Visit Maine: Hotels, events, fine dining & shopping in Portland & Freeport
Portland & Casco Bay: Urban chic & culture on a sheltered bay
Greater Portland, on Casco Bay, is Maine’s largest city and a delightful year-round tourist destination for vacationers who love urban settings. The Old Port section, dating from the 1800s, is now a first-class shopping and dining district packed with restaurants, stores, galleries, and lodgings. The neighborhood’s charm comes partly from the excellent maintenance of its Federal-style architecture and cobbled streets. The city’s “new” port is the departure point for the ferry to Nova Scotia and commuter boats to the Casco Bay’s Calendar Islands.
Portland is the place for gourmets; good restaurants are abundant and rich with local seafood and regional specialties. Children on vacation will love the Children’s Museum of Maine, with four floors of interactive exhibits and special programs every day. For a unique combination of art, exercise, and outdoor beauty, hike the Cliff Walk in nearby Scarborough to the site of artist Winslow Homer’s former studio.
Other highlights of the region include the city of Freeport, 20 miles north of Portland, home of upscale outlet shopping and of the world-famous L.L. Bean outdoor store. The city has made a priority of historic preservation, and many original schools, homes, and churches have been preserved and refurbished. Wolfe’s Neck Woods is one of several sanctuaries along the coast, perfect for hiking and bird watching.
People who love lighthouses should know about Cape Elizabeth’s Portland Headlight, one of the most-photographed lighthouses in the world, located in Fort Williams Park. Nearby, Two Lights State Park offers unobstructed views of Casco Bay. And Crescent Beach State Park is a popular spot for families because its crescent shape protects the beach from big waves. Portland has luxury hotels and quaint smaller lodgings. Outside the city are inns and B&Bs, some featuring very fine, historic pedigrees.