Ever feel like having fresh seafood? Not just for one day, but for a whole weekend? Well, if you ever do, drive to Portland, Maine and get your fix. We drove down to Portland for the weekend and came back with more than just seafood in our bellies. Because it happens to be a very beautiful town filled with interesting little shops, we came back with wonderful memories and great little souvenirs. Here is what we did:
A short-5 hour drive from Montreal and you are in Portland. Now, we obviously know that five hours is not really short (especially if you are driving with kids), but there is such beautiful scenery on your way that those 5 hours feel like 3. After Quebec, you will likely drive through the mountainous state of Vermont, cut through the valleys of New Hampshire, and marvel at the oceanic view of Maine. Great ride!
We arrived in Portland around noon; perfect time for lunch right? So we went straight to J’s Oysters (I mean, we did drive all this way for seafood after all). But as we were walking towards the restaurant, which happens to be on a boat (yay!), we could not stop but be happily surprised by the beauty of Old Portland. Somehow, this had slipped through the cracks of our expectations. How is it that nobody told us how pretty this town was? Beautiful architecture, nicely designed cobblestones, unique shops and stores, amazing breweries… I mean, wow!
Anyways, after a delicious and quick lunch at J’s Oysters, we walked to Holy Donuts for dessert (a short 7-minute walk). The place was packed. Really packed… A line up to get a simple donut… But no no… It wasn’t that simple, after tasting their donuts, we understood why there was a line-up. Not only were they delicious, but we were happy to learn that most of the ingredients used to make the donuts were local (butter, berries, eggs, milk…).
Once our bellies were satisfied (a little too satisfied 😛 ), we decided to spend the afternoon roaming around town. We passed by a few landmarks like the Portland Art Gallery, the Portland House of Music, John Ford’s Statue, the Press Hotel, and more. Basically we walked until we started sweating a lot, and decided to go rot our hotel and take a well-deserved shower.
After resting for a bit, we decided to visit the Portland Lighthouse before grabbing dinner at the most acclaimed seafood restaurant in town: Eventide Oystere Co. This place had ridiculously amazing reviews. And after eating there, we know why. Never have we tasted seafood so fresh elsewhere in this part of the world. No wonder they have 2-3 hour wait times (no, we’re not exaggerating). We can’t tell you how much we recommend this place. Hint: if you don’t want to wait 2 hours, just eat at the standing bar; that’s what we did and it was actually quite fun. The service is very quick, so you won’t get tired from standing. Once we devoured the oyster, crab, and lobster dishes, we headed to a nice cosy bar for some local beer (we have a longer review of this place if you want to know more. Click here).
We started the day at Arabica. A quaint coffee house that offers all types of warm drinks and pastries. Henry got an espresso and Mariam a chai. We sat down an enjoyed the slow paced attitude everyone had. People came in with their book, newspapers, gardening magazines, and/or sketchbooks. Those who were not reading/sketching were talking to each other (not on their phone), looking at each other (not at their phones) and laughing with each other (not facing their phones). Very different from what you would see in a big city. Just what we needed to start our day since we were heading to Peaks Island where we intended to take very slow-paced walks. Arabica Coffee House was a mental warmup for that.
Peaks Island is only a 20-minute ferry ride from Portland. It costs about USD $7 for a round trip and you can book your ticket online or buy it directly at the Casco Bay Line port. Once you arrive on the island, you are welcomed with a burst of fresh air and smily people who say hello when they walk by you. You will find different art galleries, ocean views from all corners, and an inn where, once again, you can indulge in fresh seafood meals. After strolling for about two hours, we settled for the Inn on Peaks Island for lunch. We came out of there happy and ready to continue our visit.
Back on the mainland of Portland, we headed to Goodfire Brewing Company where we met our very dear friends and played (or attempted to play) jenga while enjoying local beer. A few hours later, we were out again, walking for an hour or two and finally settling for a more zen place like Dobra Tea. Never had we seen such a large list of available teas. The menu was 70+ pages long and had a table of contents (Yes, a menu with a table of contents. That’s how you know there’s a ton of stuff), and everything looked amazingly delicious. We settled for a matcha latte, a raspberry shortcake, and a lavender shortcakes. All tasty! So much so that we dedicated a post for Dobra.
We had a very long day, so we stayed at Dobra for a little while. Talking about the wonderful day we’d had, the food we ate, the people we met, and the places we visited. But after too much talking, our stomach started growling again, so we decided to head to Gilberts Chowder House. Ohh, was it delicious! Henry got the seafood chowder and haddock fish with rice, and Mariam went for the clam chowder and lobster sandwich served with fries. Everything tasted as it was supposed to taste: Fresh.
We started the day with ice-cream! haha! Yes, it was Easter Sunday, so this was a great way to break lent. So we went to Beal’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream where we had the world’s biggest ice cream cone (see for yourself below). The next few hours were spent shopping for souvenirs we would take back home. We started with Mexicali Blues, a store we highly recommend for their community outreach programs and the many great jewelry and other products they have. For our part, we picked hanger-hooks that we have installed in our home’s entrance.
After Mexicali, we went to a kitchen store called LeRoux to get what they’re the most known for: olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It took us over 30 minutes to decide which one to pick because they have a HUGE selection, all equally flavourful. They also have a plethora of items for your kitchen: from baking pans to utensils; from cooking books to all sorts of cookwares; and from kitchen appliances to table tops. They even offer cooking classes. Really worth checking out when you go to Portland, ME (especially if you like cooking, or if you have a friend who does).
Before heading to lunch at Highroller Lobster Co., we passed by a little gluten-free bakery to get some goodies for the road. We are not gluten intolerant, but we have come to appreciate how delicious cakes and cookies made with almond flour or rice flour can be, so we definitely wanted to grab something delicious (and sweet), so we got cinnamon buns from Bam Bam Bakery. And last, but not least, lunch at Highroller Lobster Co. We have a whole post dedicated to this spot, so we won’t spoil it for you here.
All in all, this was a great trip. We met a lot of nice people, ate very well, walked for more than 10 km per day, and discovered just what a gem Portland, Maine, could be. See a video of our return back to Montreal, driving through the sunset: An excellent way to end the weekend!
Thank you Portland, Maine, USA, America, World!
How about you, Have you been to Portland, ME? Or maybe you’re from Portland? Share your thoughts in the comment below please.