5 Things: A Local’s Guide to Portland, Maine

In “5 Things,” we ask our favorite insiders in cities all over the country to share travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, sisters Blair and Hayley Griffin share the uniqueness of Portland, Maine.

5 Things: Portland, Maine

Blair and Hayley Griffin of Eklund Griffin & Sea Salt + Chambray

With family roots dating back four generations just outside Portland, it has been fascinating to explore this little city, uncovering its many activities and adventures for all ages. In this season of life, here are some of our favorite places to go, sights to see, and things to eat!

hunt + alpine portland maine


The food scene in Portland is bar none. Bon Appetit even named it the restaurant city of the year for 2018. One thing is certain, when you come to Portland, remember to pack your hollow leg!

To start off a morning, we always suggest Standard Baking for an are-you-sure-this-isn’t-straight-out-of-France? croissant, or a rustic creation from Tandem Coffee and a bag of coffee beans to bring home. We suggest filling a box with a smattering of Standard pastries and adding an iced tea in the summer, or a cup of coffee on cool days before hoping the ferry for the The Mailboat Run! Snacks and a sea breeze, nothing better!

When lunchtime rolls around, especially on a cool day—like so many days between October and June—we love popping into Pai Men Miyake for the warm, casual vibe. We’re suckers for the succulent-steamed pork buns and a steaming bowl of ramen. As you might imagine, with all our steam talk, the restaurant’s windows are covered in condensation on winter days. Driving by, it’s hard to resist escaping inside for the humid warmth and deliciousness.

eklund griffin

tandem portland maine

eventide portland maine

PAI MEN MIYAKE portland maine

Eventide is a frequent replay with out-of-town guests due to their inventive fusion remixes on Maine seafood classics. If you enjoy oysters on the half shell, their raw oyster bar is also out of this world. As you can imagine, we’ve got our family lobster roll recipe, but Eventide’s brown butter lobster roll served on a Chinese steamed bun is just a different, magnificent beast all together!

If you want to start your night with a cocktail, or wrap up the evening with a night cap, head to Hunt + Alpine. Maybe it’s our Scandinavian heritage that makes us love this place, but more likely, it’s the great drink menu and beautiful interior.

tandem coffee portland maine

tandem coffee portland maine


Downtown Portland is very walkable and there are many shops sprinkled around the city. One of our favorite go-to boutiques for hostess gifts and home décor is Fitz + Bennett. Lauren, the owner and curator of the space, has a beautiful eye; and she collaborates with many local artists and creators. This small space holds all kinds of treasures—complete with a corner for kiddos! We can never visit Fitz + Bennett without walking out with a couple of things!


Having grown up within walking distance of several beaches, and as the daughters of a lobsterman, we cannot think of a better way to play in Portland (or all of coastal Maine, for that matter!) without emphasizing the joy of the ocean.

As children, the thrill was a quick boat ride to Peaks Island for an ice cream cone. Now, we encourage visitors to hop the Casco Bay Ferry to see a handful of the Casco Bay Calendar Islands—named for the plethora of islands you could explore—one a day, for a year. (There aren’t actually 365 islands though, but suffice it to say there are a lot!)

The Mailboat Run is a wonderful year-round ferry route that will take you to Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Cliff and Chebeague Islands in about 2.5-3.5 hours.

If wind power is more your pace, then the Portland Schooner Co. is a fun sailing alternative, aboard gorgeous, wooden windjammers. These boats are BYOB and sail the bay on two-hour tours from May through October. Blair spent a summer aboard Wendameen and Bagheera as a deckhand. Learning the ropes (literally!) is a bit different than working as a sternwoman on a lobster boat, but the salt air and stunning views are the same!

During the wintertime, The Rink at Thompsons Point is a local favorite. After some skating you can warm up with a great local brew at Bissell Brothers or a lovely glass from Maine vineyard, Cellardoor. This is definitely an activity for a group of friends.

Opened in May 2015,The Press Hotel has become the place to stay in town. The history of the building as the longtime home of the Portland Press Herald, has been carefully woven into every aspect of the hotel, bar, and restaurant. The service is outstanding and in addition to their Swarm installation of vintage typewriters that spans two stories, they rotate local artists installations in their gallery. The beautiful penthouse suite comes complete with a fully functional type writer for sending letters to loved ones, and has a 360 degree view of Portland—it’s the only hotel in city to have that full vantage. The hotel also has bikes for guests to ride around Portland, and even some of the islands in Casco Bay, like Peaks and Chebeague.


We like to roam the city with a great tote and—pardon us for tooting our own horn here!—we just happen to make such a thing. The Eklund Griffin Infinity Tote is a great size for a day in the city: pop a wrapped up sandwich and bottle of lemonade in your bag while you walk up to the East End for a picnic and killer views of Casco Bay, or stash your wine while you board a schooner for a sunset cruise. The larger Wave Weekender would come in handy to hold everything for your getaway.

Blair is particularly fond of stuffing her tote full of veggies on farmer’s market days!

Thank you so much Blair and Hayley! Maine was the one state on my must-visit list while I was living in the Northeast, that I did not get to experience and I’ve regretted it ever since. After reading this guide, my desire to visit has increased tenfold!

Portland is definitely a hot spot to visit right now. Have you been? Would you add anything to this list?

Blair and Hayley Griffin are the sisters behind Eklund Griffin, the Maine-inspired, American handmade brand of goods. Each of their products are informed by their twin inspirations from cultural influences of their Scandinavian heritage and their beautiful home state. They can be found on their blog Sea Salt + Chambray or their Instagram, eklundgriffin.

P.S. Our older Portland, Maine 5 Things Guide and more 5 Things Travel guides. Also, Portland’s Hunt + Alpine Club’s cookbook appeared in our recent cookbook roundup!

[All photos were shot by Hayley unless noted: The Press Photos by Irvin Serrano; Schooner photos by Emily Delamater; EG Infinity tote (black) and wave weekender by Mark Fleming; Coffee, cocktail, and bar photo by Emily Delamater. Thank you to Molly Coyne for her help with this series.]

Related posts:

Travel Guides

Browse By Category