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5 Things To Do In Southern Maine

Many our clients are exploring domestic destinations this summer. Here we offer 5 things to do in Southern Maine.

1. The Old Port and Portland Head Lighthouse

Tourists arriving at Maine's largest city, Portland, invariably head straight for its harbor district, the Old Port. There, along with fishing boats, busy docks, and seafood restaurants, they may find a cruise ship or see the tall masts of a sailing ship, for Portland is still an active port. The narrow streets that climb from the dockside Commercial Street are lined by the brick and stone buildings that supported one of the East Coast's busiest ports from colonial times through the 19th century.

Shop for maritime souvenirs in a ships' chandlery, eat seafood on the wharf, and if you're there early enough, watch the fishing boats unload and local chefs choose the menu at the city's restaurants. Fore Street, which parallels Commercial, is where you'll find several of these. At the docks, you can board a cruise of Kennebunkport or a ferry to visit its islands.

A landmark of Casco Bay and the Portsmouth harbor is Portland Head Lighthouse, which marks the entrance to the harbor. It is one of the most beautiful along the coast, and from its promontory, you can see the city and Old Port, as well as the passing ships and boats.

The museum in the former Keeper's Quarters illustrates the lighthouses and their keepers, showing how these bastions of maritime safety have changed over the years with advances in technology. Along with historic photos, artifacts on display include Fresnel lenses and exhibits on how they work.

Address: 1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

2. Portland Museum of Art

The superb collections of the Portland Museum of Art go far beyond the expected works of those artists who lived and painted here - artists such as Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, and the Wyeths. Among the more than 18,000 pieces of fine and decorative art, dating from the 1700s onwards, are works by Monet, Degas, Picasso, Warhol, Sargent, Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Gilbert Stuart, Joshua Reynolds, Alexander Calder, George Bellows, and Edward Hopper.

The museum also features traveling and temporary exhibits throughout the year. Attached to the museum is a historic house, formerly home to a prominent Portland family, with outstanding examples of period furniture, art, and decorative details.

Separate from the Portland facility, and accessible only by tours that originate here, is the studio of artist Winslow Homer, overlooking the sea on Prouts Neck, a point of land in nearby Scarborough, Maine.

Address: 7 Congress Square, Portland, Maine

3. Marginal Way and Ogunquit Beaches

Boats in Perkins Cove

The paved walking path along the shore from Ogunquit's long sandy beach to Perkins Cove is a beautiful way to see the rocky coast and its crashing surf. Among the rocky cliffs are a series of small sandy coves that offer a more intimate beach experience than Ogunquit Beach. The path is for walkers only (no bikes, no dogs from April to October) and runs about a mile and a half from the end of the village to the scenic wharfs of Perkins Cove.

Here, a slender peninsula shelters a small bay, creating a safe haven for small craft. Originally a small fishing port, today the harbor is overlooked by restaurants and small shops, but you'll still see plenty of fishing boats.

All along the path there are benches conveniently placed, both on the path and on overlooks above the sea. You can return to town on the Marginal Way, walk back along the shady Shore Road or take the trolley.

Ogunquit Beach has a gentle slope to the sea and comparatively warm water, which makes it popular with families. The town's shops and restaurants are busy in the summer, and the thriving arts scene brings more tourists to the nationally known Ogunquit Playhouse and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art

4. Nubble Lighthouse (Cape Neddick Light)

Nubble Lighthouse (Cape Neddick Light)

Perhaps New England's most photographed lighthouse, and certainly one of the easiest to get to, Nubble Light poses on its own islet just off the rocky point of Cape Neddick. Especially on a rising tide, the surf usually obliges photographers with a few waves breaking into froth against the rocks.

In late November, the lighthouse and keeper cottage are outlined in lights for the holiday season, and the annual lighting is celebrated with music, hot chocolate, and a visit from Santa. You can take a cruise from Ogunquit to see the lighthouse from the water.

The point bounds one end of Long Sands, the largest of two popular beaches in York. In another of the four villages that make up the town, the Old York Historical Society museum complex includes Jefferds Tavern and the 1745 York Corner Schoolhouse, one of the oldest surviving in New England.

5. Kennebunkport


The little coastal town of Kennebunkport, 12.5 miles south of Portland, is very popular in summer. Stately homes of former ship captains and owners, some of which have been carefully restored as bed-and-breakfasts, line its quiet streets, and you can learn about these on a self-guided walking tour, or at the Historical Society's First Families Kennebunkport Museum, in an 1853 Greek Revival home.

Shopping and gallery-hopping are favorite pastimes in the small commercial area of restored dockside buildings around Dock Square, which is lined with shops, studios, boutiques, and restaurants. Parsons Way, a scenic path, begins from the square and leads along the shore to Walker's Point. At the other side of the Kennebunk River, a series of sandy beaches line the shore.

Two miles east of Dock Square is the still-active fishing village of Cape Porpoise, with more shops and galleries, along with working lobster boats. Also of interest is the Seashore Trolley Museum. In nearby Kennebunk, look for the outstanding Brick Store Museum and drive past the fanciful Wedding Cake House on Summer Street.

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