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Top 10 Things to Do in Portland Maine

Fort Georges in Portland Harbor in Portland, Maine
Discover the top things to do in Portland ME, from waterfront walks to shopping in the Old Port to cruising scenic Casco Bay. Uncover this city's top things to do.

 

The Top 10 Things to Do in Portland Maine: Your Guide to the City’s Top Experiences

Looking for the top 10 things to do in Portland Maine? Here, we explore the top main attractions this coastal Maine city has to offer. From waterfront walks to cruising scenic Casco Bay, we’ll uncover the top 10 things to do in Portland Maine.

Portland, Maine, the state’s largest city, embodies the classic Maine coastal experience. Founded in 1633, Portland’s rich history is tied to its working waterfront. The cobblestone streets of the Old Port district, lined with restored brick buildings, hint at its past as a bustling maritime hub. This unique coastal charm draws in visitors from all over the world.

Old Port in Portland, Maine

Today, Portland offers a perfect blend for tourists. Discover maritime history in its lighthouses and forts, or get a taste of Maine’s thriving art scene through museums and galleries. Explore scenic parks with ocean views, or indulge in fresh seafood at the many renowned restaurants.

The city’s walkability and friendly atmosphere make Portland an ideal spot for a Maine getaway, whether you seek history, culture, or simply a relaxed coastal escape.

From exploring the historic Old Port with its cobblestone streets and bustling shops to hopping on a Casco Bay Ferry for local island adventures, Portland, Maine, delivers a classic coastal Maine experience.

Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Relax with ocean views at Fort Williams Park, home to Maine’s most photographed lighthouse, or stroll through the city’s art galleries and museums. Portland offers something for everyone, whether you crave history, outdoor excursions, or just a taste of that famous Maine charm.

Ideal for those seeking adventure or a peaceful retreat by the sea, these top 10 things to do in Portland Maine showcase the best of Portland’s vibrant culture and breathtaking coastal Maine scenery.

 

Visit the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum lets you step back in time to the era of narrow-gauge railways. These unique railroads, with tracks only two feet apart, once crisscrossed Maine. They hauled lumber, transported goods, and carried passengers to the state’s more remote corners.

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Portland, Maine

The museum, located on Portland’s waterfront, preserves and operates Maine’s historic narrow-gauge equipment. Visitors can explore beautifully restored steam and diesel locomotives, along with passenger coaches and freight cars. But the best part is taking a scenic train ride along Casco Bay. These 3-mile roundtrip journeys offer picturesque views, onboard narration about the railroad’s history, and a chance to experience this unique piece of Maine’s past firsthand.

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Portland, Maine

Beyond the train rides, the museum features exhibits that delve into the technology and stories behind the Maine Narrow Gauge railroads. It’s a fascinating adventure for train enthusiasts and anyone interested in learning about Maine’s transportation history. We recommend checking out the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum website for more information on visiting hours and current exhibitions.

 

Discover the Portland Observatory

Perched high atop Munjoy Hill overlooking Portland Harbor, the Portland Observatory stands as a proud reminder of the city’s maritime past. Built in 1807, this octagonal wooden tower is the last remaining historic maritime signal tower in the United States. Before radios and telephones, this was a vital communication hub. Using flags and a telescope, the tower relayed messages to the city below, announcing the arrival of ships.

Portland Observatory in Portland, Maine

Today, visitors can ascend the Observatory’s winding staircase to the top.

Enjoy sweeping views of the harbor, Casco Bay islands, and Portland’s cityscape. Explore the museum exhibits that delve into the tower’s operation, with fascinating displays of signal flags and historic artifacts.

Portland Observatory in Portland, Maine

The Portland Observatory brings to life a unique piece of maritime history, providing an understanding of how ships and the city communicated in the past. It’s a must-visit for history buffs and anyone seeking an iconic Portland experience.

 

Book a Whale Watching Tour

Set sail on an unforgettable adventure with Odyssey Whale Watch, departing right from Portland Harbor. Board the spacious Odyssey vessel and settle in for a scenic journey through Casco Bay. Admire the beauty of the rugged Maine coastline dotted with historic lighthouses. Keep a lookout for playful seals sunbathing on rocks and hardworking lobster boats hauling their catch.

Whale Watching Boat Tours from Portland, Maine

The excitement builds as you venture further out, searching for the magnificent creatures of the deep. Expert naturalists are on hand to share insights about the whales, dolphins, and other marine life that frequent these waters. Imagine the thrill of spotting a Humpback whale breaching or a pod of playful dolphins riding the waves alongside the boat. You may even encounter basking sharks or curious sea turtles.

Whale Watching Boat Tours from Portland, Maine

Odyssey Whale Watch offers a memorable way to experience the wonder of Maine’s marine environment. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast or just seeking a unique coastal adventure, it’s a breathtaking opportunity to connect with the ocean and its incredible inhabitants, making it one of the top 10 things to do in Portland Maine.

 

Tour Victoria Mansion

Victoria Mansion, also known as the Morse-Libby House, offers a captivating glimpse into the opulent world of pre-Civil War America. Built between 1858 and 1860, it was designed as a summer home for Ruggles Sylvester Morse, a wealthy hotelier. This remarkably preserved mansion showcases the height of Victorian design and offers a window into the lives of its former residents.

Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine

Explore grand rooms filled with original furnishings, ornate plasterwork, and vibrant wall paintings. Marvel at the craftsmanship of the carved mahogany staircase and the stunning trompe l’oeil artwork that creates the illusion of three-dimensional space. Each room tells a story of lavish tastes and a fascinating historical era.

Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine

Victoria Mansion stands as a National Historic Landmark, a testament to both its outstanding architectural significance and its remarkable state of preservation. It provides a captivating look at the lifestyle and design sensibilities of the Victorian period, transporting visitors back to a time of grandeur and elegance. We recommend checking out the Victoria Mansion website for more information on visiting hours and current exhibitions.

 

Explore the Portland Museum of Art

The Portland Museum of Art serves as Maine’s premier art institution, housing an impressive collection that spans centuries and continents. With over 18,000 works of art, there’s something to inspire and delight every visitor.

Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine

Explore the renowned collection of American art, featuring iconic works by artists like Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and John Marin, who were deeply inspired by Maine’s rugged beauty. Discover European masterpieces from Monet and Renoir to Picasso and Degas

The museum also frequently hosts exciting special exhibitions, showcasing everything from contemporary art to ancient artifacts. Visitors can participate in engaging programs, workshops, and lectures that deepen their understanding and appreciation of art.

Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine

In addition to its permanent collection and exhibitions, the Portland Museum of Art features a beautifully designed modern wing, the Payson Building, providing airy galleries and inviting spaces for reflection. Whether you’re an art aficionado or simply curious, the Portland Museum of Art offers a enriching and memorable cultural experience. We recommend checking out the Portland Museum of Art website for more information on visiting hours and current exhibitions.


Check Out the International Cryptozoology Museum

The International Cryptozoology Museum takes visitors on a journey into the realm of mysterious creatures. Cryptozoology is the study of animals that are rumored to exist but haven’t been definitively proven by science – think Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or the Yeti. Founded in 2003, this unique museum houses an impressive collection of exhibits dedicated to these legendary creatures.

International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine

Explore displays featuring casts of giant footprints, hair samples attributed to elusive beasts, and eyewitness sketches of strange sightings. Learn about the history of cryptozoology and the ongoing scientific investigations surrounding these mysteries. Discover fascinating creatures documented in folklore and legend from around the world. Stand next to a life-size Bigfoot model and learn about reported sightings.

International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine

Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, the International Cryptozoology Museum provides a thought-provoking look at the enduring fascination with creatures that exist on the fringes of our understanding. The International Cryptozoology Museum a fun and intriguing destination for those who love a good mystery or just enjoy exploring the unusual. We highly recommend checking out the International Cryptozoology Museum website for more information on visiting hours and current exhibitions.

 

Stroll the Eastern Promenade

The Eastern Promenade, a 68-acre park edging Portland’s waterfront, offers a tranquil escape with breathtaking views of Casco Bay. Follow the Eastern Promenade Trail, a paved path that meanders along the shoreline, providing endless opportunities to admire the sparkling water, passing sailboats, and the islands dotting the horizon.

Aerial view of Eastern Promenade in Portland, Maine

This trail is perfect for walking, jogging, or just sitting on a bench to soak in the peaceful atmosphere.

The Eastern Promenade also features grassy lawns for picnicking, and East End Beach for swimming and sunbathing during the warmer months. There’s a playground to keep the younger ones entertained, and the remains of old military fortifications are scattered throughout the park for history enthusiasts to explore.

Eastern Promenade in Portland, Maine

With its expansive views of Portland Harbor, Casco Bay, and the distant White Mountains, the Eastern Promenade provides a scenic and relaxing space for visitors and locals alike to enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of Portland Maine’s coastal landscape.

 

Ride the Casco Bay Ferry

The Casco Bay Lines Ferry makes exploring the beautiful islands of Casco Bay easy and enjoyable. Board a ferry right in downtown Portland and embark on a scenic cruise across the harbor. Take in the fresh sea air and panoramic views of lighthouses, historic forts lining the shore, and playful seals sunbathing on rocky outcrops.

Casco Bay Ferry in Portland Harbor, Maine

The Casco Bay ferries offer daily service to many of the bay’s most charming islands, like Peaks Island, Great Diamond Island, and Long Island. Each island has its own unique character and attractions. Spend the day relaxing on a sandy beach, rent a bicycle for a leisurely ride, visit a local art gallery, or enjoy a seafood lunch with beautiful coastal views.

Ferry Entrance on Peaks Island, Maine

Whether you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, embark on an island hopping adventure, or simply relax on a scenic boat ride, Casco Bay Lines offers an unforgettable way to experience the islands and the stunning natural beauty of Maine’s coastline.

 

Explore the Old Port

Step back in time as you explore Portland’s vibrant Old Port district, a charming neighborhood tucked along the harbor. The history is almost tangible as you wander the cobblestone streets, lined with beautifully restored brick warehouses that date back to the 1800s. Today these historic buildings are alive with activity, housing a wonderful mix of independent shops, boutiques, and art galleries. Discover unique gifts, Maine-made crafts, and one-of-a-kind art pieces to take home as mementos of your trip.

Old Port in Portland, Maine

When you’re in need of a break, the Old Port’s culinary scene is simply unbeatable. Sample world-class seafood at an authentic lobster shack, savor delicious comfort food, or indulge in international cuisine – the options are endless.

Old Port in Portland, Maine

Relax in cozy cafes, enjoy live music in an old-timey pub, or simply grab an ice cream cone and stroll along the waterfront. From sunrise to sunset, the Old Port hums with a special energy and an unmatched coastal charm.

 

Visit Portland Head Light (at Fort Williams Park)

Located in Cape Elizabeth, just a short drive from downtown Portland, Maine, Fort Williams Park is home to one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world – the iconic Portland Head Light.

Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Commissioned by George Washington and built in 1791, it’s steeped in history and offers dramatic views of the crashing Atlantic waves. Walk the paths winding along the rocky coast, feeling the invigorating sea breeze as you take in the stunning scenery.

Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Inside the former lighthouse keeper’s house, you’ll find the fascinating Museum at Portland Head Light, where you can learn about the lighthouse’s rich history, maritime signals, and its importance in guiding ships safely along the coast.

Fort Williams Park also boasts the ruins of Fort Williams, a military fortification built in the late 1800s, where you can still explore the old gun batteries and hidden tunnels.

Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

The sprawling park provides vast green spaces perfect for picnics, kite flying, or simply relaxing with family and friends.

With its combination of dramatic lighthouse, historic sites, and magnificent ocean views, Fort Williams Park is a must-see destination when visiting the Greater Portland area.

 

The Top 10 Things To Do in Portland Maine: Start Planning Your Maine Vacation Escape Today!

With its mix of maritime history, stunning scenery, cultural attractions, and delicious dining, Portland, Maine, is a must-visit destination. Whether you dream of whale watching adventures, strolling cobblestone streets in a historic district, or exploring unique museums, this charming Maine coastal city has it all.

Portland Maine

This list of the top 10 things to do in Portland Maine is just a starting point – Portland offers endless opportunities for exploration.

Are you hooked by the promise of fresh seafood, ocean breezes, and lighthouse views? Do the mysteries of cryptozoology spark your imagination? Or perhaps you crave the beauty and energy of Portland’s art scene?

Whatever your interests, it’s time to start planning your own Portland escape! For detailed itineraries, insider tips, and everything you need to experience Maine’s coastal magic, visit us at TM2Maine.com. The vibrant city of Portland, Maine awaits.

Picture of Mark Beale - Author Bio

Mark Beale - Author Bio

Mark has an extensive background in the Maine Hospitality Industry, having owned the Ledges By The Bay, a boutique oceanfront hotel property, in Rockport Maine, for 40 years. He sold the property in 2016 but remains well-versed in the Maine Tourism industry and has written a number of Maine travel-related articles for various blogs and publications over the years.

Mark founded the TakeMe2 Travel Guides platform, an online travel guide initiative, designed to promote tourism in Maine, New England and in other key states – by providing in depth, unbiased information to potential tourists and travel consumers. TakeMe2 currently features the TM2Maine.com website.

Mark is also currently a stakeholder in VONT, a digital marketing agency in Westbrook, Maine, where he leads VONT's search engine optimization (SEO) practice.

Mark is versed in a number of digital information technologies including web design and development, digital video, electronic design and digital imaging technologies as well as internet marketing tactics such as blogs, web properties, and other smart media such as AI chatbots for content, image and video enhancement. One of his primary tasks at VONT is to find the successful application of these new information platforms in marketing and then teach VONT's marketers how to use them to create marketing campaigns more efficiently, creatively and cost effectively.

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