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Visiting Old Port in Portland, Maine

I’ve visited Portland Maine a few times – both on press trips (at no/limited cost) and at full cost to me on family vacations. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us.

Portland, Maine is an eclectic, artsy, and quaint seaside town that is great for families to visit. The Old Port district within Portland, located right by the waterfront, is one of the several historic districts in the town. While I also love exploring the Arts District, the Old Port area of Downtown Portland Maine is where I usually spend most of my time.

This completely walkable district of cobblestone streets features a number of restaurants, shops, and attractions that appeal to kids and adults. Thinking about visiting Old Port in Portland, Maine? Here’s what you can expect to see.

Visiting Old Port in Portland, Maine, a historic neighborhood featuring cafes, restaurants, shops, and attractions.

Visiting Old Port in Portland, Maine

Fore Street Portland

Shops in Old Port, Portland, Maine

The Portland Maine shopping scene is lots of fun, with plenty of stores to visit. Among the independent boutiques and shops lining the cobblestone streets of Old Port, you’ll also find some popular small local chains, like The Salt Cellar, Life is Good, Cool as a Moose, Mexicali Blues, Cabot Cheese, and the Black Dog. There are also several great gourmet spice shops, and well as shops selling pottery, handbags, clothing, and accessories.

I find myself shopping during much of my Portland Maine trips – there are just so many unique products. A few years ago, we went the day after Christmas and I started stocking up on gifts for the next year. There were just so many fun things to buy.

Rather than plan one specific shopping day, I usually spread out our shopping. Each day, I’ll take a walk throughout Old Port and stop into the various shops.

Old Port Restaurants

Old Port Portland Maine Restaurants and Cafes

You can’t talk about the Portland without mentioning the food. For a small seaside town, there are dozens of delicious restaurants. Many of these popular restaurants are located in Old Port.

We’ve only been to a few, but our favorite is the incredibly popular DuckFat, which offers sandwiches, duck-fat fries, milkshakes, and donuts. This tiny restaurant has limited seating, so arrive early or late for the shortest wait time. It’s just outside of Old Port, but is still within walking distance.

On my most recent trip, my son and I enjoyed Paciarino, a quaint, authentic Italian restaurant. This delicious restaurant does accept reservations, and they are generally needed because it’s very popular. We’ve also enjoyed Piccolo, which is a tiny restaurant tucked among the shops. 

Flatbread Old Port

Prefer to have pizza? Portland has some fabulous pizza spots, including the Flatbread Company, Slab, and Otto. All three are delicious, but they are very different, so look at them online before choosing which one you want to dine at.

There are loads of other popular restaurants that we haven’t been to yet – mostly because they aren’t something my kids would love. These include Eventide Oyster and Central Provisions.

You can’t leave Maine without their signature dish – lobster rolls. There are loads of seafood restaurants with lobster on the menu. Our favorite is HighRoller Lobster. It’s a casual walk-in restaurant where you can order your food at the counter and then sit at a table.

Holy Donut

If you are looking for a snack or a drink, Portland has so much to offer. Don’t miss a trip to the Holy Donut, a Portland institution offering potato donuts. They close when they sell out, so go early, and definitely get a Dark Chocolate Sea Salt donut.

There’s also HiFi Donuts, which offers much more than donuts. Stop in for breakfast or a sandwich at lunchtime, and get a donut for dessert.

On our recent trip with the Amtrak Downeaster, we discovered Vena’s Fizz House, a shop/bar offering craft sodas and cocktails. It’s a family-friendly spot, so you can feel comfortable stopping in with your kids.

If you are looking for coffee, there are plenty of Portland Maine coffee shops right in Old Port. I recently enjoyed a coffee at Bard Coffee, although there are lots of independent coffee shops on just about every corner.

Portland Science Center

Attractions in Old Port Portland

While I could easily spend my whole vacation shopping and eating, you definitely won’t have to. Old Port is home to several family-friendly attractions. In the summer, you can enjoy taking a boat tour or cruise right from Casco Bay. These include a mailboat run, sunrise/sunset runs, and whale watches. 

If you’d like to experience lobster fishing, Lucky Catch Cruises offers lobster excursions. You can cook your own catch, or bring it to the nearby Portland Lobster Company.

There are also Duck Boat land/sea tours of Casco Bay and Old Port. Prefer to stay on land? Consider taking a walking food tour of the area, so that you can sample some of the popular delicacies of the area.

Unfortunately, the Portland Science Center, which used to feature traveling science exhibits has recently closed. 

Portland Water Front View

Hotels in Old Port

There are several hotels in Old Port, ranging from popular chain hotels to luxurious boutique hotels. We’ve stayed at the Hyatt Place Old Port, as well as the Portland Harbor Hotel. Both are conveniently located, and you can easily stay in one of these hotels and walk to all of the Old Port attractions.

See reviews of Portland hotels here (not all of these are in Old Port) and our recommendations on where to stay in Portland Maine here. 

Parking in Old Port

If you aren’t staying within walking distance of Old Port, you’ll need to drive. On-street parking is available, but is limited. Otherwise, there are a number of parking lots/garages throughout the area.

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