Most of the shoreline of this small York County resort town is open to the public, including Marginal Way, a paved shoreline footpath spanning more than a mile of rocky coast and connecting Perkins Cove to Ogunquit Beach.
Where we stayed: The Beachmere Inn
We arrive at our cozy family-friendly suite at the Beachmere Inn, turn on the gas fireplace, and step outside onto our porch overlooking the ocean. An entrance to the Marginal Way Footpath that winds along Ogunquit’s rocky shore is just a few steps away, so we head down for a pre-dinner walk. We stumble upon a small lighthouse with a camera attached, which I later learn is a webcam that transmits the panoramic view to anyone tuning in online. For dinner, we head across the grassy expanse (in the summer, the inn holds lobster bakes here) to the Beachmere’s restaurant, Blue Bistro, where we enjoy baked haddock and perfectly cooked steak inside, while a group of women drink cocktails outside around the fire pit.
We wake up to an early spring snow and head over for breakfast at the inn before hitting up Main Street to do a little shopping. Harbor Candy Shop is filled with Easter goodies and is a big hit with our four-year-old, who— after much deliberation—picks out a rainbow lollipop and some jellybeans. I pop in next door to H&M Crumpets for some soaps and toiletries, “mom’s candy,” as a fellow shopper jokes.
We pick out some wine and beer at Village Food Market, which has been selling specialty provisions since 1978, and grab some baked goods to go from Bread and Roses Bakery. Back at the inn, I indulge my eight-months-pregnant self with a prenatal “Beach Baby” massage, which renders me so utterly relaxed that I almost walk right into innkeeper Sarah Diment on the way out. Diment is part of the third generation of her family to work at the inn, and her fondness for its history is palpable. The property dates back to the late 1880s, including a period during World War II when the U.S. Coast Guard took over the inn to house the men patrolling Marginal Way looking for German submarines. Noteworthy guests include Bette Davis and President Richard Nixon. I noticed the guestbooks in our suite go back almost ten years—there are even stories about how three generations of one family honeymooned in the same room.
We take the drive to the beautiful Cliff House, where we head over to the resort’s Nubb’s Lobster Shack, a takeout- style restaurant overlooking the ocean. At the window we order our feast: a classic lobster roll, chicken wings, hot dog, and fries served on a tray with a blue numbered buoy that serves as our pick-up “ticket.” My daughter and husband play air hockey and shuffleboard, and I take in the view while we wait for our food. Today is blustery and snowy, but I can imagine the garage doors open on a summer day to picnic tables and a much calmer sea breeze. After lunch we drive by the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, which is closed for another few weeks before its opening exhibition of works by the late Maine legend Dahlov Ipcar. We head back to Main Street to the shops we missed in the morning, including Tea Space, where we visit with owner Eileen Conlon, who has a doctorate in education but always wanted to open a tea shop. I pick out some local tea from Nellie’s Tea to take home. We visit Stonehome Estate Jewelers, where we ogle some beautiful antique jewelry. Stonehome also has a location in Kennebunkport. Nearby on Shore Road we stop in to women’s clothing and accessory shop Lazy Daisy and chat with co-owner Judy Bean. We drive by the iconic Front Porch, which has been in business for more than 40 years and, as of March, has a new owner, Scott Vogel. (Vogel actually worked as a server there as a summer job in college.) The place offers three experiences in one: a restaurant, a lounge, and a piano bar that draws people from all over the country to saddle up and sing along.
We have an early dinner reservation at Northern Union, and when we walk in, owners Lauren and Matt Wickert greet us warmly and give us our pick
of the place. We choose a cozy corner in a windowed room, which we have all to ourselves. The restaurant, originally a house, was redesigned in that spirit, with several distinct and separate dining areas. The restaurant’s specialty is an extensive well- curated wine list and small plates masterfully executed by chef Romann Dumorne (formerly of the White Barn Inn). Our server brings out small plate after small plate, each one an experience to savor: vadouvan spice carrots with parsnip, coconut cloud, pecan granola, and local honey; braised pork belly on steamed buns with slaw and barbeque sauce; spicy chicken drumettes with tzatziki dipping sauce; and shredded potato latkes with herbed crème fraîche. Chef Dumorne even whips up some pasta and broccolini for our not-so-adventurous daughter, who devours it. Two hours later we’re so delightfully stuffed that we head back to the inn, pick out a DVD from the front desk collection (handed to us with a bag of popcorn), and settle in for the night. The snow is still coming down.
In classic Maine fashion, the weather has done a complete 180 from yesterday’s snowstorm. Today we wake up to clear blue sky and 50 degrees. From our suite we can see the beach filling up with people eager to get out in the sun. We head to Five-O Shore Road for brunch—they’ve just opened for the season a few days before. I’ve only ever been here for dinner; this time we enjoy our pancakes and eggs in broad daylight to the sounds of Frank Sinatra. On our way out of town we visit with Doreen Chalif of Panache Fine Jewelry and Art Gallery, a brick-and-mortar gallery that has been selling custom-made abstract art in Ogunquit for nearly 25 years. Chalif tells us that she and her partner, Rhonda Desisto, work with 300 artists from around the country to create customizable artwork and jewelry. Ten-foot-high walls (purposely sized to help customers visualize how the art will look at home) are adorned with oversized dimensional paintings, colorful glass sculptures, and hand- cut metal mirrors that Chalif tells me are very popular right now.
Fishing village and artists’ haven Perkins Cove is home to a handful of galleries, shops, and restaurants—plus a drawbridge that you can operate yourself with the push of a button if the harbormaster isn’t around. We go for one last walk along the wide sandy expanse of Ogunquit Beach, along with several other beachgoers, all marveling at the weather. To fully experience Ogunquit, we need to come back in the summer, but I’m grateful for this pre-season preview.