A rich maritime history, spectacular coastal scenery, and innovative spirit blend together to make Portland a popular destination spot in southern Maine.
Located on a peninsula jutting out into Casco Bay, Portland is a small, walkable city with many year-round activities, cultural and musical events, museums and restaurants.
Comfortable and relaxed, Portland is a city where Bean Boots and flannel easily mix with the latest fashion trends anywhere you go.
The Old Port, along the waterfront, is a festive place to explore. From the colorful fishing wharves to the burgeoning culinary scene, this compact enclave with cobblestone streets will whet your appetite and give you a taste of the hospitality Portland and Maine are famous for.
However, don’t miss out on other exciting activities in Portland—brewery tours, the Portland Museum of Art, the Observatory, a ride on the Casco Bay Lines ferry, Bug Light, Portland Head Light, just to name a few.
And, here’s the thing about Portland—there are some amazing iconic and scenic outdoor historic sites and parks close by; many are state parks.
We’ve curated a list of our favorite state parks, several with lighthouses and all with a connection to the Atlantic Ocean.
Map of State Parks Near Portland ME
Here is a map of the Maine state parks covered in this post:
List of State Parks Near Portland
Here are each of those state parks with distance from Portland and what is special about each.
1. Mackworth Island State Park
Location: Andrews Avenue off, US-1, Falmouth, ME 04105
Mackworth Island is a magical place—the wind whispers through the towering trees, the main trail encircles the island and offers spectacular views of Casco Bay, and if you know where to look, you can find wee fairy homes tucked here and there. Anyone may add to or build the abodes meant to entice the elusive fluttering fairies to take up residence. Mackworth is in Falmouth, just 10 minutes north of Portland.
The mostly undeveloped park is a popular place for hiking, beachcombing on several small beaches, swimming, picnicking, and there might even be a swing rope (or two) affixed to a tree to glide out and plunk into the cool waters of the bay. There is a small granite pier for fishing, three sets of stone steps leading to the water, and a cemetery for pets, created by Percival Baxter, an ardent animal lover and one of the island owners.
Baxter Island has been in the Baxter family’s care since James Baxter purchased it in 1885 and built a summer cottage. The property would pass along to Percival Baxter, Maine’s 53rd governor (1921-1925), who would then gift the island to the State of Maine and provide an endowment to build a school for the deaf. The island is home to the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf.
Helpful tips: Enjoy making fairy homes on the island. Signage in the park kindly asks that you use only natural materials found to make fairy homes; please do not use living or artificial materials.
2. Two Lights State Park
Location: 7 Tower Dr, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107
The vast rocky ledges in Two Lights State Park are an amazing spot along the Maine coast to watch the power of the mighty Atlantic as the waves sweep and surge up over the formations. The park is named after the two nearby lighthouses built in 1828; the lighthouses stand sentinel marking the southwestern entrance to Casco Bay. The Cape Elizabeth lighthouses are not part of the park, and Two Lights is about 20 minutes south of Portland.
Just a stone’s throw from Two Lights is Kettle Cove, Crescent Beach, and Portland Head Light; you can plan to visit these scenic coastal parks all in a day if your time is limited.
The park has picnic tables and grills, many perched on the hills overlooking the ocean, a playground, and a small pond. There is a trail system for hiking and walking.
Interesting fact: The rocky characteristics of much of the Maine coastline are known geologically as a drowned coastline. Eons ago, the coast of Maine was a massive mountain range that was transformed by the glacial activity of the Ice Age. As the glaciers moved over the mountains, they exerted such force that they pressed into the ocean; this is the definition of a drowned coastline.
3. Kettle Cove State Park
Location: Kettle Cove Rd, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107
Kettle Cove State Park is a small but spectacular cove 20 minutes south of Portland, in the seaside community of Cape Elizabeth. The park is adjacent to Crescent Beach State Park, a long crescent-shaped stretch of sandy beach popular for sunning, swimming, and water sports.
Kettle Cove has a small beach, rocky outcroppings, vistas of Richmond Island to the south, and a panoramic view of the Atlantic. Swimming and picnicking are popular, and many locals drive to observe the marine conditions here.
Interesting fact: Many inquire about how Kettle Cove got its name. If you look at the pictures on the Facebook site linked in the title, you’ll see that a lobster pound was once located here. In the image to the right, there is a picture of a “7-foot diameter kettle” used to cook the lobster.
4. Wolfe’s Neck State Park
Location: 426 Wolfe’s Neck Rd, Freeport, ME 04032
Wolfe’s Neck is a gem of a park located 35 minutes north of Portland near Freeport. Situated on a narrow peninsula with the Harraseeket River on one side and Casco Bay on the other, the park is home to diverse flora and fauna.
Rocky shorelines, marshland, and forested land cover this 200-acre park, and there are plenty of opportunities to view wildlife, especially bird-watching. You can picnic and hike in the summer and cross-country ski and snowshoe in the winter; the park is for day-use only.
Helpful tip: Goggins Island on the Casco Bay side of Wolfe’s Neck is a sanctuary for osprey; an informational panel along the trail tells about this unique raptor that returns to the same nest each summer after its winter hiatus in warmer climes.
5. Eagle Island State Historic Site
Location: Harpswell, ME 04079
The only way to get to Eagle Island State Historic Site is by boat; there are plenty of boat tours that will take you to the rock that is about 3 miles from the mainland. The island is the summer home of the famed North Pole Explorer Admiral Robert Peary.
The island, house, and gardens are open for touring during the summer months. A visit to the island is a lovely way to get out on the Atlantic and see a unique and unencumbered household before modern conveniences. Some aspects of the house’s architecture are said to resemble that of a ship.
Interesting facts: Peary kept his pack of sled dogs on neighboring Flagg Island; when the dogs got too noisy, he had a bullhorn he used to quiet them down. The horn is still on the porch at Eagle.