We’ve put together a list of our top 50 favorite places to go to enjoy the outdoors in and around Portland. Plus, more than half of these places and activities are within a 20-minute drive of The Francis!
Head to the beach
.01 // WILLARD BEACH (10 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Willard Beach is a 4-acre sandy beach located in South Portland. The gentle surf makes it especially kid-friendly and the beach offers beautiful views of Spring Point Ledge Light and passing sailboats.
.02 // CRESCENT BEACH (17 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Part of Crescent Beach State Park, this mile-long sandy beach is popular with families due to its gentle surf and its easy walking and sunbathing.
.03 // HIGGINS BEACH (19 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
The picturesque drive from Portland to Higgins Beach is part of the charm of this beautiful beach. The surf is mostly calm, the beach is soft and inviting and at low tide there’s plenty of space to walk and wander along the waves.
.04 // SCARBOROUGH BEACH STATE PARK (19 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
This family-friendly beach offers some of the best swimming in all of New England with water temperatures in the high 60’s throughout July and August.
.05 // FERRY BEACH (21 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Ferry Beach is a sandy beach along the Scarborough River channel. This quiet, clean beach features crystal-clear water, perfect for an afternoon swim.
.06 // PINE POINT BEACH (24 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Pine Point Beach is a long sandy beach on Saco Bay that extends four miles from the jetty at Pine Point to Old Orchard Beach. There is plenty of room to relax on the beach, swim, play catch, or take a stroll.
Or seek out one of Maine’s lesser-known beaches
.07 // CLIFF HOUSE BEACH (11 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Located right off Shore Road is Cliff House Beach. This small and secluded spot offers beautiful views of Casco Bay, a grassy hill and at low tide, plenty of sand to walk along.
.08 // KETTLE COVE BEACH (15 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Located in Crescent Beach State Park and connected to Crescent Beach, Kettle Cove Beach is a quiet alternative to some of the larger beaches in the area. Walk along the rocky coastline, fly kites on the grassy knoll or explore the network of trails behind the parking lot.
.09 // FOWLER BEACH (ACCESSIBLE BY FERRY)
Take the Casco Bay Ferry from Portland to Long Island to reach Fowler Beach. It’s a small and beautiful beach with views of Peaks Island across Hussey Sound.
Go lighthouse sighting
.10 // PORTLAND BREAKWATER LIGHTHOUSE AT BUG LIGHT (10 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
At only 26 feet tall, Portland Breakwater Lighthouse is known for its diminutive size and its elegance. The lighthouse sits at the end of the Greenbelt Walkway and is a popular destination for a waterside walk or a day of kite flying at Bug Light Park.
.11 // PORTLAND HEADLIGHT AT FORT WILLIAMS (14 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
One of the quintessential coastal scenes in New England. Portland Head Light is also well known for the adjacent 90-acre park that surrounds it with stunning ocean views, hiking and walking paths and additional historic structures. Picnic tables at the park have re-opened and you can grab a lobster roll from the Bite into Maine food truck followed by a sweet treat from the Gorgeous Gelato kiosk.
.12 // TWO LIGHTS STATE PARK (17 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Opened in 1961, the park encompasses 41-acres of rocky headlands. Visitors have sweeping views of Casco Bay, the open Atlantic and the twin lighthouses located nearby at the end of Two Lights Road. Don’t forget to stop for lunch at The Lobster Shack which has newly re-opened for outdoor dining. The Lobster Shack is known for its landmark location and decades-long winning streak for Maine’s Best Lobster Roll.
Head out on a hike or nature walk
.13 // BACK COVE TRAIL (9 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
One of the oldest and most popular trails in Portland, the beautiful 4.2 mile loop around the Back Cove offers great views of the Portland skyline.
.14 // BAXTER WOODS (9 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Baxter Woods is a 30-acre nature preserve offering beautiful towering pines, river views and quiet, shaded trails for walking and mountain biking.
.15 // GREENBELT WALKWAY (10 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
The Greenbelt Walkway is a paved, primarily off-road path in South Portland that runs from the Wainwright athletic fields to Bug Light Park. The trail is 5.6 miles long one way and is pet friendly.
.16 // GILSLAND FARM AUDUBON CENTER (11 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
On the shore of the Presumpscot estuary, Gilsland Farm’s gentle trails are one of the best places in the Portland area to see wildlife in varied habitats, including meadows, historic gardens, marshes and forests.
.17 // MACKWORTH ISLAND TRAIL (12 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
This easy 1.5 mile trail circles Mackworth Island and offers excellent views of Casco Bay and its many islands as well as Portland and Falmouth.
.18 // ROBINSON WOODS TRAIL (14 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Located across from Fort Williams Park, the Robinson Woods Outer Loop Trail is a 1.4 mile loop trail that features a river and is good for all skill levels. Additional trails can be found within the 145 acres of the Robinson Woods Preserve.
.19 // PRESUMPSCOT RIVER TRAIL (18 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
The Presumpscot River Trail starts in Westbrook and provides a long, smooth single track that skirts the Presumpscot River all the way to Falmouth. This spot is also a great place to go tubing down the river!
.20 // CASCADE FALLS TRAIL (21 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Cascade Falls Trail is located on Cascade Road in Saco and is an easy 0.4-mile loop that features a large scenic waterfall, Cascade Falls.
.21 // BRADBURY MOUNTAIN STATE PARK (28 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Bradbury Mountain is a wonderful place to spend a day or an afternoon exploring trails, taking in the magnificent view from the summit or enjoying a picnic under a canopy of trees.
.22 // PINELAND FARMS (31 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Pineland Farms features 30 kilometers of professionally designed, well-kept trails for biking, walking or trail running in New Gloucester.
Hop on a ferry and visit one of the calendar islands
Please note, Casco Bay Lines are operating on a modified schedule this summer due to COVID-19, you can view their schedule here: https://www.cascobaylines.com/schedules/
.23 // PEAKS ISLAND (20 MINUTE FERRY RIDE FROM PORTLAND)
With a 4-mile perimeter of uninterrupted coastline, Peaks Island is a great spot to spend the day walking or biking around and exploring.
.24 // GREAT DIAMOND ISLAND (25 MINUTE FERRY RIDE FROM PORTLAND)
Great Diamond Island in Casco Bay is one of the most picturesque in Maine. The island features picnic areas and hiking trails and no gas-powered vehicles are allowed. Don’t forget to pick up a lobster roll and a cocktail to-go from the Crown Jewel while you’re on the island.
.25 // LONG ISLAND (45 MINUTE FERRY RIDE FROM PORTLAND)
The 3-mile long, 1-mile wide island is best toured by bicycle (bring your own with you). Around the island you’ll find also sandy beaches and scenic walks along the shore.
.26 // CLIFF ISLAND (60-120 MINUTE FERRY RIDE FROM PORTLAND)
Cliff Island is the smallest year-round island in Casco Bay and the last stop on the Casco Bay Lines ferry. Cars are allowed but you’ll find most people walking, biking or using golf carts as transportation.
Grab some take out or pack a picnic and eat your meal with a view
.27 // WESTERN PROMENADE (4 MINUTE DRIVE OR 12 MINUTE WALK FROM THE FRANCIS)
The Western Prom is a grassy outdoor space with several easy walking trails featuring views of the Fore River, Portland International Airport and the White Mountains.
.28 // EASTERN PROMENADE (9 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
The Eastern Prom is a 68 acre historic landscape on Portland’s peninsula where the city meets the sea. It’s an idyllic spot to enjoy trails, bird watching, biking, picnicking, relaxing and looking out over the island studded Casco Bay. You’ll usually find several of Portland’s food trucks scattered along the prom to grab a bite.
.29 // SPRING POINT LEDGE LIGHTHOUSE (11 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is a distinctive lighthouse on the grounds of Fort Preble on the Southern Maine Community College Campus in South Portland. Grassy areas and benches provide spots to eat while looking out over the water.
.30 // FORT WILLIAMS PARK (13 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Explore the grounds and go hiking before you eat, check out fort structures or just gaze out on the iconic Portland Head Light and panoramic ocean views.
Ways to get out and work up a sweat (other than hiking!)
.31 // RENT A BIKE FROM GORHAM BIKE & SKI (3 MINUTE WALK FROM THE FRANCIS)
Gorham Bike & Ski has a great fleet of road, hybrid and mountain bikes so that you can make the most of Maine’s beautiful scenery. Visit a lighthouse, get a lobster roll, explore an island or bike around the Back Cove trail.
.32 // HOP ON A BICYCLE TOUR WITH SUMMER FEET (5 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Whether you choose their ‘5 Lighthouse Bike Tour’, ‘Bikes and Brews’, ‘Around the Peninsula’ or one of their other tours, you’re sure to have a great time as you pedal the shores of Casco Bay.
.33 // PRACTICE YOGA ON THE EASTERN PROM (9 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Be Well Events is hosting vinyasa classes every Wednesday night during the summer with views over Casco Bay. Classes will be kept small and it’s a great opportunity to come together for fresh air, movement and community.
.34 // PRACTICE AT BUG LIGHT PARK (9 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Kelly Rich is hosting soulful outdoor vinyasa yoga classes for all levels on Tuesdays and Sundays in Bug Light Park in South Portland.
.35 // GO SEA KAYAKING OR STAND UP PADDLE BOARDING (12 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Portland Paddle offers sea kayak lessons, stand-up paddle board tours, guided sea kayak tours, straightforward rentals and SUP yoga! Whichever one you choose will provide a unique and beautiful way to see Casco Bay and get out on the water.
.36 // PRACTICE GOAT YOGA AT SUNFLOWER FARM (27 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
On Thursday’s and Saturday’s you can practice yoga right next to the goat pasture at Sunflower Farm in Cumberland. Each class is a great way to take care of yourself, power up your physical strength and all classes end with goat snuggles.
.37 // RENT A CANOE AT WOLFE’S NECK CENTER (30 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
The calm waters of Casco Bay are perfect for beginners and experts alike. Circle around Googins Island, paddle out along the peninsula and try to glimpse the area’s resident harbor seals or a majestic bald eagle.
Get out on the water (with a drink in hand!)
.38 // GO ON A WINE SAIL ON CASCO BAY (7 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Join Sommelier Erica Archer for one of Wine Wise Events’ highly rated wine sails in Casco Bay. You’ll enjoy a selection of high-quality wines, gourmet cheeses, fresh fruits and crackers while on board.
.39 // SAIL ON A WINDJAMMER SAIL WITH PORTLAND SCHOONER CO. (7 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Sail aboard Bagheera, Wendameen or Timberwind for a two-hour cruise from Portland on Casco Bay. Pack a meal, bring your favorite wine or beer and sit back and relax as you slip through the cool waters of Maine.
.40 // HOP ON BOARD THE ELEANOR HAWKES WITH SAIL PORTLAND (7 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Relax with friends and family aboard a traditional sailing vessel and treat yourself to the best views the city of Portland has to offer. Bring along your own beverages and snacks and enjoy the sights and sounds of our lovely Casco Bay.
.41 // SIGHTSEE ABOARD A CASCO BAY CUSTOM CHARTER (7 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Hop on a sunset cruise to see Portland’s best coastal sights as the sun begins to set or a private sightseeing charter featuring lighthouses, historic stone forts, wildlife and Maine’s picturesque coast. Beer & wine are available on most charters for purchase.
Travel back in time and attend a drive-in movie
.42 // PRIDES CORNER DRIVE-IN (15 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Watch some old classics and quirky favorites while sitting in your car under the stars in Westbrook. Recent features include Monty Python and the Holy Grail, E.T. and Back to the Future.
.43 // SACO DRIVE-IN (19 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Located on Route 1 in Saco, the Drive-In plays the newest movies at Maine’s oldest drive-in theater. Recent features include Trolls, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Onward.
Visit one of Maine’s beautiful lakes, waterfalls, ponds or rivers
.44 // GREAT POND (14 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Great Pond in Cape Elizabeth provides a quiet place to walk, kayak or canoe. This hidden gem is also a great spot to watch wildlife like blue herons, painted turtles, cormorants and hawks.
.45 // ROYAL RIVER (19 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Royal River Park provides plenty of access points for paddling, swimming, birding, fishing, picnicking, shoreline hiking and biking.
.46 // HIGHLAND LAKE (24 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Originally known as Duck Pond, Highland Lake is a 623-acre lake with crystal clear water and scenic mountain views.
.47 // SEBAGO LAKE (33 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Sebago Lake, situated just north of Portland, is Maine’s second-largest lake. Swim, canoe, kayak or fish and enjoy the gorgeous views.
.48 // SABBATHDAY LAKE (36 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
Sabbathday Lake was settled by the Shakers in 1782-ish and has served as a summer retreat for families and friends. Make sure to grab a scoop of ice cream from Bresca & the Honeybee.
.49 // ANDROSCOGGIN RIVER (36 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
The Androscoggin, Maine’s third largest river, runs from northwestern Maine to the midcoast towns of Brunswick and Topsham. At various points it’s great for fishing, swimming and kayaking.
.50 // STEEP FALLS (41 MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE FRANCIS)
This scenic waterfall is nestled close to white sandy beaches and wide-open areas to swim and sunbathe. Just don’t swim close to the falls as even though they’re only 6 feet in total drop, this is one of the top-volume waterfalls in Maine.
After a day of adventuring, rest up in Portland at The Francis for the next day’s activities and enjoy some of the city’s best bars & restaurants.
We are offering 20% off stays of two nights or more this summer! Use the code SUMMER20 when booking. This discount applies to new reservations only and cannot be combined with any other offers including full floor reservations.
Please make sure to double-check opening hours & new COVID-19 procedures in place for all activities and places listed above. And if you have any other questions reach out to us directly! We’re all locals at The Francis and we are more than happy to provide more insight into our favorite places.