No visit to Midcoast Maine would be complete without spending a bit of time in and around Rockland. As one of the biggest towns in the region, there are a lot of great things to do in Rockland, Maine that make it an excellent destination in its own right, or even as part of a stop on a road trip to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.
Home to the Maine Lobster Festival, the iconic Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, a charming Main Street, countless fantastic restaurants and much more, Rockland is the perfect coastal destination in Maine.
Though it is often overshadowed by nearby Camden, it is also very much worth spending time in and there are lots of things to keep you busy. So if you’re planning to visit this lively and wonderful town and are wondering what to do in Rockland, you’ve come to the right place.
12 Things to Do in Rockland, Maine
Walk to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse
No list of things to do in Rockland, Maine would be complete without including a walk out to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. While the lighthouse itself isn’t really anything to write home about (nearby Owl’s Head is much cuter, as is the Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde), it’s the walk out that makes this a worthwhile visit.
To reach the lighthouse, you need to walk along the rocky, granite breakwater that extends into Rockland Harbor. On the walk, you will get wonderful views of the harbour itself and, on a clear day, of the nearby islands and Penobscot Bay as a whole.
The walk to the lighthouse along the breakwater is a little bit less than a mile (about 1400 metres) and it takes about 15 minutes to get to the end. It’s worth wearing decent shoes because, while the walk is easy, the pavement is uneven and there are large gaps between the stones.
This activity is free of charge, but it is also worth getting there early as the car park tends to get quite crowded and fills up quickly.
Sample Olive Oil at Fiore
Heading over to Main Street (which is filled with cute shops to browse!), make sure to visit Fiore – especially if you’re a fan of delicious olive oils and vinegars. This shop specialises in artisan olive oil from around the world and you can also purchase authentic balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy.
What makes this shop unique is that you can sample every single one of their products before you choose to buy. The shop is set up with a variety of casks and there are a stack of small cups next to each cask.
You can give yourself a taste to see what kind of oil or vinegar best suits your fancy. You will be able to find some traditional oils and vinegars and also some unique flavours – even some with distinctly Maine twists!
So if you want traditional balsamic vinegar or some delicious infused olive oil, then make sure to head to Fiore.
Visit the Center for Maine Contemporary Art
Rockland is an excellent place to visit for art lovers, with countless art galleries to browse and even a bit of street art to enjoy. But if you want to head to a museum, then you cannot miss the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. This museum has a number of exhibitions and is a great place to view contemporary art in Maine.
The museum hours vary by season and full-price entry is $8, however, there is a discount available for students and seniors with ID. Entry for those under 18 is free.
If you’re interested in more of Rockland’s art scene, then head to the nearby Farnsworth Art Museum, as well, which also has many interesting exhibitions to take in.
Grab a Hot Dog at Wasses
If you’re looking for a quick, cheap and delicious meal option in Rockland, then look no further than Wasses.
This classic hot dog stand in downtown Rockland has a couple of locations in the midcoast region (there is one near the Walmart in nearby Thomaston and another in the town of Belfast to the north).
They have a small menu and churn out delicious (and affordable) hot dogs in many different styles. Personally, I’m a fan of the kraut dog which piles on plenty of the locally produced Morse’s Saurkraut.
If you really want to treat yourself, you can also opt to get a side of cheese fries (or even chili cheese fries!), which are absolutely fantastic.
Sip Locally Brewed Beer
If you’re a beer lover, then you’re going to love visiting Maine because one of the best things to do in Rockland and its surroundings is sampling some of the locally brewed craft beer. The midcoast region is littered with countless micro and nano breweries that brew fantastic ales, stouts, lagers and more!
And while most restaurants (and even lobster shacks!) will have a few local craft beers on the menu, the best place to try the beer for yourself is directly from the brewery itself. In Rockland proper, there is Rock Harbor Brewing Co, which has a pub located right on Main Street.
If you want to venture a bit inland, however, we highly recommend heading to Odd Alewives in nearby Waldoboro. This brewery only has a few beers on tap (but they are fantastic!) and has a delightful outdoor seating area and an expansive garden. They also make some pretty great pizzas.
For a more rural and very local experience, consider visiting The Pour Farm located in the town of Union, just a few miles inland from Rockland. This place is very popular and also has a beautiful wooded outdoor area along with a small but lively indoor bar.
Head Out on a Schooner
Rockland is a maritime town and there is no better way to experience this than out on the water. If this interests you, consider heading out on a schooner for a tour of Rockland Harbor and Penobscot Bay!
There are a number of different operators that you can choose from for a day sail, a sunset sail or even something longer that suits your fancy.
Visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum
Besides lobsters, you would be hard-pressed to find something that Maine was more notable for than lighthouses. And it so happens that one of the best things to do in Rockland, Maine is to visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum.
Located on the waterfront in downtown Rockland, this museum aims to educate people on the importance of lighthouses, their history and the history and job of the US Coast Guard in this region.
There are numerous exhibits to explore and it is the perfect place to visit for those interested in lighthouses or simply US maritime history in general!
Enjoy a Classic Diner Meal
Though coastal Maine is known for its lobster shacks, there is also quite a tradition of fantastic diners in the region as well. And if you’re looking for a great, classic diner experience, then look no further than the ever-popular Moody’s Diner – located in nearby Waldoboro.
This diner has been open (and family-run) for nearly a century and it retains a certain amount of charm that makes it absolutely worthwhile for a breakfast or lunch stop. They have an extensive menu with both sweet and savoury dishes, give ample portion sizes and bake plenty of fresh pies each day – so make sure you save room for a slice!
If you’re looking for something in downtown Rockland, then consider heading to the Home Kitchen Cafe.
This cafe serves up delicious omelets, pancakes and other breakfast items along with sandwiches and other great lunch items. They are also famous for their homemade cinnamon rolls for those with a sweet tooth!
Take in the Owl’s Head Lighthouse
Though we’ve already covered the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and the Maine Lighthouse Museum, no visit to the Rockland area would be complete without heading to the small but charming Owl’s Head Lighthouse.
Though not technically located in Rockland proper, this little lighthouse is beautiful and provides wonderful views over Rockland Harbor.
There is no charge to visit the lighthouse and there is a small car park followed by a short dirt path to reach it. Once there, you can climb up a few stairs to get to the base of this little lighthouse. There are also some other small trails to some beaches and swimming spots that can be very peaceful and pretty to visit, as well.
This is a really lovely area to visit and it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Rockland.
Feast on Local Seafood
There is no doubt that a visit to Maine is going to bring a lot of lobster, but there is so much more swimming in the waters surrounding Rockland that is worth sampling.
Obviously, you’re going to need to indulge in a lobster roll or two (or three or four…), but make sure not to miss the local oysters. Other specialities, depending on the season, include clams, scallops, haddock, halibut, tuna and more.
If you want a great seafood experience in Rockland, then make sure to visit North Beacon Oyster. This Oyster Bar on Main Street is one of the best places to eat in Rockland, Maine.
Not only do they have a raw bar serving up delicious, local oysters – if these shellfish aren’t quite your thing, you can also choose from a wide variety of dishes on their a la carte menu. We particularly enjoyed their haddock fish tacos and fried whole belly clams. They also have a range of local craft beers on tap and great cocktails, too!
For those wanting something a bit more international, Suzuki — a sushi restaurant located right next door — is also very highly recommended.
And if you’re after a fine dining experience, a local favourite is Primo, which emphasises the use of local, farm-to-table ingredients.
Learn about sea birds at the Project Puffin Visitor Center
Not only is Penobscot Bay home to some fantastic fish and seafood, but it is also home to an entire ecosystem of a variety of sea birds. And some of the most famous of these sea birds are puffins!
These adorable birds can be found on some rocks off the coast of Rockland during the months of May to August.
If you want to learn more about these birds, then make sure to visit the Project Puffin Visitor Centre in Rockland. Here, you can learn all about puffins, other native sea birds, and this organisation’s conservation efforts.
If you have the time, it is also worth going on a Hardy Boat Tour to Eastern Egg Rock, which leaves our of New Harbor, located to the south of Rockland, to view some puffins yourself.
Take the Ferry to Vinalhaven or North Haven
And if you’re interested in heading out on a day trip from Rockland, then why not venture out to one of the nearby islands?
There are countless islands off the coast of Maine, but the closest to Rockland are the islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven, which are both easily accessed by ferry from Rockland Harbor.
Ferries leave frequently throughout the day and can accommodate vehicles, so you can drive around the islands and explore once you’re there.
It is a different style of life out on the islands and a visit to either is sure to give you an authentic “Maine” experience.
Where to Stay in Rockland
With all of these great things to do in Rockland, you’re going to need to find a good place to stay in the town. There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from that can suit all kinds of travel styles. If you’re wondering where to stay in Rockland, have a look at these suggestions:
250 Main Hotel – Located on Main Street within easy reach of everything the town has to offer, this hotel is an excellent choice for where to stay in Rockland. They have a range of rooms on offer and there is a continental breakfast available each morning. Click here to see their availability
Rockland Harbor Hotel – Situated a stone’s throw from the ferry terminal of Rockland, this hotel is an excellent choice in this lovely Maine town. They have countless wonderful rooms to choose from, great views of the harbour and breakfast is included in the rate. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental – If you want to pretend that you live in midcoast Maine, then a private rental is an excellent option! There are tons of places to choose from in Rockland, like this beautiful home with an ocean view, that can suit all kinds of travellers. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Rockland hotels!
There are so many things to do in Rockland that you will be sure to keep busy for a number of days. So make sure you take the time to explore this beautiful Maine town and enjoy all that it has to offer!
Are you planning to visit Rockland, Maine? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!