In early June, we spent a few days in Portland, ME with our dog. It is a wonderful place to be with a dog. It’s the type of place that makes me wish I lived there. They have a thriving local business scene with many interesting shops and excellent restaurants, coupled with the ocean and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure. Exactly my kind of place.
We stayed at the Double Tree which not only allows dogs, but doesn’t charge a pet fee or deposit. They also give you warm chocolate chip cookies at check in (and any other time you ask), which is a major selling point for me. Our room was large and had an entire wall of floor to ceiling windows which Darwin took full advantage of. The only downside is that it’s located near the mall in South Portland instead of downtown. However, if you want to stay downtown expect a much higher price tag for your lodging. Darwin made himself at home right away.
After some down time, we set off in search of a dog friendly beach and found Willard Beach in South Portland. It is small, but very nice. It’s a sandy beach and was well populated – but not crowded – with dogs as well as couples and families enjoying the evening. In the summer, dogs are only allowed before 9 am and after 7 pm. There is also a trail that leads to nearby Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. Darwin thought it was great fun. He played with other dogs, found a tennis ball, waded in the ocean and got confused by salty water. It was a perfect way to close out our evening on our first night there.
Back at the hotel, we ordered pizza from Portland Pie, which I’ve had before at their restaurant in Manchester, NH. I covet this pizza when I’m home in New York and make sure to eat there every time we go to Manchester (where my husband’s family lives). Their Portland restaurant – the original – is just as good. They have several crusts to choose from (like beer, basil or, their summer special – bacon) and a wide range of specialty pizzas. I love the Aroostook County (red sauce, spicy chicken, bacon, red onions, fresh tomato, three cheese blend and a drizzle of ranch sauce). They even have seafood pizzas – choose from scallops or lobster.
We started the day with a stop at Planet Dog, which I wrote about here. After Planet Dog, we headed to downtown Portland to walk around and find some lunch. Portland is a great walking city and amazingly dog friendly. Many shops had water bowls out for the dogs and everywhere we asked let us bring Darwin inside. A surprising number of places had dog treats for him and everyone greeted him with enthusiasm. The closest we got to a “no” was a gift shop that said we had to carry him. If you’re not interested in shopping, it’s still worthwhile to visit downtown and just walk around. It’s an interesting place and there is plenty to see. I particularly enjoyed the murals that are scattered around town.
We made a brief stop at another dog (and cat) place called The Fish & Bone, which is also a nice store and, on their recommendation, headed to Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub for lunch. If you’re in Portland, I highly recommend you add them to your list. They had outdoor seating (with shade) along a back alley way that is pedestrian only. Immediately after sitting down, the waitress showed up with a water bowl for the dog. The food was very good. I had a half plate of the BBQ pulled pork nachos and it was amazing. My husband had a burger and was very happy with his food as well. Overall, I was very impressed and look forward to returning next time we’re in Portland. I’m afraid neither of us are beer drinkers, so we’re not able to comment on the quality of their beer, despite it being a brew pub.
Planet Dog had suggested we make use of Casco Bay Lines, which services the numerous small islands just off the coast. The boats act as a combination bus and mail service for the local island residents, but anyone can buy a ticket just to enjoy the ride. We decided to purchase tickets for their “Sunset Run” that evening. Tickets were $16 per adult and $4 for the dog. The cruise lasts about 2 1/2 hours. There are no bells and whistles (a few vending machines are available if you want food or drink), but the views from the front deck of the ship are beautiful and I loved getting a taste of the local culture. Although the cruise isn’t billed as a wildlife cruise, we did see two bald eagles, two seals and numerous sea birds.
Darwin was a little unsure about the whole thing at first, but he did love smelling the air and seemed fully relaxed by the end.
We started with a visit to Portland Head Light and Fort Williams Park. I understand it’s the most photographed light house in North America, so here is another shot to add to the list.
Afterwards, we met my brother and his fiance (who happened to be in town at the same time we were) for lunch. We went to Duckfat which was highly recommended. Again, I was struck by how dog friendly they were. They had shaded outdoor seating and even had metal rings bolted to the building – perfect for attaching dog leashes to. The waitress again brought water for Darwin right away. Duckfat is particularly known for it’s fries (cooked in duckfat). They were indeed good – very similar to the fries from Ravenous in Saratoga Springs. Duckfat is a bit higher end than Gritty’s was and I really appreciate being able to visit a town with such a wide range of choices for dog-friendly dining.
After lunch we walked around downtown a bit more, then headed back to the hotel for some much needed relaxation. One of the best things about bringing your dog out with you? When you get home and are ready for some downtime, they are too!