Posted by: RasmaSandra | January 17, 2019

Taking a Look at Portland

Our armchair travels through the U.S. have taken us to Maine which is the northeasternmost U.S. state. It is known for its rocky coastline, maritime history, and beauty of nature.


Our first stop is Portland a city set on a peninsula that extends into Casco Bay.

port commercial-street

Take a walk along Commercial Street which stretches along the water. Here you can find many restaurants, cafes, bars, and boutiques. Both locals and tourist love to walk here and catch the sea breezes, watch the ships, and see fishermen with their catches. There are cobblestone streets with charming buildings from the late 19th and 20th centuries.

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Among the architectural gems here is the Customs House.

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The Portland Observatory is a symbol of Portland’s rich maritime heritage and offers fantastic views over the harbor. Its historic tower stands on Munjoy Hill. Built in 1807 the tower provided communication between ships and the shore through the use of signal flags and a telescope. Unfortunately, the telescope disappeared from the tower in 1939. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark and the 86-foot tall tower is now a museum. Guided tours are available.

port art district

The Art District

The Portland Museum of Art is the oldest and largest public art institution in Maine. It is located in the downtown district of the city referred to as The Arts District. The museum has a collection of more than 17,000 decorative and fine arts objects dating from the 18th century to the present. The artworks are divided into different genres like the State of Maine Collection, the European Collection, the American-art based Elizabeth B. Noyce Collection, with works by Homer, Rodin, Degas, Bellows, and Wyeth.

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The museum has three architecturally significant buildings and the Charles Shipman Payson Building stands as the face of the museum since its opening in 1983. The museum also hosts educational programs and events all year long.

port victoria 3

Victoria Mansion is also known as the Morse-Libby House and is one of America’s finest examples of pre-Civil War opulence. It was built between 1858 and 1860 as a summer home for Ruggles Sylvester Morse, a proprietor of luxury hotels born in Maine and made his fortune in New Orleans. It was built in the Italian villa style. The interiors were designed by Gustave Herter and still have most of the original furnishings he designed for the original owner. Guided tours are available from May through October.

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The Children’s Museum and Theater of Maine offers interactive education and learning for all ages. Located in the Arts District the museum features many different hands-on displays and exhibits to encourage children to use their imagination to explore, discover, and learn. Among the permanent exhibits are Coco’s Diner where children can pretend they run a diner and Car Repair Shop where children can try out their hands at mechanics.

port train

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company & Museum was founded in 1992. It was established to preserve Maine’s historic two-foot gauge railroad equipment and to educate the public about the importance and heritage of the state’s railway system. It is housed in the Portland Company Marine Complex and includes interesting rolling stock and historical artifacts from the narrow gauge railways that ran in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

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Visitors can have their choice of programs and presentations like the Diesel Guest Engineer where you can try your hand at operating a 23-ton, four-axle diesel-electric locomotive or you can sit back and enjoy ice cream and see lovely views of the Casco Bay on the Ice Cream Train trip.

port odyssey

Odyssey Whale Watch will take you out to the sea to look for whales, dolphins, sharks, sunfish, and seabirds. Visitors take tours on the Odyssey, a fully-equipped vessel that has seating and decks for great viewing.

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You will hear interesting and informative facts about the ocean environment and the sea animals. The tour will take you to the feeding grounds of whales and lasts for about four hours. Refreshments are available onboard.

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You’ll find the world’s largest 3D scale model of the Earth just ten minutes from Portland and two hours from Boston, Massachusetts. The Earth rotates and simulates the planet’s movements. The globe is nearly 42 feet in diameter and is open to the public from Monday to Friday 9 AM to 5 PM. It is operated by Garmin Yarmouth manufacturer of handheld GPS devices with satellite communication.

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The Islands of Casco Bay or the Calendar Islands are located just off the coast of Maine. They can be reached by ferries. Casco Bay Lines offer year-round service to the

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larger islands, the last stop is at Cliff Island which is great for biking and walking.

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Peaks Island has lovely sandy beaches, restaurants, and an artist’s community.

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Great Diamond Island offers a historical look at the former parade grounds of Fort McKinley.

port maine-historical-society

The Maine Historical Society was founded in 1922 and located in the Arts District. It is a museum where you can learn about the history of Maine. The MHS and museum consists of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House and Longfellow Garden, the MHS Research Library, the Maine Historical Society Museum and Store and the Maine Memory Network, which is a digital museum through which the MHS runs its educational programs.

Monument Square panorama, Portland Maine

It is located on a campus across from Monument Square and is open to the public all year round.

port longfellow

The Wadsworth-Longfellow House was built in 1785 by General Peleg Wadsworth. Today it is a historic house and museum. In 1962 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark. It is the oldest standing structure on the Portland peninsula and is the childhood home of well-known American poet Henry Wadsworth. The house documents the lives of four generations of the Wadsworth and Longfellow families.

port head lighthouse

Portland Head Light is a historic lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth. It sits on a head of land at the entrance to the primary shipping channel into Portland Harbor. I was completed in 1791 and is the oldest lighthouse in Maine. When visiting you’ll notice the waves crashing over some unique rock formation which is quartzite and dark grey phyllite that has accumulated in alternating layers. Looking toward Portland Harbor and Casco Bay you’ll notice another four lighthouse towers.

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To the left (North) is Spring Point Ledge Light built in 1897. It is a caisson style light station at the end of a rock breakwater.

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Right in front is Ram Island Ledge Light dating from 1905 whose beacon now is solar powered.

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Beyond Ram Island and only visible on a clear day is Halfway Rock Light Station from 1871 and to the right (South) is Cape Elizabeth Light which is one of two towers originally built and the remaining operating tower dates from 1874.

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Two Lights State Park got its name from the original twin lighthouses built in 1929 that were the first twin lighthouses on the coast of Maine. The eastern light is active but not open to the public and the western one is now a private home. These towers were painted by Edward Hopper in his famous painting Lighthouse at Two Lights. There are picnic tables on the hills with spectacular ocean views. You can hike or stroll enjoying the sea breezes and watch the ships.

port fort 2

Fort Williams Park is a 90-acre park in Cape Elizabeth. It includes numerous historical sites. It is a great place to picnic, fly a kite, take a walk, tour the arboretum, walk the cliff side loop, explore the rocky beach, and enjoy the playground.

port fort children

Children will love The Children’s Garden. Vendors offer lobster rolls, sandwiches, and gelato.

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