There is no shortage of things to do in Portland, Maine. The historic city, founded in 1632 as a center of trade between Canada and Europe, is still a major port, but over the years it’s also become a haven for foodies, brewers, artists and other creative types. Hip Portland somehow manages to exude a small-town vibe, with independent shops, galleries, bars and restaurants galore, as well as a proud identity as New England’s largest seaport and second-largest fishing port, guaranteeing no shortage of fun things to do.
Keep reading to learn about all the exciting things to do in Portland, Maine.
Hit the road on one of these amazing routes to get a real feel for all America has to offer.
Things to Do in Portland, Maine.
Exploring lighthouses is one of the coolest things to do in Portland, Maine. There are six such facilities within 20 minutes of downtown – including Portland Head Light, in Cape Elizabeth. It was one of the first lighthouses commissioned for the U.S. by President George Washington. It was first lit – via 16 whale-oil lamps – in 1791. There is a museum in the former keepers’ quarters with items like lenses. The lighthouse is next to Fort Williams Park with walking trails including a seaside loop.
Any rundown of Portland, Maine top 10 should include a stroll along Commercial Street, where boutiques, bars and restaurants vie for your attention, while steps away, the working waterfront bustles with a mix of fishermen, charter boats and yachts. You can also find attractions like the Portland Science Center, home to ever-changing exhibitions. Just off Commercial Street, the CAT Ferry offers a unique way of getting from Maine to Nova Scotia, Canada. It runs from Portland to Yarmouth in just 6.5 hours with onboard food and entertainment.
You can’t run down a list of the best things to do in Portland, Maine without mentioning lobster fishing. Find out what it takes to be a lobster fisherman with Lucky Catch Cruises, which will teach you how to trap these local crustaceans on Casco Bay. Tours last about 80 to 90 minutes. Guests can don aprons and gloves to help with setting traps. Tour guides also provide education on lobster biology and conservation, and cooking tips.
Pop into the Portland Museum of Art to see its vast collection of more than 18,000 works of art, including pieces by Andy Warhol and Claude Monet, and you’ll quickly realize why it belongs in a Portland, Maine top 10. The museum also has work by Winslow Homer and, on select days from April through October, visitors can make reservations to take 2.5-hour tours of the renowned artist’s studio. Homer lived in Prouts Neck, Maine for more than 25 years through the early 20th century.
If you want to sample beers and learn about beer brewing, take a free tour of Allagash Brewing Company, one of the city’s first craft breweries specializing in Belgian-style ales, and definitely one of the best things to do in Portland, Maine. Founder Rob Tod started the operation in 1995. Tours and tastings are offered seven days a week. Visitors should book in advance online.
Visit the Wadsworth-Longfellow House & Garden, once home to the world-famous poet, where much of the original furniture, including his writing desk, are well-preserved. The brass knocker on the front door, for example, is original. Wadsworth’s grandfather, Peleg, built the house in the late 18th century. It’s open for tours from May through October. The Longfellow Garden is open for the same period of time, and admission is free.
Wander through the Portland Farmers Market, which only sells products from Maine. Pick up some blueberries or local cheese to snack on. The market is open year-round. Late April through November, it’s held Saturdays in Deering Oaks Park and on Wednesday at Monument Square. December through late April, it’s held indoors on Saturday, at 84 Cove St.
Indulge in the delicious, and addictive, hand-cut Belgian fries at Duckfat on Middle Street. They’re cooked twice in – yes – duck fat and served with house made dips like truffle ketchup. It wouldn’t be a Portland, Maine top 10 without mentioning the city’s delicious grub.
Kayak around Casco Bay with Portland Paddle on a guided tour, or rent boats to explore on your own. Special tours, like a sunset outing and moonlight paddle, can be magical. You may also be able to enjoy a stand-up paddleboard yoga class, too, and the more adventurous sorts may be included to try multi-day trips that combine paddling with camping on islands around the harbor.
Enjoying live music and tasty local beer are two of the best things to do in Maine. Port City Music Hall has a wide-ranging calendar of acts, from funk ensembles to a Talking Heads tribute band.
What do you think about our guide for things to do in Portland, Maine? Think we’re missing anything? Let us know in the comments section below!