This stunning landmark is iconic of Maine, and luckily, it’s a destination that’s dog-friendly.
One sunny Sunday, we ventured out to Fort Williams Park. Unsurprisingly, we weren’t the only ones with this idea. It was filled with sightseers, milling around the paths and pouring out of tour busses. But the open park still allowed us plenty of space despite the crowds, and we were able to amble along the coast and up to ruins of the stone mansion.
We started at Portland Headlight, the famously photographed lighthouse, and stepped onto the cliff walk, which boasts unobstructed views of the rocky coastline. Looking toward the horizon, all you see is sky, sea, and sailboats drifting by.
More recently, fences have been put up along the cliff, but it doesn’t interfere with the view. In fact, it makes the stroll a little less dizzying, especially if you’re accompanied by a dog that can get distracted and pull.
Beyond the path there is a downward sloping beach covered in heaps of smooth rocks that give way to the sand. At the bottom is a calm sliver of ocean where you can wade or swim, if you dare to plunge into the chilly water.
Keep heading past the beach, and you’ll stumble upon two oceanfront forts. All the forts in the park were once used by the navy, but one is particularly haunting.
The remains of the Goddard Mansion still overlook a sprawling yard, with wide granite steps leading up to its former entranceway. Once belonging to Colonel John Goddard, it was eventually used to house officers at the turn of the century.
Sadly, it succumbed to deterioration over the decades. In the 1980’s, the town decided to burn away its interior, which was much more cost effective than a complete restoration.
Years back, you could walk through the empty doorway, but now chain link prevents visitors from stepping within its crumbling walls. It’s one of those places that can almost tell its own story; you can get a sense of its former grandness just by looking at its skeleton.
The park is spacious but not overwhelmingly huge. There are walkways, fields, and forts around every corner, so there’s plenty for you and your dog to explore.
Amazingly, Fort Williams Park doesn’t charge an entrance fee, and it’s open year round, from sunrise to sunset. If you can, visit Portland Headlight in the fall, when the tourists have thinned and the leaves start to change.