Portland, Maine

Salty Dog

Portland Head Lighthouse

Portland Head Lighthouse     Photo: Corbis

704 (3.2%)

In a centuries-old fishing town two hours north of ­Boston, gentrification was bound to happen. But on the way to the refurbished warehouses and arty ­boutiques, Portland managed to preserve its locavore ethos, which is rooted in a 243-year-old farmers’ market. Now the gastronome scene is as good as the saltwater access. Urban farmers set up shop in East Bayside, growing organic produce and fermenting mead year-round, and lobstermen and fishermen keep the harbor in the Old Port’s waterfront district bustling. But there’s more than just food here: there are paddle-friendly shores on Casco Bay and hurricane-induced surf on the Atlantic beaches, while two hours away lie the long trails of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Real ­estate is affordable, and there are jobs to be had: Portland is the state’s commerce capital, and L.L.Bean’s corporate headquarters are 20 minutes up the road.

Staying Power:
In 2006, ­Port­land launched a robust ­sustainability plan that included a 30-mile expansion of its water­front trails, a buy-local campaign that helped stabilize the economy, and a tax-funded program to expand and restore public art. Downtown there are half a dozen microbreweries, ­including Allagash and Shipyard, and 38 restaurants that keep the brick warehouses filled with energy.

There are nearly as many kayakers as lobstermen plying the waters of Casco Bay, and whitewater paddlers can journey north to the Class IV–V Penobscot and Kennebec rivers. Cape ­Elizabeth is only a 30-mile road ride from Portland, and in winter, two of the East Coast’s best ski resorts are within a three-hour drive—Sunday River and Sugarloaf.

The Voters Speak:
“One of the only places on earth where you can ski at 8 a.m., surf at 1 p.m., and eat a five-star dinner at 7 p.m.” “Small-­city charm—no ­traffic or ­trouble getting to the woods or the ocean—but with the culture of a big city.” ­“Lobster!”

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