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.
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.
As with many things, however, as we got to know it, Rockland became a lot less ugly and veered towards beautiful.
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.
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.
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).
Rockland is a town of rocks and water.
Up until the Civil War, it had a thriving port and industries–with granite and lime quarries, lime kilns, and rich fishing grounds.
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.
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’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.
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.