A Family Weekend in Ogunquit and Southern Maine
This summer I was invited to test drive the brand new 2014 Subaru Forester. Since i don't normally have a car, I used it as an opportunity to take a trip up to New England. We went to Brattleboro, VT, Migis Lodge on Lake Sebago and finally to Ogunquit, Maine. I don't drive that often, so the advanced safety features of the new Forester were very reassuring. I especially get into issues in parking lots since I'm always driving a car I'm not used to. The Subaru Forester makes it virtually impossible to bump into something with, not only rear view video on your dashboard, but it will actually brake the car if you get too close. With my transportation nicely taken care of, we were safely on our way to Maine.
I hadn't been to Southern Maine very much so I was excited to find out what Ogunquit and the area had in store, whether it would be warm enough to swim in the ocean, and what there was to do with kids. I feel like we hit on some real gems and had a great little vacation in Ogunquit, Maine.
There are a few things that make Ogunquit particularly suited for families. One is the beach which is on a sand bar that juts out from town with a few shops and snack stands for any last minute needs or hunger pangs. On the ocean side children can play in the waves under the watchful gaze of lifeguards. On the other side of the beach is calmer water at the mouth of the estuary which is great for younger children to play, swim, go crabbing and can be a little more sheltered from the wind if it's overcast and a bit chilly (this is Maine, after all).
Most of the hotels in Ogunquit, Maine are just a short walk to the beach, but to make it even easier for families to get around town, there is a network of trolley buses that go to all the hotels, shops, restaurants, the beach and even to other towns like Kennebunkport. Ogunquit is famous for the Marginal Way, a shoreside path that leads out of town to a little lighthouse and great views. The mile-long path is paved and wide enough for strollers and there are markers along the route to teach you about the native plants and animals. You can also download a kid's guide to the Marginal Way with information and activities. The Marginal Way goes along the rocky coast and there are one or two spots that create nice little rock pool beaches when the tide is right. We found a fun spot to swim and scramble on the rocks just outside of town. I don't know why I prefer these little beaches sometimes. Maybe it's the fact that you have them relatively to yourself, or the sense of adventure of stumbling on them or the dramatic background of the rocks, but that little rock pool beach in Ogunquit was definitely a highlight. Of course, there are no lifeguards at this beach so swimming is at your own risk.
Since the beach weather in Maine is not all that reliable, you'll want to have at least one or two other things to do in your back pocket. Orchard Beach has loads of things to do including an amusement park and boardwalk. Just south of Ogunquit there's a zoo and amusement park. But one of my favorite things to do when I get the chance is kayaking in tidal estuaries. It's great with kids because the waters are calm and shallow and you can see all kinds of wildlife in and out of the water. There are a few options for kayaking in Southern Maine. Right in Ogunquit World Within Kayak Rentals will set you up, but only during high tide, so you have to plan ahead a little. Kayak Excursions offer guided tours or will deliver kayaks rentals to you anywhere from Portland to York. They are happy to recommend the best options for outings with kids. Since I hadn't planned ahead, the easiest option for us was to rent from Coastal Maine Kayak which is right in Kennebunkport and also rents bicycles. We had a good time paddling around the harbor, but it definitely wasn't as pretty as going up the estuaries.
If you're anything like me, where you eat is as important as what you do while on vacation. In Southern Maine that means finding the best seafood shacks and restaurants. Ogunquit has so many I couldn't start to scratch the surface in our two day trip, but after a mediocre meal at Billy's Chowder House in Wells, we enjoyed great fresh seafood at Jonathan's. The family friendly restaurant feels like a night out for parents with a pretty garden view dining room with live music many nights of the week. There's a 600 gallon fish tank to amuse kids for a while, and kids eat free from the children's menu from 4:30-6pm. My best foodie find, however, was driving up to The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport for their lobster roll and fried clams. The award-winning lobster roll is out of this world and should not be missed. There's no seating except some benches, but eating on the weather worn crates and buying hand-squeezed lemonade from the stand is all part of the experience.
Ogunquit has lots of hotels right off the beach. Only a few of them have direct beach access, but most are just a short walk to the beach. We were invited to stay at the Colonial Inn which has recently been remodeled. It was very comfortable, offered a free breakfast and had a small swimming pool. The location was great, right by the entrance to the Marginal Way and just a few blocks from the beach, shops and restaurants.
My only regret about our stay in Ogunquit is that it wasn't longer because there was lots more things to do with kids in Southern Maine that we didn't get to try. Something to look forward to for next time.
Disclosure: I was provided free accommodation at the Colonial Inn, dinner at Jonathan's Restaurant and a Subaru Forester for the purposes of review on this trip. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.