With a population of just 67,000, Portland is small in size but abundant in spirit. Maine’s coastal city is home to world-class art, a storied heritage, and bountiful natural beauty. Thanks to the city’s compact size, it’s easy for families to spend a few days dipping their toes into all three. Read on for a look inside the many diverse adventures waiting for you in Portland.
This isn’t just a Portland landmark—it’s a National Historic Landmark. This opulent brownstone mansion, built between 1858 and 1860, is among the country’s finest examples of mid-Victorian homes. While the imposing facade is impressive, the building’s unique feature is that 90% of its original furnishings remain intact. As you wander, admire the gilded chandeliers, hand-painted frescoes, and intricately carved banisters.
Portland Museum of Art
The Portland Museum of Art is home to an incredible collection worthy of a far larger city. The star attraction is the American collection, which showcases works by Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer. Another jewel in the PMA’s crown is the Winslow Homer Studio, the house where the artist lived and worked for more than 20 years. Book a tour in advance to see the very views that inspired the artist. The studio is located about 10 miles away from Portland in Prouts Neck.
Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow is another Portland-bred American hero. Art- and history-lovers can tour the stately Longfellow House, where the poet grew up. Remarkably, this isn’t the home’s only claim to fame. George Washington also used the house as his headquarters during the Siege of Boston from July 1775 to April 1776. History buffs and fans of the decorative arts will be in awe of the collection, which features historic works by American painters and priceless period furnishings.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Art and nature intersect at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. These lavish and leafy gardens span 270 acres of scenic waterfront. Inside, you’ll find wooded trails, grassy meadows, and colorful gardens bursting with exotic blooms. Kids will love children’s garden, where fun workshops and games take place.
Old Orchard Beach
This seven-mile stretch of coast is the most popular beach in southern Maine, offering a variety of activities to keep sun-seekers entertained. The 500-foot-long Old Orchard Beach Pier is topped with restaurants, shops, fishing docks, and games. Back on land there’s Palace Playland, a full-fledged amusement park with fun rides and fireworks every Thursday.
With natural splendor on all sides, Portland is an ideal destination for walkers and hikers. Trails run through the city, the forest, and along the coast. Walkers will love Back Cove, which curves with the waterfront. Nearby, Baxter Woods offers easy trails in wooded surroundings. Hikers hoping to get out of town can head to Wolfe’s Neck State Park or climb Mount Pleasant for beautiful panoramic views.
Whether you’re seeking a leisurely float or an adrenaline-pumping adventure, Maine’s three major rivers provide many rafting opportunities. Take a day-trip to the Kennebec River for a thrilling ride through the Upper Gorge. If you’d rather stay close by, the Presumpscot River, which wraps around Portland, is a great place for kayaking or lazy tubing.
Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
Named for famed environmentalist Rachel Carson, this 50-mile stretch of protected coastline is among the largest wildlife refuges in Maine. Many visitors come to hike the one-mile Carson Trail, but you can enjoy fishing, wildlife-spotting, and kayaking, too.
Are you ready to take on Portland? Whether your family likes to soak up culture or soak up the sun, Portland’s diverse adventures await.