Things to Do in Portland
An inlet on Maine’s southern coast, Casco Bay is a rich maritime area spotted with lighthouses, historic forts, and seven small islands. Calm conditions make Casco Bay an ideal spot for boating, sailing, and kayaking, while the islands each have their own unique communities to explore.
Dating back to the 18th century, the Portland Head Light watches over the rocky coastline of Maine as the state’s oldest lighthouse. Its picturesque location also makes it the most photographed lighthouse in the United States. And the surrounding Fort Williams Park is a popular beach and hiking destination.
Accessible only by boat, Fort Gorges sits abandoned on an island in Portland Harbor. Built with granite in 1865, the historic structure was most recently used to store submarine mines in World War II. It was named for the colonial proprietor of Maine, Sir Fernando Gorges, and used primarily to support the nearby forts. Construction was initially expedited during the Civil War, though the development of modern explosives made the fort obsolete by its completion.
Fort Gorges’ dark halls are steeped in history and mystery, and its position on the island gives the appearance that the walls are rising out of the sea. Be on the lookout for the local harbor seals and boats which dot the water’s surface. Once you reach the island, there is a small beach and granite block pier. Perhaps the best part about exploring the fort is the incredible view of Portland’s city skyline, which can be seen from the rooftop.
Portland’s Eastern Promenade stretches just over two miles along the coastline in one of the city’s most beautiful outdoor spaces. Overlooking the activity of Casco Bay and adjacent to grassy Fort Allen Park, the trail (known to locals as “East Prom”) offers some of the best views of the surrounding natural scenery. You can also catch glimpses of the many lobster boats and schooners.
Much of the 68-acre walking area features views of the islands off of Portland’s coast. In addition to hiking the trail, bird watching, biking and picnicking are options for enjoying the outdoors here. The promenade starts in Portland’s Old Port, an area lined with historic piers and cobblestone streets. Parallel paved and dirt paths take you along the waterfront. You’ll pass many sports fields and recreation areas for baseball, tennis and basketball before the trail ends at East End Beach.
Whether its whiskey, rum or gin you’re after, New England Distilling produces some of the finest in the region. Each is created using raw materials by a family who has been distilling for many generations – New England Distilling’s roots go as far back as the 1850s. Today the facilities include a combination of traditional and modern equipment.
Local ingredients are used in recipes from around the world to create premium small-batch spirits by hand. At the distillery, you can see the traditional copper pot still, which lends a bit of history to the process. The whiskey and gin are produced with grains from New England and the Midwest, while the rum is made from Caribbean molasses. The spirits are fermented with yeast from Maine Beer Company. Tastings on site allow visitors to experience all three.
Rising Tide Brewing Company serves up one of Portland, Maine's most beloved beers alongside live music and food trucks. The lively tasting room features artisan craft beers produced by the small-scale, family-owned brewing company, which has since grown to be one of the area's top brewers. There's a local feel to the taproom, and a long bar for tastings that looks into the production area.
Try four different beers on a tour of the brewery, or make an outing out of your visit on a craft drink tour through the city.
Dating back to 1755, Portland, Maine's Tate House Museum is the only existing example of pre-revolutionary architecture open to the public. In its heyday, it was the residence of Captain George Tate, a senior mast agent in the British Royal Navy, though it's now a museum, complete with period furnishings, an herb garden, and a gift shop.