What's it like to live in Portland, ME?

Ed Pfueller

Profile written by local expert:

Ed Pfueller

For the people of Maine, there is only one Portland. Maine's largest metro area and economic hub features cobblestone streets and ships sheltered within the island-specked waters of Casco Bay. Artful living and farm-to-table dining are not just trends in Portland – they have been a way of life for years. A "do it yourself" spirit resonates throughout the region, so don't be surprised if a neighbor offers you extra produce from a community garden, home-brewed beer or knitting tips. All around Portland you'll find dozens of local entrepreneurs offering homegrown or homemade products, from mittens to coffee.

Locals refer to Portland's downtown and adjacent urban and commercial neighborhoods (which sit on an area that juts into Casco Bay) as the "peninsula," while more heavily residential communities extend to the west and north from the Back Cove, a rounded sea cove formed by the peninsula. Those seeking an island lifestyle call the metro area's residential islands east of the peninsula home.

Though more people discover its charms, Portland is at a crossroads on how to move forward. New development is often met with opposition, while demand for affordable housing is high. An aging rental and housing stock combined with a tight market on mid-tier units has left middle-income earners struggling to settle in Portland.


U.S. News analyzed 150 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Portland, Maine is ranked:

#19 in Best Places to Live

#33 in Best Places to Retire

#3 in Safest Places to Live

#14 in Best Places to Live for Quality of Life




Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
  • Value
  • Job Market
  • Quality of Life
  • Net Migration

Read how we rank places

Portland, ME Quick Stats

  • 529,323

    Metro Population

  • $51,260

    Average Annual Salary

  • 55.7° / 37.1°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 43.5

    Median Age

  • $292,250

    Median Home Price

  • 47.3 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 2.4%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $1,014

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 24.9 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What is there to do in Portland, ME?

Portland is a great region for those who enjoy the outdoors. In the winter, popular walking trails convert for snowshoeing, and cross-country skiers can be seen all throughout the region.

In the summer, the area's rocky coast draws locals who like to fish and sail, while during the fall, residents head to local orchards to pick apples. Portland's fresh seafood has been elevated at modern oyster bars and foraged foods are frequent menu options, though the traditional lobster roll is still a staple snack.

The metro area also has a thriving music and nightlife scene with crowds buzzing along Congress Street and Old Port almost any night of the week.

What's the cost of living in Portland, ME?

Public officials and residents are increasingly concerned about Portland's affordability because Portland's housing costs are rising steadily. Given the high cost of living, the region has a sizable homeless population – some members of which came to the metro area from elsewhere to benefit from regional social services. 

Looking for financial advice? Find a local financial advisor in Portland, Maine.

Value Index

Index Score: 6.6 /10

How we calculate this.

Portland offers a comparable value to similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs 2019



Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Portland, ME.

What's the weather like in Portland, ME?

As this a coastal community, chilly sea breezes and damp fog are common. Like all Mainers, Portland residents are a hardy lot, braving low winter temperatures and snowfall.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)









Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

4.0 in


4.3 in


3.8 in


4.9 in


Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Portland, ME?

Although many Portland residents prefer to get around by car, a traffic jam they'll usually encounter is one caused by the Casco Bay draw bridge opening for a passing ship.

The region has invested in its bus system, which provides service throughout the peninsula and into nearby communities like South Portland and Westbrook. But a growing group of vocal cyclists gets the most notice. Bike and pedestrian advocates have successfully pushed for safer and more accessible streets and a place at the table in the planning process.

The region's residential islands can be reached by water taxi or the Casco Bay Lines ferry system.

Portland is home to a small airport, the Portland International Jetport, located just southwest of the peninsula. The airport is serviced by major airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and JetBlue. However, nonstop service is limited to destinations on the east coast (plus a few flights to the South and the Midwest). For more options, residents often head about two hours south to Boston's Logan International Airport. The Portland Transportation Center is frequented by Amtrak and coach bus passengers.

Commuting in Portland, ME

Means of Transportation
Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Public Transit
Below national average
Average Commute Time

24.9 minutes

1.7 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Portland, ME?

Although Maine has a rapidly aging population and workforce, Portland has experienced notable population growth over the past several years.

College students are a visible presence in the region, and they have helped develop Portland's reputation for liberal politics. Portland was the first East Coast region to legalize recreational marijuana.

Maine has the lowest percentage of religious residents in the nation and Portland mirrors that trend. Around 30% of Maine residents identify as religious, and those who do practice most commonly identify as Catholic.

Portland is also a refugee resettlement area. Immigrants, primarily from Africa and the Middle East, have been part of a cultural shift for an area not known for its diversity. Meanwhile, the sizable LGBT community is an active part of civic life. Local activists from Equality Maine were critical in adopting same-sex marriage at the state level in 2012.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown

About the same number of single people in Portland as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.