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6 Things to Do When Visiting Portland, Maine
Whether you’re just passing through on your way north or staying for a week, we’ve put together our top 6 recommendations to optimize your time in the beautiful city that Sea Bags calls home.
Named as one of the top places to visit, it’s no wonder that Portland's food, breweries, shopping, and waterfront views are calling your name. From the historic feel of the cobblestone streets to lobster traps piled up on the fishing piers, downtown Portland has it all: world-famous bakeries and restaurants, craft breweries, a robust art scene and, of course, shopping. There really is something for everyone!
1. Old Port Shopping
We may be biased, but first on our list is the shopping scene. The Old Port is bustling with a rich variety of shops to choose from, including apparel boutiques, Maine-made artisanship, and local purveyors of everything from herbs to Scandanavian delights. With the Old Port shopping district within walking distance to a water view, you’re likely to find your way down to Commercial St and land at our flagship retail store and factory store. Located on the working waterfront, Sea Bags handcrafts nautical totes and accessories out of recycled sail cloth. At Sea Bags, in addition to shopping, customers can trade a sailboat sail for a product via our Sail Trade program which has kept over 700 tons of sails out of landfills. Be sure to check out our new Flagship location at 123 Commercial Street or stop by Custom House Wharf to visit our Factory Store where you can watch bags being sewn and look out the windows to see fishing boats unloading their catch.
Portland is home to a wide variety of small local businesses and some are quite unique. For an eclectic selection of gift items, visit The Maine Souvenir Shop on the corner of Exchange St and Fore St and choose from their selection of hand-drawn cards, custom screen-printed tees or Original Maine products. If you’re looking for a more contemporary, lifestyle-themed store, Portland Trading Co has a bold, modern aesthetic and offers a fresh take on clothing and home goods. Their apothecary selections are unlike any you’ll find elsewhere in Portland. For a uniquely oceanside experience, visit Heritage Seaweed, a boutique shop located on India St in an 1800’s era livery stables complex. From their windows you can see the working waterfront, which is home to several kelp farms. Check out their dried seaweed options, sustainable silicone drinkware, and Planet Botanicals natural skincare products. Finally, stop in to see our friends at Stonewall Kitchen for their line of gourmet food items including jams, pancake mixes, dressings and sauces, and stylish table décor to create your own New England feast.
2. Seafood, Lobster, and more Lobster
When coming to Maine, the first thing that comes to mind usually is lobster. At the center of the working waterfront, there is no shortage of amazing seafood. If you want to try your hand at preparing your own fresh seafood, including lobsters of all sizes, we can’t say enough good things about our neighbors, Harbor Fish Market on Custom House Wharf. A great combination of both an extensive variety and straight-off-the-boat freshness. If you want someone else to cook your lobster, our neighbors and friends Luke’s Lobster, located on the neighboring Portland Pier, offer the perfect mix of salt air, water views, and delectable lobster rolls. Or swing by J’s Oyster on the same pier for a mix of seafood dishes including, of course, fresh oysters on the half shell. And if we’re talking seafood, we have to mention Eventide Oyster Co. who is known for their lobster rolls and, of course, their oysters. With an intimate dining room, which often comes with a long line, their award-winning dishes are well worth the wait. Better yet, try a lobster roll at each one and decide for yourself who serves it best!
3. Visit the Breweries
There are a number of local breweries within walking distance of the waterfront. If you are looking for a brewery that also offers wine and spirits, take a stroll down Commercial St to Liquid Riot Bottling Co. They’ve got a waterfront deck and an intriguing menu that will delight all. Oxbow Brewing Co is a short walk over to Washington Ave. but with 6 beers on draft and over 20 bottles and cans to choose from, Oxbow makes the trip worth it. If sours and flavored beer is more your thing, take a scenic walk down the Eastern Prom and end up at Lone Pine Brewery on Anderson St. They recently paired up with Holy Donut, a local donut shop, to create 8 flavors of beer inspired by donuts, with flavors like Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut Imperial Stout and a Blueberry Glaze Imperial Sour.
4. Explore the Ocean and Maine Islands
Surrounded by Casco Bay, the Portland peninsula has so much to offer. Hop on the Casco Bay Lines ferry and head out to Peaks Island, where you can rent bikes from Brad’s Bike Rental and Repair and cruise around the island at your own pace. For a uniquely Maine experience, contact Lucky Catch Cruises for a Maine Lobstering Tour. They will take you out on the ocean to experience a day in the life of a lobsterman. They also offer a number of private charters including birthdays, corporate outings, cocktail cruises, bird watching, and island dining transportation.
5. See the Lighthouses
Portland and the nearby area are home to multiple scenic lighthouses including Bug Light, Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, and Portland Head Light just to name a few. Maine is also home to the smallest active lighthouse on Great Diamond Island. While specialty cruises are still on hold through Casco Bay Lines, they do offer private charters and daily runs to surrounding islands. With 65 lighthouses that dot the coastline, you can head in either direction up or down the coast to find many more. We suggest checking out Visit Maine’s website for their curated list of Lighthouses and Sightseeing highlights that can’t be missed.
6. Arts Scene
Portland’s beloved Museum of Art is currently open Thursday-Sunday with timed entry for the safety of its visitors. They offer Free Friday admission from 10am to 8pm every Friday. Explore the works of artists with ties to New England such as Winslow Homer, Dahlov Ipcar, and our friend and the designer of our Island Girl and Ocean Goddess Totes, Daniel Minter, who is also co-founder of Indigo Arts Alliance, also worth checking out while in town. Music venues and that Portland’s First Friday walks are still on hold, but we are hopeful that they will resume soon. For the latest updates on rejuvenating our arts and music scene, visit Portland Downtown’s site.