If Portland is a hipster older sister known for her great style and taste, South Portland is her younger sister on the verge of her major glow up.
I first heard of Portland, Maine a few years ago when I was looking at going to an art school there, but cold winters and colder out of state school price tags kept me in Virginia.
Needing a break from our yearly South Carolina beach trip, this would be the year of my family’s long discussed New England road-trip.
I was highly anticipating a visit to the place that could have been my past 4 years in some alternate reality.
So we booked an Airbnb in South Portland, just over the bridge from Portland Portland, packed up the car, and got the hell out of dodge.
What I didn’t know, however, was how this little town was going to be the most underrated part of the trip and I’m going to tell you the hell why:
Airbnb’s are kind of exciting cause you’re never really sure what you’re going to get until you’re there. Our precious downstairs apartment situated in a #cuteAF neighborhood just happened to have a screened in side porch with a hammock. It was as heavenly and relaxing as it was instagramable. It made for the perfect place to enjoy a bowl of Maine blueberries and think about absolutely nothing at all.
Our Airbnb also happened to be walking distance from the best bagels and cream cheese I’ve ever had. This location of Scratch Bakery is set up as a grab and go store with a gorgeous selection of pastries and baked goods (the Morning Glory muffins are also superb.) I could write love songs about the Maine sea salt bagel and herbed cream cheese. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
Chewy and savory, the bagel itself is to die for. It doesn’t have the same density as a traditional bagel would, but this airy quality allows for a more powerful flavor. When paired with the herbed cream cheese, you’ll question if you’ll ever be able to touch another bagel and cream cheese again. Strong hints of dill with possibly oregano and a few other herbs, the cream cheese was good enough to eat by itself.
I have tears in my eye just thinking of this. Pairs great with a lemon Pellagrino soda, BTW.
One afternoon, as we scoped out the area, we stumbled upon the precious Willard Beach. It was my first glance at a real Maine Coastline and it did not disappoint. As soon as I saw the seascape with the boats docked out in the water, an overwhelming wave of understanding washed over me as to why people come here to make art and to write books. If scenery isn’t your thing, I think the hoards of dogs running around in the evening will warm your cold heart.
South Portland was able to give me my first taste of New England history at the Bug Lighthouse. Precious and petite, the outlook gives you the best view of the City of Portland just across the water. It’s free to visit and makes a great area for photos. Next to the lighthouse, you’ll find a large, metal structure commemorating the area’s ship building history at the Liberty Ship Memorial. I always love learning about history on my travels and this location is perfect to get #educated about ship building in Portland during the first and second World Wars.
Best way to round out the day after being an #intellectual is a soft serve at Red’s Dairy Freeze. It’s located in a big, red and white barn right up against Cottage Rd. where there’s always a quick moving line (the locals know whats up – it was voted best soft serve in the state.) Tragically, I couldn’t try their famous, homemade strawberry soft serve made from local strawberries (sells out quick if they have it) – but you need to have one for me. I opted for a simple vanilla with a crunch coat and the soft serve was perfectly creamy. Simple, satisfying, and aesthetically pleasing.
You obviously can’t go to South Portland without going to Portland itself.
Having studied art for about half of college, I always try to hit the local art museums and the Portland Museum of Art did not disappoint. It’s free for anyone 21 or younger, so I highly recommend taking advantage of that (just bring an ID.) It’s not overwhelmingly large, allowing you to enjoy all the pieces in their collection on display. It had a great range of art to suit anyones taste. There were also a handful of pieces I remember specifically learning about in my classes and that’s always a worth while feeling to experience.
My second recommendation would be to check out the baked goods at Standard Baking Co. They were voted to have some of the best croissants in America. Me being the wannabe Parisian that I am, I can attest they were marvelous. Although, what I also recommend you try are the cinnamon sticky buns. They’re made from the same dough as the croissants and are simply the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had. They make me want to curl up with a hot tea in one hand, sticky bun in the other, and watch snow fall on the bay. Maine af.
My last honorable mention would be to check out the shops on Commercial St. Plenty of cute stores, specialty shops, and places to eat. I recommend stopping in Le Roux Kitchen to check out the specialty foods and try the vast selection of balsamic vinaigrettes.
Portland, Maine was such a beautiful, surprising, and inspiring area with incredibly nice people with Clinton/Kaine signs still in their yards. Laid back vibe with plenty to do, I give Portland/South Portland a 10/10 would recommend.