Meadowmere News & Press

Jan 15, 2011

Chillin' on the coast


The Montreal Gazette | January 15, 2011

On The Maine Seaside, Tranquility Rules In Winter, Except When A Storm Approaches

Sandy beaches, striking sunsets, star-filled skies.

Maine's southern coast, a popular summer destination for ocean-deprived Montrealers, is just as beautiful this time of year.

But in winter, you don't have to contend with crowds and traffic, and accommodations are a bargain.

After enjoying a week in the seaside towns of Wells and Ogunquit last summer, my family and I returned to Ogunquit last week for a three-night ocean escape.

It's a relaxing trip, whether you stay at a family-friendly resort with a pool or at a romantic seaside inn or bed and breakfast with a crackling fireplace.

A bustling beach town and artist colony for much of the year, Ogunquit goes into hibernation during the winter, apart from a series of events during the town's annual "Christmas by the Sea" during December.

Some stores, restaurants and resorts are closed until the spring.

But part of the allure of the Maine coast in winter is the tranquil atmosphere.

Bundle up and take a walk on the Ogunquit's six-kilometre beach; look for shells and enjoy the waves hitting the shore and the vibrant colours of a sunrise or sunset.

On a clear day, enjoy the warm sunshine and the fresh sea air.

If it's stormy, all the better: the waves hitting the shore provide a dramatic natural show. That's what visitors experienced in late December, when a storm pummelled the area, dumping 25 centimetres of snow and bringing with it strong winds and pounding waves.

If you grow bored of contemplating the universe on the beach, there are other things to do.

Here are some ideas (for more, visit ogunquit.org,the official tourism site):

-¦ Return to the beach at night, when the show is above you. Without the big-city lights, Ogunquit is perfect for stargazing.

-¦Stroll along the Marginal Way, a two-kilometre paved, cliff-top walking trail that hugs the Ogunquit coastline, affording dramatic views of the craggy seashore. There's a kid's guide to the walk at ogunquit.org/justforkids.php.

If you start at the north end of the Marginal Way, the path will take you to Perkins Cove, a charming inlet full of pleasure and fishing boats, even in winter. We were lucky, arriving just as a lobster fisherman returned with his daily catch.

-¦Visit Ogunquit's Harbor Candy Shop ( harborcandy.com)on Main Street, an old-fashioned store that produces fresh chocolate daily.

-¦ A 60-kilometre drive will bring you to Portland and its Children's Museum & Theater of Maine ( childrensmuseumofme.org).

The museum is aimed at kids under 10 and it features a lot of hands-on exhibits, including a fire truck, a barn, a tree house and a working ATM that spits out fake museum money to thrilled kids. It's open Tuesday to Sunday.

The theatre part of the facility puts on plays for kids, by kids. It reopens Feb. 18 for a two-week run of James and the Giant Peach, from the book by Roald Dahl.

-¦Maine is home to some of New England's best outlet shopping and with the Canadian dollar so strong, there are good buys to be had.

With about 120 stores, Kittery Outlets is 25 kilometres southwest of Ogunquit, near the New Hampshire border. Stores include Anne Klein, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Crate and Barrel, J. Crew, OshKosh, The Children's Place, The Gap and Nine West. For more information, go to thekitteryoutlets.com.

Over in Freeport, 90 kilometres northeast of Ogunquit, is L.L. Bean's flagship outlet store, complete with two enormous stuffed moose, antlers locked in a battle to the death. Open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, it's a sprawling "campus" featuring clothing and home furnishings, as well as camping, hunting and fishing gear. For more information, go to llbean.com.

Freeport is also home to many other big-name outlets stores, including J. Crew, Polo Ralph Lauren and Jones New York. For more information, go to freeportusa.com.

-¦Foodies can stock up in Portland, home to a couple of popular U.S. grocery store chains that have yet to set up shop in Quebec.

You'll salivate at the big Whole Foods Market ( wholefoodsmarket.com),which specializes in natural and organic products, and at the more modest but quirkier Trader Joe's store ( traderjoes.com),a California epicurean delight that opened in Portland in October.

-¦On the way to or home from Maine, New Hampshire has a different kind of shopping that's popular with Maine-bound Quebecers. Booze is cheap and there are no taxes at New Hampshire State Liquor and Wine Outlet stores. For a list of stores, visit the website nh.gov/liquor.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE From Montreal, the drive is about six hours. Highway 10 to Exit 22 and then Highway 35 south. Follow it to Highway 133, which will take you to the St-Armand/Philipsburg border crossing. On the Vermont side, you'll be on Interstate 89; it will take you through Burlington, Montpelier and into New Hampshire. Turn on to Interstate 93 and take it to Highway 101 and Interstate 95. The 95 will take you in to Maine and the Ogunquit exit.

WHERE TO STAY

We rented a condo at the Hillcrest Inn Resort ( hillcrestresort.com),

a timeshare complex in a 100-year-old building in Ogunquit near picturesque Perkins Cove. For $115 per night plus tax, we got a unit that featured two bedrooms, a full kitchen and a balcony with an ocean view. During the summer, condos cost about double that and are available only by the week. The Hillcrest has a deal under which customers have access to the pool and weight and game rooms at Village by the Sea Resort Hotel, 10 kilometres away in neighbouring Wells.

Village by the Sea ( vbts.com)

is also a good bet, and we've stayed there in the past. The winter rate (until April 14) for a two-bedroom condo is $109 a night during the week and $119 on weekends; that's about half the cost of high season.

The friends we travelled with last week stayed at the Meadowmere Resort ( meadowmere.com)

in Ogunquit, paying $99 per night for a two-bedroom "family suite," about half the price that the room costs in the summer. It's very family friendly, and features an indoor pool and Jacuzzi, as well as a game room/ arcade and a 35-seat mini-theatre that shows kid-friendly movies daily at 5 p.m. The Meadowmere also has a gym and spa.

MORE INFORMATION For other ideas and to find special offers, click on Lodging at visitmaine.com, the official Maine tourism site. ariga@montrealgazette.com © Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

BY ANDY RIGA

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