15 Best Things to Do in Rockland (ME)

Written by Trishia Bourgoin
Updated on
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Welcome to Rockland, a vibrant city nestled in Knox County, Maine, where a community of approximately 7,000 residents calls this place home. As I have embarked on the amazing journey through Rockland’s rich history and exciting attractions, prepare to be captivated by its charm.

The story of Rockland dates back to 1767 when the first settlers arrived on these lands, marking the beginning of a fascinating tale. Over the years, the city has borne different names, each reflecting its evolving identity. In 1850, it was officially christened Rockland and gained the status of a city in 1854.

Rockland’s rapid growth can be attributed to its thriving shipbuilding and lime industries. These sectors propelled the city forward, shaping its landscape and providing opportunities for prosperity. But Rockland’s success story doesn’t end there. Throughout the years, it has been home to a diverse range of successful businesses that have contributed to its economic vitality and cultural fabric.

As I delved deeper into the heart of Rockland, I have explored the 15 most popular attractions and activities that make this city a beloved destination. From its picturesque waterfront to its vibrant art scene, Rockland offers a myriad of experiences that cater to all interests and preferences.

1. Stroll along the Rockland Breakwater and Lighthouse

Rockland Breakwater and LighthouseSource: Jane Rix / shutterstock
Rockland Breakwater And Lighthouse

Let’s embark on a tranquil seaside stroll and marvel at the breathtaking beauty of the Rockland Breakwater and Lighthouse. As I make my way along the path, it’s essential to wear suitable footwear and exercise caution on the slightly uneven terrain. But don’t worry, because what awaits us is well worth it!

I immersed myself in the sights and sounds of the ocean as the waves gracefully crash against the rugged rocks. The iconic lighthouse stands proudly, a symbol of maritime heritage and a testament to the rich history of this coastal town. Be sure to pause and read the plaque that shares the fascinating story behind this majestic structure.

Every step along the breakwater offers a picturesque view that’s begging to be captured in photographs. So, keep your camera at the ready and let your lens capture the magic of this enchanting place. The serenity that fills the air creates the perfect atmosphere for a peaceful walk. Allow yourself to be embraced by the soothing rhythm of the ocean and find solace in the tranquility that surrounds you. Take a moment to appreciate the natural beauty that unfolds before your eyes.

2. Visit the Farnsworth Art Museum

Farnsworth Art MuseumSource: Farnsworth Art Museum / facebook
Farnsworth Art Museum

I invite you to explore the expansive world of art at the remarkable Farnsworth Art Museum. This distinguished institution houses an impressive collection of over 15,000 artworks created by renowned artists from across the country, including the likes of Louise Nevelson, Andrew Wyeth, N.C. Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth.

Spanning across an impressive 20,000 square feet, the museum offers a captivating experience that will surely captivate art enthusiasts like yourself. With its ever-growing collection, there’s always something new and exciting to discover, ensuring that you can easily spend several hours immersed in the artistic wonders on display. One of the highlights of my trip to the Farnsworth Art Museum is its exceptional library. While the adults indulge in browsing the shelves for captivating books, the museum provides a delightful play area where children can unleash their creativity and engage in joyful exploration. This thoughtful inclusion ensures that visitors of all ages can find something meaningful and enjoyable during their visit.

3. Visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum

Maine Lighthouse MuseumSource: Maine Lighthouse Museum / facebook
Maine Lighthouse Museum

Immerse yourself in the captivating history of Rockland and the renowned Maine Lobster Festival as you venture into the enchanting Maine Lighthouse Museum. Nestled within a remarkable lighthouse, this unique museum offers a delightful journey back in time.

Upon entering, I was be greeted by an array of fascinating artifacts that showcase the rich maritime heritage of Rockland. Exploring the extensive collection, where I found intriguing items that tell the story of the region’s seafaring past. As I delved deeper, a large map adorned with vivid illustrations and a captivating display of photographs transported me to the numerous lighthouses that dot the picturesque Maine coastline.

The dedicated and friendly museum staff are a treasure trove of knowledge, eager to share captivating tales and insights into the history of Rockland and the Maine Lobster Festival. Feel free to engage them in conversation and deepen your understanding of the region’s cultural significance.

Before you conclude your visit, be sure to explore the small yet delightful gift shop attached to the museum. Here, you’ll find a curated selection of unique souvenirs, memorabilia, and mementos that serve as perfect reminders of your time spent in this remarkable place.

4. Visit and support the Project Puffin Visitor Center

Project Puffin Visitor CenterSource: Milan Zygmunt / shutterstock
Project Puffin Visitor Center

The Project Puffin Visitor Center, an extraordinary place that opened its doors in 2006 to educate visitors and residents alike about the remarkable Project Puffin. This visionary initiative achieved the remarkable feat of restoring these incredible birds, which were once on the brink of extinction, to their historical nesting sites.

As I stepped inside, I was immersed in a world of discovery and conservation. The visitor center provides a wealth of information about the captivating puffins, allowing you to deepen your understanding of these magnificent creatures. Through an advanced video system, you can even observe puffins in real time, marveling at their fascinating behaviors and unique habitat.

Delve into the captivating story of Project Puffin and gain insight into the immense challenges faced by the dedicated team behind this conservation effort. The passionate staff members are eager to share their knowledge and experiences, ensuring that your visit is not only informative but also engaging and inspiring.

5. Tour Olson House

Olson HouseSource: Farnsworth Art Museum / facebook
Olson House

Olson Home, a stunning historic residence that once housed Alvaro H. Olson and his family, and later became the cherished abode of the renowned painter, Andrew Wyeth. As I entered, I was transported back in time, surrounded by the enchanting atmosphere that inspired Wyeth’s artistic genius.

One of the highlights of visiting Olson Home is the exceptional guide who accompanies you on this journey through history. Their extensive knowledge of the building’s rich past and the life of the esteemed painter elevates the experience beyond simply exploring an old home. They will regale you with captivating stories, anecdotes, and insights that truly bring the place to life.

As I wandered through the rooms, I discovered traces of the home’s original inhabitants, offering a glimpse into the lives they once led. The preservation of these authentic items adds a touch of authenticity to the experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of a bygone era.

But perhaps the most awe-inspiring aspect of Olson Home is its association with Andrew Wyeth and his artistic legacy. This very house served as the backdrop for some of his most iconic works, including the renowned masterpiece, Christina’s World. Standing in the very space where Wyeth’s brushstrokes captured the beauty and emotion of the world around him is an experience that leaves a lasting impression.

6. Attend the Maine Lobster Festival

Maine Lobster FestivalSource: Maine Lobster Festival / facebook
Maine Lobster Festival

The Maine Lobster Festival, a cherished annual event steeped in history and held in the first week of August, spanning five delightful days. This beloved festival draws crowds of enthusiastic visitors from far and wide, offering a bounty of fresh local lobster and an array of delectable seafood delicacies. But that’s just the beginning!

As I walked along the festival grounds, my senses were tantalized by the enticing aromas of freshly cooked lobster, mingling with the salty sea breeze. The tantalizing flavors and textures of this iconic Maine delicacy will surely leave your taste buds rejoicing.

Beyond the culinary delights, the Maine Lobster Festival is a vibrant celebration of community and culture. Carnival rides twirl and spin, filling the air with laughter and joy. Artists and artisans proudly display their creations, showcasing the region’s rich artistic heritage. Live entertainers take to the stage, captivating audiences with their music, dance, and performances that echo the spirit of the sea.

One remarkable aspect of this festival is its commitment to giving back. As a non-profit organization, all the earnings generated from this grand celebration are reinvested into the Midcoast Maine communities, supporting local initiatives and fostering growth in the region. By attending the Maine Lobster Festival, you not only indulge in a memorable experience but also contribute to the vitality and prosperity of the community.

7. Take a ride with the Maine State Ferry Service

Maine State Ferry ServiceSource: Maine State Ferry Service / facebook
Maine State Ferry Service

One of the highlights of Rockland – the Maine State Ferry Service. This fantastic service operates from Rockland and offers a delightful opportunity to explore the ocean and visit the enchanting nearby islands.

Boarding the ferry, I was greeted by the welcoming atmosphere and the stunning views. As the ferry sets sail, I immersed in the beauty of the vast ocean and the picturesque islands that dot the horizon. It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience.

What makes the ferry journey even more special is the chance to connect with the locals. Many of the passengers I have encountered are Rockland residents, using the ferry for their daily commute. Engaging in friendly conversations with these locals allowed me to gain a unique insight into their lives, their connection to the sea, and the fascinating world of lobster fishing.

Rockland is renowned for its thriving lobster industry, and the ferry ride offers a perfect opportunity to learn more about it. You can strike up a conversation with the lobstermen and lobsterwomen on board, who will be more than happy to share their knowledge and experiences. The best part? The Maine State Ferry Service is not only a captivating journey but also an affordable one. You can enjoy this incredible maritime adventure without breaking the bank, making it accessible to all who wish to explore the wonders of Rockland’s surrounding waters.

8. Visit the Sail Power and Steam Museum

Another captivating museum in Rockland that focuses on the fascinating world of marine life – the Sail Power and Steam Museum. As I explored the city, I quickly noticed that Rockland is home to several remarkable museums, and this one stands out for its interactive and educational experiences centered around power and steam-driven vessels, ships, and small boats.

At the Sail Power and Steam Museum, I embarked on a journey that took me back in time to discover the origins, construction, and purpose of these incredible vessels. Whether they were designed for recreational or commercial use, this museum offers a wealth of knowledge about the fascinating world of boats and engines.

As I delved into the exhibits, I had the opportunity to engage with the history and mechanics of sail, power, and steam-driven vessels. The museum provides interactive displays, informative panels, and captivating artifacts that bring this maritime world to life. It’s an educational experience that caters to both the curious novice and the passionate boat enthusiast.

You’ll gain insight into the technological advancements that shaped the marine industry and witness the evolution of these vessels over time. From the majestic sailboats that once ruled the seas to the powerful steam-driven ships that revolutionized transportation, the Sail Power and Steam Museum showcases the remarkable achievements and innovations of human ingenuity.

9. Admire the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

Center For Maine Contemporary ArtSource: Center for Maine Contemporary Art / facebook
Center For Maine Contemporary Art

If you’re looking to balance your exploration of history with a taste of modern art, I highly recommend visiting the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, fondly known as CMCA. Since its establishment in 1952, this art center has evolved into a vibrant hub that showcases the works of numerous renowned artists.

Prepare to be captivated as you step into CMCA. The collection of art displayed here is nothing short of awe-inspiring. From thought-provoking installations to captivating paintings, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of contemporary artistic expressions that push boundaries and challenge conventions.

What’s more, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art itself is a testament to modern architectural design. Its unique building stands proudly, inviting you to explore its galleries and indulge in the visual feast that awaits inside. As I approached the entrance, I was greeted by a one-of-a-kind sculpture, serving as a symbol of the creativity and innovation housed within.

Inside, I discovered a diverse range of artworks, each telling its own story and inviting interpretation. CMCA takes pride in supporting and promoting local artists, as well as showcasing the works of talented creators from across the globe. It’s an ever-changing exhibition that promises to surprise and inspire you with its cutting-edge and thought-provoking displays.

10. Shop at Jess’s Market

Jess’s MarketSource: Jess’s Market / facebook
Jess’s Market

If you’re a like me and have a deep love for seafood, I suggest making a delightful detour to Jess’ Market. This local gem is a haven for foodies seeking the freshest ingredients to create their own culinary masterpieces.

As I stepped into Jess’ Market, I was greeted by an impressive array of fish and shellfish. Their selection is extensive, ensuring that I find the perfect catch to satisfy my seafood cravings. From succulent lobster to delicate shrimp, the options are abundant and temptingly fresh.

What sets Jess’ Market apart is not just the quality of their offerings, but also the exceptional service provided by their knowledgeable staff. These seafood aficionados are eager to share their expertise and guided me in selecting the perfect ingredients for my culinary ventures. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice cook, they’ll gladly offer tips and advice on how to prepare and cook each type of fish to perfection.

And if you’re looking to pair your seafood feast with a delightful beverage, Jess’ Market has you covered. Their selection of beer and wine complements the flavors of the ocean, enhancing your dining experience.

11. Get a tan on Sandy Beach

Sandy BeachSource: Benjamin Angulo / facebook
Sandy Beach

When the sun is shining and the weather beckons for some beachside relaxation, Sandy Beach becomes my go-to destination. This serene coastal retreat offers the perfect escape to soak up the sun, embrace the refreshing waters, and indulge in the simple joys of summer.

As I arrive at Sandy Beach, I’m greeted by the inviting stretch of golden sand that begs to be lounged upon. Finding a comfortable spot, I settle down to bask in the warmth and work on my sun-kissed glow. The tranquil ambiance and gentle lapping of the waves create a soothing soundtrack that instantly puts me at ease.

Should the weather not be ideal for sunbathing or swimming, there’s still much to appreciate at Sandy Beach. A remarkable sculpture named “Ridin’ the Rails to Rockland” steals the spotlight. Crafted in 2013, this captivating piece of art showcases the creative genius of its maker, utilizing materials from abandoned railroads in Rockland and the surrounding areas. Taking a leisurely stroll along the beach, I pause to admire the sculpture’s intricate details, marveling at the repurposed remnants that breathe new life into the landscape.

Sandy Beach offers more than just picturesque views and artistic wonders. It presents an opportunity to embrace a leisurely outdoor experience. Whether it’s a leisurely swim in the inviting waters or a leisurely picnic with a front-row seat to the magnificent ocean panorama, the beach provides a sanctuary for relaxation and enjoyment.

What makes Sandy Beach particularly appealing to me is its serene atmosphere and relative tranquility. Unlike bustling tourist hotspots, this hidden gem remains blissfully uncrowded, allowing for a peaceful and uninterrupted afternoon of unwinding and rejuvenation.

12. Wander along the Rockland Harbor Trail

Rockland Harbor TrailSource: Dan Logan / shutterstock
Rockland Harbor Trail

When I craved a scenic stroll along the waterfront during my trip to Rockland, the Rockland Harbor Trail becomes my go-to choice. This delightful five-mile path meanders alongside the picturesque harbor, offering a captivating blend of natural beauty and urban charm that never fails to captivate me.

The harbor serves as a vibrant hub, bustling with maritime activity and lending an enchanting atmosphere to the surroundings. As I continued my leisurely walk, I can’t help but admire the architectural marvels and prominent landmarks that line the trail. From the majestic spires of historic buildings to the vibrant attractions that define Rockland’s identity, each step unveils a new facet of the city’s charm and character.

I have also stumbled upon inviting restaurants and cafes, offering a tempting respite from my stroll. The scent of freshly prepared cuisine wafts through the air, enticing me to pause and indulge in a delicious meal or a rejuvenating cup of coffee.

13. Stop by Craft

CraftSource: Jacques Vesery Artist/ Sculptor / facebook

The Craft gallery never fails to captivate me for its exceptional craftwork that showcases the artistic prowess of Maine. I was immediately immersed in a world of exquisite creations crafted by some of the most talented artisans in the state.

The gallery boasts a diverse array of masterpieces, ranging from captivating ceramics and intricate jewelry to captivating books and stunning fiber arts. Each piece exudes a sense of artistry and craftsmanship that is truly remarkable.

What makes The Craft truly special is its ever-changing exhibitions. With a commitment to showcasing a wide variety of artists, the gallery ensures that every visit brings a fresh and delightful experience. Even if I have explored its halls before, I was always enticed to return and discover the awe-inspiring works of a different artist.

The artists pour their heart and soul into their craft, infusing each piece with a unique blend of passion, patience, and perseverance. It is evident that their dedication and attention to detail result in extraordinary works of art that are truly a testament to their skill and creativity.

14. Sail with the Bufflehead Sailing Charters

Bufflehead Sailing ChartersSource: Bufflehead Sailing Charters / facebook
Bufflehead Sailing Charters

Embark on an exhilarating ocean escapade aboard the legendary vessel called Bufflehead, a classic boat that dates back to the vibrant era of the ’60s. As I stepped aboard, I was greeted by an experienced captain who boasts an impressive sailing background, having traversed both the vast Pacific and Atlantic Oceans aboard his own small vessel.

I immediately sense that I am in the hands of a true seafaring expert as the captain effortlessly navigates the waters. His wealth of knowledge about sailing is captivating, and he delights in sharing fascinating anecdotes and insights about the history and geology of the Rockland area.

To capture the essence of this incredible journey, an accomplished photographer accompanies us on board. With a keen eye for capturing the beauty of the ocean and its surroundings, they skillfully capture breathtaking moments that will forever preserve the memories of this extraordinary voyage.

15. Take one of the Maine Foodie Tours

Maine Foodie ToursSource: Maine Foodie Tours-Rockland / facebook
Maine Foodie Tours

Throughout my exploration of Rockland, I have come across an exceptional culinary adventure that has left me utterly delighted. Maine Foodie Tours stands out as the ultimate guide to the city’s most delectable dining destinations. The tour not only showcases renowned restaurants but also partners with pubs, beverage artisans, and culinary-based shops.

I was warmly greeted by the passionate owners and staff of each establishment. They eagerly share the captivating stories behind their culinary creations, providing a deeper understanding of the local food scene. With each stop, the privilege of savoring a wide array of mouthwatering dishes and beverages that showcase the finest flavors of Rockland awaits.

What sets Maine Foodie Tours apart from others is its commitment to providing a truly indulgent experience. Unlike most food tours that offer only small samples, this tour ensures that guests enjoy full-size meals.

The feedback from those who have embarked on this culinary adventure before me has been overwhelmingly positive. People have raved about Maine Foodie Tours, describing it as the epitome of a remarkable culinary experience. And now, having savored the delectable offerings and immersed myself in the stories behind each delectable creation, I wholeheartedly agree.

15 Best Things to Do in Rockland (ME):

  • Stroll along the Rockland Breakwater and Lighthouse
  • Visit the Farnsworth Art Museum
  • Visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum
  • Visit and support the Project Puffin Visitor Center
  • Tour Olson House
  • Attend the Maine Lobster Festival
  • Take a ride with the Maine State Ferry Service
  • Visit the Sail Power and Steam Museum
  • Admire the Center for Maine Contemporary Art
  • Shop at Jess’s Market
  • Get a tan on Sandy Beach
  • Wander along the Rockland Harbor Trail
  • Stop by Craft
  • Sail with the Bufflehead Sailing Charters
  • Take one of the Maine Foodie Tours