Discover the best things to do in Portland, Maine

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Portland, Maine, is a charming coastal city known for its picturesque landscapes, rich maritime heritage and vibrant arts and culinary scenes. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a foodie or a history buff, Portland has something to offer everyone. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the best things to do in Portland, from exploring its historic Old Port district to savoring the delicious seafood that the city is famous for. 

So, whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a more extended visit, prepare to immerse yourself in the diverse and captivating experiences that Portland has to offer.

A lighthouse sits on a rocky shore at sunset.
Portland Head Light. Photo Credit: Yayimages.

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Portland Head Light

The Portland Head Light is an iconic lighthouse located in Cape Elizabeth, just a short drive from downtown Portland. The lighthouse was commissioned by President George Washington in 1787 and was completed in 1791. In addition to its historical significance, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of the rugged Maine coastline and the Atlantic Ocean. The surrounding Fort Williams Park provides ample opportunities for picnics, scenic walks and enjoying the coastal beauty.

“We love to head to Fort Williams Park, where the Portland Head Light is, and eat our way through the food trucks there. The Bite Into Maine Food Truck is away from the madding crowds, so we’ll end our visit there with a lobster roll and local soda, and enjoy the view of the nearby lighthouse and ocean. We love visiting Maine lighthouses.”  

— Leah Ingram, Southern Maine on the Cheap

Old Port 

The Old Port is a historic and vibrant district located in the heart of Portland, Maine. It’s one of the city’s most popular and picturesque areas, known for its cobblestone streets, charming brick buildings, boutique shops, excellent dining options and lively atmosphere.

As the sun sets, the Old Port comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. You’ll find a variety of bars, pubs and clubs where you can enjoy live music, craft cocktails and local beers. It’s a popular destination for both locals and visitors looking to have a good time.

Harbor cruise

A harbor cruise in Portland, Maine, is a fantastic way to experience the city’s coastal beauty, explore its islands and learn about its maritime history. Enjoy breathtaking scenic views of the coastline, Casco Bay and the surrounding islands. Don’t forget your healthy snacks for this trip.

The Maine coast is known for its rugged beauty, and you’ll get to see it from a unique perspective on the water. Casco Bay is home to several picturesque lighthouses. Portland Head Light, Spring Point Ledge Light and Ram Island Ledge Light are among the notable ones you might see during your cruise.

Food scene

Portland, Maine, boasts a thriving food scene renowned for its fresh seafood, especially lobster rolls, and a strong focus on farm-to-table dining. The city’s coastal location ensures a steady supply of high-quality seafood, which is featured in various dishes like clam chowder and seafood platters. Craft beer and distilleries are also prominent in Portland, offering an impressive selection of locally brewed beers and craft spirits.

Lobster rolls on a wooden cutting board.
Lobster Roll from Eventide. Photo Credit: Feast + West.

“When in Portland, a lobster roll every day is a must for me. My favorites are the ones at Eventide, which is great for a night out, and High Roller, a more casual joint. There’s not much better than a fresh, luscious lobster roll straight from the source. For dessert, don’t forget to try a whoopie pie — they’re a Maine delicacy.”

— Susannah Brinkley Henry, Feast + West

Art galleries

Portland has a thriving arts scene. Visit galleries like the Portland Museum of Art or the Portland Art Gallery.

Portland observatory

The Portland Observatory is a historic maritime signal tower that was constructed in 1807 atop Munjoy Hill. The observatory has been meticulously restored and preserved as a museum, offering guided tours that delve into its maritime history and providing visitors with the opportunity to ascend to the top for breathtaking vistas of the harbor and surrounding areas. 

Red lighthouse.
Old Portland Observatory. Photo Credit: Yayimages.

Casco Bay Islands

Casco Bay Islands are located just off the coast of Portland. Peaks Island, the largest and most accessible, boasts scenic beaches and a vibrant artist community. Great Diamond Island features historic Fort McKinley and Victorian-era homes, while Long Island offers sandy shores and hiking trails. Chebeague Island entices travel entusiasts with its charming village and historic inns. 

Bailey Island is famous for its Cribstone Bridge and coastal beauty. Little Diamond Island provides a quiet escape, and House Island showcases military history. Cliff Island offers rustic serenity as the smallest year-round island. Ferries make these unique destinations easily reachable, providing opportunities for relaxation, exploration and outdoor adventures, all while immersing visitors in the natural beauty and history of the region.

International Cryptozoology Museum

The International Cryptozoology Museum is a unique and intriguing museum that focuses on cryptozoology. Cryptozoology is the study of hidden or undiscovered animals, often focusing on creatures that exist in folklore, myth or have limited scientific evidence supporting their existence. The museum is dedicated to the exploration and documentation of these mysterious and elusive creatures.

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum is a historical attraction dedicated to narrow gauge railroading’s history in the state. It offers scenic train rides along the Casco Bay waterfront. Relax in one of the beautiful historic train cars while you take in the amazing scenery. On-board narration provides history about the sights along the route, as well as Maine railroading history.

These activities showcase the diverse attractions and experiences that Portland, Maine, has to offer, from its historic sites to its natural beauty and vibrant food scene. Portland has many campgrounds nearby, which makes this a great travel spot for those who live the van life or RV lifestyle

Lara is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Personal Trainer. She is also a photographer and recipe developer and has a food and travel blog LaraClevenger.com. She shares easy recipes that are mostly low-carb, along with some bowling and travel adventures. Whether you’re cooking with an air fryer, Blackstone or Instant Pot, she has you covered with healthy recipes.

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