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A local guide to Portland, Maine and beyond

T’s monthly travel series, Flocking To, highlights places you may already have on your bucket list, sharing tips from frequent visitors and locals alike. Sign up here to find us in your inbox once a month and to receive our weekly T List newsletter. Have a question? You can always reach us at tlist@nytimes.com.

Visitors often come to Portland, Maine for the first time because they want to spend a summer weekend in a quaint waterfront town, or because they have heard about the great fruits of the city’s sea lobster (80% of the United States’ lobster comes from Maine). Seduced by the easy access to nature and the relatively affordable price, many return for longer stays, or even for good. Between 2020 and 2022, Maine’s population experienced the highest percentage increase of any New England state.

But Maine’s appeal is nothing new. Artists, artisans, and writers have long gravitated toward the state; they established an arts colony with two painting schools in Ogunquit, on Maine’s southern coast, in the first half of the 20th century, and the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle, founded in 1950, continues to attract instructors and students. of the whole world. More recently, the state’s creative spirit has given rise to a vibrant food scene. Walk down one of Portland’s cobblestone streets and you’ll find more quality restaurants and bakeries (both old guard and new) than you might expect in a place with just 68,000 residents. the year. The same is true just northeast of the city in the Mid-Coast region, particularly in the town of Rockland – an easy, scenic 90-minute drive – which has a thriving food and arts scene which is about to rival that of Portland.

Kazeem Lawal, owner of clothing and accessories store Portland Trading Co., moved to Portland from New Jersey 14 years ago and has witnessed its stratospheric growth from a small port town to a destination city . “It’s a bit like the Brooklyn of 20 years ago, where the old and the new coexist,” he says. “and it continues to grow and evolve, as all cities should and do.”

Here, Lawal and three other Mainers share their favorite places in and around the state’s largest city.

Alex Dayco-owner of cocktail bars Death & Co. (with locations in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, and Washington, DC), moved to Portland in 2019.

King Lilythe novelist, has lived in Portland since 2002.

Kazeem Lawalcreative director of clothing and accessories store Portland Trading Co., moved to Maine in 2009.

Toshiko Moriarchitect and director of Toshiko Mori Architect, divides her time between New York and a house on an island in Penobscot Bay in Maine.

“Before my husband and I moved to Maine, we tested all the lodging options in Portland. I like AirBnBs in Munjoy Hill, but if I go the hotel route, The French is my favorite place – cozy, centrally located, tastefully curated, and home to one of Portland’s friendliest restaurants, Roadside tavern.” (Rooms from $129 per night) Alex Day

Best arbor is a contemporary guesthouse located at the top of Munjoy Hill with six warm, charming rooms and rotating artwork from artists in residence. Blind Tiger in the West End, whose pool hall was once a Prohibition speakeasy, offers more luxury; and on Chebeague Island, there is magic Chebeague Island Innwhere drinks and dinner are served on its wraparound porch. (Rooms at Best Bower from $165 per night, two-night minimum; Blind Tiger, from $259 per night; Chebeague Island Inn, from $219 per night) King Lily

“I prefer new hotels, and the Portland Waterfront Awning is two blocks from downtown. Opt for a room with a water view and plan a drink at the rooftop bar. (Rooms from $199 per night) Kazeem Lawal

“In Rockland, 250 Main is extremely pet friendly. The hotel offers dog treats from Loyal Biscuit Co., a great pet supply store just down the street. Rooms are simple and comfortable, with harbor views and excellent coffee from its neighbor Rock City Coffee Roasters.” (Rooms from $169 per night) Toshiko Mori

Small, a small neighborhood coffee bar and supply store in the West End, offers some of the best coffee and small plates around. On lazy Sundays, I stop by for a cappuccino, then head to Zu Bakery for a textbook croissant. And J’s oyster is the perfect combination of old school charm, a fun team, and delicious seafood that couldn’t be fresher. — ANNOUNCEMENT

“It’s hard to eat a bad meal in Portland. Dok Mali is my favorite restaurant at the moment. Opened less than a year ago by chef and owner Nonglack Thanephonesy, (this Thai restaurant) is new enough that you can still get a table in high season. I’m completely addicted to his drunken noodles. — L.K.

“If you want the Ferrari of lobster rolls, go to Evening. The buns are steamed, the lobster meat is drizzled with brown butter, reservations are extremely limited, and when you’re told how long you have to wait to get a table, you’ll probably faint. Get there early, register your name, then spend hours waiting to explore. If lobster isn’t your thing, the fish and chicken sandwiches here are also delicious. — KL

Leeward side, a restaurant offering seasonal Italian cuisine, focuses on pasta, but the menu also highlights local seafood, like Maine bluefin tuna crudo with marinated rhubarb, or a salad of cucumber with smoked eel, sumac and fried capers, fresh and earthy. — TM

“A few steps from our house, the Fore River Sanctuary, a series of hiking trails winding through forests and marshes, provides a charming refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. I like to leave from Jewell Falls and walk towards the Fore River. The deep banks near the end are the remains of an 1800s canal that connected Portland to Sebago Lake. — ANNOUNCEMENT

“Hop a ferry on Commercial Street and visit one of the Casco Bay Islands. Or, if you want to see them all, book a ticket on the mail boat. It runs three times a day (at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.) and the journey takes two and a half to three hours. Absorb it all: the crews working on the boat, the fishermen sailing their boats in Portland Harbor, the beauty of Maine’s rocky coast. — KL

“THE Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland has an extensive collection of works by Maine artists (19th and 20th centuries), including Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and Louise Nevelson, as well as works by younger contemporary artists. Across the street (behind Atlantic Bakery Companywhich makes an excellent apricot-pistachio biscuit) is the Maine Contemporary Art Center, installed in a building that I designed. It features temporary exhibitions by artists living in or connected to Maine, including Reggie Burrows Hodges and Lois Dodd. — TM

“I can waste an hour at the knife and kitchen utensil store Layers leafing through books, admiring delicate Japanese glassware far too fine for my clumsiness or – as must be done here – chatting with the incredibly knowledgeable and friendly staff about the store’s immense collection of culinary knives, much of it made by blacksmiths Japanese. I have yet to convince my husband that a knife sharpening workshop is an acceptable date. — ANNOUNCEMENT

“For antiques, drive 20 minutes north to Cabot Mill Antiques in Brunswick, which is a multi-dealer antique mall located in a former mill. Or drive to Arundel, to Arundel Ancient Village. In both places you’ll find things that are hard to find in most big cities. — KL

“I consulted the shopping expert of my life, my daughter Eloise King-Clements. She says Blanche + Mimi offers the best quilts ever, like those block printed and made from soft cotton.

“In Rockland, Trillium soaps is a family-owned, small-batch producer of artisan soaps subtly infused with the scent of Maine nature. My favorites are Pine, Maine Seaweed, Black Rosemary, and Orange Calendula soaps, and I can’t live without Trillium Gardener’s Soap, which has poppy seeds and cornmeal as an exfoliant, calendula petals, geranium and cedar oil to keep your hands soft afterwards. gardening. The store also offers antique farm baskets, ceramics and linens. — TM

“One of the reasons I moved to Portland was the convenience of our small airport. There is rarely a TSA line of more than a few people. But during the busy summer months, when flights become excruciatingly expensive, I fly in and out of Boston’s Logan Airport. I’m usually pretty skeptical about taking a bus, but the Concord Coach arrives right outside the baggage claim area and heads straight to Portland (a two hour trip), and on the way back it drops you off right outside security. It’s cheap, clean and with very friendly drivers and Wi-Fi. — ANNOUNCEMENT

“Bring a book. At some point, even on the most dazzling summer days, you’ll want to curl up on a hammock, swing, or window seat and read. I don’t know if this feeling is in the water or in the air, but it will overtake you. If you have a foggy day or two, you may need several books. Be ready. — L.K.

“The best times to visit are June and September. June is lush with amazing flowers, including lupine and lilacs, and it’s strawberry season. The air is clear and fresh and you’ll be here before the tourists arrive in July and August. In September, the largest organic farming fair is held, the Common Ground Country Fairand the Camden International Film Festival, the best documentary film festival, there are fewer people and the weather is ideal for sailing. — TM


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