You are here: Trip List  »  Beautiful Maine »  Historic Portland Waterfront, Portland, ME

Historic Portland Waterfront, Portland, ME


  • View of Boats in the Historic Portland Waterfront
  • View of the US Custom House Building
  • View of Historic Downtown Portland
  • View of Boats in the Historic Portland Waterfront

An eclectic mix of boutiques, cafés, galleries and fishermen make Portland’s waterfront, or Old Port neighborhood, a truly unique locale.  Historically a strictly commercial shipping port, downtown now thrives on the service and tourism industry.  If high-end, award-winning restaurants are what you fancy, you’re in the right spot. On the other hand, if you want to devour a tried and true easygoing New England classic like clam chowder or lobster roll while watching the ships come and go? Pick your dockside diner. Fresh-off-the-boat dining is, obviously, Old Port’s specialty. If indulging in a trendy café or restaurant just a few steps off the waterfront isn’t fresh enough for you, then stroll down to one of the seaside fish markets where you can have your Atlantic catch sent anywhere in the country.  Old Port is sure to answer all of your desires from farm-to-table dining to funky boutiques to cobblestone walkways.  If your artistic side needs itching, check out Congress Street in the East End arts district, only a few blocks off the waterfront.  The downtown area has done a magnificent job of marrying numerous nineteenth century architectural gems with fresh, chic development. 

Whatever your desire, downtown Portland covers the field. It is a rare gem to find a working commercial fishing port chock full of world-class chefs nestled up amongst an up-and-coming art scene.  With the sea as a perfect framework, Old Port will leave you grasping for more.  With old and new intertwined throughout downtown Portland, the area delights in creativity and perseverance. Having survived four separate fires, Portland lives up to its motto, Resurgam, Latin for "I will rise again".  You will walk away with scrapbooks upon scrapbooks of memories.


Commercial Street

The renewed interest in preservation and merging Portland’s history with contemporary aspirations became much easier when the National Register of Historic Places added Commercial Street to its directory in 1974. Dotted with fishing wharfs and blanketed by culinary excellence, Commercial is the area you visit to relish a true taste of Maine.  Old Port has everything from popular grab-and-go options to James Beard Award-winning chefs.  As with many food-centric cities, Portland also has numerous locally grown or brewed options to make your taste buds shout “ahoy!” You can enjoy the newest craze in food art or experience the traditional shoreline Harbor Fish Market, which has been selling seafood and educating Portland for over 40 years.  An Old Port classic, the Harbor Fish Market is a must for the seafood enthusiast.  Ship some lobstahs back home or have your deepest, darkest fish questions answered at this Portland staple.

Ocean Gateway

Be sure to check out a prime example of Portland’s coastal roots rendered through a twenty-first century lens with the uber-contemporary Ocean Gateway.  Old Port’s newest attraction plays off of the area’s fishing history by jutting out into the cold ocean water like a ship’s bow breaking waves.  Featuring floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking Casco Bay, Ocean Gateway is a definite show-stopper and perfect opportunity to add to your photo album.

Downtown Inclinations

Slightly off the wharf-lined Commercial Street farther into downtown, you’ll find a plethora of artistic and shopping distractions.  The Portland Museum of Art is always sure to please with its abundant assortment of American, European and Contemporary art. Peppered with galleries throughout the neighborhood, downtown Portland has emerged as a small-city contender in the East Coast art scene.  Be sure to browse through the kitschy boutiques and shops to find that perfect New England treasure.  Many of the stores are settled into former shipping warehouses, complete with original architectural features.  Ogle the late 1800s exposed brick walls and gasp at the beams towering above the funky mix of Portland trade.  While downtown, take a stroll down memory lane in one of the old-time candy shops or ice cream parlors.  Enjoy a chocolate-covered whoopie pie while people-watching at Boothby Square or revel in an old-fashioned ice cream cone as you watch the hardworking deck-hands slog through their catch, priming the night’s feast.