Meadowmere News & Press

Nov 6, 2011

Ogle Ogunquit in the Off Season


WickedLocal.com| Friday, November 4, 2011

As the guy at the Dairy King hands me my soft-serve ice cream cone (vanilla-chocolate swirl), I ask him if the beach is packed in the middle of the summer.

His eyes go wide as if he's remembering an approaching tsunami he once saw, and he says, "You wouldn't even want to be here."

It's probably not the answer the Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce was hoping for, but it did validate our reason for visiting Ogunquit, Maine, in the off-season. The way-off season. We were at the popular New England tourist destination during the last week of October, utterly charmed by the town as it staged its humble OgunquitFest, perhaps marking the unofficial end of tourist season.

I took my ice cream cone and we headed for the Ogunquit great expanse of beach. It was empty, save a handful of people and the world's happiest dog.

The centerpiece of an Ogunquit visit is Marginal Way (note to town: change the name — there's nothing "marginal" about it), a spectacular mile-long walk along Ogunquit's dramatic oceanfront, where the Atlantic cuts crescents, curves and coves into the craggy coastline. It's a five-foot wide paved path, better-suited, I'm sure, to October's mild foot traffic than the summertime crowds that must swarm over it like preteens at the gate of a free Justin Bieber concert. The path rises and falls, twists and turns, providing elevated views one moment, a closer connection to the surf the next. Around each bend is a new, photo-ready vista.

Marginal Way, by itself, is worth a visit to Ogunquit, any time of year.

The dynamic surf and unique coastal light are probably two of the reasons that Ogunquit has always attracted artists, and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art captures some of that history. Opened in 1953 by founder Henry Strater, the museum itself is a work of art with large sections of glass on its front and back walls, allowing a dramatic view of the ocean even as you approach the entrance. When we visited, there was a terrific exhibit by the Aronson family, including David Aronson, professor emeritus at Boston University. The museum's impressive permanent collection (about 1,600 works of art) includes pieces by Edward Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein and August Saint-Gaudens. This year, it closed for the season on Oct. 31.

For a different perspective on Ogunquit, take a boat tour. Tour operators such as Finest Kind, located in Ogunquit's quaint Perkins Cove, were still operating while we were there, but they need a minimum number of patrons before they take the boat out. Tours vary, but they're generally just over an hour long.

Based on the production we saw, a stop at the Ogunquit Playhouse should be part of any visit to the seaside town. Again, the theater season seems to run until late October. We headed off to "Miss Saigon" with limited expectations; tourist-town productions of Broadway musicals are a dicey proposition. But we were blown away. This show was first-class and beautifully executed: a huge cast, an orchestra, great costumes and two dynamite leads (Jennifer Paz and Gregg Goodbrod).

The town itself is very small, and although it bends to tourists who parade through it ever year, it doesn't cater exclusively to them. In fact, based on what we saw, I wouldn't really call it a shopping destination. (That's why there's the Kittery discount outlet stores, an easy stop on your way back to Massachusetts.)

But for a small town, it seems to have lots of great dining options. They do everything right at Jonathan's, with its great combination of an old-inn feel and yet modern forward-thinking cuisine. I had a delicious seafood linguini, the bed of pasta topped with meaty portions of lobster, scallops and clams that never got lost in the sauce.

It may be a crime not to order seafood — lobster specifically — when on the Maine coast, but I risked prosecution and ordered the delicious, tender baby back ribs at the Surf Point Grill, right on the waterfront. They're slow-cooked with an inspired apple cider broth, crispy on the outside, soft inside. My wife enjoyed her seafood alfredo, crimson chunks of lobster popping against the white sauce.

For breakfast, one of the locals suggested Eggs and I, but it was too much of a waffle house for us. We were happier the next morning at the upscale Wild Blueberry down by the waterfront.

It was definitely "layers" weather while we were there — turtleneck, down vest and windbreaker that you mixed and matched as needed. I'm sure the town still holds plenty of appeal with the approach of Thanksgiving and then the winter holidays, but we noticed that a bunch of the businesses were planning to close before November.

Our mid-fall visit to Ogunquit turned out to be a relaxing treat. These late off-season trips give you the cozy feeling that you're stealing one last weekend before retreating home to start fortifying yourself against the coming winter.

If You Go...

The Meadowmere Resort provided a great home base for our visit. It's not right on the waterfront — a fact that's certainly reflected in friendlier prices — but it was just an easy 10-minute walk down a quiet road to both the town's main streets and beaches. The resort's amenities include a heated pool, outdoor hot tub and spa. Visitors seem to love Meadowmere; we left on a Saturday, and the parking lot suggested the resort was doing a robust business, even this late in the season. Call: 800-633-8718. www.meadowmere.com

POSTED BY ALEXANDER STEVENSĀ AT 2:35 PM

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