I have ventured South Portland, a city in the state of Maine with a population of approximately 25,000 people. It holds the distinction of being the 4th largest city in the state. As its name suggests, South Portland is situated just south of the bustling city of Portland, and it is surrounded by the picturesque Casco Bay Islands to the east.
The city has a rich history dating back to its first settlement in 1630, and it achieved the status of a fully incorporated city in 1895 after breaking away from Cape Elizabeth. Despite common misconceptions, South Portland was never a part of Portland.
South Portland’s strategic location has made it a vital hub for various modes of transportation, including marine, rail, automobile, and air travel. This accessibility has contributed to its growth as a significant center for retail and industry. Now, let me guide you through some of the top attractions and activities that South Portland has to offer.
1. Walk along the Spring Point Shoreway
The Spring Point Shoreway is an incredible route that I highly recommend to people of all ages. It offers a variety of activities such as walking, jogging, biking, and even leisurely strolls with your furry friend.
One of the most captivating aspects of the Shoreway is its breathtaking views. As you traverse the path, you’ll be treated to mesmerizing sights of the vast ocean, charming boats bobbing in the water, bustling ferries shuttling passengers, picturesque beaches, and the serene expanse of Casco Bay.
No matter the weather, the Spring Point Shoreway invites you to step outside and immerse yourself in the invigorating atmosphere.
2. Visit the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse
Continuing along the shoreway I mentioned earlier, you’ll encounter a distinctive jetty crafted from massive rocks. At the culmination of this jetty stands a charming little lighthouse affectionately known as the “spark plug” or the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.
The moniker is quite fitting, as this lighthouse bears an uncanny resemblance to an actual spark plug. After embarking on a pleasant stroll to reach it, you’ll be greeted with awe-inspiring vistas of the expansive ocean, the cityscape, and the neighboring islands.
Take a moment to bask in the beauty of this enchanting spot before resuming your exploration of the captivating city of South Portland. There’s so much more to discover and enjoy as you continue your journey.
3. Enjoy a beer at Island Dog Brewing
On a scorching summer day, after all the walking, it’s natural to feel tired and parched. And what better way to satiate your thirst than with a refreshing, ice-cold beer?
Luckily, the Island Dog Brewery is just the place to go. They offer an extensive selection of beers, boasting a vibrant array of colors and flavors. Embark on a tour of the brewery and delve into the fascinating world of brewing, guided by one of the knowledgeable owners who will share insights into the science and processes behind their craft.
Once you’ve gained a newfound appreciation for the art of brewing, settle down and savor the delightful concoctions they have on offer. I highly recommend trying their Belgian-style beer, renowned for its exceptional taste. Additionally, they have a unique creation infused with the subtle essence of blueberries, adding a delightful twist to your beer-drinking experience.
4. Shop at the Maine Mall
Once you’ve enjoyed some refreshing cold beers, you may find yourself in need of a snack to satisfy your hunger. Luckily, the food court at Maine Mall offers a diverse selection of delectable options that are sure to hit the spot. Treat yourself to a satisfying meal before immersing yourself in a few more hours of shopping at the mall’s abundant array of stores.
Maine Mall is an expansive shopping destination, boasting an impressive range of shops to cater to every taste and preference. Not only that, but it also features playgrounds for the little ones to enjoy and numerous dining spots where you can grab a bite or enjoy a drink.
In essence, the mall provides a wonderful escape, particularly on days when the weather doesn’t permit outdoor activities. With its vast assortment of shops, ample entertainment options, and a plethora of dining choices, Maine Mall presents an ideal place to spend quality time, indulge in retail therapy, and make lasting memories.
5. See Bug Light Park
When the weather is favorable, I highly recommend visiting one of the enchanting lighthouses scattered throughout South Portland. In particular, make sure to explore the lighthouse nestled within Bug Light Park.
This picturesque location offers an opportunity to soak in the breathtaking views and marvel at the vastness of the ocean. Capture stunning photographs, create cherished memories, or simply engage in meaningful conversations with someone dear to your heart.
Bug Light Park is an ideal destination for a family outing as well. Bring along the kids and your furry companion, and find a comfortable bench or a cozy spot for a delightful picnic. Let the tranquility of the surroundings envelop you as you bask in the company of loved ones and appreciate the serenity of the park.
6. Wander through Mill Creek Park
In South Portland, the abundance of lovely parks and scenic pathways makes it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The locals here truly cherish their natural surroundings and warmly welcome visitors to partake in the outdoor activities they hold dear.
One such gem is the recently renovated Mill Creek Park, where you can immerse yourself in stunning vistas, relax on comfortable benches, and discover picturesque picnic spots. As you explore the park, you’ll encounter delightful ducks and geese gracefully inhabiting the area, and if you wish, you can even feed them and observe their playful antics.
The best part is that both parking and admission to the park are entirely free, ensuring accessibility for everyone. Additionally, Mill Creek Park remains open 24/7, allowing you to relish its beauty at any time that suits you. Furthermore, if you have a furry friend accompanying you on your adventures, feel free to bring your dog along to join in the outdoor fun.
7. Jog on the Greenbelt Walkway
Another captivating trail in South Portland is the Greenbelt Walkway, which winds its way through charming local neighborhoods and offers breathtaking vistas of the ocean.
Whether you prefer jogging, biking, or leisurely strolling, the Greenbelt Walkway caters to your preferred mode of exploration. Bring along your furry companion and enjoy a pleasant walk with your loyal friend while relishing the picturesque scenery.
This well-paved and meticulously maintained trail provides a comfortable and inviting path for individuals of all fitness levels. Whether you’re an avid athlete or simply seeking a tranquil stroll, the Greenbelt Walkway accommodates everyone’s needs and ensures an enjoyable experience for all.
8. Sunbathe and beachcomb at Willard Beach
As a traveler of South Portland, I can confidently share that Willard Beach is a true hidden gem, beloved by visitors and locals alike. This delightful beach offers a tranquil escape without the usual crowds often found in popular beach destinations.
Conveniently located just a short ride away from downtown Portland, Willard Beach presents the perfect setting for a leisurely afternoon. Bask in the warm sunshine, take a refreshing dip in the inviting ocean waters, or simply revel in the mesmerizing views that surround you.
You’ll find nearby eateries where you can satisfy your cravings, as well as conveniently located restroom facilities for added comfort. Willard Beach is a haven for families, with children joyfully building sandcastles and frolicking in the sand. Plus, for those of us with furry companions, the beach warmly welcomes your four-legged friends to join in the fun.
9. Visit the Liberty Ship Memorial
Situated in close proximity to Bug Light Park, the Liberty Ship Memorial stands as a captivating sight that piques both interest and admiration. Not only does it possess an intriguing appearance, but it also holds a wealth of historical significance.
Visiting this memorial grants you the opportunity to delve into the past and gain valuable insights through the informative signs on display. The historical information provided sheds light on the vital role that Portland played during World War II.
During that era, this very location housed a significant shipyard. It’s awe-inspiring to imagine that an astounding workforce of 30,000 individuals once labored here, simultaneously constructing an impressive fleet of 13 ships at a time.
Between 1941 and 1945, 266 cargo ships were built here; most of them were named Liberty Ships. These ships then delivered supplies and aids to soldiers in need, helping the allies to win the war.
10. Catch a play at the Mad Horse Theatre Company
For over 30 years, the Mad Horse Theatre Company has been captivating audiences with its exceptional performances. As a non-profit organization, they strive to curate a selection of plays that are both edgy and innovative, leaving viewers pondering the hidden depths of their stories. If you have the opportunity to witness one of their productions, you’ll be treated to a thought-provoking experience that lingers long after the curtains close.
Although the venue may not be vast in size, the Mad Horse Theatre Company employs creative techniques to make the most of the space. Their imaginative use of the setting enhances the overall theatrical experience, transporting audiences to captivating worlds that come to life before their eyes.
When planning an evening out to see a performance at Mad Horse Theatre, you’ll be pleased to discover an array of excellent dining options in close proximity. Take advantage of these nearby spots to indulge in a delectable meal, enhancing your overall experience and creating a memorable night of entertainment.
11. Visit the Maine Military Museum
I was struck by the sheer volume of historical artifacts contained within its walls. Although the space may not be enormous, it houses a vast collection of hundreds of items that can easily captivate visitors for hours on end. From old military uniforms and weaponry to captivating paintings, photographs, and an array of other artifacts, this museum offers a comprehensive glimpse into the major wars that have shaped our history.
One particularly intriguing exhibit is a replica of a prisoner of war cell. Stepping inside, I couldn’t help but imagine the harsh conditions endured by those who were held captive. It serves as a poignant reminder of the immense sacrifices made by our brave veterans and allows visitors to gain a deeper understanding of their struggles and the unwavering dedication they displayed in service to our country.
Exploring the Maine Military Museum not only provides an opportunity to admire historical relics but also offers an invaluable chance to comprehend the tremendous hardships faced by veterans throughout history. It serves as a humbling reminder of their courage and resilience, leaving visitors with a profound appreciation for their sacrifices and the lasting impact they had on our nation.
12. Peruse the South Portland Historical Society Museum
As someone who have always been fascinated with history, I found myself easily engrossed for hours while exploring the South Portland Historical Society Museum. The museum’s impeccable organization showcases a diverse range of artifacts and captivating images, allowing visitors to delve into the rich history of the area.
What truly enhanced my experience was the friendly and knowledgeable staff. Their professionalism and passion for the museum’s history were evident as they eagerly provided intricate details and answered any questions I had. Their expertise and willingness to share insights added depth to my exploration, making the visit even more fulfilling.
Before leaving, I made sure to browse through the delightful gift shop. It offered a wonderful selection of souvenirs and unique gifts, making it the perfect place to find something special for a loved one or a keepsake to commemorate my visit.
13. Be amazed at the International Cryptozoology Museum
If you’re not yet acquainted with the captivating realm of cryptozoology, it’s a fascinating pseudoscience and subculture dedicated to exploring the existence of enigmatic and elusive creatures, like Bigfoot or the Chupacabra.
While adults may harbor a healthy dose of skepticism, the International Cryptozoology Museum is an absolute delight for kids. Their imaginations will be captivated as they explore the museum’s collection of photos and life-size replicas of these mysterious and spooky creatures. It’s worth noting that this unique museum holds the distinction of being the only one of its kind in the entire world!
One particularly intriguing feature of the museum is the “Monsters in America” plaque. This remarkable display showcases images of various monsters that have been reported across different parts of the United States throughout the years. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the vast array of mythical creatures believed to inhabit different regions, pinpointing their exact locations on a map.
14. Walk through the Calvary Cemetery
Although not typically considered a conventional tourist destination, the Calvary Cemetery in South Portland holds a unique charm that makes it worthy of a brief visit. This serene and tranquil spot attracts both tourists and locals seeking solace or engaging in activities like walking, jogging, or cycling.
As you explore the cemetery, you’ll discover several statues gracing its grounds, each a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship that went into their creation. These beautifully crafted statues add a touch of elegance to the surroundings, enhancing the peaceful atmosphere of the cemetery.
One of the remarkable aspects of the Calvary Cemetery is its accessibility, as it remains open to the public at all times. Visitors can enjoy the freedom of convenient parking without any admission fees, allowing for a seamless and hassle-free experience.
15. Visit the Portland Harbor Museum
Nestled near the iconic Spring Point Lighthouse, the Portland Harbor Museum stands as a charming testament to the city’s vibrant maritime heritage. Despite its modest size, this museum offers a captivating glimpse into the rich history that shaped Portland’s seafaring legacy.
As you wander through the exhibits, you’ll be greeted by a trove of old photographs and documents that provide a window into the past. Delve into the intriguing stories that unfold, including the fascinating process of constructing wooden ships during the 19th century. With each display, you’ll deepen your understanding of the maritime traditions that have shaped the city’s identity.
Before concluding your visit, make sure to explore the small yet enticing gift shop. Here, you’ll find an array of treasures created by local artists, from postcards and mugs to t-shirts, prints, and various crafts. It’s the perfect opportunity to take home a unique keepsake or find a special gift that embodies the maritime spirit of Portland.