Portland, Maine Travel Guide

Set in a craggy gulf on the US's Atlantic coast, the peninsula city of Portland, Maine is a laidback, artsy blend of craft breweries, artisanal shops, a revered food scene and a rich maritime history. This small, cultured destination has rightly become a favourite among travellers, who relish its dedication to the arts along with its secluded island shorelines, centuries-old lighthouses and open-minded locals.

Portland is Maine's biggest city and is the state's cultural and economic hub, attracting over three and a half million visitors each year. Originally a fishing and trading settlement, the town was destroyed three times over a hundred year period before finally regaining stability as a shipping port.

Unfortunately, overzealous Independence Day celebrators managed to set fire to most of the city's commercial buildings, hundreds of houses, and roughly half the city's churches in 1866, though the city was rebuilt once again, this time in a Victorian style. Mansions along the famous Western Promenade, as well as the Victoria Mansion on Danforth Street, feature beautiful examples of this architecture; companies and proprietors may offer tours of their well-preserved interiors.

Despite its tough beginning, Portland remains a beautiful city, ideally situated on a peninsula that juts out into Casco Bay and flanked by several small islands. Historic houses blend with modern amenities and the city is a bustle of activity, making it one of the country's top cities to live in.

Resplendent in natural beauty, Portland is highly popular in summer, when tourists can enjoy boat rides, sightseeing, shopping, dining and people-watching at the scenic Old Port historic waterfront and the East End. They should also venture to the Downtown Arts District or the prominent Portland Head Light Lighthouse.

Culture lovers should note that the city is home to Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow, who was one of the most widely known and best-loved American poets of the 19th century, as well as the Maine Historical Society. For the kids, there's the Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine. Portland has an abundance of good restaurants, especially those offering renowned local seafood specialities such as Maine lobster, clam chowder and scallops, which are cheaper and more plentiful than in any other state.

As Portland is the most culturally diverse city in Maine, travellers will find a variety of cuisines, including Vietnamese, Thai, African, Greek and Indian. The city boasts no fewer than five microbreweries, and dozens of bars, pubs and nightclubs.

Portland has plenty of attractions, activities and sights for the visitor, and it's also a useful base from which to explore the rest of this beautiful state. Smaller towns in the area such as Freeport, Cape Elizabeth, Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Kennebunkport offer their own amusements that are worth exploring on a trip to the city.