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 over 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 windswept white sand, ending at the granite seascape that is Perkins Cove.
This gorgeous hunk of seashore offers boating, beaches and biking, but plain old walking rules. Our favorite morning stroll starts at fragrant Calluna flowershop, passes the charming 1897 fieldstone library, and concludes with the cliff walk along Marginal Way, a meandering mile of breathtaking ocean views best inhaled from weatherbeaten benches.
If you don’t feel like walking, Hut 166 rents motor scooters, bicycles and surfboards. Although tempted by the “Scooter Date” deal, 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.
One of the Cove’s newest attractions is MC Perkins, the informal cousin of award-winning Arrows Restaurant. 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 takes us to Five-O where the bartender zests lemons into 18-inch twists for martinis. They arrive draped over the glass like contemporary sculpture. Across the street at The Front Porch, the lighthearted summer vibe continues as patrons sing show tunes around the piano — yes, show tunes. We belt out “The Rain In Spain” with the happy crowd, and hum “It Had To Be You” all the way back to our hotel.
We have 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 are included. Just seconds from Marginal Way and Perkins Cove, the Blue Shutters is unpretentiously homey, like my Aunt Shirley’s, with friendly creaks, quirks and 1960s ambience.
The Ogunquit Museum of American Art is my favorite small museum in Maine. Ernest Hemingway’s portrait by founder Henry Strater feels like an old friend. The museum’s landscaped sculpture garden and reflecting pool offer beautiful views of Narrow Cove.
Inspiring Beach Plum Farm is 22 acres of saltwater farm on Route 1. Lush gardens, fields and trails stretch down to the river. 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.
To relax and recharge, we head to Katie’s Café for garlicky artichoke dip followed by crab cakes with mango salsa. Chef Grant refreshes us with arugula and sorrel salad, woos us with creamy soft-shell crab, and closes the deal with decadent lobster pasta. He has us in a swoon by dessert, a decadent trifecta of chocolate three-ways.
Comfort is the word at the posh 1889 Nellie Littlefield House, an elegant Victorian grand dame in the center of town. Our room has the round porch on the front. We share a bottle of bubbly under the purple night sky. Heaven. “Breakfast” at Nellie’s is a relaxed, upscale brunch —outstanding.
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. •