Maine is famous for its picturesque, artsy villages dotting the craggy coastline from Kittery to Cutler. Rockland was long included among the scores of such charming oceanside hamlets, but over the past few years, it has quietly evolved into a world-class destination for visual art.
Anchored by the Farnsworth Art Museum — an international mecca for Wyeth fans — Rockland made a quantum leap forward with the 2016 opening of the architecturally exquisite Toshiko Mori-designed Center for Maine Contemporary Art. While Rockland already boasted more galleries than any other Maine municipality — including Portland — the sleek new CMCA underscores that cutting edge contemporary art has decisively overtaken traditional plein air painting as Maine’s primary output.
With the fresh blossoming of art venues, finer amenities followed. Whereas Main Street was once quaintly lined with tchotchke shops, diners and secondhand stores, it is now essentially a row of galleries standing cheek-to-cheek with top-shelf dining, tasty new taprooms and cozy cafes.
While art and picturesque coastal views are more than enough to make Rockland a destination, the creature comforts are reason to stay. My wife and I found our favorite cocktail anywhere in the state at Ada’s Kitchen, 449 Main St. — The Charred Matador, a bright, heady and herbal blend of tequila, charred rosemary, green chartreuse, lime and pineapple juice. With its excellent Italian-inspired small dishes and appetizers, Ada’s is a great place to wind down after a long day taking in the sights.
While I have enjoyed some of the best sushi New York and Tokyo have to offer, one of my favorite spots is Suzuki’s Sushi Bar, 419 Main St. It rivals anything anywhere for fresh fish and lively presentation. If you’re feeling more upscale, you can’t go wrong with James Beard Award-winning Chef Melissa Kelly’s farm-totable Primo, 2 S. Main St. But if you want something unique, make for the idiosyncratic Cafe Miranda, just a block off the main strip at 15 Oak St. The quirky nook features a surprisingly vast menu with something satisfying for every diner.
For art fans, the clear choice in accommodations is 250 Main Hotel. Along with the ocean view, the casually elegant boutique hotel features copious well-curated works by regional contemporary artists.
Make no mistake about it: Art is what really puts Rockland on the map. While there are more than 20 worthy galleries and museums, here are a few summer highlights that shouldn’t be missed.