A jewel along the southern Maine coast, the town of Ogunquit is a delight to visit with children. The Algonquin Indians named it Ogunquit, or "beautiful place by the sea" for good reason. With a stunning coastal walk, wonderful beaches, handmade saltwater taffy and ice cream in beloved community shops, lobstering cruises, and plenty of unpretentious and wholesome fun, this is the perfect family getaway. You'll find small seaside shops and art-related attractions like galleries, a historic theater playhouse, and an American art museum. Plus there are fine restaurants and hotels to explore in this small resort town in the Pine Tree State.
One of the most picturesque coastal walks in New England, the 1.25 mile Marginal Way, is a seaside path that stretches along the granite shoreline of Ogunquit. It's paved, mostly flat, and stroller-friendly (although skateboards, bikes, and rollerblades are banned). This walk offers more breathtaking vistas than any other trail you’ll find on the southern Maine coast, and there are almost 40 benches, coves, and (at low tide) tiny beaches along the way where you can stop to admire the view or explore. The path begins in downtown Ogunquit and ends at the lively community Perkins Cove.
The Ogunquit Playhouse is one of the last remaining New England summer stock theaters still producing live musical theater, offering Broadway shows aimed at adults and family fare through its impressive children's theater. The endeavor that has earned recognition throughout the country and internationally first started in 1933 out of a renovated garage in the town square. The historic building has been named a structure of National Significance on the National Register of Historic Places.
The town has several year-round beaches to enjoy, but check the tide charts before you head out. Beachgoers plan their day by the tides in Ogunquit, which can rise and fall 9 feet on average in a single day. At high tide, Ogunquit Beach can look like no more than a picturesque spit of rocks jutting into the sea. But come low tide, an enormous stretch of clean, hard-packed sand appears and families take to one of the beaches with their towels, umbrellas, boogie boards, and sand toys.
The most popular Main Beach is within walking distance to many town accommodations and has restaurants and beach equipment rentals. On the river-side of Main Beach, families have fun with stand-up paddleboards and inner tubes in the slightly warmer water.
Sailing out of Perkins Cove, Finestkind Scenic Cruises offers several different boat excursions, from breakfast cruises to cocktail cruises to lighthouse cruises. But the most fun for kids is the 50-minute lobstering trip, where you get to watch as experts haul in their lobster pots. You'll learn quite a bit about lobster, including facts such as that the creatures are nearly blind and may have cannibalistic tendencies, but they are not scavengers.
Perched on a bluff overlooking Perkins Cove, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art houses a permanent collection of over 3,000 modern art pieces. Spend some time relaxing in the 3-acre sculpture garden by the sea, and check out their events such as the Garden Party benefit, and Totally Tuesday Tours and Totally Tuesday Talks in the summer. The museum is open from the start of May through the end of October.
Kayaking is a staple of a Maine summer vacation and something fun to experience with kids. World Within Kayak Rentals has an ideal location in the heart of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge on the Ogunquit/Wells border. You'll paddle at high tide (the only time the business is open, so check the tide chart) on the safe, quiet and beautiful Ogunquit River and its maze-like estuaries that lead through Ogunquit down to the Atlantic Ocean.
You can get delicious, homemade saltwater taffy in a dozen flavors at Perkins Cove Candies, an adorable shop that started in a renovated lobster shack in 1980 before moving to its current location. The business also makes to-die-for salted caramels, gourmet chocolates, and penny candy to delight kids of all ages.
Debating the best lobster roll in any given town is a serious sport in Maine, but the gourmet nod goes to M.C. Perkins Cove, where James Beard award-winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier serve their signature lobster roll dressed in housemade mayo, fresh lemon juice, butter, kosher salt, and a sprinkling of freshly chopped tarragon, chervil, chives, and parsley. The restaurant is open daily.
If your children want to learn to catch a wave, Liquid Dreams Surf Shop offers three- and five-day camps for kids age 5 and up that teach the fundamentals of surfing and paddleboarding. If you're short on time, you can also opt for a private lesson or two. The business also offers women's evening surfing lessons, paddleboarding lessons for all ages, and other options.
Scream for Ice Cream
Every great beach town needs a highly-rated ice cream shop—especially for warmer summer days—and tiny Sweet Pea's Ice Cream is the real deal in Ogunquit for kids and adults alike. Choose among numerous flavors of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and non-dairy sorbet. Or you may want to buy a hot coffee for sipping as you stroll through the town.