The Yankee Magazine editors share some of their favorite places to eat, favorite places to stay, and favorite things to do in Ogunquit, Maine.
By Yankee Magazine
Jun 01 2022
Barnacle Billy’sPhoto Credit : Aimee Tucker
Please note that many establishments throughout New England have modified their hours and/or operations in response to COVID-19. Please check with individual businesses and organizations for the latest information before making travel plans.
Crowned with some of the finest beachfront in the region, the seaside village of Ogunquit is the epitome of the New England summer resort town and, in our opinion, the best beach town in New England. Yet it offers plenty of reasons to visit all through the year, including memorable events such as Patriots’ Day Weekend in April, a spectacular Fourth of July fireworks celebration, the harvest-themed OgunquitFest in October, and the magical Christmas by the Sea. Regardless of what time of year you decide to go, there will be plenty of great things to do in Ogunquit, Maine.
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Though just 1¼ miles long, this walking path by the sea packs the kind of scenic punch that draws visitors from all over the world. There are at least eight pedestrian access points along the Marginal Way, but if you want to walk it from end to end, we recommend starting from Perkins Cove (limited public parking available; trolley service available from downtown during the summer) and strolling north to Shore Road, then jogging onto Wharf Lane and over to Ogunquit Beach.
SEE MORE: Walks Worth Their Salt | New England Ocean Walks, Marginal Way in Winter
With a permanent collection of more than 1,600 works — photography, paintings, sculpture, and more — the Ogunquit Museum of American Art is the only museum in Maine to devote itself exclusively to American art. Among its marquee names are Marsden Hartley, Eliot O’Hara, and Bernard Langlais; past exhibits have included the works of Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer. And the visual splendors don’t stop at the gallery walls: The museum’s large windows offer lovely ocean views, as do its peaceful gardens.
One of New England’s historic summer-stock theaters, the Ogunquit Playhouse in years past welcomed the likes of Helen Hayes, Bette Davis, and Anthony Quinn to its stage. Now this spacious venue, built in 1937, is a showcase for the best musicals around, and even hosts world and North American premieres of new works. Plus, it’s a blessed retreat for talented Broadway actors who make the shrewd move of leaving Manhattan in the sweltering summer. Open seasonally.
SEE MORE: New England Summer Playhouses & Theaters
At Ogunquit Beach — the town’s “star” when it comes to swaths of sand — things can get a little busy at the height of the summer season. For a bit of a breather from the traffic and crowds, try Footbridge Beach: Located at the northern end of Ogunquit Beach, it qualifies as something of a hidden gem. Enter via a footbridge over the Ogunquit River, spread out your towel, and soak up the rays and relaxation.
Opened by the Tower family in 1961, Barnacle Billy’s soon became a Perkins Cove landmark and a magnet for lovers of classic Maine seafood. Proving you can never have too much of a good thing, the family opened a successful sister restaurant next door, Barnacle Billy’s Etc., in 1989. At both places, diners can count on the freshest seafood around, from the claw-meat-filled lobster roll to the ultra-filling clam chowder.
A newcomer to the Ogunquit dining scene, the Greenery Café debuted in 2016 and has earned a reputation among locals as a can’t-miss breakfast and lunch spot. Among the highlights at the locally owned, from-scratch eatery: the perfectly done “Bennys” (offered in original, Irish, lobster, crab cake, and Florentine variations), the classic breakfast sandwiches, and the pastry case full of just-baked scones, muffins, cupcakes, and more. Bonus for early birds — the café opens up at 5 a.m. daily.
For a one-of-a-kind dining experience, look to Jonathan’s Ogunquit. The first floor is an upscale restaurant focused on farm-to-table cuisine (indeed, the lamb and many of the fruits and vegetables come from the proprietor’s own farm in nearby South Berwick); the second floor is a popular live-performance venue that has welcomed everyone from the Indigo Girls and Arlo Guthrie to Paula Poundstone and Lenny Clarke. Want to combine the two? Package deals make it easy.
Against the backdrop of 12 landscaped acres bordering a tidal estuary, the Dunes offers a choice of classic white clapboard cottages or cottage suites (with wood-burning fireplaces and full kitchens), or cozy guest rooms in the main hotel building. At high tide, rowboats at the dock make it easy to cross the tidal estuary to Ogunquit Beach; at low tide, you can simply stroll across. Nearby on the mainland side is the famed Marginal Way, taking you over the bluffs on foot to the village of Perkins Cove.
Just down the road from Ogunquit, in Cape Neddick, is a splurge worth seeking out: Built in 1872 atop Bald Head Cliff, the Cliff House completed a major update in 2016 with revamped guest rooms, 25,000-plus square feet of new event space, and a new luxury spa. It’s all icing on what was already a tasty cake, as the Cliff House’s 70 oceanfront acres and wealth of ocean views have long been whisking guests off to their own little bit of heaven by the sea.
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Conveniently located on the Marginal Way, this classic resort hotel caters to guests with in-room fireplaces, access to a hot tub, and an on-site spa and fitness center. In summers, look for yoga sessions on the front lawn, overlooking the Atlantic; if water sports are more your thing, they’re happy to coordinate surfing and standup paddleboard lessons. And don’t miss the chance to reserve a spot for one of their traditional summer lobster bakes.
What are your favorite things to do in Ogunquit, Maine? Let us know in the comments!
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.