The tiny harbor of Perkins Cove serves as a boater’s gateway to a vast array of restaurants, shops and one of the best beaches in southern Maine.
By Tom Schlichter • Photography by Joe Devenney
“Best beach ever!” she declared, hands held high above her head and a smile that seemed to stretch the length of Maine’s southeast coast.
I was thrilled that our late-summer visit to Ogunquit was a success, thanks in large part to the town’s famous beach. With three miles of fine tan sand (locals claim it’s white), tidal pools filled with tiny sea creatures and a gradually sloping beach that allows youngsters to play in the wash while swimmers ride the breakers beyond, this is one of the most idyllic strands in the Northeast—even if the water is a bit chilly.
“Ogunquit” translates to “beautiful place by the sea” in the language of the Abenaki, who hunted and fished the local waters until the area was settled by Europeans in 1641. The natural surroundings remain stunning, but Ogunquit—named USA Today’s “Best Coastal Town for 2016”—is also packed with restaurants, shops and other shoreside diversions. For boaters, it’s a treasure, as once you make landfall in Perkins Cove, Ogunquit’s only harbor, you can walk or take a shuttle to the village or the beach.
Pulling into Perkins
Approaching from the Atlantic, you’ll find Perkins Cove easy to locate, although tight to navigate and fairly isolated from a boater’s perspective. Whether approaching from the north or south, pick up the RW “PC” sea buoy about a mile offshore and head southwest until you spot the green and red cans leading to the well-protected harbor. The channel is narrow, but carries seven feet of water at mean low tide, as does the cove. Pay careful attention to your charts and take it slow if approaching in fog, a definite possibility on summer mornings.
There is no launch ramp on Perkins Cove, and short-term tie-up is limited to several spaces on a first-come, first-served basis along the float south of the drawbridge. Dockage is $20 per hour with a two-hour maximum. Moorings are by reservation only at $40 per night with a three-night maximum stay. Call the harbormaster well in advance to reserve a mooring.
“Weekdays offer your best chance for finding a space,” says Harbormaster Fred Mayo, who can recite his “boater’s speech” by memory. “Keep in mind that there is no fuel here, no marina, no engine service or hull repair. Maximum size for boats is 42 feet, and you’ll need to bring your own dinghy to get to shore from your mooring.”
With your boat secured, the fun begins the instant you step ashore. With nearly 60 restaurants and dozens of shops along the harbor and in nearby Ogunquit Village, you’ll find no shortage of food, gifts, souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, art, antiques and more.
On the dining front, think lobster, lobster and more lobster. Barnacle Billy’s, just steps from the dock, overlooks Perkins Cove and offers casual dining and deck seating. You can’t go wrong with the fish-and-chips, lobster roll or steamer clams. Jackie’s Too, across the street, offers a more upscale experience, generous drinks and a spectacular view of Oarweed Cove. They serve a wonderful baked haddock stuffed with lobster and crab, stuffed lobster with breadcrumbs piled high, and a poor man’s lobster if you don’t feel like cracking your own. Meanwhile, MC Perkins Cove serves refined American fare in a contemporary, intimate venue with great harbor views. For a more informal meal at a bargain price, head for the Lobster Shack, next to the drawbridge. They serve fried fish, steamed lobster and all sorts of shellfish delights to carry back to the boat or eat on the picnic tables outside. Foot Bridge Lobster is yet another option.
Even more dining options can be found in nearby Ogunquit Village, just a mile or so up the road. Caffé Prego serves excellent Italian dishes, and offers live jazz and outdoor seating. The Greenery Café does breakfast and lunch, including a range of healthy menu items. For breakfast, Bessie’s features pleasant service and all the standards at reasonable prices. Naturally, you will also find plenty of ice cream shops, bars and pizza joints in the village to keep the family happy on short notice.
Shopping & More
As with restaurants, the number of small retails stores in Ogunquit is nearly overwhelming. Virtually all are interesting and fun to poke around in, making them a perfect antidote for a rainy day. On our recent visit, we stopped at Whit’s End, which carries a vast array of Life Is Good T-shirts, hats, gift items and souvenirs. Art and Soul Gallery, an artisan gift shop featuring handmade art and jewelry, also captured our imagination.
If all that isn’t enough, Ogunquit also boasts some impressive cultural venues. For first-rate live musicals and children’s performances, try the Ogunquit Playhouse. For a dose of historic enlightenment, the Heritage Museum features exhibits on the area’s maritime past, the Artist Colony, fishing industry and architecture. Also check out the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, which features works by Benson, Hopper, Lichtenstein and other famous painters.
Lastly, no trip to this magical part of Maine would be complete without a walk along the world-famous Marginal Way. Each year, thousands of visitors follow this meandering oceanfront trail between downtown Ogunquit and Perkins Cove. The views are spectacular.
It’s also the perfect route from your vessel to the village and, of course, Kennedy Way’s favorite beach.
Ogunquit at a Glance
Dockage & Moorings
- Town of Ogunquit
The town offers short-term tie-up (two hours max) along the wharf on a first-come, first-served basis for $20 per hour. Overnight stays are possible on moorings for $40 per night, with reservations required. Maximum stay is three nights.
- World Within; (207) 646-0455
Kayak and paddleboard rentals on the peaceful Ogunquit River.
Where to Eat
- Barnacle Billy’s; (207) 646-5575
Classic and busy seafood restaurant on the harbor.
- MC Perkins Cove; (207) 646-6263
Refined American fare served in a contemporary, intimate venue with sweeping ocean views. Fresh seafood, steak and vegetarian entrees.
- Jackie’s Too; (207) 646-4444
A more upscale seafood option with spectacular views.
- Ogunquit Lobster Pound; (207) 646-2516
Venerable Maine seafood spot serving lobster, steamers, fried clams and more in the rough.
- The Lobster Shack; (207) 646-2941
Located next to the drawbridge; a mainstay for lobster, clams, chowder and more.
- CaFfé Prego; (207) 646-7734
Authentic Italian cuisine, with live jazz, outdoor seating, a coffee bar and creative cocktails.
- Greenery Café; (207) 360-0211
Breakfast and lunch menu, including a variety of healthy options.
- Angelina’s Ristorante; (207) 646-0445
Wine bar and Tuscan grille with emphasis on fresh local meats, produce and seafood. Dine inside or on the garden terrace.
- The Front Porch; (207) 646-4005
One of the more popular late-night bars in Ogunquit.
- Five-O Shore Road; (207) 646-5001
Fine dining option in the village offering a range of pasta, seafood, meats and creative appetizers. Also serves Sunday brunch.
- Barn Gallery; (207) 646-8400
Features works by local artists and artisans, mostly from Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Also offers evening workshops and seminars conducted by local and visiting artists.
- Animal Instinct; (207) 646-7728
Toy store carrying a variety of books, games, dolls, puppets, puzzles and more.
- Whit’s End; (207) 646-1454
Large selection of T-shirts, hats, home goods and other items.
- Art & Soul Gallery; (207) 646-2751
Artisan gift shop featuring handmade art and jewelry
- Spoiled Rotten; (207) 641-8477
Gourmet foods, jams and jellies, apparel, tableware, candles, gifts, books, journals and more.
Things to See & Do
- Ogunquit Playhouse; (207) 646-5511
High-quality musicals on Main Street. Features adult and youth productions.
- Heritage Museum; (207) 646-0296
Features exhibits on Ogunquit’s maritime history, its Artist Colony, local architecture and more.
- Ogunquit Museum of American Art; (207) 646-4909
The only museum in Maine devoted exclusively to American art. Features works by Thomas Hart Benson, Edward Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein and other famous artists.