Rockland used to be a pretty rough place no one wanted to visit—at least not for very long. However, this formerly down-and-out city on the west bank of Penobscot Bay has since become a happening place to bring your boat and stay a while. (This article in “Down East” magazine provides a glimpse of downtown Rockland’s vibrant cultural and epicurean scene: Downeast Rediscovers Rockland.)
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Like many of Maine’s coastal cities, Rockland was once a major shipbuilding center until the early 20th century. When that era ended, the city’s major industry became quarrying. For a time Rockland was the biggest exporter of lime and granite in the world, earning it the nickname “Lime City.” However, when gypsum supplanted lime as a building material in the mid-1900s, another Rockland industry bit the dust.
Commercial fishing came next. The Rockland waterfront was once home to dozens of fish-packing houses and commercial docks, but then local stocks of sardines and groundfish tanked, and so did the fishing industry. Today, the occasional herring seiner still unloads its catch here, and lobstering remains strong (Rockland is still considered the lobster capital of Maine), but the city is no longer a major seafood exporter.
Visitors can tie up at the public landing, just a few hundred yards from Main Street.
Rockland’s most recent renaissance was fueled by the largesse of banking giant MBNA, which opened a waterfront headquarters here in the early 1990s. Before being purchased by Bank of America in 2005, MBNA funded numerous municipal projects, including the 1/4-mile-long boardwalk that curves around the south end of the harbor and offers a grand view of one of the biggest harbors on the Maine coast (almost 2 miles wide from the Samoset Resort to Owls Head). It’s about a mile from the breakwater to the waterfront, but the protected waters offer good holding ground for those who wish to anchor and dinghy ashore. Visitors can tie up at the public landing, just a few hundred yards from Main Street.
The Rockland waterfront is home to several city-owned parks, as well as the Rockland Landings Marina (a full-service facility) and the Landings Restaurant. Boaters should also plan a visit to the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center, the cultural hub of Rockland and located close to the waterfront. The museum exhibits the works of many prominent Maine artists. In 1998, it was renovated and expanded, and now comprises a half-dozen historic buildings.
Rockland also has a wonderful library, as well as beautiful parks and playgrounds for families to enjoy if they want to get off the boat and stretch their legs. There’s shopping too, and if you like eating out or are looking for nightlife, you’ll find numerous restaurants, pubs and cafes throughout downtown, catering to every taste imaginable.