The Willard Beach area in South Portland is the reason we decided to move to Maine.
We rented an AirBnB in South Portland when our daughter was 6 months and invited our families to join us for a week. It was both a stone's throw to the beach and Scratch Bakery. But more on Scratch in a minute.
We left our vacation feeling like we needed to be (and somehow were already?) part of this special community. This neighborhood and these people felt like an extended part of our family.
This area of South Portland is less than 10 minutes to the Old Port and all that downtown Portland has to offer. And while it's pretty exceptional to be that close to Portland, SoPo has it's own restaurant scene and well, it has Willard Beach. It's a beach neighborhood but without any pretension.
We moved to the Willard Beach neighborhood in 2019 and every now and again, we look at each other and both silently agree it was the best decision (you know, besides having our daughter) that we have ever made. Often this look is with a coffee in hand, in the early mornings on the beach, watching our little one and dog chase each other in and out of the water.
I'm going to lay out what a perfect 1/2 day in the Willard Beach area could look like. This is one iteration of one of our perfect days, and I will continue to post others as this certainly doesn't scrape the service of what could be done here. And if the salty air and delicious treats make you a SoPo convert like us, I'll happily welcome you to our favorite neighborhood in the world.
7AM: Get your dog, kids and make your way to Scratch Bakery. Before you make your way to the delicious treats of the day, make a quick right and get yourself a Sea Salt Bagel. Grab some cream cheese out of the fridge, a coffee by the counter and head out to a picnic table out font. Nope, there are no toasters because it would be criminal to toast this thing. Savor those bites, pet a few of the dogs leashed up out front and have fun counting and reveling in the amount of people that make their way in and out while you eat your breakfast.
8AM: Take the short walk down to Willard Beach. Dogs are allowed on the beach off leash from 7AM-9AM and 7PM-9PM during beach season. If you are a dog lover, this is paradise in the early mornings. Sea Glass hunting is prime in the early AM here, and if you encounter any red or pink pieces, let me know as we severely lacking in that color department in our collection.
9AM: Put the pooch back on a leash and take a walk to Fisherman's Point. You can access this at the south side of Willard Beach by climbing some small rock stairs. Walk in the direction of the picturesque fishing shacks that dot the edge. At Fisherman's Point, you might see a yoga class, maybe a wedding and definitely views of Portland Head Light.
10AM: Head north to take a beautiful walk along the beach on a paved trail (part of Southern Maine Community College's campus) that will lead you to Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, in operation since 1897. The walk will also wind you through Fort Preble, which was a military fort in South Portland built in 1808. Take the rocky walk out to the lighthouse and capture views of Peaks Island, Fort Gorges and more.
And there you have a glorious, half day loop around Willard Beach. If I haven't convinced you yet, I'll give it another try soon with more SoPo location and food gems.