We had never been to Portland before as a family and thus wanted a basic tour to give us some basic information and overview of the area when we stopped there for a day on our cruise to Canada and New England. We investigated both ship sponsored tours and independent tours, and we ultimately chose the Portland Discovery City and Lighthouse Tour. This was a 105 minute tour which allowed us to get a glimpse of Portland and the Portland Head Light Lighthouse.
Portland Discovery was highly rated on TripAdvisor and thus we decided to go with them. They had several tours available, ultimately we chose the City and Lighthouse tour over the other tours simply because we felt that if we were in Maine we needed to see a lighthouse. The Lighthouse Lovers cruise they offered obviously had you cruising by lighthouses, but given we were on a cruise ship, we did not feel the need to take another boat ride. We also wanted to see some of Portland by land. Also the Peek at Portland Tour that they offered which was 45 minutes shorter, stayed only in the city of Portland and did not go out to see any lighthouses. Thus the City and Lighthouse tour was our preferred option.
The price for the City and Lighthouse Tour was very reasonable. It was $28 dollars for adults and $19 dollars for children ages 3-12. We paid a total of $94 dollars for all 4 of us for an 105 minute tour. In comparison, the Peek at Portland Tour was $19 for adults and $14 dollars for children, or $66 for our family. Their Lighthouse Lovers cruise was the also the exact same price of $19 for adults and $14 for children.
The cruise ship docked about a 10 minute walk from where the Portland Discovery’s kiosk. It was an easy walk and we had no issue getting to our meeting point.
Our tour had a check in time of 10:00AM for an 10:30AM departure. It was VERY crowded as there were two ships in port today, which made for a somewhat disorganized check-in process. It only took about 15 minutes to check in, but it was clear they were a little overwhelmed with the situation as they are clearly not used to this volume of passengers. There was not a whole lot of space to congregate around the kiosk and it made a very cramped situation. It was near a small dock area which our kids enjoyed looking at.
Once we got checked in, we lined up along the railing waiting to board our trolley. Our trolley was a little early so we did get to board it before 10:30am. We boarded the trolley and left around 10:20am. The trolley was not equipped with any air conditioning, but it was not needed. The trolley had all the windows open and it was a beautiful day.
The tour of Portland city was about 45 minutes long. We drove around downtown Portland seeing the city hall.
We passed a beautiful wall mural that depicted the city hundreds of years ago.
We then went to the Bay Area to see just what that same scene looked like today.
We learned a lot about the history of the area and our the ride was fully narrated the entire time.
We drove along the bayside homes, many of which are hundreds of years old. They were absolutely beautiful.
After finishing our tour of the city we drove about 15 minutes to Fort Williams Park, where the Portland Head Light Lighthouse was located. This lighthouse is unofficially boasted as the “Most Photographed Lighthouse” in the United States.
We spent 30 minutes there. There was a small gift shop at the lighthouse. However, due to the high crowd, you would have had to have gotten in line shortly after arriving if you wanted have enough time to checkout and make the bus. There was also some port a potties available if you needed to use the restroom and a small food truck.
The scenery around the lighthouse was picturesque.
We chose to get some pics around the lighthouse and then trek down to the shore for a short bit and let the kids play there.
We then got back on the shuttle and drove back to our pick up point. The tour was exactly 105 minutes long as stated in the description.
Overall, for 105 minute tour, this tour was an excellent tour for someone looking for a quick taste of the history of the area and also to see a lighthouse and I give it a 4.5/5 stars. The price was extremely reasonable for a family of four. The tour guide was very courteous and knowledgeable with some good jokes laced into his narration. My only complaint is that the check in was somewhat chaotic with minimal direction. This is likely due to the fact that they typically do not have two cruise ships in port on the same day. One would expect them to be better equipped handle the situation given that there are many cruise ships that call on Portland, but it was ultimately a minor inconvenience in what was otherwise a fun quick tour.
From a family standpoint, while this is was not our kids favorite tour ever, they tolerated it well. Having an open air trolley was a novelty for them and made it a little more fun than a typical bus tour.
The first 55 minutes or so was not the most exciting for a 3 and 7 year old, but they were entertained enough with the changing scenery. They really enjoyed seeing the lighthouse and playing on the shore area. This was by far the highlight for them. Also having restrooms available at the lighthouse was very helpful as well. While this tour is not a trip to Disney World, it was family friendly and I would recommend it to families of all ages.