In the Abenaki language, Ogunquit means “beautiful place by the sea,” and even today, the description fits. With its pristine beaches, clear Atlantic waters, and rugged cliffs, this charming Maine village is the perfect place to escape from hectic city life.
English fishermen settled in Ogunquit in the 1620s, and for centuries, fishing remained the center of life. That began to change in the early years of the 20th century, when an influx of artists transformed the fishing hamlet into a popular artist colony and tourist destination. Around the same time, gays and lesbians began to flock to the area, and today many of the town’s hotels, restaurants, and galleries are gay-owned and -operated.
The rocky shores of Maine’s southern coast are a good 70 miles from Boston, so a car is the best way to get there. The good news is that, once you get to Ogunquit, you can ditch the car for most of the day. Nearby car-rental options include Budget (95 Brighton Ave., 617-497-3608) and Enterprise Rent-A-Car (996 Commonwealth Ave., 617-738-6004), or go to BU Maps and search for the most convenient Zipcar location.
Since the crowds swell in the summer months, if tranquility is your thing, consider planning an off-season visit, after Labor Day or before the Fourth of July.
9 a.m. — Breakfast at Amore Breakfast
Once you find a place to park, head to Amore Breakfast (178 Shore Rd., 207-646-6661), a charming neighborhood diner, for a hearty morning meal. Because Amore is popular among both tourists and locals, there’s often a crowd, but the food is more than worth the wait. For a twist on the traditional Eggs Benedict, try the Lobster Benedict ($12.95) — two poached eggs topped with sautéed premium lobster and Hollandaise sauce on an English muffin and served with seasoned home fried potatoes. Or, if you’re craving something sweet, go for the house specialty: Black or Blue French Toast ($6.95, $7.95, or $8.95) — homemade lemon-bread French toast stuffed with cream cheese and topped with fresh blackberries or blueberries and a dollop of whipped cream.
10:30 a.m. — Swim at Ogunquit Beach
Voted one of America’s best beaches, the white, sandy expanse of Ogunquit Beach stretches for more than three miles. The entrance to the main beach is at the end of Beach Street, right in the center of town. While the water is almost always cold — it is the Northern Atlantic, after all — its beauty is unsurpassed. The main beach is typically crowded during summer months, but Footbridge Beach, reached from Ocean Street via a pedestrian bridge, and Ogunquit North Beach, accessed from Bourne Avenue in the nearby town of Wells, are generally quieter.
11:30 a.m. — Walk along Marginal Way to Perkins Cove
Marginal Way is a one-and-a-quarter-mile walking path that winds along the town’s rocky shore and offers dramatic views of the craggy Maine coastline. The path begins in the downtown shopping area and cuts through the Sparhawk resort’s gorgeous flower garden before meandering through a tunnel of trees and alongside lovely seaside mansions. Be sure to look for native flowers and plants that grow along the trail, or rest on one of the footpath’s more than 30 memorial benches. The trail ends at Perkins Cove, home to art galleries, specialty shops, boutiques, and restaurants.
Noon — Lunch at Barnacle Billy’s
A trip to Ogunquit is not complete without a meal at Barnacle Billy’s (50-70 Perkins Cove Rd., 207-646-5575), one of the town’s most famous landmarks. Here you’ll find New England lobster in several presentations: boiled, broiled, sautéed, baked, stewed, or served up in a legendary lobster roll ($17.95) — a pound of fresh, sweet chopped lobster that’s mixed with spiced mayonnaise and stuffed into a grilled frankfurter roll. If lobster’s not your bag, don’t fret. There are plenty of other options, including an extensive menu of fried haddock, clams, and shrimp, as well as steamed clams, hamburgers, hot dogs, and fresh sweet corn. Located at the end of Marginal Way and nestled among the cute shops and galleries of Perkins Cove, Barnacle Billy’s has lots of outdoor seating that provides breathtaking views of the harbor and the ocean beyond.
1 p.m. — Shop in Perkins Cove
During Ogunquit’s early settlement days, Perkins Cove, once called Fish Cove, was an integral part of the town’s fishing and shipping industries. Today the bustling port is a shopping destination and a place where tourists can access charter ships that will take them on whale watches and deep-sea fishing and lobster expeditions. A draw-footbridge that spans the entry from coast to harbor provides excellent views of the sailboats and yachts bobbing in the water.
2 p.m. — Nubble Lighthouse Cruise
Finestkind Scenic Cruises, located in Perkins Cove, offers a 1.5-hour, 14-mile, round-trip excursion ($20) along Maine’s rugged coast. As you cruise by the shore’s imposing granite cliffs and ledges, you’ll also have unsurpassed views of the elegant, historic seaside homes that make up the neighboring town of York. Finally, you’ll pass by the famous Cape Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse, a classic New England lighthouse that stands on a steep, rocky island. Built in 1879, the lighthouse is a staple of local lore. One of the landmark’s more famous tales tells of a former keeper’s 19-pound cat that reputedly swam across the channel to visit its mainland friends. In 1977, when NASA launched the Voyager II, it included among photographs of the Earth’s most prominent landmarks an image of the Nubble Lighthouse.
3:30 p.m. — Ogunquit Museum of American Art
The Ogunquit Museum of American Art (543 Shore Rd., 207-646-4909), open since 1953, boasts a permanent collection of nearly 1,600 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, photography, and graphics. It houses one of the largest collections of ceramic sculptures by Carl Walters, watercolors by Eliot O’Hara, oils by Henry Strater, and drawings and sculptures by Isabella Howland. The museum also has an extensive collection of works by artists associated with the famed Ogunquit arts colony, formed in the late 1890s, including Edward Betts, Charles Woodbury, Hamilton Easter Field, and Robert Laurent. The landscaped grounds include a reflecting pool and sculpture gardens. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for students.
5 p.m. — Walk back along Shore Road to downtown
You’ll need the car for the next part of your day, so head back into town. But instead of returning via Marginal Way, take an alternate route along Shore Road. Here you’ll pass more art galleries, jewelry and ceramic shops, and clothing boutiques.
6 p.m. — Sunset at Bald Head Cliff
Once you have the car, head back down Shore Road, past Perkins Cove, to Bald Head Cliff, a sheer rock wall that rises 100 feet above sea level. Views of the Atlantic Ocean, its powerful waves crashing onto the rocky shores below, don’t get any better than this.
7 p.m. — Dinner and dessert at Angelina’s Ristorante
Next, hop in the car and drive across town to Angelina’s Ristorante (655 Main St., 207-646-0445). This elegant restaurant is Ogunquit’s only Italian eatery, and the food rivals anything you’ll find in Boston’s North End. The restaurant’s recipes are said to have been passed down to executive chef and owner David Giarusso, Jr., by his great-grandmother. If you’re not sick of lobster yet, start off with a bowl of Zuppa di Aragosta ($8.50), a thick and creamy lobster and sherry bisque. Or consider sharing the Potato Gnocchi ($9), made with shallots, garlic, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and Gorgonzola cream sauce. For an entrée, try the Lasagna Rustica ($16), a homemade vegetarian lasagna with seasonal vegetables finished with a fresh pomodoro sauce; the Fruti de Mare ($26), sea scallops, tiger shrimp, and fresh lobster in a homemade risotto with Romano cheese; or the Pesce Spada ($21), a grilled swordfish steak topped with capers, kalamata olives, Roma tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Finally — or even if you’re stuffed — consider indulging in one of Angelina’s rich homemade desserts, including tiramisu, amaretto torta, chocolate raspberry torta, cannolis, sorbets, gelato, and more.
8:30 p.m. — Music and drinks at the Front Porch Piano Bar
Before heading back to Boston or, better, to your hotel, stop at the Front Porch Piano Bar (9 Shore Rd., 207-646-3976), an Ogunquit landmark since 1979. This gay-owned piano bar and martini lounge harkens back to the days of show tunes, cabarets, and sing-alongs. The repertoire ranges from jazz and vaudeville acts to standards and classical music, and entertainers include some of the most talented pianists in New England.
Click here to explore more day trips from Boston.
Vicky Waltz can be reached at email@example.com.