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Rockland, Maine: The Way Life Should Be

Captain Doug at the helm of the schooner Heritage, Rockland, Maine
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Captain Doug at the helm of the schooner Heritage, Rockland, Maine

The gentle sea breeze was a reminder of the state border sign that read “Welcome to Maine–The Way Life Should Be”. The farther we drove along the rugged coastline, the clearer this became.

We were beyond southern Maine’s more touristy region and headed for Rockland, midway between Portland and Bar Harbor on Coastal Route 1 and part of Midcoast Maine’s Lighthouse Coast. It is an area with beaches, island ferries, protected harbors, parks, rolling hills and, of course, the a strong maritime heritage that includes historic beacons and working lobster boats.

map aboard the schooner Heritage, Rockland, Maine
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map aboard the schooner Heritage, Rockland, Maine

Long the source of inspiration for artists for its beauty, this diverse region teems with the kind of scenic vistas that create a sensory experience that photos cannot fully capture. Rockland is authentic Maine with amenities that make it an ideal vacation destination or romantic getaway.

sailing on Penobscot Bay, Rockland, Maine
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sailing on Penobscot Bay, Rockland, Maine

This Gateway to the Penobscot Bay region is said to be the Lobster Capital of the World. The revitalized historic Main Street features art and antiques, restaurants, museums, a range of shopping options, and a harbor. Rockland has what Down East Magazine referred to as “midcoast Maine’s most beautiful ocean walk.” National Geographic named Rockland the “Top Adventure Town in Maine to Live and Play” in 2007 and 2010. We were about to discover why.

tending to the sails aboard a windjammer, Rockland, Maine
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tending to the sails aboard a windjammer, Rockland, Maine

Many residents have been drawn here with by dream, driven by a passion, and worked hard to create a unique lifestyle. There’s an entrepreneurial spirit in Maine and the attitude of doing what it takes to make things work. We met several of the people whose talents have come together to create a vacation experience found nowhere else.

Four Victorian bed and breakfasts are known as the Historic Inns of Rockland. To savor the best of what the area has to offer, combine a stay with a Penobscot Bay aboard a schooner that is part of America’s largest historic windjammer fleet.

The Maine Wnidjammers

The windjammer American Eagle sailing past the schooner, Heritage, Rockland, Maine
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The windjammer American Eagle sailing past the schooner, Heritage, Rockland, Maine

Windjammers are large, traditional sailing vessels offering overnight cruises. The Maine Windjammer Association, founded by Frank Swift in 1936, is celebrating its 75th birthday.

The ships range from 46’ to 132’ on deck, and all are privately owned and operated. Each carries 6 to 40 guests and 2 to 10 crew members and offer a casual, friendly atmosphere.There are single, double, and triple cabins with comfortable mattresses, fresh linens, warm blankets, and hot showers.

Some were built for windjamming. Others were formerly used for freight or fishing, racing, or trade.

The 3, 4, 5, or 6 day cruises are an unplugged vacation away from cell phones, email, and deadlines. It’s a complete escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, an unhurried step back to the simplicity of another century, with the benefit of the latest navigational, communications, and safety equipment in a U.S. Coast Guard inspected vessel.

There’s plenty of time to go ashore and explore–perhaps a small fishing village or a remote, deserted island.

Enjoy the scenery and unspoiled nature with no set itinerary. The wind, weather, and tide determine the destination. However, the captains know the best islands in the bay for quiet anchorage and are always sailing within sight of land.

You may spot ospreys, bald eagles, or puffins. There are deer in the forests and moose. Harbor seals sunbathe in coves.

Setting sail on a Windjammer cruise, Rockland, Maine
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Setting sail on a Windjammer cruise, Rockland, Maine

Add a a little adventure. Discover the joy of sailing. Be as active as you like — hoist sails, haul anchor, splice rope, tie knots, row ashore, take a turn at the helm, or help in the galley. You may opt to simply relax, fish from the side of the boat, swim, or just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Wholesome and hearty meals are served family style, using locally grown or produced products. Beginning with morning coffee the hot breakfast might include sticky buns, quiche, or piping hot Maine blueberry muffins. Typical fare is chowder and herbed biscuits, fresh seafood, roasts, New England boiled dinner, salads, homemade breads from the woodstove, and desserts like hand-cranked ice cream. Every cruise includes a lobster bake will all the trimmings, served on a remote island.

high atop a schooner, Rockland, Maine
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high atop a schooner, Rockland, Maine

Windjammers are eco-friendly–powered by the wind, with minimal use of electricity, fuel, and water. Recycling is important an all trash is taken back to windjammer. No Trace principles mean leaving the beach cleaner than you found it.

setting sail aboard the schooner Heritage, Rockland, Maine
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setting sail aboard the schooner Heritage, Rockland, Maine

Captains Doug and Linda Lee have been sailing for over 30 years and are the only owner-captains in the fleet to have designed and built their vessel. We sailed aboard their schooner Heritage, built in 1983 with hot and cold running water and electric outlets in all cabins.

Windjammers sail late May to mid-October. Special interest cruises include wine-tasting, pirate adventures, music, whale, puffin and naturalist cruises, festivals and races, photography, seamanship, lighthouses, family, and music cruises.

Three to six day cruises range from $400 to $1050 per passenger, all meals included. Special packages are available, like the Land and Sea packages with Rockland’s historic inns, from an additional $270. Air and Sea packages include roundtrip airfare, taxes and ground transportation for a car-free vacation for an additional $150.

Historic Inns of Rockland

The four Historic Inns of Rockland are unique bed and breakfast accommodations offering gracious service and outstanding amenities in exceptional historic buildings. All are within walking distance of the historic district that includes museums, fine dining, and shopping. Each offers a guest pantry stocked with beverages and snacks, complimentary internet access, flat screen TVs, and a guest computer. In season rates apply mid-June to mid-October, and lower rates are available the rest of the year. A variety of specials and packages offered.

the porch of the LimeRock Inn, in the historic district of Rockland, Maine
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the porch of the LimeRock Inn, in the historic district of Rockland, Maine

Relax on a swing or rocker on the wraparound porch of the turreted Victorian the LimeRock Inn. Situated on quiet street, this Queen Anne mansion is decorated in warm colors befitting its architecture and exudes a comfortable elegance.

the Mohegan Room of the LimeRock Inn, Rockland, Maine, Rockland, Maine
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the Mohegan Room of the LimeRock Inn, Rockland, Maine, Rockland, Maine

It has eight well-appointed guest rooms with king or queen-sized beds, all with private baths and sumptuous bedding and linens. Innkeepers Frank Isganitis and P.J. Walter are delightful hosts who invite you to step back to a more gracious and leisurely era. Relax in the formal parlor, library, or secret garden, but if you need it, there is also a small business center. The LimeRock Inn has been ranked the #1 Rockland B&B by Trip Advisor and voted was voted “Best Undiscovered Romantic Inn in Maine” by BedandBreakfast.com. In-season rates are$159-239, $119 to $165 the rest of the year.

An oak-paneled former sea captain’s home with the ambience of an English inn or boutique hotel, The Captain Lindsey House is on a side street in the historic seaport area. Captains Ken and Ellen Barnes, retired owners of the windjammer Stephen Taber, the oldest documented schooner in continuous recorded service, are the innkeepers and animated storytellers. The inn is furnished to reflect its nautical legacy with their sketches of schooners and sea life, along with antiques and pieces of their own creation or collected in their travels. A handicapped-accessible room is available. Afternoons, tea and sherry or port is served by the fire. Rates: $178-215, off season $141-161, double occupancy, including buffet breakfast.

The Granite Inn on Main Street is a Federal Colonial house overlooking Maine’s second largest harbor. It was built in 1840 from locally quarried stone, and in 1920 General Pershing spoke from the porch of what was then an Elks Club. Edwin and Joan Hantz have renewed the inn in a contemporary style while retaining historic touches. Joan, a graphic artist, decorated the guest rooms, six with double occupancy and two two-room suites that sleep four. Relax on the porch and watch the sun rise over the water and the harbor come to life. During festivals parades march by. Pets and guests alike enjoy a warm welcome from Springer Spaniel Zack. Summer season rates are $150-210, and quiet season $95-$125.

The Berry Manor Inn, Rockland, Maine
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The Berry Manor Inn, Rockland, Maine

The AAA 4 Diamond rated Berry Manor Inn is a luxurious bed and breakfast in a quiet residential neighborhood originally built by prominent merchant Charles Berry as wedding gift for his wife. It has been featured as an Editor’s Choice in Yankee Magazine and Samantha Brown’s Weekend show. Innkeepers Mike LaPosta and Cheryl Michaelsen’s twelve spacious manor and carriage house rooms have a range of amenities including fireplaces, canopy beds, luxurious private baths, whirlpool tubs and fluffy robes. Common areas include a library with books, games, magazines, and DVDs.

Janet LaPosta, one of the “Pie Moms” of the Berry Manor Inn, Rockland, Maine
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Janet LaPosta, one of the “Pie Moms” of the Berry Manor Inn, Rockland, Maine

Guest pantries feature homemade pies, baked by their mothers, the “Pie Moms”–who you may have seen on the Food Network and Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. Summer season rates from $175 to $275, $400 for 2-romm luxury suites. Quiet season rates are $115 to $175, and $240 for luxury suites.

The Historic Inns of Rockland offer a variety of special packages from late-January’s Pies on Parade, Lighthouse, Lobster & Luxury in June, and Land and Sea packages with two nights on land followed by a three day Windjammer cruise. See the lobster trap Christmas Tree and watch Santa arrive by boat at the a festival of lights November 25-26, 2011.

Dining

The innkeepers are happy to recommend local restaurant favorites. These shouldn’t be missed.

Melissa Kelly, James Beard Award winning chef and coowner of Primo Restaurant., Rockland, Maine
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Melissa Kelly, James Beard Award winning chef and coowner of Primo Restaurant., Rockland, Maine

Melissa Kelly is James Beard Award winning chef who with partner and baker Price Kushner owns Primo Restaurant. This destination restaurant in a 140 year old restored Victorian house serves farm-fresh regional cuisine with Mediterranean flavors. Melissa learned to cook from her Italian grandmother and about food and life from her grandfather, Primo, a butcher from Bologna. Primo died while Melissa was attending the Culinary Institute of America, but his legacy lives on.

Guests are invited to walk through their four-acre farm and gardens to see how the animals are raised and produce is grown, from the hens that lay the eggs to the tea that is served in a French press. See where freshness of foods comes from and how the farm and garden, together with what she acquires from local and sustainable farms, create the menu. There are two greenhouses, and meats are house butchered, cured and smoked. There is ongoing recycling and soil management. It’s the quintessential farm-to-table dining experience.

Primo opened twelve years ago and has expanded each year, teaching chefs from around the world. Reservations are made up to a year in advance. In the off-season, Melissa may be found working at her two other restaurants in Marriot hotels in Orlando and Tucson–also named Primo.

Stop by Breakwater Vineyards, overlooking Rockland Harbor and the Breakwater Lighthouse, in scenic Owl’s Head to sample the area’s Riesling, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir on a 32 acre farm. Open May through October, tastings are Wednesdays through Saturdays 12 noon to 5 pm, and tours are Saturdays at 1 pm.

A newspaper ad reading ”Kraut’s Ready” is all it takes to draw the crowds for the fresh, crunchy sauerkraut made since 1918. Outside the Rockland area, but a recommended stop en route or driving home is Morse’s Sauerkraut & Euro Deli in North Waldoboro. Turn by the landmark Moody’s Diner and continue 7.2 miles on Route 220. Morse’s sells German food and some Italian and French foods and high-end specialties. For a taste of Germany, music and all, in the middle of Maine, wait for one of the five cozy booths.

Museums

Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine
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Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine

A multidirectional rooftop EAT sign Robert Indiana created for the 1964 NY World’s Fair marks the Farnsworth Art Museum, which celebrates Maine’s role in American art with its nationally renowned collection. See Maine through the eyes of distinguished artists in over 10,000 paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs featured in twelve galleries and two National Historic properties.

Among the collection are 19th century landscapes and portraits by Winslow Homer, Fitz Henry Lane, and Gilbert Stuart and 20th century works by Edward Hopper, and contemporary pieces by Alex Katz and Robert Indiana. The Wyeth Center is one of the world’s top collections of the work of this family–N.C. Wyeth, whose work was featured in Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe, his son, 20th century American realist painter Andrew Wyeth, and Andrew’s son Jamie Wyeth, known for his portraits of Maine’s people and places.

There are also two historic sites. The Farnsworth Homestead is a mid-to-late 19th century Greek Revival home with paintings, prints, furniture of an affluent Rockland family. The Olson House is the 18th century saltwater farm of Christina and Alvaro Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s work for over three decades. It is about thirteen miles from museum.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the acquisition of the Olson House, an exhibition of about fifty watercolors and drawings depicting the Olsons and their home will run through October 30, 2011. Nearly all the works are from a collection in Japan. Wyeth’s iconic Christina’s World, however, remains in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Admission $12, $17 with the Olson House, and a senior discount.

Another worthy stop is the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum, open 7 days a week, year round, and three miles from the Owl’s Head Lighthouse. With early aircraft, horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and automobiles, it features a full-size replica of the Wright Brothers’ Kitty Hawk Flyer, the Red Baron’s Fokker Triplane, and vintage cars in operating condition. Check the schedule of outdoor auto and aeroplane shows. Admission $10, 65+ $8.

Maine Lighthouse Museum, Rockland, Maine
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Maine Lighthouse Museum, Rockland, Maine

The Maine Lighthouse Museum has the largest collection of lighthouse artifacts and mementos in the United States. Overlooking Rockland Harbor, it recounts the stories of keepers and their families. $5, seniors $4

You can walk the breakwater to the much-photographed Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, which is undergoing restoration, and spot sea birds, schooners, ferries and seals along the way. Weekends and some weekdays you can walk through the keepers quarters and climb the tower. Admission free, donations accepted.

Take the time for a coastal getaway. Rediscover life’s simple pleasures. It’s the way life should be.

Getting there

For those who prefer not to drive, Cape Air flies between Boston and Rockland. Concord Coach disembarks across from the Granite Inn.

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