Portland, Maine, is located in Cumberland County and is the largest city in the state. Although the city itself is home to about 67,000, the greater metro area encompasses more than half a million people. The city sits on a peninsula in Casco Bay and is the U.S.’s closest port to Europe. Portland’s nickname is The Forest City; its motto is Resurgam, Latin for “I will rise again.”
The earliest inhabitants of the Portland area were native Americans who referred to the peninsula as “Machigonne,” or “great neck.” The early 1600s brought the arrival of English settlers and the peninsula soon began to grow from a fishing and trading village to a bustling seaport. It became known as Falmouth in 1658, and it was not until 1786 when the city formed the town of Portland. When Maine entered the union in 1820, Portland was the state capital.
Portland boasts a comfortably cool climate compared to most of the country. The average high temperature in July (78°F) is almost nine degrees below the U.S. average. The mercury also dips below that of most other U.S. cities in winter, a chilly 13°F average (compared to 20.5°F). Portland is also a bit wetter than most places, with 131 rain or snow days compared to 100 for the rest of the country. If you enjoy skiing, snowboarding, or snowmobiling, you’re in luck, with 71.5 inches of snowfall annually.
Portland connects to major highways I-295, U.S. 1, and U.S. 302. It is also accessible via S.R. 77 and S.R. 25. The average commute time is 18 minutes. Residents of the city enjoy public transportation via METRO bus, a GOMaine Ride Share program for car and van pools, and a Car Share program that locates vehicles available for an hourly fee. For rail travel, Amtrak’s Downeastern route runs from Boston to Portland and points north. The Portland International Jetport (PWM) offers connections to a half dozen national and regional air carriers.
Portland Cost of Living
Compared to the rest of the U.S., the cost of living in Portland comes at a premium of about 18 percent. All the fundamentals cost more, but the biggest cost factor is housing—about 44 percent more expensive than on average for all U.S. cities. You’ll also pay a state sales tax of 5.5 percent and an income tax of 7.95 percent. To see how your income will fare with living expenses in Portland, use the links below.
Portland Public Schools provides education for nearly 7,000 students with ten elementary schools, three middle schools, and three high schools. It also provides adult education with academic classes, job skills training, and English instruction for speakers of other languages. Families looking for private schooling will find 46 schools to choose from in Cumberland County. For higher education, you’ll find 12 colleges within 50 miles of Portland, including the Southern Maine Community College and Maine College of Art.
According to U.S. Hospital Finder, there are three JCAHO-accredited hospitals in Portland: Maine Medical Center (188 beds), Mercy Hospital of Portland (168 beds) and New England Rehab Hospital (76 beds). The latter is a for-profit enterprise of HealthSouth Corporation. There are another six hospitals within 30 miles of Portland.
Portland Real Estate
The U.S. census reports about 33,800 housing units in Portland, and the cost for housing is about 44 percent above what you can expect to pay on average in other U.S. cities. The median home price is $244,900. Median monthly costs for housing average $1711 for families with a mortgage and $673 for those without a mortgage. The median value for monthly gross rent is $932.
Portland is famous for its beautiful location on Casco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, and many of the city’s finer hotels offer comfortable stays with memorable views. One such property, the highly rated Hilton Garden Inn, puts you in an ideal place to explore Portland’s downtown shops and restaurants. If you are staying near the Portland International Jetport, you might like the convenience of Clarion Hotel Airport with free WiFi, indoor pool, and restaurant.
Some say there are more restaurants per capita in Portland, Maine, than anywhere in the U.S. While we can’t verify that statistic, suffice it to say you have delicious choices across the spectrum. Or course, Maine is known for lobster, and you can get your crunch on at any number of places, including Scales, serving fresh seafood on the Maine Wharf. If your inner carnivore is hankering for red meat, try the Black Angus Hangar Steak at Grace, a restaurant in a converted church that offers a “heavenly” atmosphere.
Portland Things to Do
If you’re looking to pass the time in Portland, the question isn’t what to do,’ but where to begin.’ You might start with a tour of the unique lighthouses along the craggy Maine shoreline. A tour down Commercial Street will take you along the water’s edge as you meander the cobblestone and feel the old-world European influences all around you. For an astounding look at mid-19th Century opulence, plan a visit to Victoria Mansion, also known as the Morse-Libby House.