Things To Do When Visiting Portland, Maine

One of our stops on our fall foliage tour was Portland, Maine. Growing up on the East Coast, I’d been to Maine a few times before, but never to Portland. B’s sister had lived in Portland a few years ago and we had heard good things about the city and its food and beer scene. And, we’d heard it was beautiful this time of year, so we decided to make a stop there – three days – on our recent vacation.

What a great city! It was true – it was beautiful this time of year (trees were changing, water and skies were blue (most of the time), the people were all very nice, the food (lobster, lobster and more lobster) was good and everything was very walkable (something I care about when visiting new cities).

Ever planning a trip to Portland? Here are some of the things that we did:

Check out the local craft beer scene.

Portland has quite a few craft breweries – and distilleries – that we couldn’t visit them all. Which is probably a good thing. But we did visit Bunker Brewery, Rising Tide Brewery, Maine Craft Distillery and Shipyard – all of which were great. Shipyard has a virtual brew tour where you watch a video of how they got started and how the beer is made – and then they give you samples of like 7 of their beers, for free! Who wouldn’t like that?

maine craft distilling

Local distillery

Walk around the Old Port part of Portland and be a tourist.

All the tourists, including the cruise ship passengers (there were a ton of them one day!), spend time in the Old Port. The streets have cobblestones and there are many shops and restaurants along the water. It’s where B and I walked to (and ran) most days and found ourselves eating dinner. We didn’t buy any souvenirs while we were there, but if we had it would have probably been there.

old town

old town! yes, that’s a bag of candy in my hand.

Take the ferry to Peak’s Island.

Peak’s Island is an island off the coast of Portland and still technically considered part of the city. It’s home to part of the city’s population, an old fort, a few restaurants and other places. We took the ferry over and back one day and had a snack at a bakery on the island before heading back. I wish there had been more to do on the island, but it was nice to walk around, and get a new view of the city from across the water.

Ferry Selfie!

Ferry Selfie!

View of Portland from the ferry ... check out the big cruise ship!

View of Portland from the ferry … check out the big cruise ship!

Here we are!

Here we are!

Check out the non-touristy shops and spots – from big bookstores to art shops hole-in-the-wall bars.

Portland also has a few large bookshops (something my brother would love!), art galleries and other places that locals and tourists enjoy. We decided to stop by the Snug, a bar that was definitely mostly for locals one of our nights and it was fun to talk to people who lived in Portland and were surprised we had stumbled upon their spot. They had great recommendations (including the lobster nachos … see below) and were happy to hear about our visit. We also happened to be in town during their First Friday Art Walk, where galleries open their doors and have wine and snacks and shows open to the public. People line the streets, selling their artwork, crafts and other handmade stuff, and people walk up and down for a few hours.

Hike up Munjoy Hill and visit the Eastern Promenade. Enjoy watching the boats along the Atlantic.

We stayed in Munjoy Hill and I’m not going to lie, my hips were hurting from all the hill walking and running after a few days. Or maybe they were still sore from our Atlantic Half Marathon? Let’s just go with that one. Anyway, the Eastern Promenade is on the eastern end of the city and has a great park and green area that sits right above the water with some great views of the ocean. Definitely recommend stopping by there, taking a few photos, or even bringing a good book. If it had been summer or warmer weather, I definitely would have brought a few beach chairs and a book. And the sunsets along the waterfront were beautiful!

portland waterfront

Eat as much lobster as you can.

I LOVE lobster. A lot. And I feel like I didn’t get enough of it. But we definitely tried and tried eating it a few different interesting ways –

Steamed lobster dinner.

mutilating the lobster

mutilating the lobster

Lobster roll.

lobster roll

Lobster nachos. SO SO SO good.

lobstah nachos

Lobster guacamole AND lobster ceviche.



Try a donut from Holy Donut and coffee from a local coffeeshop (Coffee By Design may be my preference … and they sometimes have donuts from Holy Donut too!).

B loves donuts, so we always try out a recommended donut shop on our trips. Holy donut makes their donuts with POTATOES so I was very intrigued and new we had to test them out. Their donuts were interesting – they were good but definitely tasted a little different than the traditional donut.


Take a tour, visit a museum, or visit their other many attractions.

B and I usually try to visit a museum or do something culure-y like that when visiting a city for a decent period of time. In Milwaukee last year, we visited their art museum. In Portland, we opted not to visit any of their many art or other museums- instead, we visited the homestead of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. We visited their exhibit (really interesting!) and took a tour o fthe home, which I thought was really interesting. I love visiting old homes that are preserved to look like they did way back when, and this home was no different. The old bedrooms, kitchen, etc. were really cool to see, and visiting the exhibit before seeing the house was a great way to get an understanding of what life in early Portland was like. Not a bad way to spend a few hours!

In front of the old home!

In front of the old home!

Some questions for you:

  • Have you been to Portland before? What would you add to this list?
  • What are some ways you have tried lobster?
  • Do you have a favorite craft beer?

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