The $500 Weekend: Ogunquit, Maine
OGUNQUIT FEELS LIKE A STEP back in time, owing to the old-school hospitality, the loyalists whose families have summered here since the ’50s, and the sheer number of inns that haven’t been updated in decades. The time-warped quaintness sometimes begets provincialism – to make a local start ranting about tourists, just mention “parking” or “al fresco.” But these very townsfolk give the place its edge. Artists, fishermen, and a vibrant gay community (artistic gay fishermen, even) make Ogunquit a colorful and welcoming haven.
GETTING THERE This is ideal road-trip terrain. In June, new high-speed E-ZPass lanes effectively eliminated the bottlenecks that once plagued I-95’s New Hampshire corridor. After 90 minutes in the car, you’ll be lounging beachfront before gridlocked island-goers hit Hyannis.
SLEEPING Choosing lodging based solely on an inn’s gingerbread muffins with lemon zest-spiked glaze would be insanity. Happily, Parsons Post House is also charming and affordable ($120 a night). Not much pricier ($170-$275), the Beachmere Inn is arguably the town’s loveliest property, with movie-set seaside landscaping.
EATING At MC Perkins Cove, the thing to order is the fish taco platter ($12.50), crispy fillets served with bracing salsa verde and oceanfront views. The fiesta continues at O Dos, a new cantina serving fresh spins on Tex-Mex classics; try the queso fundido ($9), a sizzling skillet of jack and cheddar loaded with tangy diced tomatillo, which brightens (and lightens) the cheesefest. For a splurge, hit Prime, whose friendly chatterbox of an owner says he dry-ages steaks according to instructions he found on the Internet. Whatever the case, his strip (average price, $40), aged 32 days, can go herd-to-herd with the Hub’s dreamiest beef.
PLAYING Not to imply Maine’s other shores are precarious deathtraps, where it’s easier to crack your skull than build a sandcastle, but Ogunquit’s beaches – its main attraction – are flat, powdery oases amid otherwise rocky terrain. Solitude seekers favor quiet Footbridge Beach (parking, $20). Come summertime, Ogunquit Playhouse (average ticket price, $59) attracts national-caliber performers. In August, see Stefanie Powers (Hart to Hart!) flex her acting chops to play, um, a once-famous star coming to terms with irrelevancy in Sunset Boulevard, followed by Monty Python’s Spamalot midmonth.
BROWSING Antiquing is such a popular sport here, it’s a wonder the area isn’t prone to dust storms. The southern leg of the state’s Antique Trail begins north of Ogunquit (R. Jorgensen is a fine starting point) and climbs up Route 1 for 30 miles. Back in town, the Village Food Market is your source for blueberry wine and other Maine-made comestibles.
OBSERVING THE LOCALS Waterfront views mostly mean tourists. In high season, year-rounders escape to two weathered but welcoming bars: Old Village Inn and Gypsy Sweethearts. Oxygen Bar, meanwhile, lures a younger crowd with premium tequilas, raucous trivia nights, and drag-show hilarity.