching across the harbor entrance, with a lighthouse at its tip.
The harbor breakwater, almost a mile long with the lighthouse (the tiny white speck) at its end.
The breakwater lighthouse.
An artsy shot of a railroad spike sculpture with a glimpse of the lighthouse.
Plus, it’s interesting, with messy, contentious local politics and a tendency to party (it holds both a lobster festival and a blues festival in the summer).
Town Christmas tree made of lobster pots.
Rockland is a town of rocks and water.
The breakwater took over 20 years to build at the end of the 1800s.
This day the water was a little choppy outside the breakwater.
And almost dead calm inside.
Up until the Civil War, it had a thriving port and industries–with granite and lime quarries, lime kilns, and rich fishing grounds.
Pulling lobster traps from a small skiff in the harbor.
It built clipper ships–fast beauties that sailed the world, with fittingly aggressive names–Red Jacket, Springbok, Defiance, Rattler, Live Yankee, Anglo-Saxon, Progressive, Yankee Ranger, Young Mechanic, and one misfit soothing name, Euterpe, giver of delight.
Many of Rockland’s old buildings were lost to fire and age.
The old Odd Fellows Hall still has closets of odd regalia left behind on the top floor. It’s a lovely building but crying out for a paint job.
Its downtown, however, retains architecture from the late 19th and early 20th century, with exquisite details for anyone who takes the time to look up a little. The downtown has a wonderful bakery, excellent restaurants, galleries, stores, and the Farnsworth museum, featuring the Wyeths and other local artists.
I love how the girl in this shot is captivated by the window display.
I’m a little embarrassed to say we haven’t been to the Farnsworth yet. I can blame the weather. We wanted to focus on outside work in the good weather and museums in the winter. But our weather has been so mild that we continue to work outside.
Even the pigeons are enjoying the sun.
Museum weather will come soon enough, I’m sure.
Finally, the gym at Rockland’s YMCA (which is inexpensive and open to everyone) has a full-length bank of windows looking out on the harbor—it must be one of the best gym views in the country. Sweet.