Boasting the charm of a classic seacoast town with the redbrick warehouse buildings, centuries-old coastal lighthouses, and the narrow cobblestone streets, Portland – Maine’s largest city surely soothes your soul.
Located on a peninsula in Casco Bay on the Southern Maine coast, Portland is one of the hippest, most vibrant small cities in the Americas. This city is home to more than 65,000 inhabitants with history and culture that are deeply rooted in the sea. While the city is a congregation of historic waterfronts, excellent museums and galleries, abundant green space, cobblestone streets, and centuries-old coastal lighthouses, it retains a ‘small town’ sense.
As a port hub, once serving as the largest in 17th-century New England, Portland will give you a fantastic way to relax and take a deep breath of fresh sea air while getting experiences of incredible outdoor adventures or exploring a large downtown with vibrant culture.
BEST TIME TO VISIT PORTLAND
As a thriving cultural center year-round, Portland intrigues visitors in all seasons with wonderful experiences. In the summer months, Portland’s weather is warm during the day but cools by the evening that is ideal for island tourism and dipping into the refreshing water.
Autumn in Portland has mild temperatures. When leaves slowly fade from vibrant green to lovely shades of yellow, orange, and red, visitors will enjoy heading to a nearby apple orchard for a day of collecting apples and eating cider donuts. As the winter months roll in, skiing is a common activity for tourists in this city. You will not want to miss experiences of cross-country skiing through pine forests and throwing on ice skates for a whirl around the city’s many ice rinks.
TRANSPORTATION TO PORTLAND
Portland International Jetport provides nonstop domestic flights from many spots such as New York, Orlando, and Washington D.C. If you want to travel to Portland from foreign countries, Boston Logan International Airport about 105 miles southwest of Portland will take you to the city easily.
If you want to save money, you can get to Portland by bus. You can take a bus with Concord Coach Lines that goes north to the University of Maine in Orono and goes south to Boston Logan Airport. Megabusthat from Portland Transportation Center is also an ideal line for you. Another option you can consider is Greyhound that will travels primarily on Interstate 95 between Boston South Station and Bangor.
You can also reach Portland by train that will take you about 2.5 hours to get in. There are multiple daily Amtrak services to take you to Portland. Besides, the Downeaster also has seven daily departures from Boston’s North Station, with some trains continuing to Brunswick.
For a more comfortable experience, you can get to Maine’s largest city through Interstate 95 that you can access from the north and south. If you want to experience the more scenic route, you can consider U.S. Highway 1 or access from the west on U.S. Highway 302.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN PORTLAND
Walk around the Old Port
As the cobblestoned downtown area embraced by a historic feel and the ocean air, the Old Port is a must-visit attraction on your trip to Portland. The Old Port is a neighborhood that melds the cool and the quaint filled with boutiques and art galleries, restaurants, and 19th-century brick buildings. Here, go shopping, stroll the working harbor, dine in world-famous restaurants and visit the neighboring Casco Bay islands.
Explore Casco Bay Islands
Do not leave Portland without visiting Casco Bay Islands – a group of islands located off the coast of the city. While it takes some time to explore the six islands, you will the opportunity to enjoy a slower pace of life, explore nature, watch for wildlife, relax on beaches, and admire works of local artists. No matter which island you choose to explore, Casco Bay Islands will definitely satisfy the adventurers as well as those looking for a more leisurely pace.
Head to Cape Elizabeth
If you are looking for rolling hills and beaches, Cape Elizabeth is a nice day trip option when traveling to Portland. Located about 9 miles south of Portland, the town is best known for its lighthouses including the Two Lights lighthouse which is featured in Edward Hopper’s well-known ‘The Lighthouse at Two Lights. Cape Elizabeth is also home to the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park which is also considered one of the most photographed lighthouses in the U.S.
Tour Allagash Brewery
No trip to Portland would be complete without visiting Allagash brewery. With its large crop of local brewers as well as its role in the microbrew movement, Portland is considered one of America’s best beer cities that beer enthusiasts can not miss. Be sure to visit Allagash Brewery which is one of the most famous breweries in Maine. A tour of the brewery will bring visitors the experience of seeing with their own eyes the process of turning out a great product of a beer. You can also taste four beers including the famous Allagash White at the end of the tour.
Visit Portland Museum of Art
As the oldest public art institution in the U.S, the Portland Museum of Art is home to pieces from giants like Andy Warhol and Claude Monet, and significant collections of paintings by Wyeth, Homer, and Edward Hopper. Visiting the museum, you will have the opportunity to admire an extensive collection of American, European, and contemporary works, as well as pieces from Maine artists.
WHERE TO EAT IN PORTLAND
The Honey Paw
Drop on in The Honey Paw to enjoy vibrant New England–influenced Asian dishes like a rare beef salad with smoked oyster mayo, peanuts, and pickled carrots, fried wings with lime, chili, and coconut. You will not also want to miss lobster wontons in a seafood curry with cauliflower and basil or the fry bread with ssamjang butter, smoked lamb khao soi, and mapo tofu.
Công Tử Bột
As a lively Vietnamese pho and noodle shop, Cong Tu Bot will definitely have visitors falling in love with Vietnam’s cuisine. The restaurant offers a hip, low-key atmosphere that matches the casual, creative, and modern Vietnamese dishes. If you are a big fan of Vietnam’s Pho, Cong Tu Bot is a must when visiting Portland.
Eventide Oyster Co.
Treat yourself to a savory seafood meal at Eventide Oyster Co. which is one of favorite restaurants in Portland. Oysters on the half shell served with traditional accouterments, like cocktail sauce and red wine mignonette, or umami-forward granita-like ices in flavors like horseradish and kimchee is worth a try when coming to this restaurant. You can also enjoy tuna tartare with crispy rice cake, nori, and egg yolk or the lobster rolling on an airy steamed Asian bun, with nutty brown butter and a kiss of lemon.
Featuring a high-ceilinged, brick-walled, wood beam–clad warehouse space overlooking the historic Old Port, Fore Street is known for its large open kitchen and live-fire cooking. Here, you can enjoy your meal while watching a team of chefs working with a wood-burning oven or opening dozens of fresh local oysters and reaching into a glass-windowed vegetable humidor to pick locally farmed and foraged fruit, herbs, and vegetables. That will be an unforgettable cuisine experience on your trip to Portland.
Do not miss Terlingua where you can enjoy house-smoked meats and delicious Southwest-Mex-Caribbean dishes. You will not want to miss deviled eggs with house-smoked scallops, green olives, and chile oil; smoked bluefish tostadas; guajillo-glazed smoked pork ribs; brisket burnt ends with coffee-agave barbecue sauce and haddock cakes with spicy aioli.
PLACES TO STAY IN PORTLAND
Portland Harbor Hotel
Located in the Old Port District, Portland Harbor Hotel boasts an old-world charm that mirrors the cobblestoned streets and historic landmarks of the area. Each guest room is warmly and luxuriously designed, and garden view rooms overlook the beautifully landscaped courtyard and its water fountain. If you are looking for a deluxe room, the Portland Harbor Hotel also has a jacuzzi, honeymoon, and executive suites that are perfect for a special occasion.
Morrill Mansion Bed and Breakfast
Situated in the downtown area of Portland, the Morrill Mansion Bed and Breakfast is a restored 1800s redbrick townhouse offering warm and comfortable rooms and suites. If you are seeking accommodation for a sense of staying at home, the Morrill Manion with a friendly host, comfortable beds, and guest living rooms is a perfect choice to spend your holiday.
The Chadwick Bed and Breakfast
Housed in an 1891 Queen Anne-style house, the Chadwick Bed and Breakfast is home to four sophisticated guestrooms, each with its own special charm. In the Chadwick, you can relax any time of day with the garden featuring a cast iron fire pit, a hammock for two, Adirondack chairs, and a bubbling fountain. With its great location, the Chadwick allows you to explore the downtown area of Portland or take trips to nearby areas like Maine’s Lakes and Mountains region of Acadia National Park.
As a trendy B&B, complete with an adjacent carriage house, in the historic district of Portland, Pomegranate Inn offers eight unique guestrooms with colorful furnishings and local art showcased throughout the decor. Here, you will have the opportunity to enjoy breakfast with the array of sweet and savory items, plus fresh fruit and juices, organic teas, and rich-roasted coffee that offers everything you need to fuel a day of exploring Portland
Wolf Cove Inn
If you are looking for a peaceful getaway in a scenic setting, Woft Cove Inn located less than an hour north of Portland is ideal to spend your holiday. Themed around a different area of Maine, each room is designed with decor and memorabilia inspired by places like the Bigelows and Sebago Lake. Be sure to head outside to enjoy the lake views or access the private beach and dock with canoes, kayaks, and a rowboat.