In 1845, Portland, Oregon was only a penny flip away from being called Boston. Two immigrants both wanted to name the new settlement after their hometown. But in two out of three coin flips, Francis Pettygrove from Portland, Maine won the honour.
Though the West
Coast settlement has far outgrown its East Coast namesake, the two US cities remain
oddly similar. If you are looking for a city with sustainably sourced food, local
brews, a GLBT-friendly scene or a place to vacation with your pooch, either Portland
would easily fit the bill.
feature they share, however, each city has attractions that outshine the other.
Here’s how to see Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon at their individual bests:
Seafood lovers: Maine
Portland, Maine is still a working port city, as you can tell by the
industrial-looking seaside, so tonnes of fresh fish and shellfish come in
daily. To experience the life of a fisherman yourself, hop aboard the Lucky Catch, a working lobster boat that
takes guests out to buoys and lets them pull up real lobster traps. If you
catch any, you can buy them straight off the boat at bargain prices and walk
next door to the Portland
Lobster Company to have them boiled up.
lobster lover? Try the raw oysters at the Old Port Sea Grill and Raw
Bar, the seared shrimp and green tea soba noodles at Walter’s or the Irish-inspired fish
and chips at Bull Feeney’s.
Walkable parks and gardens: Oregon
Portland, Oregon has more than 200 parks within its city limits, including the
world’s smallest park: Mill
Ends, at only 2ft across. Get a panoramic view of the city and nearby Mt
Hood at Council
Crest Park, Portland’s highest point at 1,073 feet above sea level.
also claims some of the United States’ most beautiful public gardens. The International Rose Test
Garden features 500 varieties across 7,000 bushes; to see them in bloom, visit
June through early October. In the cooler months, visit the sprawling 5.5 acre Japanese Garden, once the city’s zoo, and
the smaller, but expertly structured Lan Su Chinese Garden, where
pine, flowering plum and bamboo, known as the Three Friends of Winter, are
featured for their heartiness through the winter months.
Quiet isolation: Maine
With a population of only 60,000, Portland, Maine is much smaller and slower-paced
than Portland, Oregon, which has a population of nearly 600,000. The largest
city in Maine also has seven beaches
within a 15-minute drive, making it easy to find relaxation by the sea (at
least in the summer and autumn). Stay at Inn
by the Sea on nearby Crescent Beach, four miles south of the country’s most
painted and photographed lighthouse, Portland
Head Light. If you are looking to completely avoid the tourists downtown, the
property offers a little bit of everything that defines the city: a restaurant
featuring only local produce and seafood, LEED certification, Maine blueberry
martinis and even a Tuesday afternoon doggy happy hour, where pampered pooches
are served soy ice cream and biscuits.
Wine aficionados: Oregon
Sitting atop the fertile Willamette Valley, Portland, Oregon has access to some
of the region’s best pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay and pinot blanc —
varietals that thrive in cooler growing conditions. With nearly 500 vineyards
in the north Willamette Valley region alone, Portland visitors have easy access
to plenty of wineries within a 30-minute drive of downtown. Inside Portland
city-limits, make reservations at Uptown Billiards to
sample brilliant pairings from Oregon and abroad. The swanky upstairs space
features a five-course meal highlighting a single seasonal ingredient across
all five dishes (the menu changes every few weeks). The meal is a reasonable
$25, with an additional $10 for wine pairings. It is well worth the price to
highlight the subtle notes on each plate.
History buffs: Maine
You can still see that famous Portland Penny at the Oregon Historical Society Museum (along with plenty of artefacts from the
Oregon Trail), but Portland, Maine has more than 200 years of additional history
than its West Coast namesake. The first permanent settlement in the area was
established in 1633, and faced destruction by the Wampanoag Native American
Nation in 1676, a British naval attack during the Revolutionary War and a huge
Independence Day fire that left 10,000 homeless in 1866. Since the city has
been rebuilt so many times, residents adopted the phrase “Resurgam” (Latin for
“I will rise again”) as its city motto. For a bit of that history (and a few
ghost stories for good measure), check out Wicked Walking Tours every
Tuesday through Sunday at 8 pm.
Even the most dedicated digital readers will swoon upon stepping into Powell’s City of Books, the largest new and
used bookstore in the world. The building takes up an entire city block and has
more than one million books across its 68,000 sq ft of space. At a time when
indie booksellers are struggling to keep up, Powell’s differentiates itself by
offering a rich selection of out-of-print and rare books, as well as a large
section of graphic novels and children’s books. Plus, Portland’s plethora of
overcast days makes for perfect curling-up-with-a-good-book weather.