This month I celebrated the first weekend of Autumn with a trip to Portland, Maine. While there I took in the sights, sounds, and tastes of some of the best that Portland had to offer. From Maine blueberries, fresh maple syrup, warm potato donuts and homemade mead to local oysters and buttered lobster…it was a feast for the eyes, stomach, and soul.
Naturally I took many photos while there, so I figured I’d share them along with some tips I learned while there for anyone interested in going for the first time or just looking for new places to try!
Here are some of the highlights from my trip to Portland, Maine:
The Portland Observatory
The Portland Observatory is well worth the price of admission for the view! For $10 you can take a guided tour to the top or go at it yourself! I was happy we decided to go on the unguided tour. We were able to set our own pace and learn about the history by reading and exploring ourselves. At the top there was even a man who works there separate from the tours who told us many interesting things about the Portland Observatory, as well as some interesting facts about the birds that nest in the area.
Portland Head Light
This was the biggest highlight for me (pun intended!). It’s a short drive outside of the city, but I recommend either hitting it on your way in or your way out! We hit it on our way out and I’m so glad we stopped. Parking is free which is amazing! And the entire area is very well-maintained. There is a cliff walk, a few parks, a small food and drink kiosk, and the main attraction - the lighthouse! Definitely breathtaking views and great pictures to be had here!
The Portland Love Locks
Although the love lock fence was torn down in 2016 after it started to fall into the ocean…a piece of it has been kept alive on the waterfront! We enjoyed looking at what was left and reading the loving messages inscribed on each lock.
A Fiery East End Flat
I haven’t stayed in many nice Airbnb’s (this is only the second one I’ve stayed in and this time I had friends to split the cost with), but this one was definitely the cream of the crop in terms of an Airbnb! The “Fiery East End Flat” was spacious, colorful, comfortable, and met all of our needs while allowing us to be in walking distance of everything we wanted to do in Portland. Along with several immaculately decorated rooms there was an air mattress provided, a tv with a dvd player, cards and games, many different brands of coffee to choose from in the cupboards, and the host even left us a bottle of wine and some cookies! I don’t know when I’d be able to afford this flat again for my own travel purposes, but with a large group it is more than perfect and I highly recommend it!
Duckfat fries are the Holy Donut of fries. Yes, there is a lot of hype for them much like how there’s a ton of hype for Holy Donut, but the hype is not overstated - these are the best fries I’ve ever had and you have to get the truffle ketchup! Ugh, I’m salivating just writing this. A fun little fact, we ended up getting the Duckfat fries at the Oxbow Brewery as opposed to the restaurant…and it was made even better by the fact that it was right next to the Hardshore Distillery and Maine Mead Works. Maine Mead Works even advertised that you can get your Duckfat fries over at Oxbow and bring them in there to enjoy with some mead. So, it’s a no- brainer to head in the direction of all three. You might as well check them all out while you’re there!
The Holy Donut
Oh my gosh, what’s there to say about the Holy Donut that hasn’t already been said? It’s the most delicious donut I’ve ever had. There are many flavor choices to choose from and they all sound amazing, but I decided to get the maple donut. It was melt in your mouth delectable. If I had one near me I’d be tempted to go every day. I’m already tempted to drive up again just for the donuts and I think I will soon.
Hot Suppa was suggested to us by a local who gave us some great pointers when we arrived. If there’s one thing we noticed about Portland it was that the people living there were extremely friendly and would stop to ask us if we needed help or suggestions without us even asking! If you want to go to Hot Suppa expect a very, very, very long wait. We went on our last day, a Sunday, and the wait was between 1 and 2 hours. We waited and it was definitely worth it, but be mindful of that! The menu items are on the pricier side that’s for sure, but it’s definitely filling and delicious. I got the Mother Clucker! A fun name and also a really yummy dish. Since it’s a Southern Kitchen you have to order something Southern - or at least that was my thought process! So I figured I couldn’t go wrong with fried chicken, biscuits, gravy, and home fries. You could get grits, but I just really love home fries and those were top notch home fries if I do say so myself. This is a must-go in Portland - I completely agree with the locals!
The Porthole Restaurant & Pub
On my list of must-dos in Portland was getting a lobster roll. There are certainly many options of varying culinary delight and price ranges, but I found mine when my group suggested a seemingly off the beaten path restaurant and pub called The Porthole. I had my reservations at first, but when arriving there I actually found it to be quite quaint…but only if you’re sitting outside - I didn’t like the look or the ambience of the inside. Outside there is a large porch you can sit on with picnic style tables and umbrellas. You’re right on the water, which is absolutely perfect on an Indian Summer day and whether to your disdain or enjoyment there was a live band playing. We found it to be amusing! I also sampled the oysters while there and though I didn’t have the luxury of knowing where they were from quite like I did at Even Tide (keep reading for that exciting experience!) they were very delicious. I can only assume they were Maine Oysters as Maine has many varieties. I opted to get my lobster roll with butter and it came with a pickle and chips, you could substitute for fries, but I wasn’t in the mood for them after Duck Fat (nothing will ever be better!). Two of my other friends also got the lobster roll and we were in agreement with how pleased we were with the portion and I thought it was very tasty - it definitely satisfied my requirement of getting a lobster roll in Maine! Then it was onward to Even Tide!
EvenTide Oyster Co.
Myself and two of my girlfriends were determined to get oysters at Even Tide. We went into it knowing it was going to be good, but we never could’ve guessed how much of a life-changing experience it would be! I do have to say that if you’re going expect a wait. We waited at least a half hour to finally be seated, but they will serve you cocktails while you wait if there’s standing room. Make sure you go with a smaller group as they don’t have space to accommodate large tables. Once in, I have to say the Parrot cocktail is a must! Not only does it come in a delightful parrot glass, but it’s one of those drinks that has a limit. On the menu the alcohol used is listed solely as “rums” and that was enough to get us interested - so three parrots it was! Next was the oysters. The menu comprised of varieties from Maine and Massachusetts and being from MA we wanted to try Maine oysters first and foremost. So, we each got a dozen including 10 Maine oysters and 2 Massachusetts oysters. The accoutrements were a really fun touch, as well! Before then I had never tried red onion ice or kimchi ice for that matter (I preferred the red onion), but it was a flavorful and fun addition to the overall oyster tasting. We savored each and every one.
Hardshore Distilling Company
On to the drinks - of which there are many opportunities for in Portland! Obviously any of the breweries would be spots to hit, but we found many other interesting alcohol attractions along the way. If you’re a gin fan Hardshore Distillery should be on your list to check out! Although I wasn’t much of a fan of their gin per se it was certainly a strong one and there’s something to be said for that!
Maine Mead Works
Next store to Hardshore Distillery is Maine Mead Works and honestly I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did! The mead was delicately delicious! I got a small Lavender Lemonade mead to try. It was sweet and complex, but not too complex…just right! This is a spot I would go to again in the future. I really enjoyed the ambience, the people who worked there were friendly and warm, and the mead was divine.
This was a must-go for me. I’m very glad I checked it out. Their beer list is expansive and it’s a great spot to just hang out and enjoy some drinks with your friends!
I’m much more used to solo travel lately, so it was a new experience for me to go on a vacation with seven of my friends. I’ll be honest, the size of the group made me a little nervous at first, but I’m happy to say that any nerves I had melted away almost instantly - I had an an absolute blast! We did learn that if you’re going with large groups it will make it more difficult to get tables in the restaurants (many of the spaces in Portland are quite small!) so it’s good to know that you might have to break off and do different things at different times to account for that. But even with that small inconvenience we were still able to do everything we wanted to and more! So, my final review is if you’re looking for a cool city that won’t break the bank while still offering so much in terms of nightlife, food, and activities look no further! We had an amazing time and I hope to go again soon! Thanks, Portland!