A Guide to Camping and Exploring Portland, Maine

A Guide to Camping and Exploring Portland, Maine

As you’ll remember, we’re in the middle of our 9 day camping adventure in Maine. After spending 2 days in the picturesque – though slightly over crowded – town of Ogunquit, we followed the coast north towards Portland. The quickest route between Ogunquit and Portland is Interstate 95, but we opted to take Route 1 and Route 9 for a more scenic tour. We were hoping for coastal views, but those were mostly nonexistent. The route does take you through some quaint towns with tasty looking restaurants and cute shops.

We left our campground in Ogunguit after our run in the morning and landed in Portland, Maine just in time for lunch. It was a tough decision on what to eat…nope. That is a complete lie. Lobster was all we had eyes for. Our focus was more on not eating lobster for every meal because Lobster. Is. Not. Cheap. Luckily, we were camping so most of our meals were homemade sandwiches for lunch and meals around the campfire for dinners, which meant we could fit the lobster into our budget on the meals we did eat out. Just another reason camping is the best.

In general, we preferred Portland over Ogunquit. Ogunquit was so small yet so dang touristy that it felt like tourism was the only thing that existed there. Portland was big enough to spread us tourists out which allowed us to get more of a feel for the city. Another point in favor of Portland is that it’s known as a foodie town. Food always wins in our book.

Besides eating, what did we do in Portland? So much. So very much.

Best Things to See and Do in Portland, Maine

Old Port

Old Port is in downtown Portland near the water and is full of boutique shops and restaurants. Depending on how much you enjoy shopping, you could probably spend an entire day exploring this area. We were content with about 2 hours exploring the area.

Food-wise, Old Port is where it’s at. We started off by grabbing lobster at Portland Lobster Company with views of the lobster boats and ocean while we ate. Some people went on a boat tour ahead of time to catch the lobster they were about to eat. We didn’t plan ahead enough for that but wished we had! The most delicious thing I (Beth) ate on the entire trip was a potato donut from The Holy Donut. I still regret only getting one donut. Why only one?! I need more!

View from Portland Lobster Company

The Holy Donut in Portland, Maine

Portland Observatory

About a mile away from the Old Port is the Portland Observatory that boasts of amazing views of the surrounding area. We decided to walk, stopping at a couple bakeries as we walked looking for Kyle the perfect cookie. Unfortunately, we failed on both accounts. The perfect cookie was elusive, and the observatory was still closed for the season. Bummer! We were happy to miss out on some of the crowds by seeing Maine in late May, but this was a disappointing consequence. If you’ve been to the observatory, send us a picture so we can feel like we were there.

The Portland Observatory in Portland, Maine

Portland Head Light

Technically in the neighboring town of Cape Elizabeth, the Portland Head Light was one our favorite places to visit. It’s surrounded by a large park with fantastic coast access and some nice trails. We spent hours exploring and could have spent more time there.

Portland Head Light in Portland, Maine
Again, we were too early — the lighthouse was under construction

When visiting the Portland Head Light, be sure to hike around the coastal trails

LL Bean Flagship Store

LL Bean was started just outside of Portland, Maine, and their flagship store is impressive! It’s multiple buildings full of anything you could ever hope to buy. As strange as it is for a store to be a must-see place, we really enjoyed exploring it.

Peaks Island

From the mainland in Portland, you can take a ferry to many of the small islands just off the coast. We chose to head towards Peaks Island which was about a 20 minute ferry ride away. The ferry ride itself is a great way to see Portland and the Maine coast from a distance and cool off with a breezy boat ride. Once there, our plan was to rent bikes to ride around the island. It sounded like a fantastic plan until we walked off the ferry and stumbled upon a sign for golf cart rentals. Ummm, yes please! We rented them for 3 hours, which was more than enough time. If you drove nonstop, it would probably take you about 10 minutes to make your way around the island on the golf cart, which left plenty of time to park the golf cart and explore.

View from the ferry from Portland, Maine to Peaks Island

Welcome to Peaks Island from the ferry

There's an old, HUGE gun battery in the middle of Peaks Island, Maine you can walk into and explore
There’s an old, HUGE gun battery in the middle of the island you can walk into and explore

Bradbury Mountain State Park

A very short hike (about 15-20 minutes to the top) at Bradbury Mountain State Park takes you to the peak with gorgeous views. We went at sunset and had the peak to ourselves. Especially if you camp at the campground, don’t skip out on this hike!

View from the summit of Bradbury Mountain outside of Portland, Maine

Camping near Portland, Maine

Bradbury Mountain State Park Campground

This was the very best campground we had on this trip. We were at site 16 at Bradbury Mountain State Park Campground, which was a walk-up tent site. It’s a small campground (about 30 sites total) and our site required about a 50 foot walk from the road through the campground. It was completely wooded, included a lean to, and was so secluded. The clean campground includes free hot showers and pit toilets. It’s about a 25 minute drive from Portland and about 10 minutes from the LL Bean store. I’d go back to Portland just to camp here again.

Bradbury State Park Campground outside of Portland, Maine

Like what you read? Check out these posts:

A 9 Day Itinerary for an Outdoor Adventure in Maine

A Guide to Ogunquit, Maine

A Guide to Experiencing Iceland in a Campervan

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