Experience one of the most beautiful and charming beach towns in the US with fewer crowds and lower prices by visiting Ogunquit, Maine, during shoulder season! I took a midweek vacation to Ogunquit during shoulder season and loved it. In this post, I share the highlights of my trip and provide tips for how to make the most of your shoulder-season stay. Includes a detailed map and tips for where to eat if you don't eat shellfish.

Ogunquit, Maine, in shoulder season

Until recently, I hadn’t been back to Ogunquit in years, but I recently had a wonderful three-night stay during shoulder season. I felt like I’d come home, even as I had that thrill of exploring something new. This post shares my favorite things that I did during my three-night stay in Ogunquit during shoulder season, as well as helpful tips for you to plan your shoulder-season trip.

My childhood beach

When I was a kid, once or twice a summer, my parents would pack a picnic and pile us into the car for a day at the ocean. The ocean meant Ogunquit, Maine. My earliest ocean memories include the old Norseman Resort and riding on the Ogunquit Trolley. And the throngs of people.

I hadn’t been back in years

In my twenties, I lived on New Hampshire’s seacoast and would often drive to Ogunquit in the shoulder and off seasons, having learned to appreciate the quieter side of this quintessential New Hampshire beach town. I moved to Massachusetts the year I turned thirty, going car-free not long after that, and I hadn’t really been back since. I’m so glad that I returned, and you’ll love Ogunquit!

Things to Do in Ogunquit Maine

Ogunquit boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the US

One of the most charming beach towns on the East Coast of the US, Ogunquit, Maine, attracts thousands of visitors every summer. Over 3 miles of the softest sandy beach, not to mention the quaint shops, seafood restaurants, and art galleries, delight visitors from all over. If Ogunquit’s glorious beach and downtown don’t charm you, then Perkins Cove, with its pedestrian drawbridge and sea shack shops, located at the end of the breathtaking Marginal Way cliff walk along the coast, most assuredly will.

Visiting Ogunquit in the summer comes with huge crowds

The only drawback to visiting glorious Ogunquit, Maine, is the summer traffic and parking gauntlet (and thousands of people). Real Simple didn’t name Ogunquit the top tourist destination of 2024 for nothing. Everyone is trying to get a bit of that Maine coast life.

Ogunquit in shoulder season is idyllic

This makes visiting Ogunquit in shoulder season absolutely ideal. I took a midweek vacation to Ogunquit in late September, and I’m thinking that this must become an annual tradition.

Quiet beaches, barely any lines, and still-sunny warm days made for exploring, shoulder season in Ogunquit is a idyllic.

About Ogunquit

When is shoulder season in Ogunquit?

Shoulder season in Ogunquit, when you will still have generally nice (if not always perfect for swimming) weather, but fewer crowds and lower prices is generally May and September, though you will find things are quieter before US schools let out at the end of June and go back toward the end of August. Ogunquit is a summer town, and the summer lasts roughly from Memorial Day at the end of May to Labor Day at the beginning of September, with July and August being peak months. While I personally love a New England beach in winter, you will find a very quiet town in the winter months.

9 wonderful things to do in Ogunquit, Maine during shoulder season

Without further ado, here are 9 wonderful things to do in Ogunquit during shoulder season! I’d love to hear your suggestions, too! Leave them in the comments below.

1. Cross the footbridge onto Footbridge Beach

As I gingerly made my way over the sandy eponymous footbridge leading to Footbridge Beach in Ogunquit, Maine, stepping on the little risers like I’d learned on the Stari Most in Mostar, I felt a both a sense of disconnect over just how long it had been since I’d walked a New England sandy beach, and deep memory for it.

Being back here felt like coming home

The sound of the surf just beyond the steep bridge and the softness of the sand making its way into my sandals as I ventured toward the beach that formed my earliest definition of “ocean,” felt like coming home. I reached the top of the bridge and just stopped and stared at the endless Atlantic in front of me. I took a deep breath and felt my entire body take in the ocean air. It felt so good to return.

Don’t miss Footbridge Beach—especially at sunrise

Footbridge Beach is a section of Ogunquit about a mile from the Main Beach. You cross the Ogunquit River and Isabel Lewando Estuary on the first footbridge and then another steep footbridge through the dunes and onto the beach. Catching the sunrise and moonrise at the top of the footbridge . . . chef’s kiss. While in the evenings, I wished that my friend’s timeshare was a bit closer to the action, the proximity to Footbridge Beach could not be beat.

Walk to Main Beach

From Footbridge beach, you can walk toward the Main Beach (it’s just under a mile) and then to downtown Ogunquit (head right, away from the nearby houses), or head left and walk toward Moody Beach in Moody, Maine. There’s a metered lot (credit cards accepted) and a handful of 30-minute parking spots just outside the entrance of the main parking lot.

2. Have a drink at the Front Porch

Miss the Front Porch, and I fear that you may miss Ogunquit. Follow the rainbow crosswalk to the town’s Front Porch and have yourself a cocktail.

Join in the singalong

Upstairs, the Front Porch hosts regular singalongs, and the downstairs bar draws a crowd. The Front Porch also serves food— as I’m seafood allergic, and the menu was mostly shellfish, I stuck with a roasted beet salad (very good)—but it’s the drinks and lively atmosphere that will have you coming back. I had a lot of fun chatting with a French Canadian biker couple about what brought us to Ogunquit.

Do note that the Front Porch serves a very generous pour, so keep that in mind for getting back to your lodging. I was grateful for the Uber, even after one (giant) drink.

3. Walk Marginal Way

I loved walking the Marginal Way so much that I did it twice. This unique, and absolutely breathtaking 1.25 mile/ 2 kilometer walk along the cliffs leading to Perkins Cove, is one of the finest coastal walks I’ve ever taken. You can thank Josiah Chase Jr. for this wonderful gift, as the conservationist purchased a 20-acre strip of land and gifted it to the town of Ogunquit. Since this gift, the path along Marginal Way has been paved (it’s an easy walk, speckled with benches for taking in the views).

A little lighthouse, too

Along the way, you’ll pass the Lobster Point Lighthouse, dating back to 1948 (it was updated a couple of times to make it look a bit more like a traditional lighthouse), and more stunning rocky vistas than you can shake a stick at. If you’re lucky, you just might see a harbor seal (alas, I did not).

4. Wander darling Perkins Cove

Close your eyes and imagine a cute New England fishing village, and I all but guarantee you that you’ve pictured darling Perkins Cove. With its picturesque cove filled with boats and restaurants/ice cream stands with names like Barnacle Billy’s, it just doesn’t get cuter than this. While the fishing shacks have long given over to restaurants and art galleries, you still get a little taste of charming coastal Maine here.

Pedestrian footbridge

While you’re here, be sure to check out the wooden, double-leaf draw footbridge, the only remaining one in the United States. The bridge dates back to the 1940s, and it’s become a landmark in its own right.

NOTE: The bridge has some structural challenges, and it will be replaced with a replica bridge in the coming years. As of this writing, the project is due to start in spring 2024 and will run through 2026.

Salty sweets

If you have a salty/sweet tooth, head to Perkins Cove Candies, for homemade saltwater taffy and sea-salt caramels made with Maine sea salt (hot tip: they also have dark chocolate covered potato chips with the aforementioned Maine sea salt—they are delicious).

5. Take a boat ride to Nubble Lighthouse

While you’re in Perkins Cove, make sure to take a cruise to the Nubble Point Lighthouse in York with Finestkind. Nubble Point Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world, and you’ll soon find out why. The approximately 1.5-hour trip takes you along Maine’s rocky coast to the lighthouse, which you’ll see from angles not visible on land.

Tons of Maine facts and gorgeous scenery

The narrated tour will give you more Maine facts than you ever thought you’d need (Maine’s coastline started forming 430 million years ago!) and the full bar onboard will leave you happy (unless you think you might get seasick—honestly, I just had a seltzer, even though I’m usually fine on the water). The scenery is just stunning.

This was a highlight of my trip. To make it one of yours, I would confirm that your dates are available and make a reservation. This is a popular trip.

6. Catch a movie (and have dinner and drinks) at the Leavitt Theatre

While walking through town the night before, I noticed that the Leavitt Theatre featured free movie evenings and that Point Break, a personal guilty pleasure favorite of mine starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, would show at 9:00 (21:00). Well, Dear Reader, I added that one to my calendar. I had heard of the renovated 1925 theatre and restaurant, but I wasn’t sure if it would work out. I’m so glad it did!

Comfy seating in the balcony

I sat up in the lounge area in the balcony for the movie and settled into a comfy seat (the original theatre seats are gorgeous, but the lounge chairs are far more comfy). The Levitt Theatre boasts a full restaurant and cocktail menu (the cocktail bar downstairs is on my “next time” list). In addition to movies, there’s loads of events there, too. If at all possible, try to catch a screening or a show here. This place is special.

7. Get a soft-serve and watch the world go by from the Adirondack chairs at the Main Beach

Ogunquit’s Main Beach was my first ocean beach. Walking across the bridge and past the Norseman hotel is what I flash to when I think of going to the beach. I also remember getting soft-serve ice cream here, and a dish from the Dairy King and a seat in the Adirondack chairs at the Main Beach brings me back. In shoulder season, you likely won’t have to fight for a chair.

If perchance the chairs are taken, a walk along the beach with your ice cream will also hit the spot. There’s better ice cream in Ogunquit, but I love me a soft-serve at the beach. Get the sprinkles.

8. Morning muffins and coffee at the Greenery Bakery & Market

All those early morning walks on the beach work up an appetite. You won’t be alone in looking for breakfast, and Ogunquit has more breakfast places than I’ve seen anywhere in a long time. If I’m going to spend a day exploring, I don’t generally want a huge breakfast (I usually feel like a nap after those), but the muffins and coffee at the Greenery Bakery & Market in downtown Ogunquit hit the spot.

Housed in an adorable little building next to the Levitt Theatre, the Greenery has a host of glorious homemade muffins, as well as breakfast sandwiches (if you’re looking for something more substantial, they have a restaurant a bit further up the road toward Moody).

9. Stroll downtown Ogunquit

Ogunquit’s downtown will charm you, and the cute little shops and galleries delight. You really can’t go wrong, as there’s something for most at these quintessential beach establishments. An iced coffee at OGT Beanery is a nice way to refuel.

For my next visit to Ogunquit

There were a few things that I wish that I’d had time to do, but they will have to wait until my next trip to Ogunquit.

  • Ogunquit Museum of American Art. I had such stunning weather for my minibreak that I couldn’t bear the thought of spending daylight hours inside, so I didn’t. However, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art almost makes me wish that it had sprinkled a bit while I was there. Ogunquit inspires and welcomes artists, and this beautiful seaside museum is number one on my list of regrets.
  • Beach Plum Farm. I did most of my walking along the shore while in Ogunquit, but the trails at Beach Plum Farm are on my list of places to visit on a return trip.
  • Ogunquit Playhouse. One of these days, I’m going to catch a show at the Ogunquit Playhouse, a theater in operation since the 1930s in an old barn that’s entertained people for generations. It just wasn’t in the cards this time, but another.
  • Ogunquit Public Library. You’d be hard pressed to find a more darling library than Ogunquit’s Memorial Library. I drove past it a couple of times and kept meaning to go check it out, but, alas. Next time.

Plan your shoulder-season trip to Ogunquit, Maine!

I loved my shoulder-season getaway to Ogunquit, and I highly recommend it. However, given that it’s not the high season, there are considerations to make. Here I share pros and cons of a shoulder-season trip, as well as suggestions for packing. Since Ogunquit has such a shellfish focused restaurant scene, I’ve also shared my experience as someone with a shellfish allergy*.

Pros and cons of a shoulder-season trip to Ogunquit

Pros

  • Fewer crowds. Quieter early morning walks on the beach, less competition for parking, tables, and boat trips.
  • Weather more amenable for exploring. While Ogunquit is in Northern New England, it still gets beastly hot in the summer, and the sun is punishing. September’s cooler days are perfect for wandering though the shops and cafés and walking the Marginal Way.
  • (Slightly) cheaper lodging. While Ogunquit is never really a bargain, prices begin to drop after Labor Day.

Cons

  • You probably won’t go swimming. The later into September you get, the less likely you are to get a proper beach day. However, if you do luck out and get one, you’ll enjoy water warmer than it’s been all year (OK, slightly less frigid, but you know what I mean).
  • Not everything is open. While most businesses are still open, they’ve likely curtailed their hours and/or days of operation. Hours are also really subject to change during this time, so if there’s something you really want to do, make sure to confirm times.

What to bring

  • Layers are your friend for this type of travel. Those sunrise walks on the beach are going to be brisk, especially, especially as you enter autumn. Days can still get very warm, and you’ll want something for the wind if you take the boat ride.
  • Still bring your bathing suit. While you’re unlikely to get a proper beach day, pack your bathing suit—if you are so lucky, the water is going to be warmer than it’s been all year.
  • Make sure to wear sunscreen. While the rays are less punishing than in high summer, you still can get a sunburn pretty easily along the coast.
  • Wear shoes made for walking, including on sand. Ogunquit is a walker’s paradise, and, if you’re like me, you’re going to put in way more steps than a regular day. Be kind to your tootsies.

Credit cards/cash

While most businesses and municipal parking lots accept credit cards, I spent more cash in Ogunquit than I had in ages. Private lots are often cash only, and little spots might take only cash.

Getting to Ogunquit and getting around

Ogunquit is an easy day trip from Boston, Portland, or Central/Southern New Hampshire. However, it’s so beautiful, and there’s so much to do, that I’d try to stay overnight at least a night if you can.

You really need a car to get to Ogunquit

To get to Ogunquit, you should really have a car. While the Downeaster Amtrak stops in Wells, it runs infrequently, and you would need to get a taxi or Uber to get into town.

A walkable destination—if you’re staying in town

The good news is that once you’re in Ogunquit, you really won’t need your car. Ogunquit is a tiny town, and it’s so very walkable, with plenty of crosswalks. If you’re staying right in town, leave your car parked at your hotel and stroll.

Tip: Walk the Marginal Way to get to Perkins Cove faster than the main road.

Parking

If you’re staying outside of the main drag and don’t want to use all your walking energy to get into town, you’ll either need to pay to park (the Worster lot is $10/day, cash only, in shoulder season and closes at 8), or take an Uber.

The good news about parking is that you might actually be able to find it (try saying that in the summer).

Uber

Uber has started operating in Ogunquit as of 2023, but I found it to be sporadic. As my trip went on, the Ubers got a lot harder to hail. I drove toward the end of my stay.

What about the Ogunquit Trolley?

A famous trolley rolls through Ogunquit in the summer months—I have childhood memories of riding it—but it only operates during the season, ending with Labor Day. You’ll probably see it around, but it’s almost certainly a charter.

Accessibility

Ogunquit’s Main Beach (Beach Street) has a ramp, and beach wheelchairs are available during summer months, but may not be during shoulder season. Not all businesses and restaurants are accessible. Marginal Way’s path is generally accessible. Check with individual hotels about their accessibility.

Public parking in Ogunquit has disabled parking for vehicles with appropriate permits (temporary or permanent).

Solo travel experience in Ogunquit

If you’re like me, you’re going to love visiting Ogunquit as a solo traveler. Walking on the beach is a perfect solo activity, as is wandering at your leisure. Snap all the photos you’d like and stop to pick up seashells and seaglass.

Restaurants and bars are used to solo travelers, and you should feel most welcome here.

Safety

Ogunquit, along with the rest of Maine, is a safe destination overall, with a crime rate that’s one of the lowest in the US, even after the mass shooting in Lewiston in 2023.

I was out well after the town closed one night after the movie, and it was fine. While I always think it’s wise to exercise caution late at night for solo travelers (I definitely kept of the beach), and it’s good to note that a major road goes through the main town, nothing about Ogunquit gives me pause.

Eating in Ogunquit if you don’t eat shellfish

If you can and want to eat shellfish, you have come to the right place. Ogunquit is filled with it. If you’re like me and can’t eat it, well . . . I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit rough. I had to read a lot of menus, and there were a number of lovely places that I couldn’t eat at. I was bummed. However, I did find some good eats.

Restaurants I ate at with my shellfish allergy

  • Cornerstone Artisanal Pizza has good pizza by the slice, and you can get sandwiches for lunch at Caffé Prego (and a gelato). I was able to inform both locations about my allergy, and they easily accommodated it.
  • For a proper dinner out, I went to Northern Union, which, while it had seafood on the menu, didn’t focus on it, and they easily accommodated my allergy. I loved it. 
  • Take advantage of Ogunquit being a breakfast town and eat well in the morning. If you’re feeling like a little drive, take my friend Colleen’s suggestion (she was my guide for Portland’s lighthouses) and head out to Congdon’s Doughnuts. They have some of the best traditional donuts I have ever tasted (they also have food trucks at night in the summer; confirm dates when traveling during shoulder season).
  • The Village Food Market has some takeout options as well as groceries. I had a kitchen, so I got an assortment of goodies and ate a few meals back at my lodging.

IMPORTANT NOTE: *Consult your doctor about food allergies

I am not a doctor, and you should consult with your doctor before eating anywhere if you have food allergies. What worked for me may not work for you. 

Also note that menus can and do change, so it’s always a good idea to check menus before deciding to eat somewhere and communicate with your server.

Map

Here’s a map to the places I mentioned in the post!

Get Directions

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