Ogunquit, Maine is gay. I don’t mean that flippantly or as an insult–Ogunquit has been a well-known LGBT destination for decades. It’s considered to be a milder version of Provincetown minus the sex shops and transvestite street-performers.
And that’s fine with us because Ogunquit literally translates to “beautiful place by the sea” in Abenaki–one of the Algonquian-speaking tribes of the northeast.
This town is top-shelf material. It has all of the benefits of a family-friendly community (it’s clean, sophisticated, and fashionable) without the headache of endless traffic on the Sagamore Bridge or a stupid expensive ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket.
Unlike Cape Cod, generally speaking, Maine is far less crowded and cheaper by comparison. It maintains all the beauty and amenities of its larger, more popular Massachusetts counterpart without many of the negatives.
There are no college fraternity douchebags vomiting in public parking lots. You can actually find parking unlike the time Laura and I visited Newport, Rhode Island and searched for parking for nearly two hours. There are significantly fewer yuppies in salmon-colored pants. The locals are genuinely friendly. Almost suspiciously so…
A (Refreshing) Day Trip
One of the keys to having a good time on any vacation, no matter how small, is a getting off to a good start. If you get pissed off at the beginning, you might as well pack it in and sleep under your desk at work. So, leave early. It’s that simple. Beach towns are notorious for being cramped and Ogunquit is no exception–one-way roads, small lots, no street parking, and pedestrians everywhere. Traffic builds quickly and there is little relief.
Roll down the exit ramp from I-95 onto historic Route 1 in Kittery, Maine and cruise by the Kittery Outlets where my parents used to drag my brother and I to buy winter coats in August. Take a minute to admire the countless antique stores, clam shacks, and local souvenir shops as you go through York.
Imagine yourself retiring here: coffee by the ocean every summer morning, afternoon walks in the sun, and seafood dinners with Georgia O’Keeffe’s ghost. In the winter, there would be cozy wood fires, creamy hot chocolate, and extra-thick blankets in the living room.
As one might expect, there are dozens of world class seafood restaurants with the world’s freshest lobster and clam chowder competing for your dollar. But there are also some great Italian joints, new American bistros, bakeries, cafes, and coffee shops. Between the great food, relaxed atmosphere, and stellar beaches, we fell head over heels in love with York County and Ogunquit specifically.
Ogunquit Beach is incredibly flat. At low tide, nearly 100-yards of pure sand extends between the protected dunes and the edge of the water. Plenty of room for rambunctious beach activities without kicking sand on the loungers and tanners that just want to relax in the sun. There is minimal seaweed, virtually no rocks, and decent swells for body surfing.
At high tide, the shore becomes rather narrow in certain areas, but the beach stretches down the horizon for about 3.5 miles into the neighboring town of Wells, so you can always find a place to set up camp.
After you get off the beach, rinse your feet at the foot-washing station and head downtown to grab a snack and do some shopping. There are plenty of cheap boardwalk-style stores to pick up refrigerator magnets, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats. There are also classy art galleries, studios, and some interesting craft stores like Spoiled Rotten–one of our favorite home decor & gift stores loaded with tons of cool items, some made locally, most made in the U.S.A.
Meander down Shore Rd. past a few more hotels and restaurants to find the entrance to Marginal Way–a gorgeous 1.25 mile scenic trail along the coast of Ogunquit. The entrance is marked with a sign that is easily missed. Start across the street from the Seacastles Resort. Look for a narrow path that travels between two hotels, past a few tennis courts, and eventually opens up to the ocean.
Marginal Way is neatly paved and well-kept. The fencing appears to be brand new and in good condition. The flowers and plants are in excellent shape and the views are astonishing. You can venture onto the rocks at your own risk.
Laura and I saw a couple celebrating their wedding on the lawn of the Beachmere Inn. They took wedding photos on the nearby rocks while waves crashed against the cliffs. Coincidentally, I had mentioned to Laura many months ago the various wedding packages offered by the Beachmere. When we saw the happy couple, Laura almost cried. We hope to get married here someday.
At the end of Marginal Way lies Perkins Cove–an idyllic Maine fishing harbor that shares turf with fashion boutiques, jewelry shops, and some kick-ass seafood shacks. Dine next to the water, explore the quaint village shops, and indulge in homemade candy and ice cream.
Take pictures on the fully functional drawbridge and watch as the operator opens and closes the hinges to let the sailboats into the cove.
You can book all types of sailing tours and cruises that launch from Perkins Cove–everything from cocktail cruises on sailing yachts to deep sea fishing for haddock and cod with crusty old Robert Shaw types.
The peaceful towns York County, Maine will continue to be a source of inspiration and relaxation for years to come. Our next summer day trip will be several miles north of Ogunquit to the presidential town of Kennebunkport, where the Bush family famously established a secluded yet beautiful compound on the rocks in the 1980′s.