Marginal Way, Ogunquit


My mom always took us sunbathing and swimming at the beach, but it was my father who introduced me to the ocean.

Divorced from my mom, he would pick me up on an occasional Sunday morning and drive us south, to Kennebunkport and Ogunquit. I’d sit on a rolled up towel on the leather seat of his Cadillac and act like a big girl although I was as young as five.

When I remember our times together, there is always the distinctive smell of Parliaments in a blue, white and gold crush proof box and the butane of a silver lighter. I loved those smells. It was the mid-1960’s after all, when we were not as enlightened to the damage of smoking around children.

My father would take me to breakfast in some of the beautiful hotels in Kennebunk and Ogunquit with ocean views – The Shawmut Inn, The Colony. After eating my scrambled eggs with ketchup, I would run around on the grounds while he sat on the deck or in a lounge chair facing the ocean, watching me.

My father brought me to Marginal Way in Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, a meandering seaside path to walk right along the ocean’s edge.

We strolled leisurely; my father was a gentleman after all…and much older than me, more like a grandfather than a father. We’d pause to sit on a bench and he’d tell me about the sea – when he owned the island, when he had the boat, when he pulled lobster traps.

These resort towns in York County became our shared destinations.

I immediately fell in love with these small towns and the views. I’m reminded of him whenever I visit.

He’d say, “Well…we don’t have to own it. But we can go in and touch the drapes now, can’t we?”

It was that ideology which would color my entire life.

Because of him, I saw and grew to love the most beautiful places in nature in Maine – the ocean, the mountains, the picturesque vistas, the finest hotels and restaurants. He taught me that I could enjoy all of this beauty regardless of who I was or how much money I had. Much of the true beauty of Maine is freely available to all of us.

I, in turn, introduced my husband to these quaint towns and we visit often….but mostly in winter.

The Marginal Way Ocean Walk is one of the most popular visitor attractions in southern Maine. In summer, you can barely drive your car into Perkins Cove to get to the footpath. The tiny, curved streets become overrun with tourists and parking is all but impossible.

They come for the Marginal Way walk, to eat at Barnacle Billy’s or Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier’s M. C. Perkins Cove or to sunbathe on three miles of white sand at Ogunquit Beach. They come for the adorable shops, the antiques, and the cafés.

They dress up and attend the musicals and plays at the grand old Ogunquit Playhouse. Goldie Hawn acted in Butterflies are Free when my father took me to my first play.

Ogunquit is wonderfully fun in summer but if you have an aversion to crowds, visit during other seasons. It is magical all times of the year.

In winter….we can easily park at the head of the path and enjoy the rugged coastline views with plenty of room to spare on the paved walkway. The rocks can sometimes be coated in thick ice, like the frozen tundra. The mansions that line the path are often closed up, blinds drawn, emptied of residents this time of year.

Ogunquit means beautiful place by the sea….and it is. The Atlantic Ocean undulates and stretches in front of you for as far as you can look. At one time, this path was an old Indian trail. Now it’s maintained and paved. You can venture down the cliffs on private spots of sand when the tide is out or carefully step part way out on the jagged rocks beyond the path.

The entire walk is about a mile, fairly easy, with a slight incline. Even just walking a few hundred feet up the walkway is worth it so that you can see the natural view away from the village of boutiques and restaurants.

Walking Marginal Way and meandering around Perkins Cove in Ogunquit in winter…chilly, invigorating, and beautiful.