With a population of around 25,000 people, South Portland is the 4th largest city in the state of Maine. As the name implies, it is located just south of the city of Portland, with the Casco Bay Islands to the east.
First settled back in 1630, it was incorporated as a city in 1895, breaking away from Cape Elizabeth. Contrary to popular belief, South Portland was never a part of Portland.
With all varieties of transportation (marine, rail, auto, and air), it became an important center for retail and industry. Now, let’s see some of the top things to do in South Portland.
1. Walk along the Spring Point Shoreway
This is a wonderful path for people of all ages, whether you want to walk, jog, bike or take your dog for a stroll.
The views are stunning and you will be able to admire the ocean, the boats, the ferries, the beaches, and Casco Bay.
So, whether it’s warm or cold, head outside and get a breath of fresh air while admiring the Spring Point Shoreway.
2. Visit the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse
The previously mentioned shore way continues with a unique jetty made of huge rocks. At the end of this jetty, there is a cute little lighthouse that is known as the “spark plug”.
The reason for this is obvious: the lighthouse has the shape and appearance of a spark plug. After a long walk to reach it, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the ocean, the city, and the nearby islands.
Take your time to admire this beautiful place and then continue your journey through the city of South Portland.
3. Enjoy a beer at Island Dog Brewing
Especially if it’s a hot summer’s day, you are probably tired and thirsty after all the walking. What better way to quench your thirst than with a cold beer?
The guys at Island Dog Brewery have a wide variety of beers, with all sorts of colors and tastes. You can start with a tour and learn about the science and processes behind brewing, directly from one of the owners.
And, of course, you can then have a seat and enjoy some of the wonderful brews. The Belgian style beer is really good and they have a unique one with blueberry flavor.
4. Shop at the Maine Mall
After some cold beers, you might get peckish; the food court at Maine Mall has a good variety of foods to help you out. You can then spend a few more hours here shopping at the multitude of stores.
It’s a huge mall with lots of shops, playgrounds for the young ones, and plenty of spots to eat and have a drink. Overall, it’s a great spot to spend some time if the weather outside is not suited for outdoor activities.
5. See Bug Light Park
If the weather is good, check out one of the many lighthouses found in South Portland. This time it’s the lighthouse located in Bug Light Park.
Here, you can enjoy the views and contemplate the immensity of the ocean, while taking some photos or just having a good chat with someone special.
You can also bring the kids and your dog, and sit on a bench or have a nice picnic.
6. Wander through Mill Creek Park
South Portland has plenty of nice parks and places to walk, run or ride a bicycle. It seems that the people here love outdoor activities and they want visitors to enjoy them as well.
The park was recently renovated and offers some beautiful views, benches and picnic spots. You will find ducks and geese living here and can feed them if you want to.
The parking and the admission are free, it’s open 24/7, and you can bring your dog.
7. Jog on the Greenbelt Walkway
Yet another beautiful trail, the Greenbelt Walkway takes you through local neighborhoods and past wonderful ocean views.
If you don’t like jogging, you can ride a bike, walk your dog or just have a short wander to enjoy the views.
The trail is paved and well maintained, and it is a nice and comfortable path for people of all fitness levels.
8. Sunbathe and beachcomb at Willard Beach
Many visitors consider this a hidden gem; it is a wonderful beach that is never overly crowded.
Just a short ride away from downtown Portland, you can spend a lovely afternoon here getting a tan, swimming in the ocean or just admiring the views.
There are places to eat and restrooms nearby. The kids can play in the sand and you can also bring your dog.
9. Visit the Liberty Ship Memorial
Located near Bug Light Park, this memorial not only looks interesting and impressive, it also offers a lot of historical information.
You will learn many things from the signs displayed here, including the importance of Portland in World War II.
There was a major shipyard in this spot during that period; it is said that 30,000 people used to work here and were able to build 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
This is a non-profit organization that has been delivering great performances for more than 30 years.
They choose plays that are edgy and innovative and if you’re lucky enough to see one, you will leave pondering the hidden meanings. Even though the space is not that large, they use it in very creative ways.
There are many spots to get a good meal nearby, so you can have a great evening out.
11. Visit the Maine Military Museum
While not a huge place, it is packed with hundreds of items, so you can easily spend a few hours here admiring them all. The museum contains old military clothes, guns, paintings, photos and lots of other items from all the major wars.
There is even a replica of a prisoner of war cell, so you can imagine the rough conditions they had to endure. This place will help you understand what the veterans went through and what they did for the country.
12. Peruse the South Portland Historical Society Museum
If you are passionate about history, you can easily spend a few hours here. The museum is well organized and contains a variety of artifacts and images.
The staff are friendly and professional, and well informed on the history of the place, giving you all the details and answering any questions.
There is a nice gift shop to get some souvenirs or gifts for someone special.
13. Be amazed at the International Cryptozoology Museum
If you are not familiar with the term “cryptozoology,” it is a pseudoscience and subculture that aims to prove the existence of strange and hidden creatures such as Bigfoot or Chupacabra.
While adults may be skeptical, the kids will love this place and will be fascinated. There are plenty of photos and full-size replicas of these spooky creatures and it is the only museum of its kind in the world!
There is also a unique plaque called “Monsters in America”, showing images of all the monsters seen in America over the years, and their exact location.
14. Walk through the Calvary Cemetery
While not your usual touristic attraction, this place is still worth a quick visit. It is a quiet and peaceful spot where many tourists or locals come for a walk, jog or bike ride.
The cemetery has multiple statues, some of which are beautifully made. It is always open and parking and admission are free.
15. Visit the Portland Harbor Museum
Located close to the Spring Point Lighthouse, this is a small but cute museum that celebrates the rich maritime history of the city.
Here, you can see many old photos and documents, and learn about many interesting things, including how wooden ships were built in the 19th century.
There is a small gift shop where you can buy postcards, mugs, t-shirts, prints and various crafts made by local artists.