Travel Guide: Experience the Way Life Should Be in Ogunquit, Maine

Whitecapped waves, refreshing salt air, and just the right amount of luxe: This part of southern Maine has all the ingredients for a perfect summer vacation.

Water as far as the eye can see: a view of Ogunquit Beach. / Photo by Olegalbinsky/Getty Images

They may only be 160 miles apart, but a long weekend in southern Maine has a completely different vibe than a long weekend on the Cape. For one, there’s the coastline—mostly rugged and rocky, with gentle waves crashing against the shore. Then there’s the fashion—less Lilly, more Bean. But there’s also something intangible, as you exit the Maine Turnpike and begin your drive toward the rocky cliffs of Ogunquit, that you have to feel for yourself to fully grasp. Time seems to move slower; the sun sparkles a bit brighter on the water; and the catch phrase “The way life should be” starts to, you know, actually make a lot of sense.

Of course, the water is always front and center in this area—especially if you book an oceanfront room or suite at the Cliff House, where you can watch the sun rise from your balcony with a hot cup of coffee, then take a quiet stroll along the walking path that follows the rocky shoreline. If the weather’s warm enough to swim, throw on a bathing suit and go for a dip in the resort’s infinity-edge pools overlooking the ocean, or take a quick drive to downtown Ogunquit, where smoothie bowls at Loveshack Juicery—and a perfect beach day on the blissfully smooth sand of Ogunquit Beach—await. (It’ll run you $35 on weekends to park your car in the adjacent lot, but the close proximity is well worth it, especially if you’re schlepping a family-size wagon of gear.)

If a crisp Maine breeze is kicking on your visit, simply throw on a sweatshirt and head to the charming shopping and dining area known as Perkins Cove, where you can pick up a handmade peanut-butter cup from Perkins Cove Candies (or a butter-soaked lobster roll from the Footbridge Lobster stand) before embarking on the breathtaking trek along Marginal Way, a one-and-a-quarter-mile-long cliff walk that embodies everything beautiful about this part of Maine. Stop back at the Cliff House for a siesta and perhaps a marine-mud detox massage at the spa before heading to dinner. The Tiller, the resort’s on-site restaurant, offers the best views around and creative New American fare (don’t miss the diver scallops with lobster fried rice). Nearby Walkers Maine, meanwhile, from the folks behind the dearly departed Arrows Restaurant, invites guests to gather around the hearth for wood-fired duck, housemade pastas, and a warm, only-in-Maine experience.

From there, hop on over to the iconic white-and-green Ogunquit Playhouse for a show—playing this month is The Nutty Professor, a musical based on the 1963 film with music by Marvin Hamlisch. You could head to That Place in Ogunquit afterward for a rum punch or sweet honey tea—or just retreat back to your room and enjoy a nightcap there. After all, another sunrise awaits tomorrow.

A well-appointed room at the nearby Cliff House. / Photo courtesy of Cliff House

Getting There

Avoid leaving at rush hour on a Friday, and you’ll enjoy a smooth 1.5-hour jaunt up 95 by car.

Staying There

Just a seven-minute drive from the center of Ogunquit, the recently renovated Cliff House in nearby Cape Neddick has it all—crisp, modern oceanfront rooms, a stunning spa, and a restaurant with jaw-dropping Atlantic vistas.