12 THINGS TO DO IN PORTLAND MAINE
by Bearfoot Theory’s East Coast expert Katherine Oakes
After soaking up all the outdoor (and indoor) adventuring that the city of Portland, Maine has to offer, my tiny family and I decided to stop talking about how, “we could totally live here” and just, well, live there already. It’s an exciting move for sure since the seacoast has more than its fair share of outdoor activities, amazing food, secret spots and an all-around great vibe that would have anyone coming back for more.
Don’t mind the fact that I don’t eat lobster (gasp!), this list is comprised of a ton of other things to do in Portland Maine, places to see and delicious bites to eat besides the seafood. It’s also worth mentioning that this agenda is much better suited for folks visiting in the warmer months, as Maine is known to get some cold snaps and snow.
Check out this local’s guide for some of the best things to do in Portland Maine.
1) Take a sunset kayak tour
The north end of the Portland peninsula juts out into the beautiful Casco Bay where Portland Paddle offers sunset kayak tours. The trip begins about 2 hours before sunset (check their website for an exact time when you go) and lets visitors enjoy the surreal beauty of the Maine harbor and marine life. It’s $40 per person, $35 for kids ages 10-16. Book a tour on their website.
2) Walk, run or bike around Back Cove
Head a few minutes outside of the city by car or by foot to hike the 3.6 miles trail around Back Cove. It’s a paved and well-maintained pathway that offers beautiful city views and is great for kids or dogs on leash.
3) Thompson’s Point
Year-round events from Summer Sunsets at the Point, to a Pop-Up cycling class, or a live show featuring some of Portland’s best local bands make for a good time at this waterfront location. Check out their website for their updated event schedule.
4) Go sailing on a windjammer
One of the best ways to experience Portland, Maine is by sailboat. The Portland Schooner Co. offers two-hour sailing excursions on Casco Bay and beyond for $45 per person — drinks are not included but encouraged. The tours are only open from May through October so make sure you book your tour during the season.
5) Surf Lesson at Higgins Beach
If the idea of surfing in Maine sounds crazy, think again — oh and grab a wetsuit. This New England locale is a well-known surf break with pretty consistent waves year round. It’s a popular spot with friendly locals that is just south of the city near Cape Elizabeth. Go to Black Point Surf Shop to rent a surfboard for just $35 and a wetsuit for $25. You can also book a 90-minute lesson with them for $80 a person or $140 for two people.
6) Hike the Fore River Sanctuary
From the center of the city, a short walk down Congress Street will get you to this 85-acre preserve with one of the area’s only natural waterfalls. Bring your dog, some friends, and a camera to snap photos of the beautiful marshlands and wildlife where the city meets the sea. Give yourself a few hours to enjoy a leisurely stroll around this 3.2-mile loop — the golden hour is preferred. If you’re looking to spend more time outdoors in Maine, make sure to check out our favorite things to do in Acadia National Park.
7) Explore the Eastern Promenade
Local Mainers call this 2.1 miles of waterfront beaches and pathways “the prom”, which is easily one of the more desired areas of the city to live in. It’s a got a laid-back, Venice Beach vibe, with small bungalows and winding streets just a stone’s throw from the water, plus a brewery on every corner that made it a shoe-in for my favorite spot on the peninsula. Bring a towel and a picnic lunch and enjoy the small sliver of sandy beachfront and finish the day off with a drink at Lone Pine Brewing Co.
8) Camp on Richmond Island
Snag one of the four remote and primitive campsites available to visitors on Richmond Island just south of Portland and near Cape Elizabeth. This gives you a unique beach camping experience that is totally off the beaten path and is one of the more adventurous things to do in Portland. Before you head out, make sure you obtain a permit and bring your own firewood. The island is only available by boat and there is no running water, no electricity or dogs allowed. As always, pack out all trash and tread lightly while exploring the area! Remember to leave no trace when camping. Check out this page for instructions for securing a camping permit.
Photo from Ramislandfarm.com
Don’t forget any of the essentials with our backpacking checklist
9) Eat, drink and shop in Old Port
If you need a quick break from hiking, camping and surfing, take some time to explore the Old Port District for a quintessential Maine experience. The city is full of creatives, makers and entrepreneurs with super cool storefronts that are definitely worth a visit. Some of my favorite finds were More & Co., Maine Surfers Union and Judith Maine. As for eats and sips, check out Central Provisions which is tucked away on a cobblestone side street and The Thirsty Pig, a fun place with good food and craft brews.
10) Stargaze at the Portland Observatory
The observatory is a fixture in the seacoast city and a symbol of its maritime roots. Trek up to Munjoy Hill to take a tour of the waterfront landmark and you’ll be spoiled with panoramic views of the city and of course, a unique view of the ocean beyond the barrier islands. Admission for adults is $10 and $5 for children ages 6-16.
11) Take a self-guided brewery tour
The city alone has nearly 20 breweries — some brick and mortar and some on wheels — that makes this Maine city a haven for beer lovers (that’s me!). Many of the breweries are located close to one another, so it was easy to do a self-guided walking tour… that is, until, you know, walking got a little hard towards the end and sitting down for dinner was a much better plan.
Try this one out for yourself! Begin at The Maine Brew Bus for a waterfront drink and then head up to the popular Shipyard Brewing Co. or Belfast Bay Brewing Co. for a lesser-known spot. Walk over to Washington Avenue where you can stop by Oxbow Blending and Bottling, Maine Meadworks and finish off at Rising Tide Brewing Company. If you are up for one more, can’t-miss brewery, go get a drink at Lone Pine Brewing Company, my favorite.
12) Get Caffeinated at Tandem Coffee
You can’t go to Maine and not have coffee — not what you were expecting I would say, right? Well, it’s true. The line at Tandem Coffee runs out the door on weekends and for good reason, the coffee and baked goods here are outstanding. So, get in line and if the weather permits, hang outside where there is ample seating and a good vibe overall. ‘Cause you’re gonna need some caffeine to fuel all your adventures, might as well power up here.