Maine is well-known for its lobsters, but it won’t cost you a claw and a tail to visit Portland and the state’s southern coast.
There are plenty of things to do on the cheap in Maine’s largest city and the surrounding area. Tourists can take boat rides off the coast for less than $10 US a head and enjoy miles of white sand beaches for free.
Places to go
There’s no better way to see Maine’s famed rocky coast and islands than from the water, and the best deal is through Casco Bay Lines, www.cascobaylines.com, a ferry service linking Portland to six islands in Casco Bay. Summer rates for round-trip tickets range from $8.20 to $12.05 a person (children and seniors are half-price).
For that, you’ll get to go to the islands and see lobster boats, yachts, oil tankers, seals, sea birds, historic island forts and rocky ledges along the way. If you go to Peaks Island, you can grab lunch, rent a bicycle, visit art galleries and craft shops, rent a kayak or simply take a stroll.
Twenty minutes south of Portland, the oceanside town of Old Orchard Beach, www.oldorchardbeachmaine.com, is a summer playground with a honky-tonk feel that is a popular vacation destination with its food stands, arcades, carnival rides, waterslides and the rumble of Harley-Davidsons.
The major attraction — and it doesn’t cost a dime — is the 11-kilometre wide sandy beach where you can laze away the day. A pier that dates back to 1898 juts about 150 metres into the water, home to shops, restaurants and a night club.
The best view in Portland can be found atop the historic Eastland Park Hotel, www.eastlandparkhotel.com, where the Top of the East lounge offers 360-degree views of the city and surrounding areas.
For the price of a drink, you can sit in comfortable couches or at tables and take in panoramic vistas of Portland Harbor, the city’s downtown and the suburbs and countryside to the west. On a clear day, you can see New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in the Northeast.
Things to see
There’s no shortage of lighthouses in the Portland area. Start off with Portland Head Light, www.portlandheadlight.com, located in Cape Elizabeth’s Fort Williams Park a short drive from Portland.
The lighthouse was commissioned by George Washington and is said to be the most photographed place in Maine.
The lighthouse museum charges $2 for adults and $1 for children. Once you’re done with the lighthouse, you can hike the park’s cliff walk, explore the remains of old forts or skip stones on the rock beach.
Other nearby lighthouses include the Two Lights lighthouses (there are two of them) in Cape Elizabeth, or the Spring Point or Portland Breakwater lighthouses in South Portland.
The Longfellow House, www.mainehistory.org, is where famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow grew up in downtown Portland in the early 19th century. Now owned by the Maine Historical Society at 489 Congress St., it has been preserved as a memorial to Longfellow and his family. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and students, and $3 for children.
The Portland Museum of Art, www.portlandmuseum.org, is Maine’s largest art museum with a collection of more than 17,000 objects housed in three buildings. Tickets are $10 for adults, and admission is free on Fridays, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
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