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Ogunquit, A More Accessible Cape Cod

Indian settlers called Ogunquit “a beautiful place by the sea.” And though it’s grown from sleepy arts colony to on-the-move beach town, it hasn’t lost an ounce of charm.

By Kathleen Pierce

“Summertime, and the living is easy,” pours from the second story windows of The Front Porch.

Gershwin didn’t have Ogunquit in mind when he penned this “Porgy and Bess” classic, but he could have.

Among the people gathered around the popular Ogunquit Village piano bar, above the Shore Road bustle, are a Broadway singer, a couple from New Jersey and a host of new friends you haven’t met yet. “Have a seat,” the fun loving crowd beckons. Before you know it you’ve slipped into a scene from “Cheers” by the sea. And you are humming along to every last show tune.

Cape Cod may be longer, bigger, and dotted with diverse villages, but for easy, freewheeling fun on the coast, nowhere beats Ogunquit, block by teeming block. You must cross a bridge to reach this southern Maine hamlet, but unlike the frustrating traffic to clear the crowded spans into The Cape, entering Vacationland is a state of mind.

Indian settlers called Ogunquit “a beautiful place by the sea.” And though it’s grown from sleepy arts colony to on-the-move beach town, it hasn’t lost an ounce of charm.

This stretch of rocky coastline carved with coves where fisherman come in with fresh catches and pleasure boats crest the waves, seems like a more accessible slice of Cape Cod. Once you leave Cliff House, the best way to take it all in is a stroll along the Marginal Way. The shoreline footpath meanders from Perkins Cove to the center of town. With seagulls laughing overhead and waves surging and crashing below, it’s a pleasing perambulation.

There are numerous spots to watch the sunset, sunrise, and pause for a quiet moment to take in dramatic views that have captivated plein air painters for decades. And once you arrive in the village, endless streams of pedestrians provide a moveable canvas of styles, colors, and attitudes — great for people watching.

Don’t fret if you forgot to pack a garment. Beach togs are acceptable everywhere. And if you forgot those, pop into one of many the cheerful shops on Main Street filled with colorful and casual clothing.

To make the most of this Cape in a nutshell, start on Shore Road. In high season this thoroughfare feels a bit like Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, but you don’t have to hop a ferry to savor it all. Make no mistake: this is a beach town, but it pulsates with the adrenaline of a city.

At night candles flicker from al fresco tables; music is everywhere. There is a party-like atmosphere, but the town is family friendly too. Moving at a relaxed pace, even cars are forced to slow way down. No one is in a rush.

Ogunquit’s rich heritage in arts, culture, and theater is like a vest-pocket Provincetown. The village has been a destination for LGBT visitors for more than 100 years and features a number of LGBT-owned hotels, theaters, and other businesses.

At the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, a generous selection of work from regional painters, and big names like Jamie Wyeth, are on display. It’s a pleasing space on gracious, quiet grounds. Flowers and sculptures in the park-like surrounds invite moments of reflection. Large windows frame epic views of the Atlantic.

To keep the culture theme going, take in a musical at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Attracting actors since 1933, this classic summer theater runs into December.

Seeking gifts for friends back home? Oqunquit's independent shops, many located in historic homes and churches, entice. Spoiled Rotten, a gourmet food and home decor emporium, is the most fun you’ll have off the beach. Samples of booze-infused snow cones and chef-driven spreads are dispensed by friendly staff members hired for the sole purpose of spoiling you rotten.

When you are ready for a pick-me-up, find your way to Rococo Ice Cream. Now with two locations in Ogunquit, the artisan creamery scoops inventive flavors like raspberry red wine sorbet and goat cheese blackberry Chambord.

But save room for dinner. Just as Cape Cod has elevated its seafood-in-the-rough cuisine, restaurants serving Mexican, Thai, Spanish tapas, or farm-to-table fare are everywhere.

Grab a seat at an outdoor terrace at the Italian hotspot Caffé Prego or try newcomers like La Orilla with its hibiscus-lined patio, ground zero for sangrias in the sun.

Instead of traversing the entire arm of The Cape, the Ogunquit traveler is rewarded with endless options a stroll away.

Ogunquit, Maine Photo Credit: Ogunquit.org
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Ogunquit Museum of American Art Photo Credit: OgunquitMuseum.org
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