I had heard of Ogunquit, Maine, before and had always wondered about its name, so I looked it up. According to the local chamber of commerce, Ogunquit was named by the Abenaki tribe, and the name means “beautiful place by the sea.”
And beautiful it is. My wife and I took a September trip to New England last year, visiting six states in all: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The highlight of our trip was definitely Ogunquit.
Ogunquit is located about as far south as you can travel in Maine -- only 15 miles from the New Hampshire border. And given that most of the states in New England are small -- it only takes 25 minutes to travel from Maine to New Hampshire to Massachusetts if you’re following the coast on Interstate 95 -- it’s easy to get to Ogunquit from major metropolitan areas in the Northeast. The distance from Boston Logan International Airport to Ogunquit is only 79 miles.
My wife and I found so much to do in the area that we wish we had had more time to explore. Here are six great things to do in Ogunquit, as well as some dining, shopping, and lodging options.
1. Catch A Show At The Ogunquit Playhouse
This is how most people know of Ogunquit. The Ogunquit Playhouse has been entertaining audiences since 1933. For many families in New England, it’s a summer tradition to go to the Ogunquit Playhouse and enjoy a high-end musical production featuring stars from Broadway, Hollywood, and beyond.
Six productions take place each year from mid-May through mid-October. When my wife and I were in town, Menopause The Musical was playing, starring Cindy Williams of Laverne & Shirley. The playhouse also features an artist in residence of sorts -- Sally Struthers has appeared in at least one production every year since 2005.
It’s best to check the website to see the current production schedules. But if you are in the area when they are putting on a show, this is an absolute must-do in Ogunquit.
2. Take A Sightseeing Cruise
Ogunquit is on the Atlantic Ocean -- a beautiful place by the sea, remember -- so you can’t go there without getting out on the water. The best way to see the ocean in Ogunquit? Taking a sightseeing cruise.
There are several afternoon or evening cruises you can book in Ogunquit, but for a truly unique experience, try booking a sailing cruise. Silverlining Sailing offers trips for up to six people on their sailboat. Not only will you get a great view of Maine’s rocky shores, but you’ll do so onboard a working sailboat with sails lifted high.
3. Visit Perkins Cove
My wife and I stumbled upon Perkins Cove almost by accident. We were following Shore Road to the south, admiring all the incredible vacation homes near the ocean, and we came to a fork in the road. Instead of staying on Shore Road, we turned left onto Perkins Cove Road. This took us out onto a skinny peninsula next to the ocean. We parked and walked around the entire area.
You’ll probably need to park in the first parking lot on your left because the second one, farther out on the peninsula, is usually full, especially during the summer months. Bring your camera, because you’ll find some great photo opportunities here. The peninsula protects a small harbor full of boats moored out in the water.
There’s also a small drawbridge, the Perkins Cove Bridge, which lifts to allow the sailboats through. It’s just a footbridge, so it doesn’t have to lower for cars to drive across. But you’ll want to take photo after photo from here. After walking around for a bit, enjoy the shops and cafes out on the peninsula and get a few more photos of the ocean.
4. Hit The Beach
Most of the shoreline in Ogunquit (and in Maine) is very rocky, but Ogunquit is located on a massive beach. From the main road, Highway 1, take the aptly named Beach Street to the east until you come to the massive beach parking lot. From there, it’s a short walk to the beach.
But it's quite a long walk up and down the beach. You’ll head north from here (the parking lot is at the very southern tip), and the beach will seem to stretch on forever. If you walk about a mile up the beach, you’ll come to a very unique footbridge that will take you over to Ocean Street and all its shops and restaurants.
Again, this isn’t a Florida beach. You’re in Maine, and the jagged shores surrounding the pristine beach make this stroll a very unique experience.
5. Check Out ‘Maine Street’
My wife loves to visit quaint downtown areas when we’re on vacation, and her favorite spot in Ogunquit was Main Street (or “Maine Street,” as one store calls it). Right at the intersection of three roads -- Beach Street, Shore Road, and Main Street -- we found the perfect little shopping area to take an evening stroll.
We started by getting ice cream at the Scoop Shack, and then we walked up and down all the streets. We found a piano bar with music coming out all the windows, a few clothing stores that were open late, and many vacationers milling about. It was the perfect evening stroll.
6. Order Lobster
Perhaps I shouldn’t have said that visiting the Ogunquit Playhouse was the biggest must-do in the area. After all, you’re in Maine, so you absolutely, positively have to order lobster.
And there are many places where you can do just that. I’ll list some specific restaurants below, but just know that there’s no shortage of lobster options in Ogunquit. If you just want to try a lobster roll for lunch, there are shops with counters where you can walk right up to the window and order. If you want a fancy sit-down meal, there are plenty of fine-dining restaurants where you can order lobster for dinner. You can even get lobster scrambled eggs at many of the breakfast places.
Whatever your preference, just know that there are many options -- and you absolutely have to try at least one of them.
Where To Eat In Ogunquit
It’s not all lobster in Ogunquit. There are many other types of meals available in this beautiful Maine town. Here are some places serving up meals you won’t soon forget.
The Wild Blueberry Cafe
There’s no better way to start your day than with blueberry pancakes, right? The Wild Blueberry Cafe offers a great breakfast standard with eggs, two blueberry pancakes, and a choice of meat. Or you can try the Maine-style breakfast featuring lobster Benedict. Either way, you’ll get a great breakfast right in the center of it all on Shore Road.
Ogunquit Beach Lobster House
Here I promised that Ogunquit’s cuisine scene wouldn’t be all about lobster, and now I’m suggesting a lobster house for lunch. Well, I can’t think of a better place to go for a midday meal than a restaurant right off the beach where you can grab a quick lobster roll. If you decide to take a walk on the beach, then this place is perfect -- a very short walk from the beach parking lot. At Ogunquit Beach Lobster House, you can order other lunch items if you want, but you’re likely going to want to try the lobster roll -- or the lobster grilled cheese!
M.C. Perkins Cove
You simply won’t believe the view at M.C. Perkins Cove. Make your reservations early, because you’ll want to make sure you get seated in this incredible dining room. In 2007, USA Today named it one of the top 10 places in the world with a view.
M.C. Perkins Cove offers chef-prepared meals in an incredible setting right on the peninsula at Perkins Cove. After you’ve walked the drawbridge, sit down to an amazing meal with a perfect glass of wine. Also, try the lobster.
Where To Shop In Ogunquit
As I mentioned above, the three-way intersection of Beach Street, Shore Road, and Maine Street is the best place to walk around and check out the local shops. There are art galleries, knickknack shops, and clothing stores. You can also check out the shops along the peninsula at Perkins Cove.
Pro Tip: Make sure not to miss all of the stores along Shore Road when you’re at the intersection of those three roads. Many people walk to the beach from Main Street and see the shops along Beach Street, but they often miss the additional stores along Shore Road.
Where To Stay In Ogunquit
There are many lodging options in Ogunquit. You can find 1950s motor lodges, luxury bed and breakfasts, and everything in between.
But my choice would definitely be to rent a local house on Vrbo or Airbnb. Ogunquit is a summer home for many people in the Northeast, especially people from Boston. And on the weekends that those people aren’t using their summer homes, they often make them available for rent. If you can find one of those rentals close to town, you can build an incredible weekend (or week!) at the center of it all.
When To Visit Ogunquit
My wife and I like to visit summer tourist spots the week after Labor Day. The weather is still warm, the shops are still open, but since the kids are back in school, the crowds are gone. We can easily make reservations at the restaurants we want to visit, we don’t have to wait in line for breakfast, and we still get the “summer” experience.
We’ve visited many destinations during the first weeks of September, including Whidbey Island in Washington, the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Ogunquit was one of our favorites, though. We’ll be back!
For more to see and do in Maine, visit this page.