The 25 Best Beach Towns in New England from Yankee Magazine
I like to stay on the lower portion of Shore Road, which juts out from Route 1, where I can stroll to the main beach, stores, and restaurants in the town center, with the added pleasure of being only steps away from the Marginal Way’s mile-long cliff walk.I book a room at the The Beachmere Inn, where morning yoga on the sprawling lawn rewards me with exquisite beach views; from there, a small gate opens onto the Marginal Way’s paved path, accessible to all. As the trail climbs, glorious vistas open up onto a rugged Maine coastline, a scene that Winslow Homer would convey brilliantly a half-hour drive up the road in Prouts Neck.
I smell sweet beach plums as I walk past the twisted branches of a century-old cedar tree, dwarf pines that somehow have survived the brunt of winter gales, and benches atop the bluffs, perfect for watching cormorants and sailboats. Below, small beaches favored by young families are buttressed between jagged rocks. On one of these spits of sand, I meet Al Korman drying off after a swim. “On a hot day, there’s nothing like a jump in that water,”
Korman says. “The ocean breeze is the best kind of air conditioning.”
On a drive up to Acadia National Park 17 years ago, Korman had a flat tire in Ogunquit and fell in love with the place. Retired now, he spends winters in Florida but returns to the Maine village every summer. “When I’m in Florida,” he adds, “I dream about this place.”
Eventually I reach Perkins Cove at the top of the Marginal Way (south of the town center), home to a handful of seafood restaurants, including the beloved lobster-in-the-rough joint Barnacle Billy’s. Place your order for clam chowder, lobster rolls, and steamed clams, and grab a table outside overlooking the lobster boats, as you listen for your number. The clam chowder has a thin, milky broth, chock-full of clams and potatoes. The lobster roll is served on a hot buttered bun, full of claw meat.
At night, I wander over to the Ogunquit Playhouse, one of New England’s historic summer-stock theaters, where Helen Hayes, Bette Davis, and Anthony Quinn all once graced the stage. Now this spacious building is a blessed retreat for talented Broadway actors who make the shrewd move of leaving Manhattan in the sweltering summer.
There are only two reasons I’d set foot in my car in Ogunquit. The first is to enjoy a meal at Arrows, the James Beard Foundation Award–winning restaurant two miles from the town center. As you overlook the establishment’s expansive vegetable and flower gardens, it’s easy to understand how Arrows became one of the first restaurants of the farm-to-fork movement more than two decades ago. Dive into freshly picked greens, seared Maine day-boat scallops, or beef tenderloin from Pineland Farms, as you nestle happily within the cozy confines of this 18th-century farmhouse.
And the second reason? When it rains, I’m not at a loss. I can head 45 minutes north to Portland, to visit the latest exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art and to enjoy my requisite Belgian fries with truffle ketchup at Duckfat. That’s a rarity, however. Most of the time, you’ll find me riding the tide, laughing, as I watch the clouds roll by and let the sea wash over me.
See Yankee‘s recommendations for the best places to go, eat, and stay in Ogunquit, Maine.