By Elizabeth Margolis-Pineo © Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
Travel fuels romance, it’s true. But as Maine “recession busters,” we decided to explore the romantic possibilities closer to home this year.
Artists discovered Ogunquit’s rugged cliffs and sandy beaches a century ago. Now a seaside mecca of fine dining, elegant resorts and Down East charm, this cliffside paradise stretches from the tidal Ogunquit River along three miles of wind-swept white sand, ending at the granite seascape of Perkins Cove.
One of the Cove’s newest attractions is MC Perkins, the informal cousin of award-winning Arrows. Abundantly romantic, MC has the best views in the state. Don’t miss the chef’s five-star take on fish and chips, with three simple sauces and fennel salad — the best we’ve tasted anywhere.
Barhopping along Shore Road took us to Five-O where the bartender zested lemons into 18-inch twists for martinis, draped over the glass like contemporary sculpture. Across the street at The Front Porch, the lighthearted summer vibe continued as patrons sang show tunes around the piano — yes, show tunes. We belted out “The Rain In Spain” with the happy crowd, and hummed “It Had To Be You” all the way back to our hotel.
We had a great night’s sleep at the Blue Shutters, an old-fashioned B&B with six rooms and several small suites. Although a bit short on amenities, prices are reasonable, with ocean views and breakfast included. Seconds from Marginal Way and Perkins Cove, it’s unpretentiously homey, like my aunt Shirley’s, with friendly creaks, quirks and 1960s ambience.
This gorgeous hunk of seashore offers boating, beaches and biking, but plain old walking rules. Our favorite morning stroll started at fragrant Calluna flowershop, passed the charming 1897 fieldstone library, and concluded with the glorious cliff walk of Marginal Way, a meandering mile-long gem of breathtaking ocean views easily admired from benches and sandy nooks.
If you don’t feel like walking, Hut 166 rents motor scooters, bicycles and surfboards. Although tempted by the “Scooter Date,” we chose a pair of sturdy bikes and pedaled to Ogunquit beach, where seagulls circled, families gathered and children played. Waves rose, sparkled and crashed in the early summer sun.
The Ogunquit Museum of American Art is my favorite small museum in Maine. Ernest Hemingway’s portrait by founder Henry Strater is always my first stop – an old friend. The museum’s landscaped sculpture garden, reflecting pool and beautiful views of Narrow Cove.
Our last stop was Beach Plum Farm, 22 inspiring acres of saltwater farm on Route 1. Lush gardens, fields and trails stretch down to the river, and visitors are encouraged to wander and admire. Don’t miss the tiny Roby Littlefield museum — he’s credited with saving Ogunquit Beach from becoming an amusement park…but that’s another story.
Eager to relax and recharge, we headed to Katie’s Café for garlicky artichoke dip followed by crab cakes with mango salsa. Chef Grant refreshed us with arugula and sorrel salad, wooed us with creamy soft-shell crab, and closed the deal with decadent lobster pasta. He had us in a swoon by dessert, a decadent chocolate tri-fecta.
Comfort is the word at the posh 1889 Nellie Littlefield House, an elegant Victorian grand dame in the center of town. Our room had a round porch where we shared a bottle of bubbly under the purple night sky. Breakfast was more like a relaxed, upscale brunch —outstanding. In a word, Nellie’s is heaven.
Looking for a romantic vacation, day trip or 24-hour retreat? With art and antiques, salt breezes and sunsets, sumptuous dining and intimate B&Bs, Ogunquit has it all. •