Historic lighthouses, wonderful food, and the bustling Old Port are all part of Portland Maine’s charm.
As part of our college visit to the Northeast, we decided to start our trip by visiting Portland, Maine. It’s always been on Nami’s and my wish list to visit Maine. Since we are already nearby, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to stop by for a quick visit.
Where is Portland Maine
Portland is the largest city in Maine, located in the southern part of the state on Casco Bay. It is roughly a 2-hour drive north from Boston.
Portland Head Light at Fort Williams
The first stop for us after arriving from Boston is to see Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth. Portland Head Light is 15 min away from downtown Portland located inside Fort Williams Park. It is one of the most popular destinations for visitors.
The lighthouse is the oldest one in Maine and was first lit in 1791. The Keepers’ Quarters next to the lighthouse was built in 1891 and has now been converted to a museum.
The lighthouse and the surrounding areas are managed by the Town of Cape Elizabeth and kept in great shape.
Bite Into Maine Lobster Rolls
There are a few lobster roll food trucks inside Fort Williams and JOC readers recommend trying Bite Into Maine. Located near the lighthouse, it was easy to find.
We were surprised to see there are six different flavors offered. We tried three of the options and they were all really good. It was nice to have a variety of choices since our family has different preferences. The lobster rolls were loaded with claw meat and the buns were toasted perfectly.
Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Bug Light
Our visit continued to other lighthouses in the area. The first one is Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, it was built in 1895 to mark the ledge that extends into the shipping channel.
Portland Harbor was one of the busiest ports in the 1800s and there were a number of shipwrecks and groundings on the ledge. The lighthouse prevents more ships from being damaged and running into the ledge.
The last lighthouse we visited is nicknamed the Bug Light (Portland Breakwater Light). The Bug Light stands at the end of a breakwater and is part of Bug Light Park.
Even though it is small in size, Bug Light stands out with its unique design. Modeled after the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, the architect is Thomas U. Walter, who also designed the Capitol Dome.
Another historic structure we recommend in the city is the Portland Observatory. Built in 1807, the 86-foot tall observatory was used to spot ships as far as 30 miles away with binoculars. The tower was in use until 1923 when the 2-way radio was invented.
The most popular part of Portland Maine for visitors is the Old Port area. The Old Port is bustling with restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels. The city has kept the historic feel with restored buildings and cobblestones. It was fun to browse the little shops along the water.
With boat tours on the wharf and plenty of activities and dining options, there’s something fun for the whole family.
Evo Kitchen + Bar
Our dinner in Portland was at Evo Kitchen + Bar in the Old Port area. The restaurant is not large, with seating inside along the window and at the bar. There is also some additional seating available in an upper area.
The restaurant is run by Matt Ginn who won “Chopped” and uses Maine ingredients but with Mediterranean flavors. Our family was seated at the bar and it was very entertaining. We got to see the bartenders making their drinks and the kitchen staff prepping the dishes.
The drinks menu offers many unique cocktails and local Maine beers. It was awesome to drink Allagash White in Portland and I got to try one of our new favorite beers, Maine Beer Company’s Lunch IPA.
After seating and getting our drinks, the friendly bar staff recommended their favorite dishes. We started with heirloom tomatoes and carrots appetizers. The flavors simply blew us away, the ingredients were super fresh and the combinations incredible.
Since we were in Maine, we ordered mostly seafood entrees including tuna, octopus, and lobster, and all the main dishes were well executed. The chef did a fantastic job showcasing fresh local ingredients infused with Mediterranean flavors. The best part is the flavors didn’t overpower the ingredients but rather accentuated them.
Our entire family was so happy and surprised by the great meal.
One of the local treats we were recommended to try was the popular Holy Donut. These donuts are made from potatoes and there are many flavors to choose from.
The texture of the potato donut was very different from regular donuts. Much softer and less dense, and almost muffin-like. We all enjoyed our donuts and were glad we got to experience them during our short visit.
We wished we had more time to spend in Maine and enjoy its beauty. There are many more places to explore nearby Portland but we had limited time. We look forward to visiting again in the future.