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Portland is Maine’s largest and most visited city, and without a doubt, the greater Portland metro area just leaves visitors wanting to book a return ticket ASAP. Now, to be fully transparent with everyone, I knew very, very little about Portland before booking my plane ticket there. I just … wanted to go.
For example, I never realized how many lighthouses were an easy and fast drive from the city. Nor did I realize how many local breweries perfected unique craft beers unlike anything else I’ve ever tasted. I also didn’t know that Portland Maine’s food scene is absolutely thriving on all levels and that you’d have to revisit a zillion times before you tried all the best restaurants (spoiler alert: all of them. all of them are the best).
Ultimately, I wanted to write this post about Portland Maine solo travel, because I personally think smaller cities are great destinations for people who want to travel alone, but still feel overwhelmed in major cities, such as New York City or San Francisco.
Portland Maine is the perfect compromise!
Table of Contents
Portland Maine Solo Travel: What to Expect
Oh gosh, I’m not even sure where to begin when talking about my own independent travels to Portland Maine.
Long story short: solo travel in Portland Maine was great. I ate fresh seafood, drank incredibly brewed craft beer, walked close to lighthouses, relaxed in nature, saw a baby waterfall, and shopped until my bank account was ready to burst into tears.
I also took my solo trip to Portland in November, and while I did meet up with friends, I spent a few afternoons alone, and could’ve easily done the entire trip on my own. And fall? Such a great time to go to Portland. The leaves’ vibrant oranges and reds made my heart so happy!
When I went to Portland, I was quite an experienced solo traveler in the sense that I’ve traveled alone more times than I can count. However, I still firmly believe that a long weekend getaway is easy and accessible for travelers juuuuust starting to dip their toes into traveling alone.
I absolutely want to go back to Portland in the near future.
Practical Tips for Solo Travel in Portland Maine
Now that we’ve talked about my own delightful experience, let’s discuss some practical tips that will make your travels to Portland Maine even easier.
As always, though, I want to emphasize the importance of doing your own research, too. You may not want to plan every second, of course, but research will make your travels a lot easier once you’re on the road.
I also want you to keep in mind that each and every traveler is different. I don’t want to make assumptions about anyone’s travel budget or priorities. However, I hope the advice in this post inspires you to plan a visit to Portland Maine and soon!
Let’s talk about your arrival.
How to Get Around Portland Maine
Portland Maine is so easy to get to and around. Transportation-wise, a solo traveler doesn’t have much to worry about at all.
As for me, I flew into Portland Maine and landed at Portland International Jetport. Now I’m used to huge airports (like Newark Liberty) and already know that massive airports easily stress out solo travelers. But Portland’s airport is relatively small and very manageable. Like I said, I’m someone who feels easily overwhelmed in major airports. Portland’s cute airport was a breath of fresh air for me. No issues whatsoever.
Furthermore, Portland International Jetport is only a 10-15 car ride to downtown Portland. It’s super easy to hope in a rideshare or take a cab to your accommodation.
Once in Portland, you’re able to walk or take a rideshare to all the attractions. I didn’t bother renting a car since I was only staying in Portland. Parking is a bit of nightmare, but car rentals are still worth your time and money if you want to explore the rest of the state.
Portland Maine Packing Essentials
Portland Maine will have everything you need as a traveler, but it’s still important to bring the essential items with you. You don’t want to waste your time buying something that you could’ve easily packed and brought with you.
- Maine Guidebook: Portland has so many delightful attractions. Furthermore, many solo travelers will use Portland as a springboard to explore the rest of Maine. Therefore I highly recommend packing a Lonely Planet Maine Guide to plan your itinerary to this beautiful state.
- Mirrorless Camera: I always say that smartphone pictures are beautiful, but if you want to take professional photos on your solo trip to Portland Maine, then I recommend buying a lightweight Sony mirrorless camera to snap those breathtaking shots of lighthouses and harbors.
- Travel Insurance: For international solo travelers, please keep in mind that your home country’s insurance might not cover you overseas. I recommend buying a travel insurance policy to protect your health and money. It’s worth the cost.
- Walking Sneakers: You will do a ton of walking in Portland Maine. Parks, lighthouses, hikes. Your feet need comfortable sneakers for your adventures, otherwise you just might regret it!
- Windbreaker Jacket: Regardless of what time of year you go to Portland, always have a windbreaker jacket with you especially if you venture onto the water! Those ferry rides and walks out to the lighthouses can be quite brisk even in the sun!
Solo Travel Accommodation
First a bit of bad news. Portland Maine is pretty expensive when it comes to accommodation, especially downtown and in the summer. I even recommend staying closer to the airport to save money.
As for my own trip, I stayed at Black Elephant Hostel which is the only high-rated hostel in the city. You seriously can’t beat the price in exchange for such a fantastic downtown location.
- Aloft Portland Maine: Aloft is a fun urban hotel located right on the waterfront. This brand new hotel has a cool lobby bar with live music, and its location is only mere steps from all the action. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Black Elephant Hostel: Portland’s only hostel packs a punch! This hostel has a funky and chill common room where travelers from all over the world hang out to chat. The beds are super comfortable, and the bathrooms are squeaky clean! Great place to stay for the price. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Fleetwood House Bed and Breakfast: This adorable bed and breakfast is located relatively close to downtown Portland. You’ll pay a reasonable price to lounge on the sun terrace! See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
Why Take a Solo Trip to Portland Maine
Now let’s get into the most important part of this Portland Maine Solo Travel Guide. What are the best reasons to take a trip alone to Portland Maine? Why you would you want to spend your time and money exploring this city without another person?
Luckily for you, there’s a ton of great reasons why Portland Maine would make an awesome solo weekend getaway. Keep in mind that Portland is a very seasonal city and what I list here may be fine for summer and fall, but not suitable for the dead of winter.
And, of course, each solo traveler is different. There are way more reasons to visit Portland alone in addition to the five reasons listed here.
Make Friends at City Events
First and foremost, Portland is just … cool. I mean, sure, Portland Maine is a small city, but at the same time, hosts plenty of action-packed events where a solo traveler easily make lots of new friends!
For example, I went to Harvest on the Harbor as a travel writer and photographer. The particular event I went to was called “Meet Your Maker with Maine Distillers Guild.” Over all, the evening was a fantastic chance to chat with locals, as well as incredible distillers who specialize in Maine-made spirits.
Harvest on the Harbor takes place in the fall and their events offer plenty of opportunities to make new friends!
You can also utilize social media sites such as Facebook and Meetup to meet with locals on your solo getaway to Portland Maine.
Lots of Solo Travel Dining Options
Okay, as a solo traveler, sometimes I have a fear of eating alone in public that makes meal times a little tricky. However, I had zero worries in Portland!
Portland is known for its mouth-watering food scene. From fresh oysters to buttery lobster rolls to Scandinavian cuisine to homemade Maine potato donuts, your stomach will feel like it arrived in food heaven in Portland.
Portland’s restaurants have plenty of casual bars that welcome solo diners. In many ways, as someone traveling alone, you have a much easier chance of finding a seat at a bar in Portland’s most popular restaurants.
Outdoor dining and food trucks are both very popular in Portland Maine, too. Biting into a perfect juicy lobster roll while looking out at the harbor sounds like a perfect afternoon to me.
Portland Maine is Easy to Explore
Portland’s tourism infrastructure is fantastic. This small city is so used to tourists visiting in the summer and fall. Visit Portland is the official tourism board and home to an abundance of wonderful information that will help any solo traveler plan a weekend away.
In Portland, you won’t have to worry about getting lost on a massive subway system or being stranded at a far away attraction because you missed the last bus. Portland and its surrounding area has plenty to see and do, but within a compact area.
Portland Maine also has many guided tours in high season. History tours, foodie tours, harbor tours, you name it! So even if you don’t want to navigate on your own, you don’t have to! Take advantage of a tour with a good guide and let them do the hard work for you.
Portland Maine is Very Safe
As solo travelers, safety is always on the forefront of our minds. Personally, I always research crime and violence before going on any trip, although I’m still a huge advocate of the world being a much safer place than depicted on the 24/7 news cycle and social media.
Portland Maine is a very safe option for solo travelers. My only frustration was dealing with a pair of tourists who desperately wanted my seat at a famous donut shop, haha! Not once did I worry about myself or my belongings. Violent crime is quite low in Portland.
Even though Portland is safe, you still want to be smart, of course! Meaning usual common sense still applies in Portland Maine. Don’t wander the streets alone in the middle of the night without a care in the world. Don’t go to the rowdiest bar looking to pick a fight with the largest person there.
If you wouldn’t wander a vacant lot at 4:00 in the morning while intoxicated at home, then don’t do it in Portland. Simple enough.
However, for a city of its size, Portland does have a decent sized homeless population. The vast majority of Maine’s social services are located here, so individuals who need financial and mental assistance come to Portland.
I never personally felt unsafe around the homeless population (seriously don’t worry), but I also understand that it’s unnerving and sad to see desperate people on the streets – especially when one is alone. Portland has several wonderful local charities to donate money if you feel inclined to help.
So, So, So Many Things to See and Do
I wanted to conclude my Portland Maine Solo Travel Guide by emphasizing just how much you can see and do alone here. No one will think you’re weird for spending a lovely weekend alone in Portland Maine. I promise, I promise. Like, seriously, don’t even stress about it!
Here are some of the best activities that you can do any time of the year as a solo traveler in Portland Maine. I’m super excited for your adventure! Happy planning!
Solo Travel Friendly Activities
- Admire Some Art: Are you into art museums? In a lot of ways, roaming galleries is an ideal solo activity. You’re able to stare at a painting for as long as your heart desires. Portland Museum of Art is a lovely sprawling museums with unique temporary exhibits and fantastic permanent collections featuring many Maine artists.
- Drink at a Craft Brewery: If you love craft beer, then Portland is the right option for you! In downtown Portland, I absolutely loved Oxbow Brewing Company. I also encourage you to visit outside the city to Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland, as well as Bissell Brothers at Thompson’s Point.
- Eat at Food Trunks near Fort Allen Park: Are you super shy about eating alone? I totally get it! I encourage you to go to Fort Allen Park and browse the many food trucks that hang out here. You’ll eat a delicious meal and have sweeping views of the harbor. Doesn’t get any better than this, huh?
- Go Lighthouse Hopping: Portland has several beautiful lighthouses that hug its majestic coastline. The best part is that all these lighthouses are a very easy drive from Portland’s downtown. Incredible lighthouses include Portland Head Light, Bug Light, and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. As a solo traveler, you can take as many selfies as your heart desires in front of all these fantastic lighthouses. No judgement!
- Learn Maine’s History: Do you want to learn the “story” about Maine, including Portland? Then look no further than Maine Historical Society right in the heart of downtown Portland. In the summer season, you can even see the famous Longfellow House and Garden where poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived as a boy.
- Shop ‘Til You Drop: Locally owned businesses thrive in downtown Portland. Stroll along Congress, Exchange, and Commercial streets, and I promise you’ll discover lots of delightful surprises! Don’t miss it!
I hope you liked reading my Portland Maine Solo Travel guide. Feel free to reach out with even more ideas for traveling alone to Portland Maine, as well as any questions you may have about this scenic coastal city. Happy travels!