15 Best Things to Do in Portland (Maine)

Written by Trishia Bourgoin
Updated on
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I have marveled the most populous city in the state of Maine, Portland, with a population of over 67,000 people. The city’s metropolitan area is even more significant, boasting 500,000 residents, which makes up one-third of the entire state’s population. Portland serves as a vital economic hub, primarily centered around services and tourism.

Being a wanderer of Portland, I feel fortunate to have access to a plethora of fascinating sights and engaging activities. The city offers an extensive range of attractions, ensuring that there’s something for everyone. From vibrant bars and restaurants to captivating museums, thrilling outdoor activities, serene parks, lively concerts and shows, and captivating theaters, Portland has it all.

In this blog, I’ll be sharing the 15 best things to do in this vibrant city. Let’s dive right in!

1. The Old Port

Old Port District, Portland, MaineSource: jejim / shutterstock
Old Port District, Portland, Maine

I had the opportunity to explore Portland, a city that holds great significance as a bustling port for both transportation and fishing. In fact, it proudly stands as the largest foreign inbound transit tonnage port in the entire country. While the industrial aspect might not captivate tourists, there’s a particular area that catches everyone’s attention—the Old Port.

The Old Port is a district within Portland renowned for its charming streets, historic buildings, and picturesque fishing piers. During the day, you can leisurely wander around, immersing yourself in the sights of quaint streets, bustling boats, and the expansive ocean. However, the excitement doesn’t end there; the Old Port truly comes alive at night.

This vibrant district is famous for its diverse array of shops, bars, restaurants, and clubs, making it a sought-after destination for both tourists and locals seeking a lively nightlife experience.

2. The Portland Museum of Art

Portland Museum of Art, MaineSource: Wangkun Jia / shutterstock
Portland Museum Of Art

While uncovering the wonders of the beautiful city of Portland, I have had the pleasure of visiting the Portland Museum of Art, and I must say, it truly stands as one of the finest regional museums in the entire country. Boasting remarkable collections and hosting renowned exhibitions, this museum has captivated the hearts of many art enthusiasts.

What makes the Portland Museum of Art so special is its extensive range of artwork from both American and European artists. From ancient masterpieces to contemporary creations, the museum houses a diverse selection that showcases the evolution of art throughout history.

Upon entering, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of artistic wonders. The museum not only offers the opportunity to admire stunning paintings and sculptures but also provides various activities and events for all ages. Whether you prefer guided tours, engaging family activities, thought-provoking films, enlightening talks, or special events, the Portland Museum of Art has it all.

I must warn you, though, that time can easily slip away while exploring the museum. With its captivating displays and thought-provoking exhibits, it’s easy to lose track of time. You could easily spend a few hours here, completely engrossed in the beauty and inspiration that surrounds you.

3. The Allagash Brewery

Allagash WhiteSource: Leonard Zhukovsky / shutterstock
Allagash White

As I ventured through Portland, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore the renowned Allagash White brewery. Let me tell you, this place is not only the pinnacle of breweries in the city but also stands as one of the world’s finest when it comes to Belgian-inspired beer. Among their impressive lineup, the Allagash White beer reigns supreme, capturing the hearts of beer enthusiasts far and wide. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s their only claim to fame. The brewery’s selection goes beyond their iconic white beer, offering a captivating assortment of brews that are bound to pique your interest.

To truly appreciate the craftsmanship behind their beers, I highly recommend starting with a brewery tour. It’s an enlightening experience that provides valuable insights into the beer-making process, allowing you to witness the artistry and dedication that goes into each brew. And, of course, the tour wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity to savor some of their exceptional creations.

If you’re a craft beer enthusiast like myself, you’ll be in beer heaven at Allagash White. The quality and depth of flavors they offer are truly remarkable, making it a must-visit destination for beer connoisseurs. However, even if you’re not particularly well-versed in craft beer, fear not! Allagash White warmly welcomes all visitors, creating an inviting atmosphere where you can enjoy a refreshing beer while engaging in friendly conversations.

4. The Peaks Island

Peaks IslandSource: Jo Ann Snover / shutterstock
Peaks Island

While on my fun journey, I also had the opportunity to visit Peaks Island, and taking the ferry from Casco Bay was well worth it. This charming little island is a hidden gem that offers a delightful escape from the mainland. From stunning coastlines to picturesque beaches and captivating homes, there’s so much to admire in this idyllic setting.

One of the best ways to explore Peaks Island is by taking a leisurely stroll. As you wander through the streets, you’ll come across an array of unique shops that add to the island’s charm. From boutique stores to quaint galleries, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

If walking isn’t your preferred mode of transportation or you want to cover more ground in less time, renting a golf cart is a fantastic option. Within approximately 45 minutes, you can effortlessly traverse the entire island, taking in the breathtaking sights along the way. Feel free to set your own pace, taking breaks for a peaceful picnic or stopping to capture photos whenever you come across something intriguing.

5. The Eastern Promenade

Eastern Promenade, Portland, MaineSource: GraciePizzo / shutterstock
Eastern Promenade

When it comes to enjoying stunning ocean views and picturesque landscapes, you don’t necessarily have to hop on a ferry to an island. Portland offers numerous breathtaking locations right within the city, and one such place that I highly recommend is the Eastern Promenade.

This remarkable destination provides a panoramic view that encompasses the cityscape, lush forests, the vast ocean, remnants of old railway tracks, the bustling port, and even sightings of fascinating wildlife. The Eastern Promenade truly offers a multifaceted experience where you can immerse yourself in the beauty of nature while also witnessing the rich history and vibrant atmosphere of Portland.

If the weather permits, I encourage you to plan a leisurely picnic along the Eastern Promenade. You’ll find plenty of designated areas where you can lay out a blanket, savor delicious food, and revel in the scenic surroundings. Families with children will appreciate the presence of playgrounds, ensuring that the little ones can have a delightful time as well. Moreover, if you have a furry friend accompanying you, there are specific areas where you can let them roam and play freely.

6. The Casco Bay Lines & The Mail Boat Tour

Casco Bay LinesSource: Keith Michael Taylor / shutterstock
Casco Bay Lines

During my visit to Portland, I had the pleasure of embarking on the Mail Boat tour with Casco Bay Lines, and it was truly a remarkable experience. Not only did it allow me to explore the stunning beauty of Portland and its surrounding islands, but it also provided a unique opportunity to connect with the local community and gain insights into their way of life.

The Mail Boat tour revealed how integral the ferry system is to the daily lives of the locals, with many relying on it for their daily commute. Despite the captain’s busy schedule of transporting people back home or delivering goods and products, they graciously took the time to share fascinating tidbits about each stop along the way.

The boat itself was well-maintained, creating a pleasant and comfortable atmosphere throughout the journey. The staff onboard were not only friendly but also displayed a high level of professionalism. They were more than happy to answer any questions I had, ensuring that my curiosity was satisfied and enriching my overall experience.

In terms of affordability and enjoyment, the Mail Boat tour is hard to beat. It offers a fun-filled adventure that allows you to witness the breathtaking beauty of Casco Bay and its surrounding areas, all at a reasonable cost.

7. The Historic House Museum – Victoria Mansion

Victoria Mansion, Portland, MaineSource: Felix Lipov / shutterstock
Victoria Mansion, Portland, Maine

As someone who have always been fascinated with old buildings and vintage treasures, I couldn’t resist visiting the Victoria Mansion, and I can confidently say it’s an absolute must-see. Although not sprawling in size, this architectural gem offers a plethora of stunning rooms that will leave you in awe.

Dating back to the pre-Civil War era in the US (1858), the Victoria Mansion boasts a captivating exterior design that immediately catches the eye. However, it’s the meticulously preserved original interiors, decorations, and artifacts that truly transport you back in time. These exquisite items were once considered the epitome of luxury during their era, and witnessing their beauty firsthand is a remarkable experience.

What further enhances the visit is the presence of friendly and knowledgeable guides who share fascinating insights into the mansion’s history. They possess a wealth of information about the place, allowing you to delve deeper into the stories and significance behind each room and artifact.

8. The Portland Observatory

Portland ObservatorySource: travelview / shutterstock
Portland Observatory

In the 1800s, the Portland Observatory served as a crucial monitoring point for nearby ships, with its reach extending up to an impressive distance of 30 miles. Today, it has transformed into a beloved tourist attraction, offering a glimpse into the past and a chance to appreciate the remarkable views it provides.

Stepping foot into the observatory is an awe-inspiring experience. Not only can you explore the museum and delve into the fascinating history behind this architectural gem, but you can also ascend to the top and be treated to an extraordinary bird’s eye view of the entire area. The panoramic vistas from the observatory are nothing short of breathtaking, allowing you to fully appreciate the beauty of Portland, the mesmerizing ocean, and the enchanting islands that dot the landscape.

What makes the Portland Observatory even more appealing is the fact that admission is free, making it accessible to all. You can take your time immersing yourself in the exhibits, learning about the significance of this historic structure, and then ascend to the top to witness the unparalleled views that await.

9. The Hadlock Field

Hadlock FieldSource: Eric Broder Van Dyke / shutterstock
Hadlock Field

I highly recommend making a stop at Hadlock Field to catch a game if you find yourself in Portland. While the local team, the Portland Sea Dogs, may belong to the Minor League, don’t let that deter you. In fact, this is where numerous players begin their journey and eventually go on to become Major League superstars.

Imagine the thrill of watching a game at Hadlock Field and being among the first to witness the talent of a future Major League star. Years down the line, you’ll have the satisfaction of boasting that you saw Player X make their debut on this very field before their rise to stardom. It’s an incredible feeling to witness these young athletes as they hone their skills and lay the groundwork for an exceptional career.

Hadlock Field provides a family-friendly atmosphere where fans of all ages can enjoy a fantastic time. Whether you’re savoring the excitement of the game, indulging in classic ballpark snacks, or soaking in the electric atmosphere, it’s an experience that will leave lasting memories.

10. The Bug Light Park

Bug Light Park, PortlandSource: Christopher Boswell / shutterstock
Bug Light Park

Bug Light, a lighthouse that dates back to 1875. This remarkable structure is uniquely inspired by a monument in Athens, adding to its allure and distinctiveness. Surrounding the lighthouse is the picturesque Bug Light Park, which offers a delightful environment to unwind and soak in the beauty of the surroundings.

Taking a leisurely stroll to the lighthouse was a delightful experience. The opportunity to capture stunning photographs of this historic landmark against the backdrop of the sparkling ocean was truly unforgettable. After immersing myself in the beauty of Bug Light, I decided to embrace the natural splendor of the coastal area.

Embarking on a hike or cycling adventure along the coast was a fantastic way to fully appreciate the serene surroundings. The park is meticulously maintained, creating a clean and welcoming atmosphere for visitors. As I explored the trails and paths, I was greeted by breathtaking views at every turn. It’s a place where nature’s beauty merges seamlessly with the architectural charm of Bug Light, offering a truly mesmerizing experience.

11. The Portland Head Light

Portland Head LightSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Portland Head Light

During my exploration of Portland, I had the pleasure of discovering the awe-inspiring Portland Head Light, a lighthouse that truly commands attention. This magnificent structure, built in 1791, holds the esteemed title of being the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine, and it’s no wonder it has become the most photographed lighthouse in the entire country.

As I approached the Portland Head Light, I was imediately struck by its grandeur and sheer size. Standing proudly against the backdrop of the expansive ocean, it exudes a timeless beauty that captivates all who lay eyes upon it. While access to the interior is restricted, I was undeterred, as the exterior of this iconic landmark provided ample opportunities for photography enthusiasts like myself to capture its majestic presence.

Adjacent to the lighthouse, I discovered a fascinating museum that offered deeper insights into the history and significance of the Portland Head Light. Exploring the exhibits and learning about the remarkable stories associated with this historic beacon added an enriching dimension to my visit.

The views from the Portland Head Light were nothing short of spectacular. From this vantage point, I marveled at the vastness of the ocean, the serene beauty of the beach, and the rugged allure of the surrounding rocks. Watching the graceful boats as they entered or departed from the nearby harbor added an element of liveliness to the scene.

The opportunity to witness such a significant piece of maritime history, combined with the breathtaking coastal views, created an unforgettable memory.

12. The Commercial Street

Commercial Street, PortlandSource: travelview / shutterstock
Commercial Street, Portland

Nestled at the edge of the city’s bustling working waterfront area, this historic Commercial street is a treasure trove of fantastic shops, bars, and dining establishments. What makes it even more special is its proximity to the waterfront, allowing visitors like me to indulge in picturesque views and capture memorable photos.

As I meandered along Commercial Street, I found myself immersed in a world of delightful exploration. The array of shops lining the street beckoned me to step inside and discover unique treasures. From quaint boutiques to artisanal craft stores, there was something to cater to every interest and taste. It was truly a shopper’s paradise.

When it came to dining options, Commercial Street did not disappoint. The street boasted a diverse range of restaurants, cafes, and bars, each offering its own distinct charm and culinary delights. Whether I was craving fresh seafood, international cuisine, or a comforting local favorite, I was spoiled for choice. It was a true delight to savor delectable meals while enjoying the scenic waterfront backdrop.

The road itself is paved with charming old bricks, which adds to the street’s historical character. However, it’s important to exercise caution while walking, as the uneven surface can make for a bumpy journey. Nonetheless, this minor inconvenience was easily overshadowed by the excitement of exploring the vibrant shops and savoring the flavors of the local eateries.

13. The Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse

Spring Point Ledge LighthouseSource: Stuart Monk / shutterstock
Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse

If you’re still enthralled by the captivating allure of the ocean, rocks, and lighthouses in Portland, I highly recommend paying a visit to the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. While this lighthouse may not boast grandiose proportions or an imposing stature, the journey to reach it is an absolute delight.

As I embarked on the leisurely walk towards the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, a sense of tranquility washed over me. The soothing ambiance of the surroundings allowed me to fully immerse myself in the beauty of the ocean vistas and the magnificent rocks that compose the breakwater. I couldn’t help but marvel at the incredible feat achieved by the locals, who meticulously aligned these massive rocks to form a protective barrier against the turbulent waters.

Taking my time, I savored each step along the path, allowing myself to truly appreciate the serene beauty that unfolded before me. The rhythmic sound of the crashing waves provided a soothing soundtrack as I basked in the coastal splendor. I let my imagination wander, envisioning the challenges faced by the locals as they undertook the Herculean task of moving and arranging the rocks to create a harmonious alignment.

Reaching the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse itself was a rewarding moment. Though not boasting immense size or flamboyant design, it exuded a quiet charm that resonated with the surrounding landscape.

14. The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and MuseumSource: Ken Schulze / shutterstock
Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum

I uncovered a hidden gem that showcases a different side of the city’s rich history: the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum. This charming establishment offers a delightful glimpse into the world of old trains and locomotives, providing an opportunity to not only admire them but also take a nostalgic ride aboard one

As I stepped into the museum, I was transported back in time, surrounded by the fascinating antique items and exhibits that paid homage to the golden era of rail travel. The meticulously restored trains and locomotives stood as proud relics of a bygone era, inviting visitors like me to marvel at their intricate craftsmanship and engineering marvels.

One of the highlights of my experience was the chance to embark on a scenic ride along Casco Bay. The rhythmic chugging of the train, the gentle sway of the carriages, and the breathtaking coastal views that unfolded before my eyes created an enchanting atmosphere that was truly unforgettable. The ride offered a unique perspective of the surrounding landscape, allowing me to appreciate the beauty of Portland’s coastal scenery from a different vantage point.

What made my visit even more special was the fact that this experience catered to both train enthusiasts and families looking for a memorable outing. Whether you have a deep passion for trains or not, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum offers an enjoyable afternoon for all. The museum itself is filled with captivating artifacts and informative displays, providing a deeper understanding of the railway’s history and significance.

For those planning a visit, it’s advisable to purchase the train ride ticket, as it includes access to the museum and convenient parking. This comprehensive package ensures a seamless and hassle-free experience, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in the world of trains.

15. The Shipyard Brewing Company

Shipyard Brewing CompanySource: facebook.com
Shipyard Brewing Company

Nestled in the heart of Portland’s vibrant beer scene is the renowned Shipyard Brewing Company—a beloved destination that epitomizes the city’s unwavering passion for exceptional craft beer. As a family-owned brewery, Shipyard has cultivated a well-deserved reputation, attracting both enthusiastic locals and curious tourists seeking an unforgettable beer experience.

From the moment I arrived at Shipyard Brewing Company, I could sense the palpable energy and commitment that infused the air. The brewery stands as a testament to the city’s rich beer culture and serves as a hub for those seeking top-tier brews. Its accolades and widespread acclaim speak volumes about the craftsmanship and dedication that go into every pint brewed within its walls.

During my visit, I had the pleasure of immersing myself in Shipyard’s world of flavor, artistry, and community. The brewery’s inviting atmosphere fostered a sense of camaraderie and provided the perfect backdrop for discovering the diverse range of beers on offer. Shipyard’s dedication to brewing excellence was evident in every sip, as the carefully curated selection of craft beers delighted my taste buds with their remarkable complexity and balance.

As I engaged with the knowledgeable staff, I gained a deeper appreciation for the brewing process and the passion that drives Shipyard’s success. The team’s genuine enthusiasm was contagious, enhancing my overall experience and allowing me to forge a connection between the beers I enjoyed and the skilled artisans who crafted them.

15 Best Things to Do in Portland (Maine):

  • The Old Port
  • The Portland Museum of Art
  • The Allagash Brewery
  • The Peaks Island
  • The Eastern Promenade
  • The Casco Bay Lines & The Mail Boat Tour
  • The Historic House Museum – Victoria Mansion
  • The Portland Observatory
  • The Bug Light Park
  • The Portland Head Light
  • The Commercial Street
  • The Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse
  • The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum
  • The Shipyard Brewing Company