Maine’s beaches, while busy in the summer, are not as crowded as those farther south on the New England coast. Ogunquit Beach is a favorite because it is even more laid back than others, and offers a variety of activities within easy walking distance of the long golden-sand beach.
The beach for swimmers and sun lovers
The Ogunquit River and a stretch of natural dunes set this beach apart from most others on the Maine shore — and also set it apart from the town of Ogunquit.
The river that separates the approximately three and a half miles of fine sandy beaches from the main part of town leaves traffic far away from the sun bathers on the beach. There is road access to a parking lot (charge) at the north end of the beach from Route 1 (go right on Bourne Avenue and right on Ocean Avenue to the parking lot). In the mid-section of the beach, closer to town, a bridge at Beach Street leads to the sand, but there is no parking at this end. Distances are so short here that it’s better to choose a nearby lodging and walk to the beach.
Ogunquit Beach has a gentle slope to the sea which means that low tide leaves a lot of beach space. For the best beach experience, watch the tide charts (hotels will have it and it is posted near the beach and along Marginal Way) and plan to get to the beach as the tide begins to rise. As with all beaches, be aware of sea conditions and rip tides. The soft sand is perfect for serious sand castle building, gathering a few rays and swimming, as water temperatures in mid-July were in the mid 60s.
Marginal Way for walkers and artists
This paved walking path along the shore from the beach to Perkins Cove is a beautiful way to see the rocky coast and the waves crashing on the rocks, much like those Winslow Homer favored as subjects. As an added benefit, tucked in among the rocky cliffs are a series of small sandy coves that offer a different and more intimate beach experience. Pick a favorite cove, dive in the Atlantic then spread a beach towel on a warm granite outcrop or the sand to warm up and absorb the sun. A gift to the town in the 1920s, the path is for walkers only (no bikes, no dogs from April to October) and runs about a mile from near the Sparhawk Resort on Shore Road right along the shoreline into Perkins Cove. All along the path there are benches conveniently placed, both on the path and on overlooks above the sea. Return to town on the Marginal Way or walk back along the shady Shore Road (or take the trolley for $1.50).
Perkins Cove for photographers
At the south end of Ogunquit nature created a slender peninsula that creates and protects a small bay, a safe protected haven for small craft. Originally a small fishing port, today it is overlooked by restaurants (Barnacle Billy’s is a favorite for waterside dining) and an intense warren of small shops featuring everything from toys and T-shirts to fine crafts by local artists. A footbridge and a short boardwalk give views of little boats in the rock-bound harbor, and kiosks sell tickets for day cruises and deep sea fishing. At the end of the paved road a tea and coffee shop, Breaking New Grounds, has outdoor tables and chairs with nice views over the rocks. Perkins Cove is a nice place to spend an hour or so just poking around. Close to Perkins Cove, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art is a “must see” for anyone interested in the cultural influence of Ogunquit.
Downtown Ogunquit for shoppers
To call Ogunquit’s compact cluster of shops and galleries “downtown” seems to stretch a point. At the busy intersection of Main Street (Route1), Shore Road and Beach Road a collection of attractive shops create a pleasant place to spend a few hours browsing. Boutiques sell smart beach and resort wear, T-shirts, home accessories, jewelry and fine crafts. For those whose lodging has a kitchenette, there is a nice market at the corner, and farther up Main Street is Bread and Roses Bakery. Next door, Harbor Candy Shop has been creating edible magic for more than half a century and you can watch through a big glass window as they dip chocolates and make fudge and truffles.
Getting to a weekend getaway in Ogunquit
Ogunquit has abundant places to stay and dine, and in most price ranges. The most convenient lodgings, like the historic Colonial Inn, line Shore Road, a good location within an easy walk of everything. Ogunquit is only an hour and a half drive from greater Boston, perfect for a weekend getaway. Take I-95 north through New Hampshire and over the bridge into Maine and the Maine Turnpike (toll $1). At exit 7 take Route 1 north to Ogunquit (Route 1 is Main Street).