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A TANK AWAY | ROCKLAND, MAINE

Lobsters and much more

Museums, shops dot seaside town

The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse is often open to visitors on weekends. The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse is often open to visitors on weekends. (Hilary Nangle for The Boston Globe)
By Hilary Nangle
Globe Correspondent / April 21, 2010

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Rockland has emerged from nearby Camden’s shadow to become a mid-coast destination in itself. Lobster boats, ferries, excursion boats, and windjammers move to and fro in its busy harbor; independent shops and galleries encourage browsing; intriguing museums invite exploring. The “Lobster Capital of the World’’ is increasingly earning kudos for its food scene, too.

Stay
The four Historic Inns of Rockland are renowned for bountiful breakfasts and are steps from downtown shops and attractions. Retired windjammer captains Ken and Ellen Barnes own the handsome Captain Lindsey (5 Lindsey St., 800-523-2145, www.lindseyhouse.com, $141-$215), which feels more like a boutique hotel. You can practically roll out of bed and onto the ferry at the pet- and family-friendly Granite Inn (546 Main St., 800-386-9036, www.oldgraniteinn.com, $95-$210). The late 19th-century, Queen Anne-style LimeRock Inn (96 Limerock St., 800-546-3762, www.limerockinn.com, $119-$239) is an architectural gem listed on the National historic register. Rockland’s grand dame is the elegant Berry Manor Inn (81 Talbot Ave., 800-774-5692, www.berrymanorinn.com, $115-$275), which doubles as home to the Pie Moms. If you’re looking for a non-inn-style lodging option, head to neighboring Rockport and check out the Glen Cove Motel (Route 1, Rockport, 800-453-6268, www.glencovemotel.com, April rates $58-$69, including Continental breakfast). The Glen Cove has panoramic views of Penobscot Bay and a trail leading to the rocky shore.

Dine
Rockland has an ever-increasing selection of downtown restaurants; even in the off-season, dinner reservations are wise. Ease into the evening at In Good Company (415 Main St., 207-593-9110, www.ingoodcompanymaine.com, $5-$18), a casual wine bar serving a tapas-style menu. Cafe Miranda (15 Oak St., 207-594-2034, www.cafemiranda.com, $15-$28) proclaims it doesn’t serve the food of cowards: Italian, Thai, Mexican, Armenian, German are mixed without fear or prejudice. Cassoulet! Moules Provencal! Steak tartare! Chef’s Lynette Mosher and Robert Krajewski have created a delicious pocket of France downtown at Lily Bistro (421 Main St., 207-594-4141, www.lilybistromaine.com, $18-$22). Craving lobster or seafood? The oceanfront Boathouse Restaurant and Raw Bar (58 Ocean St., 207-596-0600, $10-$30) pairs seafood with great views. For sushi and authentic Japanese, snag a table at Suzuki’s Sushi Bar (419 Main St., 207-596-7447, www.suzukisushi.com, $6-$20); for decent Mex, slip into Sunfire Mexican Grill (488 Main St., 207-594-6196, $8-$16). Reserve well in advance to dine at Primo (2 South Main St., 207-596-0770, www.primorestaurant.com, $10-$42), where James Beard award-winning chef Melissa Kelly hangs her toque. Another James Beard award winner is Waterman’s Beach Lobster (343 Waterman Beach Road, Spruce Head, 207-596-7819, www.watermansbeachlobster.com, $3-market), a classic, seasonal shack serving hot dogs, steamed mussels and clams, lobster dinners, and homemade pies.

During the day
Rockland’s repute as an arts destination began with the Farnsworth Art Museum and the Wyeth Center (16 Museum St., 207-596-6457, www.farnsworthmuseum.org, adult $12, seniors and students 17 and older $10, 16 and under free; free for all 5-8 p.m. Wednesday), which houses an excellent collection of 19th- and 20th-century Maine-related American art. Also on the museum’s campus is the mid-19th-century Farnsworth Homestead. Audubon’s Project Puffin Visitor Center (311 Main St., 877-478-3346, www.projectpuffin.org) has live videos of nesting puffins, interactive exhibits, a gallery, and screens an excellent film about those clowns of the sea. Planes, trucks, bikes, and automobiles fill the Owls Head Transportation Museum (Route 73, Owls Head, 207-594-4418, www.ohtm.org, adults $10, seniors 65 and older $8, 18 and under free), which drives, flies, and rides its collection during weekend shows, staged from May through October. Lighthouse fans should begin at the Maine Lighthouse Museum (1 Park Drive, 207-594-3301, adults $5, seniors 4, under 12 free), then stroll out the 4,346-foot-long, granite Rockland Breakwater to Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse (www.rocklandlighthouse.com, usually open and manned by volunteers weekends). Get afloat aboard Morning in Maine (207-594-1844, www.amorninginmaine.com, $30 per person), a 55-foot ketch skippered by marine biologist Captain Bob Pratt, or Captain Jack (207-594-1048, www.captainjacklobstertours.com, adult $25, under 12 $15), a 30-foot working lobster boat. Among downtown’s shops, boutiques, and galleries, standouts include Archipelago (386 Main St., 207-596-0701), specializing in pieces by Maine island artists and artisans; Caldbeck Gallery (12 Elm St., 207-594-1996, www.caldbeck.com), carrying the work of contemporary Maine artists; and Harbor Square Gallery (374 Main St., 877-594-7700) for fine art and contemporary craft.

After dark
Films, lectures, live music, and more grace the stage and screen at the historic Strand Theater (345 Main St., 207-594-7266, www.rocklandstrand.com), opened in 1923 and restored in 2005. It’s also a venue for many Bay Chamber Concerts (888-707-2770, www.baychamberconcerts.org) events. Concerts, jam sessions, even poetry dances keep early evenings lively at Rock City Books and Cafe (328 Main St., Rockland, 207-594-4123, www.rockcitycoffee.com/secondread.htm), a combination coffeehouse, cafe, and bookstore. Arts in Rockland (www.artsinrockland.com) coordinates an Art Walk every Wednesday evening in June, July, and August, as well as other special arts events.

The 2010 edition of Hilary Nangle’s “Moon Coastal Maine’’ is hitting stores now. She can be reached at www.HilaryNangle.com.