Summertime in Ogunquit, Maine.Photo Credit : Michae Nadav
Crowned with some of the finest beachfront in the region, the seaside village of Ogunquit is the epitome of the New England summer resort town and, in our opinion, the best beach town in New England. Situated on the Maine coast 45 minutes south of Portland, Ogunquit is a picturesque village with a cheerful seaside-resort vibe and striking natural features, including dramatic cliff and rock formations. With its spacious expanse of white sand, it’s long been a magnet for beach crowds, but Ogunquit (whose name means “beautiful place by the sea” in the Abenaki language) is a great day-trip option for just about anyone looking to get out into the salt air and do some shopping, dining, and sightseeing.
You could easily spend a week or more exploring Ogunquit and its neighboring communities along the southern Maine coast. Regardless of what time of year you decide to go, there will be plenty of great things to do in Ogunquit, Maine.
The Marginal Way is a seaside path that stretches along the granite coastline of Ogunquit. Entirely paved and mostly flat, it’s hardly a strenuous hike, yet it remains one of the most popular in New England. People flock to the Marginal Way for the view — though only 1¼ miles long, it offers more breathtaking vistas than any other trail you’ll find on the southern Maine coast. Benches along the way invite visitors to linger and enjoy the land, the sea, and the elemental beauty of the place where the two meet. There are a number of access points along the Marginal Way, but if you want to walk it from end to end, we recommend starting from Perkins Cove and strolling north to Shore Road, then jogging onto Wharf Lane and over to Ogunquit Beach.
Dubbed “The Beach That Has It All” in Yankee‘s 2021 summer travel issue, Ogunquit Beach offers more than three miles of gleaming white sand and undulating dunes, ensuring plenty of room for visitors to spread out. Popular with sunbathers, strollers, surfers, and kite-flying aficionados, Ogunquit Beach is also terrific for families: Just steps away from the main beach there’s a slender, sheltered beach on a tidal river where the water is calm and the sand is dotted with little pools — all perfect for sand castle builders. There’s also parking at three separate beach spots, as well as trolley service in the summer.
Open daily from May 1 to October 31, this stunning seaside facility attracts is the only museum in Maine to devote itself exclusively to the exhibition, preservation, and interpretation of American art. Among its permanent collection of more than 3,o00 works — photography, paintings, sculpture, and more — you’ll find the likes of Marsden Hartley, Jacob Lawrence, and Marguerite Zorach; past exhibits have included the works of Jamie Wyeth and Andy Warhol. And the visual splendors don’t stop at the gallery walls: The museum’s large windows offer lovely ocean views, as do its peaceful three acres of sculpture gardens.
One of New England’s historic summer-stock theaters, the Ogunquit Playhouse in years past welcomed the likes of Helen Hayes, Bette Davis, and Anthony Quinn to its stage. Now this spacious venue, built in 1937, is a showcase for the best musicals around, and even hosts world and North American premieres of new works. (Plus, it’s a blessed retreat for talented Broadway actors who make the shrewd move of leaving Manhattan in the sweltering summer.) Open seasonally — although fans can enjoy a December pick-me-up when the Ogunquit Playhouse takes its show on the road for a traditional holiday production at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Most visitors to Ogunquit eventually wind up at this tiny fishing enclave, which boasts one of the most-photographed spots in Maine: a charming historic pedestrian drawbridge. This is also where you’ll find the popular family-owned cruise operator FinestKind Scenic Cruises, which has been ferrying sightseers along the local coast for decades; the schedule runs from May through October and includes a don’t-miss outing to Nubble Light that yields rare on-the-water views of this Maine icon. Among the other attractions in Perkins Cove are art galleries, shops selling local crafts and souvenirs, sweet treats at Perkins Cove Candies, and seafood feasts at the Lobster Shack and Barnacle Billy’s.
Against the backdrop of 12 landscaped acres bordering a tidal estuary, the Dunes offers a choice of classic white clapboard cottages or cottage suites (with wood-burning fireplaces and full kitchens), or cozy guest rooms in the main hotel building. At high tide, rowboats at the dock make it easy to cross the tidal estuary to Ogunquit Beach; at low tide, you can simply stroll across. Nearby on the mainland side is the famed Marginal Way, taking you over the bluffs on foot to the village of Perkins Cove.
Just down the road from Ogunquit, in Cape Neddick, is a splurge worth seeking out: Built in 1872 atop Bald Head Cliff, the Cliff House completed a major update in 2016 with revamped guest rooms, 25,000-plus square feet of new event space, and a new luxury spa. It’s all icing on what was already a tasty cake, as the Cliff House’s 70 oceanfront acres and wealth of ocean views have long been whisking guests off to their own little bit of heaven by the sea.
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Conveniently located on the Marginal Way, this classic resort hotel caters to guests with in-room fireplaces, access to a hot tub, and an on-site spa and fitness center. In summers, look for yoga sessions on the front lawn, overlooking the Atlantic; if water sports are more your thing, they’re happy to coordinate surfing and standup paddleboard lessons. And don’t miss the chance to reserve a spot for one of their traditional summer lobster bakes.
What are your favorite things to do in Ogunquit, Maine? Let us know in the comments!
Opened by the Tower family in 1961, Barnacle Billy’s soon became a Perkins Cove landmark and a magnet for lovers of classic Maine seafood. Proving you can never have too much of a good thing, the family opened a successful sister restaurant next door, Barnacle Billy’s Etc., in 1989. At both places, diners can count on the freshest seafood around, from the claw-meat-filled lobster roll to the ultra-filling clam chowder.
A newcomer to the Ogunquit dining scene, the Greenery Café debuted in 2016 and has earned a reputation among locals as a can’t-miss breakfast and lunch spot. Among the highlights at the locally owned, from-scratch eatery: the perfectly done “Bennys” (offered in original, Irish, lobster, crab cake, and Florentine variations), the classic breakfast sandwiches, and the pastry case full of just-baked scones, muffins, cupcakes, and more. Bonus for early birds — the café opens up at 5 a.m. daily.
For a one-of-a-kind dining experience, look to Jonathan’s Ogunquit. The first floor is an upscale restaurant focused on farm-to-table cuisine (indeed, the lamb and many of the fruits and vegetables come from the proprietor’s own farm in nearby South Berwick); the second floor is a popular live-performance venue that has welcomed everyone from the Indigo Girls and Arlo Guthrie to Paula Poundstone and Lenny Clarke. Want to combine the two? Package deals make it easy.
Have your own list of the very best things to do in Ogunquit, Maine? Leave your picks in the comments below!