Casco Bay is home to Maine’s most populous city, Portland, which may be found on the state’s southwestern coast. Before British colonists arrived and quickly developed the area into a significant fishing and commercial port in the early 17th century, the native inhabitants of the area gave it the name Machigonne.
Today, visitors have the option of strolling the cobblestone streets of the Old Port area, exploring the dock, which is still bustling with activity, or spending the day in the Arts District, which is filled with cultural attractions like museums, galleries, performances, and antique stores.
Best Places to Visit in Portland, Maine
Make the most of your time in Portland, Maine by using this handy guide to the city’s most popular tourist destinations.
1. The Historic Old Port District and Commercial Street in Portland
The Old Port neighborhood of Portland is located in the city’s central business district, which is a lively area that is full of things to do and has managed to keep the atmosphere of an old seaside town.
Visitors to Portland will be able to board one of the city’s many ferries, go on a sightseeing cruise, or book a charter to travel to the Calendar Islands and other locations from the waterfront area.
The dock, which can be found on Commercial Street, is only a few feet away from the cobblestone streets of the Old Port, which are home to historic structures as well as shops, restaurants, and galleries, among other retail establishments.
2. The Region Surrounding Casco Bay and the Calendar Islands
Casco Bay, where the beautiful Calendar Islands are located, borders Portland, which is located on the bay’s coast. The islands are formally known as Casco Bay Islands, although they are more commonly referred to by their colloquial moniker, the Isles of Shoals.
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It is stated that there are so many islands in this area that you could travel to a different one every day for an entire year. Although this is not entirely accurate, there are a great many islands, both huge and little, that can be discovered.
3. The Mansion of Victoria
Henry Austin, a well-known architect, was responsible for the design of the Victoria Mansion in Portland, which was constructed between 1858 and 1860 and is often referred to as the Morse-Libby House.
This Italian villa-style mansion was used as a vacation residence by Ruggles Sylvester Morse, who was a hotel mogul in New Orleans. The property is a true representation of decadence in the time before the Civil War in Portland, and it was built by Ruggles Sylvester Morse.
4. The Promenade to the East
The Eastern Promenade Trail is one of the most attractive areas to walk in the city. It begins in the Old Port neighborhood and follows the line of a railroad track along the waterfront at Back Cove.
The 2.1-mile track, which is really comprised of two separate trails (one made of crushed stone and the other paved), winds its way along the perimeter of the 68-acre Fort Allen Park.
5. Museum of Art in the City of Portland
The Portland Museum of Art is home to a collection of fine and decorative arts that date all the way back to the 1700s and beyond. More than 18,000 pieces are housed within the museum’s collections, the majority of which are paintings from both the United States and Europe.
Additionally, the museum houses a wide range of works in other mediums, such as sculpture, pottery, furniture, and other items. This comprises almost 650 of Winslow Homer’s works and contains a variety of mediums, such as oil paintings, etchings, and watercolors.
6. The Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine
In 2021, Portland’s Children’s Museum reopened in a brand new building that was 30,000 square feet in size. This was one of the most popular activities in the city for families with smaller children and toddlers.
The exhibits and programming have been enlarged thanks to the addition of new space, but the aim of the museum has remained the same: to educate visitors of all ages about the world in which they live via interactive encounters, theatrical role-playing, and hands-on discovery.
7. The Beach at Crescent
The mile-long Crescent Beach is located in Crescent Beach State Park, which is located about south of the city on Cape Elizabeth. The beach is bordered by dunes and forests, and it features a portion of Maine’s famous rock-bound shoreline.
The beach has a feeling of seclusion because of the dunes that are covered in sea grass and the boardwalks that lead to the beach via those dunes. Offshore, fishing boats may be seen bobbing in the water surrounding a small island.
8. Observatory, Portland
The Portland Observatory, which is the only early maritime signal station that still stands in the United States, was constructed in 1807 with the purpose of providing ship-owners with advanced warning of the arrival of their vessels into the harbor.
Ships could be spotted up to 30 miles away from the harbor using the powerful telescope located at the very top of the 86-foot tower. This was a considerable amount of time before the ships could be seen from the harbor.
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Lemuel Moody, an ambitious former ship captain and the builder of the observatory, paid shipowners a fee to signal them that their ship was about to land so that the owner could be at the docks ready to unload. He did this so that the owner could be at the docks ready to unload.
9. Museum and Company of the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad
On a gloomy day in Portland, a trip to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum is just what the doctor ordered. The museum’s mission is to educate visitors about the history of the two-foot-gauge railway while also preserving its heritage.
The museum houses a number of old coaches, as well as activities and displays geared toward children and providing insight into the history of narrow-gauge railways.
10. The Portland Head Light and Fort Williams Park
Lighthouses are not only a figurative landmark for ships, but they have also evolved into an emblematic symbol of the state of Maine and serve as local monuments in most coastal towns.
The Portland Head Light on Cape Elizabeth is one of the most popular tourist destinations because of its remarkable museum and breathtaking vistas of Casco Bay and Portland Harbor, in addition to the four other lighthouses in the surrounding area.
In the city of Portland, Maine, there is an abundance of things to do. The best part, however, is that nobody here will attempt to dazzle you with how gorgeous this or trendy it is.
They would love for you to visit and experience their passion for innovative cuisine, as well as their pride in their long and illustrious traditions of agriculture, handicraft, and maritime culture.
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