Two years ago I had the opportunity to visit Portland, Maine. As someone that hails from the “other” Portland, you better believe I jumped on the opportunity to compare Portland, Oregon vs. Portland, Maine.
Although the two Portlands are found on opposite coasts (3,000 miles apart), they often find themselves in the crosshairs of comparison due to similar reputations.
Both cities are known for easy-going locals (average age is 36.7, respectively), great breweries, strong coffee, liberal-leaning politics, outdoor enthusiasts, eco-friendliness and gray skies.
But are the two Portlands as similar as folks think?
Read on to learn more about Portland, Oregon vs. Portland, Maine, based on firsthand experience.
Portland, Oregon vs. Portland, Maine
To truly understand and appreciate the similarities and differences between the two cities, you need to understand their respective sizes.
Portland, Oregon’s current population clocks in at 660,000, which is 10x higher than Portland, Maine’s population of 66,000.
Small cities naturally lend themselves to a slower pace, whereas bigger cities are known for never-ending to-do lists.
The drastic size difference makes comparing the two Portlands challenging because the pros and cons of medium-sized cities are different from those of small cities.
For instance, homelessness is a real challenge in Portland, Oregon; yet hardly worth a mention in Portland, Maine.
But on the other side of the coin, the job opportunities in Portland, Oregon far surpass those in Portland, Maine. Keep this in mind as you read through the list.
Let’s face it, it’s hard to beat the old-world charm of east coast (and this is coming from a lifelong west coaster!).
Cobble-stone streets, need I say more? Listen, you have to give credit where credit is due!
Portland, Maine is 200 years older than Portland, Oregon and therefore naturally more historic.
It exudes an irresistible charm that Portland, Oregon simply cannot compete with.
But don’t get me wrong, Portland, Oregon has some unbelievably quaint neighborhoods to wander through. There’s just no replacement for New England’s cozy charm and red-brick buildings. The city is a gem.
Seasons: Portland, Maine has all four seasons covered — stunning fall color, snowy winters, blissful summers and colorful springs.
On the other hand, Portland, Oregon typically boasts two seasons, picture-perfect summer and “gray and rainy.”
Rainfall: People often make the incorrect assumption that Portland, Oregon gets more rain than Portland, Maine but that is not so!
Portland, Oregon averages 44″ of rain annually whereas Portland, Maine averages 47″ of rain.
But fret not Oregonians! Oregon’s rain creates the perfect conditions to curl up with a cozy book from the world’s largest bookstore – Powell’s books.
See, there’s pros and cons to everything. 😉
Sunshine: Now, in terms of sunny days, Portland, Maine takes the cake with an average 203 days of sunshine per year compared to Portland, Oregon’s 144 days (ouch!).
The Food Scene
It’s no secret that Portland, Oregon is known for its expansive food scene.
Seriously, it’s one of the most common things out-of-town visitors bring up time and time again — have a meal at Ava Genes and you’ll instantly understand the hype.
But it turns out that Portland, Maine’s food scene is nothing to scoff at either.
Especially in the seafood category — Maine’s fresh caught lobster is world renowned for good reason.
The lobster rolls at Eventide Oyster Co. are known to induce dreams for years to come (I can attest to this, I still can’t get this meal out of my mind 2+ years later).
The Brew Scene
I guarantee you won’t leave thirsty (or hungry) in either Portland.
Portland, Maine has the most breweries per capita of any US city. But Portland, Oregon sells more craft beer than any city in the United States — accounting for 40% of beer sales!
What’s more, Portland, Oregon has 58 breweries within city limits, compared to Portland, Maine’s 30 (both highly impressive numbers).
Breweries to try in Portland, Maine: Allagash (especially the seasonal pumpkin brew) and Austin Street Breweries.
Breweries to try in Portland, Oregon: Deschutes Brewery, Ecliptic Brewery and Great Notion.
The Coffee Scene
Both Portlands can rightfully lay claim to robust coffee cultures. How else would locals combat the dark, cold rainy days?
During my visit to Portland, Maine, I was blown away by the coffee scene.
The brews were exceptional and the decor made me feel like I was stepping foot into my neighborhood cafe — the baristas even dressed the same!
Needless to say, there’s no shortage of great options in either city.
Coffee to try in Portland, Maine: Tandem Coffee, Bard Coffee
Coffee to try in Portland, Oregon: Good Coffee, Spella Cafe, Stumptown Roasters
Proximity to Nature
Distance to nature and green spaces is a big draw for both Portlands, and thankfully both cities offer excellent access to the great outdoors.
Portland, Oregon neighbors the stunning Columbia Gorge, Oregon Coast, Mt. Hood and Bend (to name a few). But keep in mind that these places are beloved by both locals and visitors alike — crowds are all but guaranteed.
However, it’s very easy to see why — check out the epic Seven Wonders of Oregon.
When it comes to nature, Oregon’s diversity is impossible to beat.
Portland, Maine is a coastal town through and through. If you love the sea (and being able to swim in it), the beaches in Maine will not disappoint.
And since Portland, Maine isn’t as crowded as the other Portland, you’re more apt to find solitude in wilderness (isn’t that what wilderness is for?).
What’s in a name?
Is seems the two Portlands were destined for comparison from the start. The decision to call Oregon’s city Portland was determined by a coin toss.
The founders of Portland, Oregon were two settlers from New England. One from Boston, Massachusetts and the other from Portland, Maine.
Both settlers wanted to name the city after their respective home towns and decided to settle for a coin toss – the rest, as they say, is history.
P.S. You can see the 1835 penny used to decide Portland’s name at Oregon’s Historical Society — you won’t want to miss it.
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Until next time!
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Jill Whitchurch Dixon says
Hi! This is a fun comparison of the two Portlands. I lived in downtown Vancouver, WA for eight years and recently moved back to Maine with my husband and kids. I appreciate that you pointed out the population difference. My husband and I are not impressed with the food scene in Portland, Maine after PDX’s variety of options. We find the prices and service pretentious. PDX hipsters are friendlier and so are the restaurants due to pressing competition and good West coast vibes. Also, the nature is so amazing in both places as you’ve stated. Accessible beaches and islands VS miles of trails through Forest park’s old growth trees just seconds from downtown. I’m so glad that you had a great impression of Portland, Maine but my heart is missing PDX greatly.
Antonina Pattiz says
Thanks for taking the time to add your two cents! I really loved our time in Portland, Maine and would return in a heartbeat (if not for the crab roll alone lol).
But yes, there’s something truly special about Portland, Oregon. My husband and I are planning to move to NYC in the next two years but know we’ll return to Portland to settle down — there’s just too much to love about it!
Feel free to reach out whenever you’re feeling homesick, this blog is mostly about Portland, so I’m sure a lot of the places will look familiar to you!!
Ed Murphy says
You missed bookstores, which are key local businesses in Portland, Maine, and Coffee By Design, which is the city’s longstanding and best loved coffee business – a supporter of local artists and immigrants’ organizations. Overall this review is shallow and superficial; for instance, homelessness is a major statewide issue in Maine, focused on Portland, as are addiction and poverty.
Antonina Pattiz says
Thanks for letting me know about Coffee by Design. I’m not from Portland, Maine so I wasn’t aware of that fact (but will make sure to add it).
As for the homelessness — in this post, I’m focusing specifically on the cities (not states). I’m aware that Maine, much like Oregon, struggles with addiction and poverty. But during our time in Portland, Maine, the homeless situation was nowhere near what we experience in Portland, Oregon.
Perhaps there’s truth to your comment about the post needing more “bones”. I’ll do some more research later this week and will add more facts and data. ????
In any case, thanks for taking the time to reach out and let me know about the coffee shop, eager to hear more from you if you have more suggestions and recommendations on things I should add. Thank you!
Pretty harsh comment there Ed. It’s a blog post not an essay about the differences between two cities. Where’s your article?
Brian Mcconville says
I am torn about good reviews on Oregon. I live in Florence, transplant from Los Angeles. Keep telling my friends not to say how beautiful Oregon is, want to keep them Cali’s out. Peace
Antonina Pattiz says
Ah, but a beautiful place belongs to all!
As a Missouri transplant, I lived in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington for a total of six years and never thought I would leave…I LOVED it!
Work transported me to Maryland just outside of DC in 2016 and though there is regional charm here, the population density has me gobsmacked. Portland, Oregon will always feel like home, but after reading this article, I should also consider Portland, Maine for my next relocation while I’m on the east coast, just for balance.
Antonina Pattiz says
Portland, Oregon is special indeed. I like that you’re so open to moving around! I read once that people are not trees, we don’t have roots and we should move. I’m always reminded of that when I hear about folks moving to interesting places!
Molly Cook says
I’ve lived in both cities. I’m a native oregonian but consider Maine my other home.
What you missed is the vibrant cultural life in Portland maine where despite the smaller population there is a beautiful art museum designed by noted architect I. M. Pei, a strong theater community, art galleries everywhere, classical concerts and a strong writing community.
There are several colleges and universities in Portland Maine which speaks volumes for such a small place. And there’s no mention here of the beautiful Eastern Prom with gorgeous old mansions looking over Casco Bay.
My heart is in both places…
I am a native New Englander who has lived in Portland, Oregon for more than 25 years and who has visited Portland, Maine a number of times recently. A superb comparison. I mostly agree, on all points. However, let me make a few more observations: I would have added in a category of arts and culture, including music and indie film. Though Portland, Maine has several very nice museums and certainly has good music, I would say Portland, Oregon wins out in this category. (Clearly the relative size difference of both cities is a factor here.) On weather: I would say Portland, Oregon wins out for a few reasons–1) the relatively mild temps year-round, 2) Spring lasts forever here…from mid-Feb. to July 1 or thereabouts. In Maine spring lasts about 3-4 weeks and all Mainers know about “mud season.” (Then again, though the term “mud season” is not generally heard in Portland, Oregon, everyone knows that indeed Portland, Oregon does have one, and truth be told, it lasts far longer than the one in Maine..). I would say that the Fall season in Portland, Oregon is nearly as pretty as it is in Portland, Maine, even if not quite so colorful (no sugar maples here). Plus, the Fall season in the Willamette Valley generally lasts a good month longer, though one could say it starts about 2 weeks later. Finally, Portland, Maine is indeed a beautiful place, and these days I think it would win in the “friendlier” contest. Portland, Oregon was formerly much friendlier, but in the last decade or so it has exploded in population. Incoming populations from certain regions have reduced our local friendliness quotient, I am sorry to say. (I am trying to be nice and not name those regions. I don’t like to cast aspersions. 🙂 )
PS In my comment above, about the newcomers…that is purely about a geographic distinction, areas within the U.S., not a comment about any other kind of distinguishing characteristics…
Don Hicks says
I’m from Portland,Oregon myself. Miss certain aspects of it. As with time some things have changed. Some are positive. The homelessness is an issue. I’ve passed through Portland, Maine at night. Would really like to visit again in full daylight. Personally I like things a little more laid back. Must be an age thing.
Antonina Pattiz says
I’m all for relaxation and being laid back. And yes, you most definitely need to swing by Portland, Maine during the day time (I suggest 2-3 days)!
Lynn Preble says
Thanks for your article.
I grew up in Portland, Maine but have lived in Portland, Oregon for the last 15 years. I still have family in Maine and I make the trip east twice a year, at Christmas and for a month every summer. When I moved to OR from San Francisco, I called the West Coast Portland “Utopia.” It was so clean, friendly, and cheap compared to life in CA, and it reminded me of home.
I traveled a lot for work during those first few years and constantly caught myself sounding like a travel agent for Portland OR as I raved about all of its great qualities. “It’s a lot like Maine, just not so freezing!” I would say. The average temp in PDX is 45 degrees all winter while Maine is about 25. That 20 degree difference is brutal! Maine winters feel endless, and one nice thing about OR is that beautiful sunny, winter days are an hour away at Mt. Hood.
But there’s a “but” coming here…things have changed dramatically in Portland OR over the last 10 years. The homelessness problem you casually allude to is EXTREME. It’s indescribable to those who don’t live here. Tents pop up on every patch of grass, sometimes regular campgrounds with 20+ tents are seen clustered in parking lots and underpasses. Many living in the tents brazenly break into yards, stealing bikes, yard furniture, and water from the garden hoses. Car thefts are also an extreme problem, because living in a car is warmer than a tent. And, many just choose to park their junky RV on the side of the road indefinitely. All of these transient folks create trash. Lots of trash, and human waste! Yes, going to the bathroom in public is legal in Portland, OR. Beautiful bike paths and nature paths are no longer available to families because the houseless population has claimed them.
I mentioned how cheap Portland was when I moved from CA, and part of that was because I no longer paid sales tax. As a homeowner and mother now, I wish I did. Property and income taxes fund everything, so the growing transient population lives in OR free, and schools are terribly underfunded. Class sizes in Maine average around 20, while in Oregon it’s around 30.
I’m ready to move. My cousin sent me this article knowing my conundrum, and hoping to get my husband on board. While we’ll hate the cold, our family will be better off in many ways.
I feel the same way. I migrated to Portland several years ago from Nashville after visiting a few times and falling in love with everything outside of Portland. I thought I could tolerate the city but with the rise of the various violent protest groups, the homeless, lack of leadership from a government standpoint, lack of jobs, etc I am saving my pennies to get out ASAP. My partner won’t even go downtown anymore. It’s so sad….
Don Fass says
And point out while portland west is sandwiched between 2 rivers its 70 miles from the ocean and getting hotter and hotter!
I’m not sure if you’re already aware, but you can order from Eventide and have it shipped anywhere now. My partner went bananas when they made nationwide shipping available.
Antonina Pattiz says
Elliot! I just checked and you are right! Holy cow, might have to keep this a secret from my partner until their birthday!! Thanks for the heads up. 🙂
Lived in Oregon since 1998 and finally moved the end of 2021. It’s sad what’s become of Oregon. Downtown Salem is all but finished in my opinion. That’s where I lived. Portland used to be amazing but most of the old bars I liked shut down and it’s rapidly changing. Downtown Portland looks like a scene from Escape from New York with all the homeless and people yelling at nothing. I’ve never been to Maine but I’d love to check it out some day. I live in Utah and it’s way too hot here for me and a bit too conservative.
Crystal Bell says
As a Mainer who worked in Portland, I have to disagree about the homeless issue. Portland is struggling with housing and the homelessness has drastically increased in recent years. While OR has 10x the population, the high rate of homelessness in Portland is severe giving only 66k. The biggest issue is our lack of shelters.
Thank you for your article! I enjoyed it
I think Portland, Oregon is lucky that coin toss ended as it did!!!No city could compare with the “HUB OF THE UNIVERSE “!