With its ocean views, plentiful benches, and nearby downtown Ogunquit, the Marginal Way in Maine is one of New England’s most beloved scenic coastal walks.
By Annie Graves
Aug 05 2022
The Marginal Way, in Ogunquit, Maine, is anything but. Marginal, that is—in the traditional sense of the word.
Merriam-Webster defines “marginal” as “very slight or small,” or “not very important.”
Quite the opposite is true here.
In fact, of course, the name actually refers to the “margin” between land and sea. This slender 1 1/4-mile-long beauteous cliff walk is a winding path of windblown gorgeousness that edges the Atlantic like a tightrope strung along the heights.
The view spreads out and down—to the icy, thundering seawater, smashing against rocks, spraying out over tide pools, buffeting seal-smooth wet-suited surfers and divers.
Everyone has a different way of enjoying it.
Both the “to” and “fro” of this walk are equally tantalizing. One end of the Marginal Way starts near Ogunquit’s surreally beautiful three-mile stretch of sandy beach and dunes.
The walk finishes up at Perkins Cove, a little movie-set concentration of cuteness that also happens to be a working dock for the fishing boats that come and go like, well, like fishing boats.
The beauty of this beautiful walk cannot be overstated. Nor can the overall friendliness of the experience, in every sense of the word. Physically, there is little climbing involved, and definitely maximum payoff for the little climbing that you will do.
And on the topic of personal friendliness, your fellow walkers will be a cheery bunch overall, and why not? You’re basking together in Maine treasure.
For that reason, too, we must also give great thanks for the 39 benches placed strategically along the way, affording multiple opportunities to ponder, exclaim, or just sit.
Here are some additional high points.
Once you leave the beach at Ogunquit and slip down tucked-away Wharf Lane,
you’ll merge onto busy Shore Road.
From there, you’ll saunter along until you reach the very-obvious entry path to the Marginal Way, flanked by hotel gardens with flaring views of water and sky.
The cork-screwing path meanders past the hotels’ manicured lawns and a few mostly-modest houses wedged above the walkway. Then it winds, down and around rocky flats stacked with cairns, and through shady groves, and always and ever, there’s the sea.
You’ll pass a cool little lighthouse,
and get lots of ideas of ways to spend your time here. Obviously there’s fishing and surfing, as well as talking on your phone or taking pictures. But you’ll also see some unexpected diversions, like chess,
Reading is always an option, too,
or just plain contemplating.
And when you’re ready for a little action, Perkins Cove is just around the corner, with lively restaurants,
and the freshest catch of the day.
Take time on your return stroll to check out the monuments scattered along the Marginal Way. One of the bronze plaques is scripted with the words of John Muir:
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer, and give strength to body and soul alike.
Here is a path promising just that. An easy walk, with 39 benches, each one numbered, so you can claim a favorite.
Find a bench with your name on it.
Have you ever strolled the Marginal Way?
This post was first published in 2013 and has been updated.