how to be a tourist in portland, me

how to be a tourist in portland, me

I’ve only visited Maine once (Bar Harbor, to be specific) and it was back in college during summer vacation with one of those cheap buy two get one free Chinese tour bus companies. Not exactly a relaxing experience. 

Now fast forward to 2020. Ah, the year of no travels. The last time I had gone anywhere was Seattle in February, right before everything was about to go down. It’s now August and we’ve been in quarantine for about six months, so we were dying to go somewhere. Plane travel was out of the question, so Ben and I decided to take a road trip somewhere. We landed on Portland because it was only about a 5.5 hour drive from NYC, and I had never been before. We had a ton of vacation days, so we decided to take a few days and drive up the weekend before LDW. Since everything was opening up again, we knew LDW would be a madhouse and we were not trying to deal with the crowds. There was still a lot of people around because I guess a lot of people had the same idea as us, but it wasn’t too bad. Plus, we went from a Sunday to Thursday, so most of the crowds thinned out by Monday.

We stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott Downtown Portland/Waterfront and the location was great. We chose this because of where it was located, and because it had a full kitchen – since we didn’t know how the restaurant situation would be. 

Most of the four-day trip consisted of stuffing our faces but here are some things to do:

  1. Eat lobster. I think this is a pretty obvious one. I hope you’re not allergic to shellfish because they are as crazy about lobster as you read about. We ate so many lobster rolls that by we were pretty sick of it by day 3. If you want cheap and delicious, go to Dock’s Seafood. If you are looking for decadence, check out The HighRoller Lobster (and get the lobster grilled cheese). Looking for trendy? Try Eventide Oyster Company, but expect to wait. If you want nice views, head to Lobster Shack. The food is kind of terrible here though

2. Eat other seafood. If lobster is not your thing, Portland is still the perfect place to get some fresh seafood. They are located on the harbor, after all

3. Take some pictures at the most photographed lighthouses in North America, Portland Head Light. You’ll also find the popular lobster roll food truck, Bite into Maine here. We didn’t try it though, since we were planning on getting lobster elsewhere afterwards

4. Chill on a Maine Beach. There is a 30-mile strip of beaches and I’m not sure why we don’t hear more about Maine beaches. Sure the waters are freezing, but it’s very serene. At least Ferry Beach was. Plus, it was only about a half an hour drive from Downtown, so it’s a nice half-day trip if you just want to get away from the city for a bit

5. Explore the Islands of Casco Bay. There are a couple of islands you can explore and you just need to hop on a ferry from downtown. We went with Peaks Island because it was the only one that fit in with our schedule, since ferries were limited at the time due to Covid. There isn’t much to do there but walk around, bike, or you can even rent a golf cart to get around the island. But the ferry over was probably the most interesting. People live on that island, so you’ll see cars and even a postal truck on the ferry with you 

6. Grab some beers at Shipyard Brewing Company. They have a ton of seasonal (and year round) beers. Since we went at the beginning of September, we got the best of both worlds. We still got to have the summer beers, but they were also starting to come out with the fall beers

7. Grab some more beers at Allagash Brewing Company. They weren’t doing any tours or tastings in September. And we already went overboard on stocking up on beer at Shipyard, so we decided to just stop by to pick up a beer glass for our collection

Noteworthy:

Duckfat – everybody seems to love this place, but I thought it was a bit overrated. The duck poutine was good, but the paninis were basic

Central Provisions – bacon cheeseburger with foie gras. Need I say more?

Standard Baking Co – highlights are the prosciutto croissant and the asiago fougasse 

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