With out-of-town company this week, the focus was on showing off some of the beautiful New England towns within driving distance of my own. Yesterday, with temperatures in the 80s, clear skies and no humidity, we packed up and headed to Ogunquit, Maine.
I had some serious reservations about this plan (even though it was my idea). In case you haven’t heard, the Maine coast is pretty popular in the summer. Route 1 can look like a parking lot. Parking is at a premium. And of course in addition to being a warm summer day, it was the Fourth of July weekend.
But despite all this we went ahead with our plan. Ogunquit, which is an Abenaki Indian word meaning “beautiful place by the sea”, was originally a village within Wells, established in 1641. Fishing and shipbuilding thrived here, but the cove was unprotected and fishermen had to haul their boats ashore each night. In an effort to create a safe anchorage, they dug a channel to connect the cove with a river, and erosion further helped to widen the passage. The village, the tidewater basin and the 3+ miles of beach and sand dunes were eventually discovered by artists and it became a popular art colony and then a tourist area. The Ogunquit Art Colony was established in 1898 and over time hotels and inns were built to accommodate the summer crowds. Today it is alive with bright colors, vintage charm, flowers spilling out of containers, and the smell of the sea.
The universe was on our side today. Although the traffic on Route 1 was bumper-to-bumper, it was moving. Or, crawling. We got what must have been the last parking spot in town, in one of the two town lots (even the attendant there told us “Ogunquit is full!”) We stopped for lunch at a café called The Wild Blueberry, just because my friend liked the name, and were seated immediately. There was live piano/cello music coming from the next room. She was taken with this town right away, pronouncing it Cute. I told her to just wait – by the end of the day she would be on Cute overload.
My favorite part of Ogunquit is the Marginal Way, a mile-long footpath that meanders along the Atlantic shore. On this day, with the tide out, families had come to let their kids roam the sandy beaches and explore the rocks; we took off our shoes and waded into the cold water too. The Marginal Way, paved and mostly level, is edged with pink beach roses and bittersweet (not evident until fall), and punctuated by a small, purely decorative lighthouse midway along the path. We stopped at a little beach covered with smooth round blue-gray stones and searched for stones that were shaped like hearts.
At the end of the Marginal Way lies tiny Perkins Cove. Here are a few restaurants, a handful of shingled shops, and a cove full of lobster boats. A little drawbridge allows for high-masted sailboats to pass, and for visitors to walk over to the other side. We walked the docks, visited the shops, breathed in all that good salt air, and got lemonade and onion rings on a waterside deck in the shade.
By 7 pm we were tired – that good tired that comes from a day at the beach: salt-sticky skin, tangled hair, and definitely on Cute overload. But it’s all good. Even if that’s not what you’re looking for, finding Ogunquit is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s classic, simple, time-honored New England seaside goodness.