15 Greatest Issues To Do in Portland, Maine

In case you’re craving a coastal escape brimming with historical past, artwork, and lobster, pack your baggage and set your GPS for Portland, Maine. One of the best issues to do in Portland can maintain you busy for days.

Prepare to walk by the cobblestone streets of the Previous Port District, the place you may discover an eclectic combine of retailers and eateries.

Morning walks alongside the Japanese Promenade Path present scenic views of Casco Bay, as does the historic Portland Observatory on a transparent day.

Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine

However wait, there’s extra! From the classic attraction of the Maine Slim Gauge Railroad to the architectural magnificence of the West Finish and Victoria Mansion, Portland is a feast for the eyes.

Artwork lovers will respect the Portland Museum of Artwork, whereas literature buffs can step again in time on the Wadsworth-Longfellow Home.

Foodies, we have you lined, too. Embark on a strolling meals tour to pattern the town’s culinary delights, and do not miss out on a conventional lobster bake. It is Maine, in spite of everything!

And let’s not overlook the lighthouses. Whether or not it is the enduring Portland Head Gentle or the lesser-known Bug Gentle and Spring Level Ledge Lighthouse, these beacons provide picture-perfect backdrops.

So, whether or not you are an adventurer, a historical past nerd, or a meals and artwork lover, Portland, Maine, has one thing for you.

Let’s take a better take a look at all the enjoyable issues to do in Portland, the most important metropolis in Maine.

Downtown Portland

1. Previous Port District and Waterfront

Old Port District
Previous Port District

The Previous Port District in Portland, Maine, is steeped in historical past, providing a glimpse into the town’s storied previous.

Initially a bustling seaport within the nineteenth century, the realm was the financial engine of Portland, facilitating commerce and fishing.

The district’s historic significance is clear in its well-preserved structure, that includes red-brick facades alongside cobblestone streets.

Nevertheless, the Previous Port hasn’t all the time been the fashionable hotspot it’s at this time. It declined in the course of the mid-Twentieth century, with lots of its historic buildings going through demolition.

Fortunately, revitalization efforts within the ’70s breathed new life into the district.

At this time, those self same buildings home clothes boutiques, artwork galleries, and a few of Portland’s best restaurants, together with Central Provisions and Fore Road Restaurant.

Previous wharf

The 2-block pedestrian alleyway often known as Wharf Road is lined with bars, bringing younger individuals to the Previous Port on the weekends to drink and celebration.

Industrial Road kinds the japanese border of the Previous Port District. Throughout the road, the Waterfront is lined with piers and wharves, a few of which boast eating places.

Right here, you’ll be able to depart on picturesque boat excursions or catch the ferry from the Maine State Pier to Casco Bay islands.

The Previous Port and Waterfront districts are a testomony to Portland’s resilience and continuous evolution.

2. Portland Observatory

Portland Observatory
Portland Observatory

In order for you a singular expertise in Portland, Maine, head for the Portland Observatory. This maritime sign tower, in-built 1807, is the final of its type in the USA.

It’s 86 toes tall and affords panoramic views of Portland Harbor and the town skyline. However it’s not simply the views that make this spot particular; it is the historical past.

Initially constructed by Captain Lemuel Moody to function a communication hub for incoming ships, the Observatory performed an important function in Portland’s maritime historical past.

A flag system signaled to retailers within the metropolis, letting them know what items have been arriving.

At this time, the Observatory is a Nationwide Historic Landmark with guided excursions that delve into its fascinating previous.

Whether or not you are a historical past buff or simply in it for the views, visiting the Portland Observatory is without doubt one of the greatest issues to do within the metropolis.

Professional Tip: If potential, time your go to to the Observatory with the opening hours of Belleville, a terrific place to seize contemporary pastries throughout the road.

3. Japanese Promenade Path

Eastern Promenade
Japanese Promenade

The Japanese Promenade is a 68-acre public park designed within the late nineteenth century by the Olmsted Brothers, disciples of Frederick Regulation Olmsted (the genius behind Central Park).

It is a mix of pure magnificence and historic significance. Overlooking Casco Bay, the “Japanese Promenade,” as locals name it, served as a strategic level throughout World Battle II, with remnants of fortifications nonetheless seen.

The Japanese Promenade Path, a part of the East Coast Greenway, affords gorgeous ocean views for biking, jogging, or a stroll.

The Eastern Prom Food Truck Park affords inexpensive eating choices in a central parking zone. And the East Finish Seashore is the right place to calm down in the course of the hotter months.

One other notable component is Fort Allen Park, on the grounds of a former Revolutionary Approach Fort in-built 1775.

The ten-acre park commemorates those that fought for the USA with a number of memorials:

  • USS Portland Memorial
  • USS Maine Memorial Cannon
  • 9/11 Memorial
  • Arctic Memorial

The Japanese Promenade can also be house to the historic Slim Gauge Railroad, the place you’ll be able to hop on for a nostalgic experience alongside the waterfront.

From reside music in the summertime months to winter sledding, the Japanese Promenade is a year-round vacation spot, embodying Portland’s wealthy historical past and love for the good outside.

The Japanese Promenade is simple to pair with a visit to the Portland Observatory. It is a five-block stroll north alongside Congress Road.

4. Maine Slim Gauge Railroad

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad
Maine Slim Gauge Railroad

This railroad is a throwback to the late nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries when narrow-gauge traces have been important to Maine’s transportation community.

Initially, these smaller tracks (simply two toes vast) have been constructed to navigate the state’s rugged terrain, connecting distant communities and industries like logging and mining to bigger cities.

At this time, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum affords a singular expertise that transports you again in time.

Working alongside a 1.5-mile stretch beside Casco Bay, the railroad makes use of precise historic automobiles and locomotives, some courting again to the 1800s.

The museum adjoining to the railroad provides context, showcasing artifacts and sharing tales in regards to the influence of those railroads on Maine’s improvement.

Whereas I did not have time to experience on Maine’s Slim Gauge Railroad, it jogged my memory of once I took a experience on one other, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in India.

5. West Finish

Gothic House
Gothic Home

The West Finish in Portland, Maine, is a neighborhood that exudes wealth and magnificence.

Developed primarily within the late nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, the realm is an architectural showcase from the Queen Anne to Italianate kinds.

As soon as house to Portland’s elite, together with sea captains and enterprise magnates, the West Finish has all the time had a contact of grandeur.

An effective way to get a full appreciation for this a part of Portland is to take the history and architecture walking tour by Maine Day Ventures.

You may be taught way more in regards to the metropolis and buildings within the firm of a educated native information.

At this time, the West Finish stays one in every of Portland’s most fascinating neighborhoods. It is also house to the Western Promenade, a public park providing sundown views.

6. Victoria Mansion

Victoria Mansion
Victoria Mansion

The Victoria Mansion, also called the Morse-Libby Home, is without doubt one of the West Finish’s most notable buildings.

Constructed between 1858 and 1860, this Nationwide Historic Landmark affords a glimpse into the opulent life-style of the interval.

I extremely suggest the guided tour to see the richly-appointed inside, present process a whole room-by-room restoration, its first for the reason that property was constructed.

7. Portland Museum of Artwork

Portland Museum of Art sculpture garden
Sculpture backyard

The Portland Museum of Art (PMA) is positioned within the coronary heart of the Portland Arts District.

The museum is the state’s oldest and largest public artwork establishment. Based in 1882, the PMA boasts a powerful assortment that spans three centuries of American, European, and modern artwork.

The museum’s structure is a murals, mixing the historic McLellan Home and the fashionable Charles Shipman Payson Constructing.

There’s additionally a beautiful sculpture backyard accessible (at no cost) from the sidewalk in the course of the museum’s opening hours.


Inside, you may discover over 18,000 artworks, together with items by iconic artists like Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and Edgar Degas.

The Portland Museum of Artwork additionally hosts rotating exhibitions, so there’s all the time one thing new to see.

8. Wadsworth-Longfellow Home

Wadsworth-Longfellow House
Wadsworth-Longfellow Home

This historic house is the place Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one in every of America’s most celebrated poets, spent his youth.

Constructed in 1785 by his grandfather, Common Peleg Wadsworth, the house is “the oldest standing brick construction on the Portland peninsula.”

Strolling by the house looks like stepping again in time, because of its well-preserved interiors and period-appropriate furnishings.

The home is stuffed with household heirlooms and artifacts, providing an intimate look into the poet’s life and his household.

A tour of the home supplies fascinating insights into Longfellow’s works, lots of which have been impressed by his New England upbringing.

Operated by the Maine Historical Society, the Wadsworth-Longfellow Home is greater than only a museum; it is a piece of American literary historical past.

Whether or not you are a fan of Longfellow’s poetry or love historic houses, this spot deserves a spot in your Portland itinerary.

9. Strolling Meals Tour

Maine Day Ventures tour guide
Tour information

The Old Port Culinary Walking Tour by Maine Day Ventures is a foodie’s dream come true.

Kick off your 3-hour gastronomic journey at Andy’s Previous Port Pub, the place you may sip on a Maine craft beer and munch on a contemporary fish taco.

Sustainability is the secret right here, with seafood sourced instantly from the Gulf of Maine.

Subsequent, head to Luke’s Lobster on Portland Pier. Get pleasure from a cup of New England clam chowder and a refreshing iced tea, all whereas soaking within the waterfront views.

You are steps away from the place they catch their lobsters—discuss contemporary!

Associated: Greatest Issues To Do in Bar Harbor

Lobster roll
Lobster roll at Rigby Yard

The tour does not cease there. Make your strategy to Rigby Yard, an industrial-chic bar, for a Maine Brewing Co.’s Lunch IPA and a tasty lobster roll.

Lastly, fulfill your candy tooth at Dean’s Sweets with hand-dipped chocolate truffles produced from regionally sourced substances.

Guided by entertaining native consultants like Timothy Goldkin, you may feast on scrumptious meals and be taught in regards to the Previous Port’s historical past and tradition.


10. Lobster Bake

Lobster bake
Lobster bake

In case you’re in Portland, Maine, and you have got “eat an entire lobster” in your bucket listing, hop on a Fortunate Catch cruise for a sundown lobster bake on Peaks Island.

Belief me, this isn’t only a meal; it is a full-on Maine expertise you will not overlook. The outside journey begins while you board the St. Croix, a 40-foot Maine-built lobster boat, and sail throughout Casco Bay.

You may cross a number of lighthouses, together with Bug Gentle and Spring Level Ledge Lighthouse, and get a hands-on lesson about lobsters and lobster fishing.

When you arrive at Peaks Island, you may head to Island Lobster Firm, run by an area lobstering household.

Right here, you may be handled to a conventional Maine lobster bake that features not simply the star of the present—lobster—but in addition New England clam chowder, clams, corn on the cob, and potatoes.

And if you happen to’re nervous about dismantling that lobster, don’t be concerned; you may get step-by-step directions.

So, whether or not you are a seafood lover or a lobster beginner, this cruise and lobster bake combo is a must-do.

It is a scrumptious, instructional, and downright enjoyable strategy to immerse your self in Maine’s coastal tradition in the course of the summer season season.

11. Fort Gorges

Fort Gorges
Fort Gorges

In case you’re searching for an journey in Portland, add Fort Gorges to your listing. Located on Hog Island Ledge in Casco Bay, this Civil Battle-era fort is just accessible by boat.

Constructed within the 1860s, the fort was deemed out of date by the point it was accomplished, because of developments in artillery know-how.

When you arrive, you are free to discover the fort’s labyrinthine passageways, darkish chambers, and parapets, all whereas having fun with panoramic views of the bay and Portland’s skyline.

Put on sturdy footwear and produce a flashlight—the fort is essentially unrestored and might be uneven.

Whether or not you kayak there at low tide or take a guided boat tour, visiting Fort Gorges affords a singular perspective on Portland’s maritime historical past.


12. Portland Head Gentle

Portland Head Light
Portland Head Gentle

No journey to Maine can be full with no go to to the enduring Portland Head Light, which dates again to 1791.

Located in Fort Williams Park, this historic lighthouse is the oldest in Maine and probably the most photographed in the USA.

The lighthouse nonetheless capabilities at this time, guiding ships safely by the doorway of Portland Harbor. However it’s not simply the lighthouse that pulls guests; the encompassing park affords actions, too.

Discover the cliffside strolling trails for views of the Atlantic Ocean, try the remnants of Fort Williams, or have a picnic whereas watching the sailboats.

The on-site museum, positioned within the former Keeper’s Quarters, supplies fascinating insights into the lighthouse’s historical past and the lives of its keepers.

13. Cape Elizabeth Gentle East Tower

Cape Elizabeth Light East Tower
Cape Elizabeth Gentle East Tower

A brief drive south of Portland Head Gentle is the Cape Elizabeth Light East Tower, one other must-see lighthouse.

Also referred to as Two Lights, this lighthouse is one in every of a pair, although solely the East Tower is lively at this time.

Perched on dramatic cliffs, the lighthouse supplies an ideal backdrop for images.

Whereas the tower isn’t open to the general public, you’ll be able to discover the encompassing space, which affords panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Do not forget to go to the close by Two Lights State Park for mountain climbing or a seaside picnic. At 41 acres, it is a small, serene spot encapsulating Maine’s coastal enchantment.

14. Bug Gentle

Bug Light
Bug Gentle

For a lighthouse expertise that is a bit off the crushed path, try Bug Light in South Portland.

Formally often known as the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, this charming construction is petite however packs a punch when it comes to historical past and sweetness.

In-built 1875, its design was impressed by an historic Greek monument, giving it a singular, ornate look.

The park surrounding Bug Gentle is ideal for picnics, kite flying, or just soaking within the views of Portland Harbor and the town skyline. It is also a preferred spot for fishing and boating.

15. Spring Level Ledge Lighthouse

Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse (photo: Linda Gillotti)
Spring Level Ledge Lighthouse (photograph: Linda Gillotti)

This caisson-style lighthouse in South Portland has guided vessels since 1897.

Considered one of Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse’s distinctive options is the 900-foot granite breakwater that connects it to the mainland, providing guests a uncommon probability to stroll proper as much as a lighthouse.

The journey alongside the breakwater is an journey, offering terrific views of Casco Bay and the Portland Harbor.


Portland, Maine, is a treasure trove of experiences, mixing maritime historical past, culinary innovation, and pure magnificence right into a vacation spot that captivates each traveler.

From the cobblestone attraction of the Previous Port District to the picturesque lighthouses that dot its shoreline, Portland affords a plethora of enjoyable issues to see and do.

Whether or not you are a foodie wanting to dive into a conventional lobster bake, a historical past buff fascinated by forts and observatories, or an artwork lover drawn to the town’s galleries and museums, you may discover one thing to like on this coastal group.


This story relies on my experiences throughout two journeys to Portland, Maine. The primary go to was as a media attendee of the ATTA AdventureELEVATE North America convention on the Holiday Inn Portland by the Bay. Lodging at Aloft Portland was supplied in collaboration with Visit Portland throughout my second go to. I acquired complimentary meals and structure excursions courtesy of Maine Day Ventures.

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