Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Kelly
Planning a trip to Portland, Maine? Maine is the northernmost New England state and it’s home to the coastal city of Portland. Portland has small-town charm while simultaneously being the state’s most populous city. Portland was even ranked as one of the Top 10 places to live in the United States, so it’s no wonder that it’s also a popular vacation destination as well!
We visited Portland as part of our road trip through New England. We especially enjoyed the coastal views, colonial history, and lobster! In this guide, we’re sharing our picks for the best things to do in Portland, Maine. We also share the best restaurants, hotels, and more!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.
Best Things to Do in Portland Maine
1. Take a Tour of Portland
One of the best ways to get the lay of the land is to book a tour with a local. With this tour of Portland, you’ll get to see the prominent sights in the city as well as three lighthouses. The tour is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
If you’re looking to see lots of lighthouses, consider booking a lighthouse tour. This 2-hour land tour will take you to three separate lighthouses near Portland. You can also book a private lobster boat charter to see the lighthouses from the water.
You can also take this 2-hour walking tour of Portland’s history. You’ll get to see historic homes, the Eastern Cemetery, and the Abyssinian Church.
2. Portland Head Light
The Portland Head Light is one of the most iconic spots to visit in the city of Portland, Maine. It’s the most photographed lighthouse in the country! This picturesque lighthouse was first lit in 1791. The tower has been renovated several times over the years. Today, it is 80-feet tall. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. There is a museum and a gift shop at the lighthouse. The lighthouse is also adjacent to Fort Williams Park.
3. Take a Portland Food Tour
Our favorite thing to do while traveling is eat! We think that one of the best ways to get to know a city is by exploring its restaurants. When you take a food tour, you’ll be able to try multiple places in the same day. Here’s a few food tours in Portland to consider:
- Donut Walking Tour: Get access to the donut flavors that often sell out!
- Seafood Lovers Tour: Maine is known for its seafood, so must try a lobster roll and some chowder!
- Old Port Walking Tour: See 6 local eateries in this vibrant neighborhood!
4. International Cryptozoology Museum
32 Resurgam Pl, Portland, ME 04102
The International Cryptozoology Museum is the place to go to learn about hidden or unknown animals. It’s actually the only cryptozoology in the world! At the museum, you’ll learn all about the Abominable Snowmen, Bigfoot, Lochness Monster, Yowie, Orang Pendek, Mermaids, and more.
5. Fort Preble
Bunker Lane, South Portland, ME 04106
Fort Preble was constructed in 1808 and is located right on the waterfront. In the mid 1950s, it was sold to the State of Maine and became part of the Southern Maine Community College campus. When you visit the fort, there is the Portland Harbor Museum inside. An adult ticket costs $4, and the hours of operation change by season. The fort was active during the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War I and II. From Fort Preble, you can also see Fort Gorges across the water.
6. Take a Sailing Tour
Board a traditional wind-jammer as you see views of Maine from the coast! Sail through Casco Bay and enjoy the sights.
7. Eastern Promenade
Portland’s largest developed park is the Eastern Promenade. The park was designed in 1905 by the same firm that created Central Park in New York. The park is 68 acres and sits on the slope of Munjoy Hill. From the park, you have unobstructed views of Casco Bay and Portland Harbor. If you’re looking for a nice place to walk, the Eastern Promenade Trail is two miles long and hugs the coast. The park also has play fields, a playground, and lots of other outdoor recreational opportunities.
8. Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad
49 Thames St, Portland, ME 04101
Ride the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad along the coast of Maine! Trains depart every Wednesday through Sunday. You can take a scenic ride along a two-foot gauge railway. There’s options to ride in the passenger car, an open-air car (weather dependent), and first-class. The train ride is 3 miles roundtrip along the Eastern Promenade. The duration is about 35 minutes. This is a great activity for families!
9. Portland Museum of Art
7 Congress Sq, Portland, ME 04101
The Portland Museum of Art has over 18,000 pieces of art. You can works by Andy Warhol and Claude Monet. The museum also has a sculpture park that is closed at the time of this writing due to city construction. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday. There’s free admission on Fridays if you arrive between 4 and 8pm. An adult ticket costs $18.
10. Portland Observatory
138 Congress St, Portland, ME 04101
The Portland Observatory was built in 1807 and served as a maritime signal tower. The 86-foot-tall tower sits on Munjoy Hill. It was restored in 2000 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s the only tower of its kind that still exists in the United States.
11. Old Port District
The Old Port District has cobblestone streets and historic brick buildings. The neighborhood is filled with restaurants, gift shops, and bars. You could easily spend an afternoon wandering through this neighborhood.
12. Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse
2 Fort Rd, South Portland, ME 04106
The Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is a small lighthouse located in Portland. It was built in 1897 and you can actually walk to it via the breakwater. The lighthouse is located right next to Fort Preble.
13. Tate House Museum
1267 Westbrook St, Portland, ME 04102
The Tate House was constructed in 1755. The home was built before the Revolutionary War! The house’s architecture is Georgian with a unique gambrel (indented) roof. When you visit the house, you’ll get a chance to see what life was like in Maine in the 18th century. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday. An adult ticket costs $16.
14. Bug Light Park
But Light Park is another beautiful park located right on Maine’s coast. One of the highlights of the park is a small lighthouse (Portland Breakwater Light) that was built in 1875. The lighthouse is only 26-feet-tall, but it is truly a beautiful lighthouse due to its 6 Corinthian columns. If you visit the park at sunrise, you’ll get the chance to see the lighthouse with colorful skies in the background. Also at the park is the Liberty Ship Memorial. The memorial honors the individuals that worked at the South Portland Shipyards, where numerous sailing vessels were constructed over the years.
15. Victoria Mansion (Morse-Libby House)
109 Danforth St, Portland, ME 04101
The Victoria Mansion is another historic home in Portland that is open seasonally for tours. (Although the mansion does have some special Victorian Christmas events in the winter!) The home is one of the best preserved historic homes from the 19th century in the United States. The home was completed in 1860 and is in the Italian Villa style. What’s special about this home is that over 90% of the interior is original. When you visit, you’ll really get a sense of what it looked like to occupy the home during the 19th century. Tickets can be purchased online through their website.
16. Wadsworth-Longfellow House
489 Congress St, Portland, ME 04101
The Wadsworth-Longfellow House was completed in 1786. It was occupied by the famous literary icon Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during his life. The house is another historic home in Portland that visitors can tour. When you walk through the house, nearly all of the household items were personally owned by the Wadsworth and Longfellow families.
“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
17. Harbor Fish Market
9 Custom House Wharf, Portland, ME 04101
While you’re in Maine, you absolutely have to try some its world-famous seafood. One of the best places to see the latest catch is the Harbor Fish Market. You’ll find lots of lobster, clams, and fish.
18. Umbrella Cover Museum
62 Island Ave, Portland, ME 04108
One of Portland’s quirkiest destinations it the Umbrella Cover Museum. The museum was created in 1996 and contains lots of umbrella covers that were found, lost, donated, or discarded over the years. The museum is located on Peaks Island.
19. Peaks Island
Peaks Island is located right across the water from the Old Port District in Portland. You can take a 17-minute ferry ride from Portland to get to Peaks Island. The island is a popular summer destination. Most people take a golf-cart tour around the island.
20. Fort Gorges
Construction for Fort Gorges was completed in 1868 and was constructed entirely from local granite. The fort is located in the harbor and was meant to protect the coastline. However, once construction was completed, the fort was obsolete due to advances in artillery. Today, the city of Portland owns the fort. There are some paddle tours of the fort.
21. Cleve Tucker Memorial
This memorial honors the lives of George Cleve and Richard Tucker. Their boat landed in the area in 1633 and they helped to found the city of Portland. The Cleve Tucker Memorial was erected in 1883 and it was the first public monument in the city. The four sides of the monument represent the four different names that the Portland Neck has been known by: Machigonne, Casco, Falmouth, and Portland.
22. Portland Farmers Market
The Portland Farmers Market contains lots of booths featuring fresh produce, delicious food, and artisan crafts. If you get a chance, going to a farmers market is one of the best ways to get to know a city’s food. The Portland Farmers Market is open seasonally on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
23. Portland Maine Downtown
When visiting Portland, make sure you schedule time to simply walk around and explore the downtown area. (Check out a map of Downtown Portland.) Portland’s downtown area consists of four separate districts: Old Port District, Arts District, Government District, and the Waterfront District.
The Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine
Looking for a bite to eat? Here’s our recommendations for restaurants in Portland:
Portland Lobster Company | $$
180 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101
When we visited the Portland Lobster Company, we went all in! We tried a fresh Maine lobster and bowl of chowder, and wow! If you are only in Portland for a short while, we definitely recommend that you hit up Portland Lobster Company. We ate our meal at a counter bar facing the marina, and it was coastal Maine perfection. It was the perfect way to eat lobster with a view!
Duckfat | $$
43 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101
Duckfat is the place to go for a cone full of crispy duck-fat fried Belgian-styled frites (french fries). Their fries are fried twice in Duckfat, so you know they are going to be crispy and delicious! There are two Duckfat locations: the Original and a Frites Shack. Be sure to check their website for hours of operation and locations.
Fore Street Restaurant | $$$$
288 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101
Looking for a fine dining experience? Check out Fore Street Restaurant. Whether you’re looking for oysters, mussels, or steak, you’ll be sure to enjoy their menu.
Hot Suppa | $$
703 Congress St, Portland, ME 04102
Hot Suppa is open for breakfast and lunch. At the time of this writing, their breakfast menu consists of things like barbecue pulled pork eggs benedict, chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits.
Street & Co. | $$$
33 Wharf St, Portland, ME 04101
Street & Co. serves Mediterranean-style dishes with a special emphasis on seafood. At the time of this writing, some of their dishes include mussels marinara with linguine, pan roasted cod, and lobster diavolo.
Crispy Gai | $$
90 Exchange St, Portland, ME 04101
We love a good fried chicken place! Crispy Gai is known for their fried chicken, fried chicken sandwiches, and chicken wings.
The Holy Donut | $$
194 Park Ave, Portland, ME 04102
The Holy Donut sells gourmet potato donuts. These donuts are unique because they include riced potato. Be sure to order a box while you’re in Portland!
Bite Into Maine | $$
Allagash Brewing Co, 50 Industrial Way, Portland, ME 04103
You can find the Bite Into Maine food truck outside of Allagash Brewing Company. This is the place to go for lobster rolls! Their menu contains all different types of lobster rolls. We are especially fond of Connecticut-style lobster rolls, which are prepared hot with warm butter.
Eventide Oyster Company | $$$
6 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101
The Eventide Oyster Company is one of the best seafood restaurants in Portland. They are especially known for their oysters on the half shell. They have over a dozen different kinds of oysters on their menu. We also hear they have a delicious brown butter lobster roll that we would love to try one day!
The Standard Baking Co. | $$
75 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101
The Standard Baking Company is located in the Old Port district. They sell handmade breads, rolls, pastries, and more. It’s a good idea to pick up a few things here for a breakfast on the go the next morning.
Portland Maine Breweries
While you’re in Portland, you should definitely check out a brewery! Portland is known for its many craft breweries. Below we’ve listed a few to check out.
Allagash Brewing Company
50 Industrial Way, Portland, ME 04103
The Allagash Brewing Company is especially known for its Allagash White (a Belgian-style wheat beer).This Belgian-style brewery has guided tours, a taproom, and a gift shop. This craft brewery has an outdoor beer garden and there’s often a food truck with lobster rolls available. Be sure to check out their website for current hours of operation and food options!
Belleflower Brewing Company
66 Cove St, Portland, ME 04101
Belleflower Brewing Company is one of Portland’s craft breweries. They are dog-friendly and child-friendly, so anyone is welcome to sit down and stay awhile.
Austin Street Brewery
115 Fox Street, Portland, ME 04101
Another popular brewery is Austin Street Brewery. With beers such as the BA Snowblower and the Industrial Park Ale, you can’t go wrong!
Batson River Brewing & Distillery
82 Hanover St, Portland, ME 04101
What’s better than a brewery? A brewery and a distillery! Enjoy craft cocktails and a cold brew at Batson River Brewing & Distillery. The brewery has an industrial/rustic decor, with a large stone fireplace perfect for a chilly evening.
About Portland, Maine
Portland is home to lighthouses, beaches, and of course… lobster! The downtown area of Portland, Maine, contains lots of craft breweries and trendy restaurants. (Fun fact: Portland actually has the most microbreweries per capita in the country!) Portland is a place where there are plenty of outdoor adventures at your fingertips, as well as a lot of artistic charm in the city.
Portland is home to about 66,000 residents (2020 census). The city contains the closest transatlantic port to Europe. Portland was destroyed by fires twice in its early history, so the city flag contains a phoenix. Underneath the phoenix is the word “Resurgam”, which means “I arise.”
Also fun fact: Author Stephen King was born in Portland!
How to Get to Portland, Maine
The city of Portland is located on the southern coast of the state of Maine. Portland overlooks Casco Bay.
If you’re flying to Portland, you’ll want to book airfare to Portland International Jetport (PWM).
You can also take the train to Portland. The Downeaster Amtrak route has a stop at Portland. The full line goes from Brunswick, Maine (north of Portland) to Boston, Massachusetts (south of Portland).
If you’re driving to Portland, the city is located conveniently off of I-95. It’s actually only a two-hour drive from Boston, which makes it an easy weekend getaway for Bostonians. Portland is about a three-hour drive from Acadia National Park.
Portland Maine Car Rental
If you’re flying into Portland, we definitely recommend that you rent a car. Many of the best things to see in Maine are only accessible by car. These include trailheads, parks, and beaches.
Activities Near Portland, Maine
There are so many things to do while you’re visiting Marine. Here’s a few places you might want to consider adding to your itinerary!
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is easily one of the best national parks in the United States. With sweeping coastal views, thrilling hikes, and waves constantly crashing across the rocks, the park packs a lot of New England charm. Be sure to see our list of things to do in Acadia National Park. Some of our favorite places to visit at Acadia National Park are Sand Beach and the Beehive Hike.
York’s Wild Kingdom
York’s Wild Kingdom is located about an hour south of Portland. The zoo is open seasonally and contains zoo animals, a butterfly kingdom, and an amusement park. It’s a great place to take the kids if you’re on a family vacation in Maine. Their zoo animals include lions, kangaroos, zebras, monkeys, camels, and more. Their amusement park contains a miniature golf course, a merry-go-round, a train, and more.
Old Orchard Beach Pier
The Old Orchard Beach Pier is located about a 30 minutes’ drive south of Portland. The pier extends 500 feet into the ocean and contains restaurants, bars, and shops on it. The pier first opened in 1898, so it’s definitely a place where you can catch a glimpse of Maine’s coastal history.
Right next to the Old Orchard Beach Pier is Palace Playland, which is the only beachfront amusement park in New England. Palace Playland contains an arcade, food vendors, and rides. Some of the rides include a carousel, frog hopper, tea cups, a pirate ship, and a roller coaster.
Crescent Beach State Park
Crescent Beach State Park is located about 8 miles south of Portland. The park has excellent views of Cape Elizabeth. The crescent-shaped beach is approximately one mile long. This is an extremely popular beach during the summer, as it’s ideal for swimming, sun bathing, and boating.
Maine Wildlife Park
The Maine Wildlife Park is located about a 30 minutes’ drive north of Portland. The wildlife park contains many of Maine’s wild animals, including moose, black bears, and cougars.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens are located about a 1.5 hour drive north of Portland. At the time of this writing, advanced tickets are required and an adult ticket costs $22. The regular season is from May 1 through October 23, 2022. Some of the gardens include the following: Native Butterfly and Moth House, Dahlia Garden, Arbor Garden, Giles Rhododendron and Perennial Garden, Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden, Vayo Meditation Garden, and the Fairy House Village
Maine produces the vast majority of blueberries for sale in the United States. Blueberry season typically lasts from late July to early September. There are also several blueberry festivals in Maine, including the Wilton Blueberry Festival and the Machias Blueberry Festival. You can also visit blueberry farms and pick your own!
Len Libby Candies
Have you ever wanted to see a life-size chocolate moose? Head over to Len Libby Candies! Their candy shop is filled with chocolates, caramels, and confections.
Best Hotels in Portland, Maine
As a popular tourist destination, there are plenty of great accommodations in Portland, Maine! Here are a few to consider:
- The Press Hotel, Autograph Collection: Each room at The Press Hotel is styled to look like a writer’s office from the 1920s. This upscale hotel is located in the Old Port District. This is a hotel I would definitely want to experience!
- Blind Tiger: Another trendy hotel is the Blind Tiger. The rooms look like they are straight from a magazine! The hotel is located in the West End neighborhood of Portland.
- Best Bower: The Best Bower hotel is actually a renovated schoolhouse. The hotel has six rooms that share access to a beautiful courtyard.
- Portland Harbor Hotel: This hotel has been recently renovated. The rooms have a nautical theme, which is perfect for a trip to coastal Maine.
What to Pack for a Trip to Portland
Here are a few things that we recommend that you pack with you for your trip:
- Selfie stick and tripod: You’ll be able to take great photos of yourself and/or your whole family with the most stunning backdrops.
- Power bank: While you’re out on the trails or on the coast, make sure that your phone doesn’t run out of battery. We always travel with one or even two power banks fully-charged… just-in-case!
- New England guide book: As you drive through the numerous historic villages and towns, it can be fun to read about all the local attractions.
- Waterproof hiking boots: You’ll want to explore the forest trails, and with a pair of waterproof hiking boots you won’t have to worry about mud. I’ve been using the Columbia brand for years and have loved my pair.
Weather for Portland Maine
As a northern state, Maine’s summers are typically fairly comfortable while the winters can be pretty harsh. As you can see from our list of things to do in Portland, many things are available seasonally during the warmer months. For that reason, we recommend that you plan your visit anywhere from late spring through the fall. (Unless you want to engage in winter activities specifically!)
Portland, Maine, receives approximately 61 inches of annual snowfall each year and 49 inches of rainfall. The summer high temperature is typically around 79 degrees in July, and the winter low temperature is about 11 degrees in January.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Portland Maine known for?
Portland is Maine’s most populous city. Although it has only 66,000 residents, the city sees approximately 2 million visitors during the warmer months. Portland is Maine’s center for finances, tourism, and agriculture. Portland is known for its coastal views, lobster dishes, and historic downtown.
Is Portland Maine worth seeing?
Portland Maine is absolutely worth seeing. There’s something for everyone: outdoor adventures, coastal views, trendy restaurants, historical homes, craft breweries, and lots of lobster!
When is the best time to visit Portland Maine?
The best time to visit Portland, Maine, is during the summer months or the early fall. The summer months are warm and comfortable, so it’s the perfect time to explore Maine’s coast. During the early fall, you’ll also see the leaves change color… which is truly spectacular!
Summary: Our Experience in Portland, Maine
We stopped in Portland on our road trip up through New England to Quebec. For me, the highlight of our day in Portland was having fresh lobster on the waterfront. I also loved exploring the downtown area and looking through the shops. After visiting Portland, we really enjoyed seeing Acadia National Park. We even saw a mama moose and baby moose on our drive north to Quebec!
Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please look up such information directly from each vendor or institution for the most current information.