Home to around 67,000 people, with more than half a million in the full metropolitan area, Portland is the biggest city in the state of Maine and is located in Cumberland County on the state's coast. A very historic city that played a key part in the growth and development of Maine over the years, Portland is home to the biggest tonnage seaport in all of New England and is the main economic center of the state. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
2.Inn at St John
3.Black Elephant Hostel
3 Best Portland, Maine Hostels
- Overview, Photo: dbvirago/stock.adobe.com
- Inn at St John, Photo: Inn at St John
- Black Elephant Hostel, Photo: Black Elephant Hostel
- Fleetwood House, Photo: Fleetwood House
- Cover Photo: Radu Razvan/stock.adobe.com
6 Best Beaches Near Portland, Maine
When the sun starts shining and the temperatures start to rise, it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy the world, and there’s no better place to go on a warm, sunny day than the beach. All around the world, coastal locations attract huge numbers of visitors, with people of all ages and backgrounds adoring the comfort, beauty, and activities offered by the beach. Whether you’re looking to head out on the water for some fishing, sailing, or surfing, or simply rest and relax on the warm sand with friends and family, beaches offer a myriad of fun ways to pass the time and make memories that will never be forgotten.
Ask any Maine resident for their favorite local beach and there's a good chance they'll respond by mentioning Old Orchard Beach. Conveniently located for Portland residents and people in the surrounding area, this beach has been one of the top spots in the state for many years and has a lot of history behind it. The main feature of Old Orchard Beach is its 500 feet pier, which hosts weekly firework shows and all kinds of other live entertainment. Lots of great shops and amusements can be found in the area too, giving visitors to Old Orchard Beach a lot of different things to do. Parking is easy and lots of amenities can be found on-site, so if you want a stress-free beach to spend a full day, this is the one for you.
Located in the southern part of Portland, Maine, Willard Beach has proven to be a big hit with locals and tourists alike. It's very convenient for people staying or living in the city and covers around four acres of land, offering beautiful views of the nearby island forts like Fort Gorges and the iconic Spring Point Ledge Light sparkplug lighthouse. There's a nice play area for the kids to enjoy and there's always something interesting to observe from Willard beach, with lots of sea traffic like fishing boats and ferries passing by at all times of day. The water isn't the best for swimming due to the dangers of the rocky shoreline, but Willard Beach is a good spot to simply sit and relax.
If you have an adventurous spirit or love to surf, Scarborough Beach is the best spot for you in the Portland, Maine area. It's almost impossible to visit this beach without spotting a few young surfers searching for the next big wave, and the currents can get quite choppy out there, so this Portland beach is definitely one for youngsters to go paddling on. Lifeguards are always on duty to keep everyone safe, but visitors are encouraged to avoid swimming or surfing out too far unless they have a lot of experience. The water temperatures can get very high at Scarborough Beach, however, so it's a nice spot to stroll along the water's edge on a summer day.
Not far from Scarborough Beach, Ferry Beach is also known under the name of Western Beach and looks out onto the Scarborough River Channel. It's a secluded little spot beloved by locals and ideal for heading out on the water in a canoe or kayak. On-site amenities include concessions, restrooms, and showers, but there aren't any lifeguards, so it's important to keep an eye on little ones. Lots of little crabs can be spotted scuttling around this beach, making a fun spot to walk around as a family.
Only a short drive south of Portland is Crescent Beach State Park at Cape Elizabeth. Named due to its unique crescent-shaped formation, this beach is filled with rolling dunes and has developed a reputation as one of the best spots for families to spend some time by the sea in the Portland area. The beach runs for around a mile in length, providing more than enough space for everyone, and offers some lovely views of local landmarks like Kettle Cove and Richmond Island. The nearby boardwalk is a great place to grab a snack or cool drink on a hot summer day, and lifeguards are always on duty at this beach too.
The Native American name of this particular Portland beach translates to "beautiful place by the sea" and it's easy to see where that name came from. Ogunquit Beach offers a breathtaking sight from any angle, with wide stretches of sand and bright blue waters stretching off as far as the eye can see. Many artists have visited this spot and attempted to capture its beauty on a canvas, and it's a popular place for photographers too. Be warned, however, this beach is almost entirely underwater during times of high tide, so it's a smart idea to plan ahead and consult tidal charts before planning a visit.
With an exceptionally long coastline stretching out along the east, west, and southern sides of the country, America has more beautiful beaches than one could hope to see in an entire lifetime. All around the country, people gather at shoreline locations to enjoy the beautiful views and soft sands of America's beaches, and the New England region has some of the finest beaches in all of North America. With several major port and coastal cities around New England, like Portland in Maine, there are plenty of super beaches to choose from.
Best Beaches in Portland, Maine
Residents of Portland, Maine are lucky enough to live just a short distance away from some of New England’s prettiest beaches. For stunning seascapes, super seafood, sandy fun, and some splendid surfing opportunities too, Portland is a great place to be. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the best beaches in and around this Maine city.
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Attraction Spotlight: Portland Head Light
Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine is home to a variety of spectacular areas. The Portland Head lighthouse is situated along the shores and is a popular landmark. An arboretum developed for conservation efforts of the park, the historic Battery Keyes, a beach, and an award-winning museum offer quiet contemplation, history lessons, and family-friendly destinations.
In 1776, people in the town of Cape Elizabeth committed to independence along with the rest of the colonies, to cut ties with British rule. Eight soldiers stood guard at Portland Head since that day, to warn the town to prepare for British attacks, as fear of war and battle loomed over the entire coast. Construction of a lighthouse began in 1787 at Portland Head, and development of the first Keeper’s Quarters started in 1790, when the Federal Government then took responsibility for every lighthouse in the country.
Arming Portland Harbor has been crucial to defending the United States since the American Revolution, and continued through World War II with the armed fortification of Fort Gorges, Fort Preble, Fort Scammel, and Fort Williams. Now a national park, these forts, and the surrounding areas are open to the public. The grounds offer walking paths, cliff walks, and spectacular views of the new arboretum.
From the Portland Head lighthouse, visitors can see waves crashing on the shores of Cape Elizabeth, Portland Harbor, and four additional lighthouse towers. Small excursion boats slow to take pictures and cruise ships are frequent in September and October.
Visitors may also see buoys bobbing in the water, marking lobster traps for the delicious dinner they plan for later that night. Lobstermen pull these traps several times a week and timing a visit just right could result in an exciting sight.
When fog is dense, the sound of the fog horn reminds visitors of the importance of lighthouses and storms often create waves that crash much higher up on the surrounding lighthouses than is usual on a bright day.
One of the last batteries built at the fort, this concrete structure defended against small, fast attack boats at a range of four and a half miles. In a point and shoot battle, two rapid-fire guns on pedestals fired out into the harbor and protected the shooters with a shield. Electronically controlled mines fired from this location with the use of an observation station relaying information on ship locations. The empty battery sits abandoned today and is full of fascinating history and artifacts just waiting for discovery.
Visitors can stroll along Cliffside, observing the native landscape, take pictures atop the beautiful stone walls, or just take in the view of Casco Bay. Lighthouse View is a meadow adjacent to the lighthouse with native wildflowers and is meant to raise awareness of stewardship of the environment.
The Children’s Garden is designed to inspire children to play, explore, and discover nature. By stimulating imagination and encouraging interaction with the environment, children can create lasting connections with the world around them. The garden promotes healthy childhood development and increases their understanding of the importance of protecting the earth.
Children can learn and explore in a woodland full of birdsong, a pond of frogs and dragonflies, a gopher tunnel, and a lookout fort. The area continues developing with more features planned for the near future including a meadow and a living willow tunnel and dome.
The planning phases of new landscapes are underway to provide refuge for wildlife and wonder for visitors as they share the space. Success for all continued processes depends on the help of donors, volunteers, and the visitors who love and respect the area.
Ship Cove is a small sandy beach on the north side of the island that appears at low tide, and all are welcome to dip their toes into some frigid water on a hot day.
Benches and picnic tables make this a great place to relax with a family lunch and enjoy the weather while listening to waves lapping on the beach.
Museum and Gift Shop
Built in the former Keepers’ House, the museum proudly displays the history of the place where the Portland Head Light resides, and the families that served. Exhibits with artifacts, documents, navigational aids, models, and pictures tell the story of a time when technology was not as advanced, and the lighthouse was in active use. Gifts and souvenirs are available for purchase.
Fort Williams Park is home to many attractions that captivate visitors of all ages. The Children’s Park, the arboretum, the lighthouse, and the museum come together to make an excellent place for people to relax, enjoy the beauty of Maine, and reconnect with nature and the wonders it brings.
Fort Williams Park 1000 Shore Road Cape Elizabeth Maine 04107, Phone: 207-799-2661
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Attraction Spotlight: Victoria Mansion
Portland's Victoria Mansion is a pre-civil war architectural gem, near the heart of the downtown area. Exemplifying the opulence that characterized the era, the over the top embellishments are a must-see on a trip to Portland, Maine.
The Mansion has been restored to a high level, complete with period specific furnishings transporting visitors back in time. The holidays are an especially good time to visit the landmark, as the Mansion is trimmed from top to bottom in elaborate Christmas decorations, adding to the magnificence and majesty of the interiors.
Construction began on the Mansion in 1850, lasting for a full decade and finishing in 1860, just a few years before the start of the Civil War. Originally known as the Morse-Libby House, it was built as a summer home for Russel Sylvester Morse. Morse was a native of the state of Maine, but built his fortune in luxurious New Orleans hotels. Upon Morse's death in 1893, the house was sold to a prominent merchant, J.R. Libby.
The Libby family lived in the Mansion for more than three decades, preserving the house and its original decor. A massive 1938 hurricane damaged the structure, and by 1940 was listed for demolition. Good fortune found the house at this precipice, in the form of Dr. William H. Holmes, who purchased the Mansion with the intension to rescue it from its dire fate. With the help of his sister Clara Holmes, they restored the building, dedicating it to Queen Victoria, for whom it is now named.
In 1941, the siblings opened the Mansion to the public. A few short years later, the Society of Maine Women of Achievement was created and took control of the site. The Victoria Mansion continued to operate through the non-profit organization, Victoria House, Inc. for many decades, and received its historical designation in 1970.
The Italianate architecture that characterizes Victoria Mansion was extremely fashionable during the mid-1800s. The work of its architect, Henry Austin, was well suited to this style of structure. Using a mixture of balconies and piazzas, combined with the square tower helped to create a city meets country aesthetic that was perfectly suited to the summer Mansion.
The exterior is comprised primarily of Connecticut brownstone, working with materials of the northeast, while evoking the style of southern Europe. Conservation of the architecture is a major focus for Victoria Mansion, Inc., which has undertaken significant renovation and restoration efforts over the years. At the turn of the millennia, the Mansion received the Save America's Treasures Grant of $1.4 million, to help make needed restorations, particularly to the structure's tower.
For the elaborate interior decorations of the house, Morse enlisted German-trained Gustave Herter. Herter, having immigrated to New York several years earlier, was a notable interior designer through the pre-civil war era. Despite his influence, the Victoria Mansion is the only full commission of his work that remains intact today. Thanks to the Libby family's preservation through their decades of ownership, much of the original interior remains.
Because of this conservation, and the ornate and richly gilded style of decoration, the Victoria Mansion is today one of the finest examples of pre-civil war grandeur in the country. For example, the Mansion exhibits fine specimens of the tromp l'oeil technique on ceilings and walls. These murals, executed by Giuseppe Guidicini, fool the eye in interesting ways and are one of the best features of the Mansion.
The original plans and construction of the home incorporated hot and cold running water, central heating, gas lighting and servants' bells. These features, considered the height of technology at the time, made the home the most modern house in all of Maine upon its completion.
With its well-preserved and richly decorated examples of pre-civil war rooms, the Victoria Mansion is a destination for education about that period in American history. Guided toursat the Mansion make history come alive, as visitors walk right into life in the 1860s. Specific programs targeted to different age groups from toddlers to graduate students are available with coordination from the Mansion's education director.
Also on offer is an interdisciplinary program that includes lessons, bringing a Mansion expert to the classroom for historical talks and discussion prior to a Victoria Mansion field trip. With different lessons to choose from, educators can select the best option for their class. In addition to school outreach programs, Victoria Mansion also offers lectures, talks and events to illustrate the history of the Mansion. These often focus on a variety of nineteenth century themes, and are designed for adult audiences.
In addition to the variety of educational programs available at the Mansion, special events also bring life to the historic building. Themed tours, such as Restoration at the Mansion, take an in-depth look at the structure's long past. Other, even tastier events, such as Allagash Victoria Ale Premier, or Croquet day andBYO Picnics, create a fun and interactive time.
Music and movies also enliven the Mansion, and include such events as Opera at the Mansion and Movies at the Mansion, which showcases classic films on the lawn. Seasonal events can include Halloween masquerades or other holiday happenings. With such an array of events to entertain, there is always something fun to do at Victoria Mansion.
Plan Your Visit
Located just a short walk, drive or bus from the heart of Portland, the Victoria Mansion is easy to incorporate into a day downtown. Street parking is available in the surrounding area; however, there is no on-site parking.
Tours are available with admission certain days of the week. Visitors are recommended to check the Mansion's website for tour information, hours and ticket prices. With unique events, beautiful décor and history that practically comes to alive, the Victoria Mansion is a fine way to spend an afternoon.
109 Danforth Street, Portland, ME 04101, Phone: 207-772-4841
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