Portland, Maine, by reading The Maine Attraction by
Charlie Spence, WTA Member and Travel Writer. It features a mini,
but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need to know
to plan your trip including getting there, objective information on
places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article,
we've provided a summary of the contact information for your easy
The Maine Attraction
Charlie Spence, Travel Writer and WTA Member
The state of Maine has so many
things to offer a visitor that it is difficult to know where to start. But
decisions must be made and we’ll begin our Maine adventure in the Casco
Bay/Portland area, the state’s largest city and where within a few miles there
are samplings of much of everything offered in the rest of the state.
Portland lies between the
forest-covered mountains and the sea, jutting out into Casco Bay and surrounded
by water on three sides. That water off the Maine coast provides some of the
finest eating to be found. My introduction to this fascinating state was years
ago when I did publicity for the state’s sardine industry, which leads the world
in production of these flat tins of young herring, producing more than 75
million cans a year. Even then, however, before checking into a hotel I would
find the nearest restaurant and savor a Maine lobster dinner. Maine lobster men
land around 50 million pounds of these crustaceans annually from the cold, clean
waters off the rocky coast. Drop in to almost any restaurant and you can find
lobster on the menu. If you are lucky enough to be with a large group, a variety
of caterers will set up an authentic Downeast lobster bake.
A look at a typical lobster
But I digress. Fine eating is but
one of the attractions of the Portland area. The 18th century poet
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who spent his childhood in Portland, called it "a
jewel by the sea." The Calendar Islands—365 in all—dot Casco Bay and some of the
larger inhabited ones can be visited by ferry from Portland. The islands were
named by Captain John Smith of Mayflower fame who said there is "one for every
day of the year." (Actually there are 785 if you include ledges that remain
exposed during high tide.) On the islands you will find a slower pace and an
opportunity to wander them on foot or by bicycle. For a real treat, dine at one
of the spots near the dock on one of these islands, enjoying lobsters and clams
dipped in melted butter.
But I digress again. Take a tour
boat to explore the bay and see the seals, admire the lighthouses (Seven of
Maine’s sixty lighthouses are right here near Portland), perhaps even have an
at-sea lobster bake on one of the tour boats. Or, try a kayak excursion for a
more intimate exploration of the area. Go after striped bass yourself in the
shallow waters. Captain John Ford knows where they can be hooked. The water has
always been an integral part of Maine. In early years tall ships plied Casco Bay
and the many lighthouses shined welcoming guidance.
Landlubbers still can get a great
view of the waterfront by taking a ride aboard the narrow gauge railroad. An
authentic 2-foot gauge railroad chugs along a 30-minute, 3-mile journey beside
Portland’s waterfront that also offers an opportunity to visit the railroad
The season of the year you visit
will dictate much of your activity. Fortunately, Maine has four distinct seasons
that offers a variety. Summer finds the sandy beaches that line the shores of
South Portland, Scarborough, and Cape Elizabeth welcoming visitors to this area
that contrasts so sharply with Maine’s rugged coast. Neatly manicured golf
courses beckon, and trails for walking, rollerblading, or jogging take you along
Winter brings it own unique
outdoor activities. Downhill and cross-country skiing are available, usually
until late spring. Cross-country skiers will particularly enjoy the quiet and
isolation and the experience of skiing next to the ocean. Spring provides it own
unique pleasures and, of course, fall in Maine is breathtaking in its glorious
Portland is the largest city in
the state and has a staggering number of restaurants, and even if you are not
particularly fond of fresh lobster and other seafood, your choice of eating
places ranges from Afghan to Cajun, from casual to elegant. But the lobsters are
available in many different menus. Once again, because of lobsters I digress.
First Friday art walk shares the art of the area.
Shopping must be on your
schedule, if nothing more than to visit the world famous L.L. Bean store in
nearby Freeport. Whether you want to take a leisurely hike through the woods or
sign on for one of the trips or tours, you will find this a Mecca for lovers of
outdoors activities. If you have the time, attend one of the outdoor discovery
schools to learn kayaking, fly casting, outdoor photography or another of the
several quick courses.
Portland’s waterfront is alive
with restaurants, shops, pleasure boats, sight-seeing cruises. But while you are
taking in all these sights and attractions, take some time to soak up the
history and culture of this area. Visit Fort Preble, which was once used to
guard the approach to the Portland Harbor. Another is Fort Scammel, a Civil War
Fort on House Island. This island at the turn of the last century served as an
immigration hospital for thousands of immigrants entering America. The Portland
Museum of Art displays three centuries of art and architecture, including
collections of Maine artists Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth. Right next-door is
the Children’s Museum.
In years past tall ships plied
the waters of the harbor and today the area remains steeped in history. Through
downtown admire the Victorian architecture and cobblestone streets amid the
modern office buildings. Portland has numerous galleries offering everything
from fine paintings and prints to sculpture, art glass, ceramics and jewelry. If
you are visiting on the first Friday of any month, take the self-guided tour
through the Arts District.
Stay on land or venture on to the
bay, the fresh salt air reminds you that you are in a unique spot where you can
enjoy, relax, venture forth, or soak up culture. You’re in a Maine attraction.
to Get There
- The Portland
International Jetport is within two miles of the city.
Several trunk and regional airlines serve the area with at least 50
non-stop flights daily to a number of locations.
DOWNEASTER is the way to come from Boston. There are four
- By auto, Interstate
95 brings you direct. Maine is the only state in the United States
that is touched by only one other state.
Where to Stay
In and around
Portland there is a wide variety of places to stay with rates
ranging from about $90 to more than $250 per night. A few examples:
- Double Tree
Hotel - two miles from International Airport, has restaurant and
lounge, weekend entertainment, indoor pool. Rates: $159 - $209.
- Embassy Suites -
one mile south of the airport, restaurant and lounge. Rates $169
- Holiday Inn West
- three miles south of the airport, rates $120 to $169.
- Portland Harbor
Hotel - five miles south of the airport, restaurant and lounge
with entertainment. Rates: $249 - $289.
Terrace on the Prom - on the waterfront, 13 miles from the
airport, restaurants nearby. Rates: $200 - $325.
intended to show approximate range and may differ by seasons or
You can also
WTA’s Online Travel Booking
Service to book your accommodations. Deep hotel
savings may apply.
Where to Eat
plentiful in the area offering a variety of cuisines, many of them,
of course, leaning toward the seafood specialties. A few to get you
- Audubon Room at
Inn By The Bay - American cuisine, ocean view, lobster dinner;
dinner entree prices range from $19 to $29.
- Bando - French
Prix Fixe. Five course menu, nine course degustation menu, open
dinner only, closed Sunday and Monday. Entree price: $74.
- Cook’s Lobster
House - Variety of seafood dishes. Dinner entree $12 – 46.
Chowder House - Award winning chowders, outside dining lunch and
dinner, local brews. Entree $10 - $25.
Restaurant - Home cooked style meals, breakfast menu all
day. Dinner entree $8 -$17.
Restaurant - Specializing in vegetarian dishes, Dinner entree
$8.95 - $14.95.
restaurants are just a random sampling of the many fine eating
establishments in and around Portland. Prices are general and may
information about the Portland area, additional restaurants, hotels,
activities visit their web site:
information is current as of May 2005. It is recommended that you contact the
numbers, and/or visit the web sites above to determine any changes to the