Outdoor adventures in Portland, Maine!
April 29, 2015 3:31 PM   Subscribe

MeFites provided me with some awesome recommendations when I spent some time in Albany, NY a couple of years ago, so I'm looking to you guys to help me out with Portland, Maine!

I am heading to Portland, ME next week and will have Friday and Saturday (May 8 and 9) free to explore. I will have a rental car, but not looking to spend a LOT of time in the car to get to someplace. For instance, I would love to go to Acadia NP, but 3-ish hours drive is undesirable. I have also looked at previous Portland posts, but looking for current info.

So, I know I can rely on you all for some wonderful recommendations! Here are a few criteria of what I'm hoping for:

1. Scenic hiking trails, either inland (up to 2 hour drive) or coastal (would LOVE craggy coastline trail, if one in the area...?). I prefer a moderate/intermediate and up hiking level, but if it's wonderful scenery, I'm definitely down with easy/flat.

2. I've read some on the Casco Bay ferry and I'm pretty interested in doing that also. What island would you recommend? I've read good things about Eagle and Peak's Island. If I need to rent a bike for my ferry/island venture, do you have a bike shop rec as well?

3. Any out of the way, charming, small-town place to go or anything else to experience that I haven't thought of??

Also, my focus is definitely not seeking out the best lobster or local brew or anything like that (sorry!) - I'm much more interested in just getting out and seeing the best scenery in the area, so any details you guys can pass on to me would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much!
posted by foxhat10 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is about New England, but I stand by all of my answers in this thread. Especially Camden Hills State Park, you really can't get views like that unless you go all the way to Acadia.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:53 PM on April 29, 2015

Best answer: You want to visit Two Lights State Park on Cape Elizabeth, which is not far from Portland at all! Go when the tide is coming in if you want to see amazing surf on the big craggy rocks, or when the tide is out if you want to look at critters in the tidal pools. There's not really a lot of trail right along the rocky coastal section, but there are some other woodsy trails in the park too. They're fairly easy I think, but to be honest I haven't explored much of the rest of the park because the rocks are so enchanting.
posted by usonian at 4:49 PM on April 29, 2015

Best answer: Camden Hills is a good suggestion. If you want to drive about an hour in the OTHER direction, though, you could drive to Pleasant Mountain near Bridgton. Southern Maine's largest mountain and it has very nice views of New Hampshire and the surrounding countryside, as well as a pleasantly rocky peak on one end of the ridge.

I really like Tumbledown and the Bigelows but they are just over two hours to the north.
posted by selfnoise at 5:09 PM on April 29, 2015

Best answer: Kettle Cove beach is public (there is a "fee" box that I've never seen anyone actually put money in).. it has a few rock points with a more private beach further out from the parking lot. At this time of year there won't be crowds. There are pretty working boats right off the beach in a mooring field, a big island out in the distance (Richmond island), a bunch of walking trails around (which you could explore in about 20 minutes, it's not that many trails).. but it has nice view and is worth a look. It's sandwiched between Crescent Beach State Park and the Two Lights State Park already mentioned.

As for the ferry - I would recommend taking the mail boat (I like to go at night). The boat docks at a number of islands and then ends up back in Portland, which is nice if you have an hour and a half but not enough time to actually get off and spend time on an island. If you do go to an island, pick Peaks and ask about Battery Steel - it's an old abandoned fort and pretty damn creepy to explore.

Fort Williams is on the way from Portland to Two Lights (if you take the scenic route along the water) and has a lighthouse, old fort installations, etc.. Again, wouldn't take you too much time to explore but it's free and easy with plenty of parking.

Unfortunately there isn't too much in the way of good hiking in the Portland area as it's pretty flatlanded until you head North-West for about an hour via car.. If you have time for that the closest decent hike is probably Pleasant Mountain (which has Shawnee Peak Ski Area on it's north side) is a nice quick hike (though it's pretty steep on the way up for about a mile) - you take Mountain road past Shawnee Peak and park on the side of the road by the trail.. it's roughly at the *exact* spot where the "pin" for "Pleasant Mountain" is located on Google Maps. There is an old fire tower on top, pretty good views, and (unfortunately for you) is covered in wild blueberries in mid-late July.

For in-town "hiking" (aka walking in the woods") check out Portland Trails - I recommend the "Fore River Sanctuary" - it's #12 on the map.

Finally, only about 25 minutes from Portland is Wolfes Neck Woods State Park in Freeport that, again, is relatively short and not much of a hike, nevertheless has really amazing views of the islands from fairly high cliff vantage points here and there.
posted by mbatch at 5:12 PM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a big fan of Bradbury Mountain State Park for light hikes. Its not coastal, though.

Boothbay Harbor is a beautiful coastal community about an hour and a half up US Route 1 from Portland (and you'll drive right past Reds in Wiscasset!) which has a lot of lovely and well maintained coastal trails. (I highly recommend this NY Times article about the connection between Rachel Carson and the Boothbay/Southport region.) While you're in Boothbay, be sure to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens which have some great light hiking trails.

You might also want to check out the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools which offer a ton of free and low cost short "adventures" including things like Kayak tours of Casco Bay - all equipment included.

I always recommend the mailboat cruise. I believe there is only the one place to rent bikes on Peaks Island, which is the island you're most likely to want to bike around.

Portland Trails is an amazing organization that makes this city great. If you call or email them I'm certain they can point you to specific trails that nobody here has suggested. The Eastern Trail Alliance does the same work, but regionally, maintaining trails from Kittery to South Portland.

I would also suggest you take a look at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, which is spectacular and not a lot of people go there.

If you've never been here before, you should probably visit the iconic Portland Head Light which is smack in the middle of Fort Williams Park, a big outdoor recreation destination for locals, which includes an arboretum, trails, an abandoned fort, and food trucks.

Finally, I'll leave you with this list of The 10 Prettiest Coastal Towns in Maine.
posted by anastasiav at 7:52 AM on April 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much - this is an excellent start and with all of these to choose from, I will have no problem filling up two days of exploring :)
posted by foxhat10 at 9:38 AM on April 30, 2015

I am very suprised nobody has mentioned Wolfe's Neck in Freeport. If the ground isn't too soggy, the trails there are lovely, with sections through the forest and overlooking Casco Bay.
posted by mneekadon at 3:44 PM on April 30, 2015

Response by poster: Hi there! I just wanted to follow up on what I chose for my days of exploring.

First day: Took the regular ferry (versus the mail ferry) over to Peak's Island which took about 15 min - nice, short ferry ride. Went to the only bicycle rental shop on the island, Mike's Bikes I believe. I had called ahead to see if I needed to reserve one and there was a recorded message saying that at this point in the season, it was on the self-service honor system. Right now it's not too busy, so I was lucky enough to have my pick. (I would recommend calling ahead for sure during more peak tourist months.) Peak's Island was a great biking island. I basically did the main loop/main road that has plenty of opportunities to take a turn into the neighborhoods and just coast around. I went up to Battery Steele, which was neat. Other than that, I didn't really see much else, I just biked the island, nice views of course and beautifully windy and brisk, for sure! I didn't eat at any of the restaurants on the island, just waited til I got back to mainland. All in all, it took me about 2.5 hours (that could totally be stretched out, depending on how much one wants to linger).

Second day: Decided to head up to Camden Hills State Park for a hike. I chose Bald Rock Mountain as my hike. It was good, nice and steep, very rocky and rooty and a nice challenge going up. Unfortunately, the day was overcast so when I reached summit of 1800 ft, nothing but a white wall/cloud cover up to the edge of the cliff, so I could not see ANYTHING! Oh well, was still a nice brisk hike. It was also not very long, took me about 2.5 hours. I didn't want to stray onto another trail since the weather felt like it was turning when I started heading down. So that was disappointing view-wise, but it felt good to break a sweat.

Also saw Portland Head Light on way to the Lobster Shack with co-workers.

Downtown is very cool and lively - good job, Portland :)
posted by foxhat10 at 8:31 AM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

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