Lighthouses dot the rocky coastline, lobster roll stands line the roads and sailboats cruise through the waters offshore – this is Maine’s Central Coast. These iconic images are just part of the charm of this region. Our Globetrotting Grandmom recently spent time exploring this picturesque region of Maine along with the charming small town of Rockland. She sailed aboard a windjammer, discovered art at every turn in Rockland and says she had the best breakfast of her life. Here’s her story.
Art, Food and Sailing Adventures: Introduce Your Family to Maine’s Central Coast
Step back in time aboard the J&E Riggin windjammer. Originally built in 1929 by Charles Riggin, a fisherman who named the ship after his two sons Jacob and Edward, the J&E Riggin began as an oyster schooner. Now a National Historic Landmark, the J&E Riggin is owned by Captain Jon Finger and his wife, Chef-Captain Annie Mahle, who offer three, four or six day windjammer cruises.
This is a true sailing vessel with no motor—just the sound of the creaking wood as it gently rocks along in the Penobscot Bay. Besides the rocky shoreline, endless blue horizon and millions of stars overhead at night, a windjammer cruise brings something intangible: there’s a transformation in all who climb aboard.
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I joined the boat for the last night of a four-day cruise and it was evident that those already on board had bonded through their experiences. The camaraderie was contagious. Everyone joined in the daily tasks of hoisting the sails, maneuvering into the harbor and helping with the clean-up after meals.
Tiny Kitchen, Big Meals!
And speaking of meals, Chef-Captain Annie—an accomplished chef and cookbook author—prepares three healthy and incredibly delicious from-scratch meals daily. She manages all of this despite the ship having no power and a galley that makes my New York City apartment kitchen look big.
The vessel accommodates up to 24 passengers plus the crew. Space is tight, but that adds to the authenticity of the experience—and no doubt the immediate bonding with other passengers. Remarkably, no one seemed to mind that the ship only had two heads. Somehow it works for everyone, so much so that many passengers return each year for more time on the open waters. And with the picturesque views that Maine has to offer, I can understand why.
Back on Land, The Small Town of Rockland Delivers Big Taste
Our cruise ended in the small town of Rockland, and we were in for a treat. Rockland delivers big when it’s time to eat. You absolutely have to start your day at the Home Kitchen Café, where you’ll be spoiled for choice with a variety of “Homelets,” traditional breakfasts, pancakes and more. You name it, they’re serving it up—and it’s oh so good! Be sure to try the “Sinnies”…cinnamon rolls that are so delicious they’re sinful. And whatever you do, don’t miss the home fries. I recommend adding the onions and peppers; trust me on this one.
For lunch, check out the lobster club sandwich at a local favorite, the Brass Compass. The sandwich famously bested Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” You’ll be dining alongside local fisherman who hang out for breakfast and lunch at this Rockland institution. We finished off our day of eating at Rustica. This Italian eatery serves up traditional dishes with a contemporary flair. After much deliberation, I chose the Bacon and Bleu White Pizza with caramelized onions. I’m still dreaming about that pizza.
Absorbing Art by Day
Rockland is home to the famed Farnsworth Art Museum where 20,000 square feet of gallery space displays over 15,000 works of art. The museum houses an extensive collection of works by the Wyeth family. Highlights include works by Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth. It’s also home to one of the nation’s largest collections of works by sculptor Louise Nevelson.
The nearby Center for Maine Contemporary Art displays works by contemporary artists. Housed in a striking new Toshiko Mori building with an iconic sawtooth roofline, the CMCA complex includes an ArtLab classroom, gift shop and a courtyard that is open to the public.
Absorbing Art by Night
Rockland also serves up art overnight at 250 Main hotel. Overlooking the harbor, 250 Main is an intimate art hotel showcasing the work of local artists. Built to showcase the region’s shipbuilding tradition, the hotel features 26 rooms designed for the discerning traveler with unique, reclaimed, and industrial décor. Most rooms have water views. And it’s worth getting up early to catch the brilliant sunrise over the harbor from the hotel’s rooftop deck.
Be sure to browse each floor to check out the artwork. If you see something you like, you can make a purchase. It’s also fine to bring along your furry children, as 250 Main is pet friendly.
Whether art, sailing or good eats are your priority, you’re certain to find what you’re looking for in Central Maine. And besides, it’s pretty with all those lighthouses, don’t you agree?