Ogunquit Beach (a travel guide)

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Kev and I seek the best New England beaches and Ogunquit Beach in southern Maine ranks high on our list. Its name means “beautiful place by the sea” and Ogunquit does a fine job living up to its moniker. Though I think “beautiful disappearing place by the sea” is more accurate (more on that later).

Whether you’re staying for a week or a day Ogunquit has much to offer in the way of activities, dining, and leisure. Here are a few highlights:

Ogunquit Beach: The main town beach is a short walk from the village. It’s huge at low tide but virtually disappears at high tide. (Consider yourself warned.) Hence, “beautiful disappearing place by the sea”.

[Photographs: Jennifer Lalime]

[Photographs: Jennifer Lalime]

We opted to explore town in the morning and returned to the main beach by lunch to find it all but gone. People were jammed on the inches, and I mean inches, of sand that remained.

Note to visitors: check the tide charts and plan accordingly!

It was a beautiful day and only noon so we took up residence on massive rocks just south of the beach (with a crowd of other Ogunquit amateurs). Literally chairs balanced on rocky coastline and people trying to sun themselves on boulders. Not the most comfortable of beach days.

No pictures to show as phone was tucked away from waves crashing feet in front of us. Oh yeah and if you’ve never beached in Maine I can assure you the water is the coldest you’ll ever wade into. Like mid 50s on a good day.

So why is Ogunquit Beach one of our favorites?

Footbridge Beach: This beach is about a mile north of the main beach. You can stroll 20 minutes along the shoreline away from the main beach or take Ogunquit’s famous trolley or drive and park there for the day. We found it far less crowded and with more sand to spread out on (even at high tide).

The day before we learned a hard lesson about tides (not generally this much of a problem) so changed our entire strategy. We arrived on the beach just after low tide and had our fill by high tide when real estate was at a minimum.

At low tide the beach is vast, beyond picturesque, and there’s a football field’s width of space as far as the eye can see.

Low tide at Footbridge Beach, Ogunquit.

Low tide at Footbridge Beach, Ogunquit.

Ideal for pretty much all beach activities including bocce ball, ping pong, and frisbee. The sand is hard packed and would also be perfect for beach running. I was dying to jog but didn’t have appropriate attire. (Refuse to run in a bikini.)

We set up a good distance from the water for we knew well the disappearing act of Ogunquit Beach. By high tide we were perfectly positioned at the water’s edge.

High tide at Footbridge Beach, Ogunquit.

High tide at Footbridge Beach, Ogunquit.

Maybe it’s because of the huge sandbar that is the beach but even big waves crash pretty gently making Ogunquit’s surf great for swimming and riding waves. You can also wade far from shore and it remains relatively shallow. Despite the freezing temperatures we couldn’t get enough time in the water at Ogunquit Beach.

The Marginal Way: Save your strolling around town for high tide. This paved path meanders about a mile and a quarter along rocky coastline from Ogunquit village down to Perkins Cove.

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There are plenty of benches along the Marginal Way to stop and take in the scenery or eat a picnic lunch and even some tiny pockets of sandy beach to lounge at.

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Once you arrive in Perkins Cove you’re greeted with quaint shops, galleries, and restaurants to spend an afternoon.

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Ogunquit River: Situated parallel to both town and the ocean you’ll cross over the river to get to the beach. It feeds into the Atlantic so at high tide water swells the river and even creates some rapids. Great spot for kayaking, paddle boarding, or just floating on an inner tube.

Ogunquit River at low tide.

Ogunquit River at low tide.

Dining: Options are plentiful and seem generally of good value and quality. We dined mostly in Ogunquit village and quickly became regulars at Backyard Coffeehouse & Eatery.

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Kev seeks out and finds the best coffee wherever we go and this place delivered. (I fell in love with the retro condiment shakers and its other touches of charm too.)

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Breakfast sandwiches were hearty and perfect to enjoy on the beach or in Backyard’s indoor or outdoor cafe seating (both ample). For lunch there was only one choice for me. It is Maine, after all.

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We hit Backyard for coffee 4 times in 24 hours as well as breakfast and lunch. Service, food, and atmosphere were all A+. They also serve beer & wine so stop in for happy hour too. (1/2 priced drink coupons at the counter!)

For dinner we split a thin-crust pie at Cornerstone at the intersection of Beach and Main Streets. It was solid. Good atmosphere, plenty of open-air seating, and a nice bar too.

As a chef I enjoyed being a voyeur of the restaurant’s open kitchen. Not a great photo but tried to capture one cook whose only job was spinning discs of pizza dough high into the air. It was pretty impressive live. (I have tried this at home with zero success.)

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Didn’t stay long enough to explore Ogunquit’s museums, playhouse or nightlife. We’re pretty much only interested in the beach this time of year. But we’ll definitely return again and report back.

Parking: If you’re day-tripping, arrive early. Lots fill up and the road to the main beach gets clogged. Fee at the main beach lot is $25. Other nearby lots charge $20. If you arrive early there’s a lot adjacent to the white antique shop as you enter the village that charges $10 but later increases to $20.

Transportation: The Ogunquit trolley makes it easy to explore town, offering stops to all points of interest including beaches.

Ogunquit is an easy 75-minute drive from Boston.

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