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Cozy up to winter in Ogunquit, Maine

Winter street scene in Ogunquit, Maine. Ogunquit's Main Street decked out for the holidays. | Photo by Eric J. Taubert / Ogunquit Barometer.com

Ogunquit, Maine, clings to a spectacular coastline of broad beaches and rocky headlands just an hour’s drive from Boston. While it’s an extremely popular summertime destination, this winsome village shines in winter, too—especially during the annual Christmas by the Sea celebration held the second weekend in December.

Offering a Santa’s bag of activities and entertainments, the three-day festival is a treat for all ages. Throughout the holiday season, families and couples come to cozy up in a variety of lodging choices, take brisk walks by the sea, dine on local bounty—lobster!—and browse inviting shops.

Celebrate the holidays

Arrive on Friday for Christmas by the Sea weekend, when things kick off with not one, but two festive tree lightings and a holiday concert. In keeping with the season of good will, almost all of these events are free. (Events were tentatively on at press time, but things can change so it’s best to check before you go.)

Elf-themed items for sale at the Ogunquit holiday crafts fair. | Photo by Mimi Bigelow Steadman

Elf-themed items for sale at the Ogunquit holiday crafts fair. | Photo by Mimi Bigelow Steadman

On Saturday, you’ll score delightful Maine-made goodies at the arts and crafts show. Kids in tow? Be sure to include a visit and photos with Santa. Taste the Town (admission charged) offers a smorgasbord of mini treats from local restaurants, such as two-bite whoopie pies, beef sliders, and lobster bisque. The afternoon unfurls with open houses at galleries and the Ogunquit Heritage Museum. You’ll find ornament-making workshops and a story hour for kids, plus wine tastings for their elders.

The Christmas by the Sea parade in Ogunquit, Maine. | Photo by Eric J. Taubert / Ogunquit Barometer.com

The Christmas by the Sea parade in Ogunquit, Maine. | Photo by Eric J. Taubert / Ogunquit Barometer.com

It all leads up to a grand parade through town, which you can watch from the park while enjoying warm drinks and goodies. Later, join the polar-bear plunge if you’re hardy, followed by a beach bonfire and fireworks. On Sunday, another holiday market includes crafting projects for youngsters.

For more information: Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce.

Where to shop

Forget the big-box stores. Ogunquit’s personalized shops put the pleasure back into holiday shopping.

Seeking unusual accents for your home, jewelry to love, or things to make you chuckle? It’s all here at On the Main. In this beautifully curated shop, the chances are good you’ll be zooming through your gift list. 234 Main Street. 207-646-9280; onthemain.com.

At Spoiled Rotten, you’ll find signature candles in glasses bearing images of vintage Ogunquit postcards. Don’t forget to pick up a packet or two of Cracker Smack, a seasoning mix designed to toss with mini saltines (it’s great in lots of other recipes, too). 27 Beach Street. 207-641-8477; spoiledrottenogt.com.

For the perfect gifts, here’s the answer to your prayers. Tucked into a former Methodist Church, Revelations brims with kitchen accents, tableware, clothing, quilts, sweet dolls, and lots more. If you’re looking to add a special keepsake to your holiday decorations, this is the place. 59 Shore Road. 207-646-4141; revelationsgiftshop.com.

A display window of treats at the Harbor Candy Shop. | Photo by Mimi Bigelow Steadman

A display window of treats at the Harbor Candy Shop. | Photo by Mimi Bigelow Steadman

The delightfully old-fashioned Harbor Candy Shop will transport you to the sweetest times gone by. You’ll want one of everything—especially the candies made on-site in the glassed-in kitchen. 248 Main Street. 800-331-5856; harborcandy.com.

What to do

Ogunquit is perfectly sized to stroll leisurely from one destination to the next, inhaling the ocean air along the way.

The quintessential New England harbor at Perkins Cove is spanned by a diminutive arched footbridge that opens for arriving and departing lobster boats. Even though most shops and lobster eateries housed in wharf-side fish shacks close in winter, the picture-postcard setting is not to be missed. ogunquit.org/perkins-cove.

The Marginal Way stretches just over a mile from Perkins Cove to Ogunquit Beach. This mostly flat, paved walkway edges the sea, inviting brisk walks or snowshoeing. Spend a few minutes on one of 39 benches that line the pathway and soak up the seascape before you. marginalwayfund.org.

Ogunquit Beach, a 3-mile-long swath of white sand, is just right for a wintry walk on a sunny day. Go at low tide, when receding waters increase the width of the beach. ogunquit.org/our-beaches.

Where to eat

Ogunquit boasts more than 50 eateries within its 4-square-mile boundaries, and several remain open into the winter. Many have family-friendly menus and prices, while others offer elegant dining and after-dinner entertainment.

Bread and Roses’ butter puff tower | Photo by Sean Alonzo Harris / Courtesy Bread and Roses Bakery

Bread and Roses’ butter puff tower. | Photo by Sean Alonzo Harris / Courtesy Bread and Roses Bakery

At Bread and Roses Bakery, you must try a cinnamon butter puff, the lovechild of a muffin and a donut. Or some Maine blueberry-lemon cake. Or a giant chocolate-chip cookie. Or ... you get the idea. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays during COVID-19. 246 Main Street. 207-646-4227 x1; breadandrosesbakery.com.

Looking for picnic goodies or snacks to take back to your hotel room? Village Food Market has prepared foods, sandwiches, and bakery treats. 230 Main Street. 207-646-2122; villagefoodmarket.com.

It’s difficult to choose from among the inventive stone-oven pizzas at Cornerstone Artisanal Pizza and Craft Beer. If you tend toward the traditional, go for smoked pepperoni or sausage-and-mushroom. To make your taste buds really cheer, choose rosemary-scented pulled chicken with fig or scampi with lemon-garlic cream sauce. The menu also includes salads, decadent mac-and-cheese, and sandwiches. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. 228 Main Street. 207-646-4118; cornerstoneogunquit.com.

A Main Street landmark dating to 1833, The Old Village Inn offers American and Continental dining in the restaurant, plus more casual menus in an English-style pub and a lounge. Steaks, prime rib, and rack of lamb star alongside seafood options, including shrimp- and crab-stuffed haddock with lobster sauce. The inn also has seven suites on two upper floors. 250 Main Street. 207-646-7088; theoldvillageinn.net.

Mussels and chicken piccata at Jonathan’s

Mussels and chicken piccata at Jonathan’s. | Photo by Lauryn Sophia Photography

Chosen Maine Restaurateur of the Year three years ago, Jonathan West takes farm-to-table to the next level, raising many of Jonathan’s land-based ingredients on his own farm. The seafood at this large, popular restaurant is equally fresh. If you hunger for Maine’s No. 1 crustacean, tuck into a traditional boiled lobster dinner or seafood pasta with lobster, clams, and shrimp. There’s a children’s menu, too. 92 Bourne Lane. 207-646-4777; jonathansogunquit.com.

Named Best Chefs Northeast by the James Beard Foundation, Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier offer exceptional food at MC Perkins Cove that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Begin with fried artichokes in a bag or Dad’s potato chips, followed by duck confit, roasted pressed chicken with lemongrass, or an Indian-spiced whole fried trout. Then share a sticky toffee pudding with warm bourbon-caramel sauce. 111 Perkins Cove Road. 207-646-6263; markandclarkrestaurants.com.

You’ll find great food at The Front Porch Bar and Restaurant, but the piano bar is the big draw. Come ready for a boisterous evening (sans kids) and join in for lively renditions of popular show tunes and holiday favorites. 9 Shore Road. 207-646-4005; thefrontporch.com.

Where to stay

Hartwell House Inn. | Photo by Eric J. Taubert / Ogunquit Barometer.com

Hartwell House. | Photo by Eric J. Taubert / Ogunquit Barometer.com

A member of the nationwide Select Registry of boutique properties, the elegant, whimsically decorated Hartwell House Inn welcomes guests aged 21 and up in its 16 rooms, suites, and studios. Fresh-baked goods every morning and in-room Keurig coffee are included. 312 Shore Road. 207-646-7210; hartwellhouseinn.com.

Bringing the kids? The Admiral’s Inn offers well-priced family lodging. The inn is a 10-minute walk from the village center. 95 Main Street. 207-646-7093; theadmiralsinn.com.

Drop anchor at The Anchorage by the Sea, and you may never want to leave. Set beside the ocean, this modern resort’s direct access to the Marginal Way makes for a short walk to either Perkins Cove or Ogunquit Beach. A variety of rooms, cottages, and condos includes some with fireplaces. 125 Shore Road. 207-646-9384; anchoragebythesea.com.

After a day of wintry explorations, you’ll be ready to warm up in the indoor Jacuzzi, whirlpool, and heated pool at Meadowmere. Two-bedroom suites enhance the hotel’s appeal for families as well as friends traveling together. For a romantic getaway, choose a honeymoon suite with a fireplace and/or private Jacuzzi. 74 Main Street. 207-646-9661; meadowmere.com.

 

Mimi Bigelow Steadman has been returning to Ogunquit for decades. Bench No. 12 on the Marginal Way is her favorite spot to enjoy a lobster roll.

AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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