We have been looking forward to visiting Maine for months. Not only were we getting an opportunity to see our sister city, Portland, Oregon’s namesake, but we also be visiting friends made earlier on in our journey. While in Savannah, Georgia on an architecture tour we met Beth and Roy, who are from Portland, Maine. Coincidentally, we ran into them twice more during our time in Savannah, which solidified our resolve to meet up again when we finally made it to this point in our travels.
With Matt’s foot injury, however, our plans were going to have to change. On the plus side, this unfortunate event forced us to approach our site seeing in a different way, with less walking, hiking and biking, and more destination-oriented exploration. For those of you who aren’t big hikers and bikers, this is geared toward you.
We covered a decent amount of ground while visiting, starting with the Eastern Promenade. It is a 68-acre waterfront park offering grassy areas to relax, a playground, sports courts, a 2-mile trail, and has several food trucks nearby. Matt had a hankering for a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, so we chose Vy Banh Mi. We both picked lemongrass beef, Matt’s in sandwich form and mine in salad form, and both were excellent.
Just on the southern end of the promenade is Fort Allen Park. The fort was originally built to defend Portland against the British in the War of 1812. Today this 9-acre park commemorates the contributions of those who fought, and preserves structures built on this land spanning times of conflict through World War II.
Farther inland across from Kennedy Park is Austin Street Brewery, and the Rising Tide Brewery. As we approached, Rising Tide had live music outside, which we could easily hear from Austin Street. We enjoyed their refreshing summer offerings and a shady spot outside on what turned out to be a hot, sunny day.
Southeast of Kennedy Park along Washington Street are several shops and restaurants. Izakaya Minato Japanese restaurant came highly recommended, along with the suggestion to show up early before they opened and get in line. Indeed, there were already a handful of people waiting at 4:45. We got a table quickly, and within 15 minutes the entire place was full. 😯 Everything we ate was incredible, and the service was excellent. I really don’t think you can go wrong with any selections on the menu, but my favorites were their broiled oysters and duck udon.
When Matt was getting his foot looked at by an orthopedic clinic, I walked down the street to Thompson Point, and discovered there is a music stage for summer concerts put on by State Theatre Portland. If scenic views or live music aren’t enough to entice you to this part of town, perhaps a visit to the Children’s Museum or Cryptozoology Museum, or to a brewery, wine bar or distillery will. We went to Bissell Brothers Brewing Company, and listened to live music happening next door at the Rosemont Market and Wine Bar.
We could not have picked a better time to visit the Portland area, with outstanding weather and plenty of activities to enjoy. Our excursions in Portland are just a sampling of all that this peninsular city in the Casco Bay has to offer.
Wild Duck Campground
The Wild Duck Campground is located in Scarborough, about 25 minutes south of downtown Portland. This is an adult campground, so no kids are allowed. We thought it would be an interesting experiment to see if it changed our camping experience. It turned out to be a moot point, as we ran into a variety of other challenges staying here. 😕
But first, I will discuss some of the benefits. It is a quiet, tucked away campground, it is conveniently located, and the staff were out every day doing ground maintenance, garbage pickup, and cleaning the laundry and bathrooms. The laundry was conveniently located in the middle of the grounds and was decent. You are also surrounded by marshland, so if you are a birder, this might be a nice place for you to check out some of the common shorebirds.
However, there were also things we didn’t like about this place. There is a single lane road that leads into and out of campground that has troughs in two sections of the road for water to pass, but they are ruinous on your vehicle’s suspension. The campground itself is one of the tightest ones we have camped in. Yes, you can get a 5th wheel or travel trailer in there, but it’s cramped. It is definitely a better option for vans and other smaller rigs.
The sites are primarily sand and a bit sloped, so trying to get level was tricky. Our normal leveling chocks simply sunk in the sand, so we had to dig out our traction boards and drive onto those instead. Plus, sand gets everywhere. If it isn’t sand that gets you, the pine needles, seeds and pollen will. It was one of the messiest sites we have experienced and required constant cleaning even with two outdoor rugs to reduce tracking so much crud in the trailer.
Finally, I know this is completely random and nothing you can plan for, but we had unpleasant neighbors on both sides of us. 😫 It just made our camping experience altogether that much worse. If we had to do it all over again, we would consider a different place and sacrificed being a little farther away from Portland.
I didn’t get out hiking as much here given I didn’t want Matt to be stuck without a vehicle for too long; however, I couldn’t resist getting out a few times to clear my head, explore the natural surroundings and take advantage of the beautiful weather we were afforded.
In downtown Portland there is a 3 1/2 mile gravel loop around Back Cove that gets frequent use by cyclists, runners and walkers. There is ample parking on Preble Street next to the trail. Vetches, lupines and rugosa roses rule the region here in Portland, Maine along the waterfront, and the views of the city are spectacular. I was also fortunate enough to spot a windsurfer and see an incoming storm pour down across the water from me. Aside from a few flooded sections just south of Tukey’s Bridge, the route is in great condition.
Closer to where we camped is another popular multi-use out and back called the Eastern Trail, which collectively has 65+ miles of trails from Kittery to South Portland. I drove about 5 minutes to the trail’s intersection with Highway 9 (aka Pine Point Rd), where there is a parking lot just north of the highway. From here I walked north through the vast marshland, observing crabs, shorebirds, and plant life. Given more time in the area, I would have loved to come back for a bike ride.
Finally, Matt and I went on a “tour” of local lighthouses based on this post. It was a bit laughable though. First off, this post talks about going to Two Lights State Park to check out two of the lighthouses, claiming you can get views from the park. This is absolutely false and not worth the $7 per person entry fee into the park. 😒 You cannot see either lighthouse from the park and it is small, offering some nice ocean views, and otherwise just a few short trails and picnic areas. It is likely a better option for locals with state passes. Plus, these two lighthouses are privately owned, so we felt a bit awkward trying to snag a few photos. 😳
In my opinion, the Portland Head Light is the most beautiful lighthouse in the area, which we admired the two times we visited Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth (see image in Cape Elizabeth section). North of here is the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. There is ample parking nearby and a trail that leads down to the rocks on which the lighthouse sits; however, with Matt still crutching around and his foot in a boot, we settled for a few views from atop Fort Preble.
Finally, just a few minutes up the road is the Portland Breakwater (aka Bug Light) Lighthouse, located in Bug Light Park. It was getting cold and windy at this point and an event was setting up in the park, so I walked over from the parking lot to snag a few shots of this small statured building that features Greek-inspired architecture, including scalloped decoration and Corinthian columns. If you are really into lighthouses, the eastern coastline is a great place to explore a wide variety of them and their history.
Our friends whom we met in Savannah, Beth and Roy, were gracious enough to share several suggestions for things to do and see while visiting the area, and they invited us to dinner at their house in Cape Elizabeth. They have a lovely home with incredible ocean views, and invited us to sit on their patio with a delicious glass of wine and cheese plate to start while we caught up on our adventures. Then they served up an amazing feast of grilled salmon, tomato salad, and corn succotash and I brought a blueberry buttermilk chess pie for dessert. 😋
Their niece Anna was staying with them and had also done quite a bit of traveling in her van. She is not only a sharp person, but an incredible story teller and writer. Between her infectious laugh and her hilarious tales from the road, I encouraged her to write about them since she has such a knack for setting the scene and pulling you in. All five of us traded stories for quite some time before we finally called it a night, but we absolutely loved seeing them and hope to do so again.
One of the great attractions just south of Portland that I mentioned earlier is Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. This 90-acre park features the Portland Head Light lighthouse and museum, maritime and wartime historic sites, trails, gardens and a delicious food truck called Bite Into Maine that serves different variations of lobster rolls. Neither Matt nor I are big fans of lobster, yet these rolls were fabulous. Given the price, they damn well better be! 😯
Bite Into Maine has three locations in total, with their one brick and mortar location close to where we were camped in Scarborough. That place has a larger selection of food offerings, so we visited them again during our stay and picked up some lobster bisque to freeze and enjoy later on. They also bake whoopie pies out of the Scarborough location, so it smells heavenly in there. 😍
Beth and Roy told us about an event that was being held in Fort Williams Park the following weekend during which Roy and his band were planning to perform. Their band, called Ocean House Road Band, features classic rock and blues tunes, and we were excited to see them play and get together once more. The events from earlier had been winding down and the wind was kicking up, but we were determined to stick around, not only to say goodbye, but also because there was a fireworks show planned for later on. 🎆
As the wind picked up and the temperature plummeted, we all hunkered down in our chairs, and those with blankets had them steadfastly wrapped around themselves. Yet, the children ran and played, some still in shorts and T-shirts, seemingly impervious to the cold. We put our chairs back in their carriers and said our goodbyes to Beth, Roy and Anna. Looking forward to taking cover from the elements in our truck, we ambled across the lawn and sat comfortably inside the cab while we waited for the fireworks to begin. We were fortuitous enough to be faced in the direction of the light show and had a fantastic view in our cozy seats set up high in the truck.
The fireworks show was fabulous, and I managed to capture some great shots of the action despite the low light. It went on for about 30 minutes before we saw their grand finale. Thankfully, there wasn’t anyone behind us in the lot, so we easily backed up and got out of dodge before traffic jammed up the only road leading out of the park. This seemed a fitting end to our time in Portland: enjoying the company of new friends in a celebratory atmosphere.