America is so vast, you can spend a lifetime exploring and still never stumble upon some of the country’s best destinations.
Fortunately for me, it only took me forty years to discover Portland, Maine. Just a two-hour bus ride from Boston, Portland’s charm lies in the seamless union between historic seaside village and bohemian metropolis. The challenge as a tourist is deciding where to begin. If history is your passion, you can spend a day visiting the picturesque lighthouses and the concrete military fortresses that are sprinkled around, reflecting Maine’s past as a coastal stronghold.
If shopping and eating are more your scene, you will want to take in Portland’s town centre on foot, so you do not risk missing one of the charming, independent eateries or retailers hidden in the maze of streets. For shopaholics, every taste is catered for from Maine favourites like Mexicali Blues to national brands, like Alex and Ani. Foodies should call in to The Corner Room and b.good diner, where locally sourced classics are served alongside some quirky specialities like fried Brussels sprouts and potato doughnuts. Coffee lovers can while away an entire afternoon sampling locally roasted brews in Arabica and Bards Coffee.
No visit to the coast would be complete without a boat trip and Portland’s collection of small islands gives you the perfect excuse. Hop on the Casco Bay Ferry, hire a private water taxi, or rent a kayak and do some island-hopping under your own steam. There are plenty of islands to choose from, but put Peaks Island at the top of your list so you can drop in on the Umbrella Cover Museum, the only one of its kind.
Portland is one of those cities that you regret not discovering sooner. Regardless of your age when you do finally discover it, you will be glad that you did.