We lucky three — Brenda, Maralyn and Norm — recently spent four perfect days in a city that is both quaint and hip: Rockland, Maine. The first thing the Hill Team learned during our adventures along Maine’s mid-coast was that four days in Rockland would not be nearly enough.
We went museum-and-lighthouse touring, rode in a Ford Model T, signed up for a biplane ride and sailed along Penobscot Bay in a schooner while feasting on Linda Bean’s pure Maine Lobster rolls. A highlight was pulling up traps with Captain Steve on his lobster boat one morning. On the bay that night, locals and writers made a gala festivity out of devouring hot, buttery lobsters on the deck of The Rekord, the lobster trawler for Sharpie’s Lobstah Shack.
Bur our main mission was to make a pilgrimage to the famous Four Historic Inns of Rockland. Since we’ve published stories on hotels and inns around the world, we know that a common thread runs through the most successful establishments: whether it’s an old fishing shack on a remote island or the finest hotel in Paris,it’s the people who own and run a place that make it memorable.
While visiting each of Rockland’s four inns, the Hill Team feasted on freshly baked local blueberry and apple pie, as well as savory selections.
We felt as if we were back in merry old England as we entered the elegant yet cozy former home of a Maine sea captain, Captain Lindsey House. A very special full-service inn on the harbor, it is just steps off Main Street on Lindsey Street. This gem of an inn is a place for all seasons. We enjoyed sitting and sipping minty lemonade in the summer garden and partaking of English tea in the parlor, which glowed with a warm fire on a rainy June afternoon. The room was filled with the scent of freshly picked roses and something sweet and loving from the oven.
Built in 1832 by Captain George Lindsey,the inn had been lovingly restored by its current owners, Captains Ken and Ellen Barnes. We were all on a first name basis the minute Ellen met our Cape Air flight in Rockland. Ken and Ellen had spared no expense or detail in making their inn the most welcoming we have ever experienced. During our stay,they popped by every morning to make sure that we were comfortable and well fed. Patricia, the innkeeper, made sure our every wish was met.
And that was only the first inn on our quest to discover Rockland’s best.
It was just a short stroll through the tree-lined village of Rockland to the Berry Manor Inn, which is hard to miss since it is painted the color of raspberries and wine. The graciousness and grandeur of the 12-room Berry Manor Inn (including a carriage house) puts it in a class by itself, especially if you’re looking for a romantic getaway. If not traveling with a spouse or partner, you can romance the spirit of your solo soul in this stately old mansion.
Although built in 1898 as a private residence,innkeepers/owners Cheryl Michaelsen and Mike LaPasta, a husband and wife team,have imbued the wine-colored Victorian with state-of-the-art elegance. Yet this find was relaxed, eco and user friendly. Cheryl and Mike even offer two “raid the fridge” pie pantries for their guests. Any time of day or night, you can simply walk in and raid the fridge. We loved this despite our obvious lack of will power.
What could be better? We tried to split the generous slice of pie that Cheryl, manager extraordinaire, offered us. We could not do it. In fact, we each devoured two pieces. Norm,in foodie heaven,did not even think of splitting.
We remembered a story about The Berry Manor from a 2006 issue of Yankee Magazine called “Pie in the Sky.”These pies had literally put the Berry Manor and “The Pie Ladies”(two mothers and mothers-in-law) on the international map.Even The Food Network has discovered them.
It was only a hop across the street to the Lime Rock Inn, a Victorian mansion that is a perfect example of Queen Anne architecture with all its turrets. Owners PJ Walter and Frank Isganitis said they had been fortunate enough to purchase it after it had been completely and exquisitely restored. Its eight large guest rooms have period detailing mixed with modern comfort and luxury.
PJ and Frank have been making both savory and sweet pies for Rockland’s Annual Pies on Parade since l994. We watched as Frank expertly prepared his authentic key lime pie from real key limes that can be found daily in the local market.
PJ and Frank said that only two types of people exist, “Those who eat to live, and those who live to eat.” They both joked about a lifetime of enjoying their belonging to the latter group.
We wanted to continue our journey along the colorful coastline in Rockland, so we saved the newest member of the historic group, the Granite Inn, for last. Unique as a waterfront property, its upstairs guest rooms offer views of the calm, blue waters and white sails in the harbor.
The inn has the distinction of bearing the only granite façade left in Rockland. Originally a little 1790 home, its Federal Colonial structure was added in 1840.
In 1906, the Elks Club attached a large wing to the rear. Owners Ed and Joan Hantz, along with their dog Zack, welcomed us into their sanctuary from their inviting front porch. Ed told me that when he enters his kitchen at 5 a.m. each day to make muffins and scones, Zack is there to keep him company.
Ed is known for his innovative cuisine, and while he focuses on food preparation, Joan, a decorator and graphic designer, artistically decorates the interior with a contemporary flair. The Granite Inn has even been certified as an environmental leader in the hospitality industry by the state of Maine.
On the sad day we had to leave Rockland, there was low visibility for flying. All three of us had been at home in Rockland and felt there was much more to see and do. The caring and informative staff at Cape Air did all they could possibly do to help us make connections or to re-book us at no cost. We had flown with Cape Air for years in the Caribbean and on Cape Cod, and it has always been a pleasure.
One inn owner offered to pick us up and take us back to their inn for coffee and cookies by the fire, plus an overnight room if the visibility did not clear.
Even though we did not stay at the Lime Rock Inn, Frank, the owner, called us at the airport with an offer to drive us to Boston if necessary — this kind of hospitality is way beyond the call of duty. In our experience, even family and dearest friends have seldom been poised to ferry us on an eight-hour roundtrip in the rain! But Frank was.
This is just one small example of the collaboration and hospitality we witnessed from all four of the Historic Inns of Rockland, as well as the other merchants in this most special city. In summary, the people of Rockland, Maine were the real story. They genuinely cared about each other and their guests.
As travel writers,The Hill Team rarely returns to the same destination. However, we know for certain that we will travel the distance to revisit this charming renaissance city. Rockland has it all: reliable transportation, museums, theater, wonderful inns, world class cuisine, lobster shacks, sailing, golf, skiing, swimming, spas and much more.
We would love to say the Hill Team rediscovered Rockland. However, since celebrity Chef Bobby Flay and TV Host Rachel Ray were also in Rockland during our stay and the week before, we guess the word is out.
Be sure to check out the Historic Inns of Rockland website. In addition to the information on the inns, it provides valuable tips on many different sites, activities, and restaurants in Rockland and the surrounding area, as well as on the wonderful packages the Historic Inns offer including: Annual Pies on Parade; Sleep-INN, Dine Out; Lighthouses, Lobster & Luxury; Land ‘n’ Sea Scape; Seniority has its Privileges; Quiet Season Romance & Museum; Festival of Lights; and Car-POOLing is Two Cool. Recipes from the Historic Inns of Rockland can be found on the Where & What in the World blog.
For more images of Rockland, Maine see our video entitled Historic Inns of Rockland, Maine at YouTube.