PORTLAND, Maine - The ocean views in an around Portland are worth a million bucks, but they can be had for free. And they're not the only things that can be enjoyed without opening your wallet in Maine's largest city. There are hiking trails, ocean beaches, lighthouses, cultural attractions and more that come at no cost.
PORTLAND HEAD LIGHT: This lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, complete with a museum and a gift shop, has been called one of the most-photographed lighthouses in the country. Commissioned by George Washington, the light went into service in 1791. It became automated in 1989 and is now owned by the town of Cape Elizabeth. The lighthouse is the premier attraction at Fort Williams Park, a six-mile drive from Portland. Besides the lighthouse, the park has oceanside cliffs, walking trails, open fields, a beach, remnants of old forts, and picturesque views of open ocean, islands and other lighthouses.
OLD ORCHARD BEACH: The miles of white-sand beach in the oceanfront town of Old Orchard Beach will dispel any notion that Maine's coastline is all rough and rocky. The beach is a 20-minute drive from Portland and stretches for seven miles from Scarborough to Saco. When you're not on the beach itself, the town has carnival rides and amusements, gifts shops and plenty of restaurants and takeout spots with food like pizza, fried dough and cotton candy.
PORTLAND TRAILS: Just because you're in a city doesn't mean you can't get in some hiking. The Portland Trails urban land trust — http://www.trails.org — maintains nearly 40 miles of free trails in Greater Portland that take walkers and bicyclists through forests, fields, and old cemeteries, along ocean shores and riverfronts, and through city neighbourhoods. The non-profit trust is committed to preserving green space for public access and connecting people with places.
STATUES: Portland has an impressive array of statues scattered about the city. You can find a bronze statue of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was born in Portland in 1807 and went on to become America's most beloved 19th-century poet, in Longfellow Square. The Wadsworth-Longfellow House, where he grew up, is located a few blocks away, but there's an admission to get in. If movies are more to your liking, the city also has a bronze statue of film director John Ford, who grew up and was educated in Portland, sitting in a director's chair, surrounded by stone monuments commemorating the six Oscars he won. You can also find a bronze statue of a Maine lobsterman, a representation of a quintessential fisherman with a lobster.
BEER, BEER, BEER: Portland is known for its small breweries that produce beer with big taste. If you're interesting in seeing the brewing process, a number of the breweries offer free tours (with free samples), including D.L. Geary Brewing Co., Allagash Brewing Co., Shipyard Brewing Co., and Rising Tide Brewing Co. The tours are popular, so check the brewery websites for the days and times and their availability: http://www.gearybrewing.com , http://www.allagash.com , http://www.shipyard.com , http://ww.risingtide.com .