Most visitors start their Maine vacation in Portland. The largest city in the state, it offers wonderful Victorian architecture, a collection of historic lighthouses, beaches, and some of the best dining in the northeast, including world-famous Maine lobster.
Portland is an ideal base for exploring a variety of experiences nearby, including hiking, fishing and kayaking.
So if you are planning on taking a last-minute cruise from Boston, Quebec, or Montreal, why not add a few days onto your itinerary and soak up the delightful atmosphere that makes Maine so special.
Visit Portland, Maine
Downtown, the Portland Museum of Art was founded in 1882 and claims to be oldest public art institution in the United States, and includes artworks by Andy Warhol and Claude Monet. It’s the center of the Portland Arts District, a vibrant neighborhood of galleries, boutiques and restaurants.
Hop on Casco Bay Lines’ year-round ferry or a historic sailing ship for a cruise or a trip to one of Portland’s coastal islands. The Calendar Islands were named because you could visit a different one every day of the year and still not run out of options.
Or, take a lobstering tour to learn how to haul traps and even bring your catch over to a local restaurant and have them cook it for you or hop on a historic windjammer cruise. Most cruises and tours last about 1-3 hours.
Long Island is just 45 minutes from downtown by ferry. On this beach, you’ll find silky sand and a gorgeous view of the ocean.
Maine is also famous for its lighthouses, and there are several in and around Portland.
The Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth is the oldest lighthouse in Maine and is adjacent to 90-acre Fort Williams Park and its great ocean views and recreation. Fort Williams Park has nice walking trails, gardens and a children’s garden area. The former keepers’ house is now a lighthouse museum.
As a coastal state, it is not surprising that some of Maine’s best experiences are offshore.
Peaks Island is a short ferry ride away from Portland’s harbor, and the journey itself is a treat, offering up beautiful views across Casco Bay.
The island itself is charm personified, a glimpse backwards in time, all traditional fishing cottages and front yards full of flowers. This is the perfect spot to decompress and take a breath, with almost no traffic beyond the ubiquitous golf carts and bicycles.
Discover local crafts, take a slightly icy plunge into the Atlantic from the pier or the public beach, or just sit and watch the waves come in, letting your cares and worries wash away with the sound of seabirds as accompaniment.
Within easy reach of Portland, Sebago Lake is perfect for anyone who loves outdoor adventure.
This vast body of water is Portland’s second biggest lake, with a remarkable 105 miles of shoreline, meaning you are pretty much guaranteed to find space to swim, kayak, or sail to your heart’s content.
It is also a great spot for fishing, well stocked with bass, trout, and salmon.
Wolfe’s Neck State Park
Just a five-minute drive from downtown Freeport, Wolfe’s Neck State Park is a stunning wilderness, and really lets you get back to nature.
With white pine and hemlock forests, salt marshes, and plenty of rocky coastline, the landscape and scenery is wonderfully diverse, and means there is plenty to explore for nature lovers.
The signature attraction here are the ospreys who make their nests on Googins Island, just off shore, who spend spring and summer raising their young here before embarking on their southward journey to warmer, South American climes for winter.
Explore the backcountry, wander trails, and enjoy an al fresco lunch under the shade of oak trees, and you’ll still be back in civilization in time for dinner.
Civilization includes the LLBean Outlet Store in downtown Freeport, with bargains galore (Freeport is the company’s headquarter city). There also are several craft breweries downtown.
If you are visiting Maine in the summer then a trip to the tiny beach town of Ogunquit is a must. This sleepy spot has less than 1,000 full-time inhabitants, but is bustling and lively, with an almost electric atmosphere during the warmer summer months.
Its three-mile beach is gorgeous, but the main attraction is the surprisingly excellent nightlife.
Discover Broadway-quality shows at the Ogunquit Playhouse, sing along to show tunes at the Front Porch piano bar, or check out the vibrant drag scene that fills Maine Street with a buzz that can come as a surprise for visitors to this tiny seaside spot. Find out more on the Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce website.