The taste of creamy lobster rolls, the smell of the sea, and the sight of splendid sunsets over Casco Bay are sensory delights for travelers in Portland, Maine. It's easy to understand why this city is a top tourist destination. Wildlife lovers are just minutes away from fantastic hikes where they might catch sight of moose.
The culinarily inclined will find tastebud-tingling restaurants and local breweries on every corner. Train enthusiasts will get a thrill when they ride on the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad along the Eastern Promenade of Casco Bay. Anyone who's bored in Portland doesn't have to look too far to find something amazing to do.
Touring Casco Bay On The Water
Portland's location on Casco Bay has played an integral part in its identity. For years, lobstering and shipping were the principal economic activities here. Visitors looking to get up close and personal with this side of Portland can choose from a variety of bay tours. Some include six-course meals and the sunset, others provide the taste of locally brewed beer while sightseeing and the most hands-on tours ask tourists to check lobster traps.
Casco Bay Custom Charters give luxurious tours of Casco Bay. This agency has vessels to accommodate small or large groups. Sea goers can choose from a sail or motorboat. Experiences range from a two-hour lighthouse-viewing trip to a gourmet, six-course meal on the water. Couples looking for a romantic afternoon will find it on a boat tour of Casco Bay.
- Price: $425 for a lighthouse tour (up to six people), $550 for a two-hour sailing tour, $875 for a sightseeing tour, and a six-course meal for two
- Reservations: Through the Casco Bay Custom Charters website https://cascobaycustomcharters.com
Fort Scammell is the only fort on Casco Bay that saw action. People can visit this privately owned island fort and tour it, but they have to take a boat to get there. SeaPortland offers this opportunity, and, to sweeten the deal, they include three cans of locally brewed beer per passenger. Those who take the lunchtime tour get a lobster roll as well. On the way to Fort Scammell, guests will see historic lighthouses.
- Hours: 11:00 am and 3:00 pm (the tour lasts three hours)
- Price: $125 - $150
- Reservations: Through the Brews Cruise website
Travelers interested in learning more about Maine's lobster industry should try out Lucky Catch Cruises. This company allows visitors to share a day in the life of a lobsterman. Passengers visit sights like Portland Head Light, the Seal Rock, and Whitehead Passage. On the way, they check lobster cages. This is a great experience for families.
- Hours: 10:30, 12:15, 2:00, 3:45, 5:00 (the tour lasts 80 minutes)
- Price: $40 for adults and $25 for children
- Reservations: Through the Luck Catch Cruises website https://www.luckycatch.com/
Heaven For Foodies
Whether it's Japanese, Southern, Columbian, fusion, German, or traditional American, a Portland restaurant is probably serving it. The city has more than 300 restaurants for a population of about 60,000. That's one restaurant for every 200 residents, one of the highest per-capita rates in the US. Travelers must choose wisely to make the best of their days in the city. The one food everyone must try, though, is a traditional Maine lobster roll.
Those looking for seafood should dine in the following establishments:
- Miller Brothers Seafood, 849 Forest Ave
- Maine Oyster Company, 38 Portland Street
Of course, Portland offers far more than just traditional Maine seafood. These grills and barbeque joints are sure to please:
- Terlingua, 40 Washington Ave
- Salvage BBQ, 919 Congress Street
Vietnamese? Get dinner here:
- Sun Vietnamese Restaurant
- Saigon Restaurant
Vegetarians should check out these places:
- Green Elephant, 608 Congress Street
Moose Watching And Other Wildlife
Maine has some incredible wildlife and one of the largest moose populations in the US. Of course, Portland is a sizable city, and that generally scares animals away. The best places for wildlife are further north and west, but for travelers who can't make it, here are some suggestions.
Seals are some of Portland's cutest residents. They live right in Casco Bay Harbor, so people who want to watch them swim and play only need to walk to the end of State Pier. Those who want to get closer can take a seal-watching tour like the one offered by the previously mentioned Lucky Catch Cruises. Odessy Whale Watch also gives regular seal tours in addition to whale watching.
- Prices: $25 for seal tour (45 min.), $59 for whale watching (3.5 hours)
- Reservations: Through the Odessy Whale Watch website
In Gray, Maine just about half an hour from Portland, visitors can see moose, black bears, and eagles. These animals live in the Maine Wildlife Park. The reserve is dedicated to caring for wild animals with injuries or who are human-dependant because people illegally kept them as pets. The good news for animal lovers and families with children is that visitors get to see plenty of animals, which isn't always the case on wildlife safaris.
- Hours: 9:30 am - 4:30 pm
- Price: Adults $10 and children $7.50