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Hear the call of the open sea in this Atlantic Coast getaway

Perched on the edge of Casco Bay is the city of Portland, Maine, built by a sturdy community that built its economy on the sea. Despite its small size, Portland is chock-full of history and culture, and it’s home to a host of year-round attractions and activities.

Begin your Portland tour with a trip to Historic Old Port near Casco Bay and Portland Harbor. The warehouse district has been restored to Victorian-era beauty and features shops and restaurants along cobblestone streets.


Downtown Portland is pedestrian-friendly, with popular destinations such as the Portland Farmers Market and Wadsworth-Longfellow House nearby. American poet Henry Wadsworth spent his childhood in the three-story home, which is the oldest standing structure on the peninsula.

Portland is an art lover’s ideal destination, and a trip to the Portland Museum of Art is a must. Portland’s adopted son, Winslow Homer, is celebrated through the preservation of his studio and for which guided tours are offered by the museum. The PMA features several of Homer’s works, which are part of an 18,000-piece collection that also includes Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, Jasper Johns and many others.

The imaginations of youth bloom at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, situated in the downtown Arts District. Little visitors can imagine themselves as doctors, ocean explorers, mechanics and scientists as they explore permanent exhibits designed for hands-on fun and learning.

Get on board for a tour of the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum, where exhibits celebrate the history of the state’s narrow gauge railways, and where vintage rail cars wait to be explored. A scenic waterfront train ride caps the visit, taking passengers on a leisurely 3-mile round trip along Casco Bay’s Eastern Promenade.


Ready for a little weird and wacky history? Step inside the International Cryptology Museum at Thompson’s Point. Here you’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about those urban legends of the wild. Hair from the yeti, sculptures of Bigfoot, and displays of living fossils such as the coelacanth are the star exhibits here.

Casco Bay is a year-round port for cruise ships thanks to its deep water; the harbor never freezes, keeping the bay accessible into November. Hop aboard a ferry and ride out to one or more of the rocky islands that dot the southeastern edge of Maine. Peak’s Island is a haven for artists and boasts sandy beaches perfect for barefoot strolls. Nature trails on Long Island beckon hikers and birdwatchers, and Great Diamond Island is home to the parade grounds of old Fort McKinley.

Portland’s coast is a feeding ground for whales, whose springtime arrival is a must-see for many visitors.

Humpback whales, pilot whales and large finback whales make an appearance around mid-April, feasting on plankton and fish.

Back on dry land, climb the steps of the Portland Observatory and gaze out on the city as the sun sets over the ocean. The nation’s last standing maritime signal tower operated from 1807 to 1923, when two-way radios took over the duty of alerting ship owners to their vessels’ arrival. Today it is a beacon of Portland’s oceangoing heritage and one of the city’s great historical sites.

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