I’ve always loved the New England shore in the summer--Cape Cod (especially P-Town), Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard…all of it really. But I had never spent any time on the Maine coast, until recently, while appearing in the Tony Award-winning musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone" at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit. During the run of the show, I was able to really get to know this former artists’ colony and a bit of the state’s southern coast.
The theater is one of the anchors of this seaside resort town (which is busy, but in a delightful way, in summer). Now in its 78th season, it has a storied history with the likes of Bette Davis and Betty White (my favorite Betty’s) having performed on the stage. The rest of the summer (and into the fall) shows include "The Sound of Music," "Sunset Boulevard," "Spamalot." and "Chicago." Hot Broadway-caliber performances even if I’m not in them. For more details and ticket information, visit the site.
Besides the theater, Ogunquit is well known for its beach, which is unusual on the rocky Maine coast—it’s flat and expansive and backed by pristine dunes. The water is as clear as a mountain stream and, unfortunately, just as cold or, um…refreshing as the locals like to call it.
Just south of the village, Perkins Cove, which you reach by following mile-long Marginal Way (a footpath that leads from the center of town) is about the cutest, most charming seaside cove I have EVER seen and trust me…I get around. (FYI, dear reader, my editor here HATES the cliché word “charming”, but there’s absolutely no other word that defines it as well).
While in town, I frequented several restaurants, but three became my favorites. I liked Barnacle Billy’s, which is a classic Maine lobster joint (pull a number and wait for your name to be called). Its setting, right on Perkins Cove, is sublime. I also loved Five-0 Shore Road, which has high standards for creative cuisine that’s sustainable. And for lobster and more lobster, the Cape Neddick Lobster Pound on the water in nearby Cape Neddick is worth the 15-minute drive. The lobster here is to dye your hair for.
I also checked out the shopping scene in the area. I adore antiques, but found many shops leaned towards selling tchotchkes rather than real treasures. But…I did manage to find some top antiques stores in town and to the north in nearby Wells. Wells Union Antiques (1755 Post Road) is a charming (there’s that word again!) collection of stores and dealers, showcasing everything from American country to formal English pieces. Two standouts are Peggy Carboni Antiques and Art Smith (Also known as Smith Zukas). Their pieces are decorator quality, refined, fun, interesting and extremely tasteful yet still affordable. I bought an amazing marble bust there of a Roman dude. In York, Withington and Company Antiques (611 US Route 1) is another cooperative type set up with lots of beautiful furniture and garden statuary. Their stock has a very upscale European flair, a surprising discovery for coastal Maine.
Last but certainly not least, check out TJ's At the Sign of the Goose
(1287 US 1) in Cape Neddick. With its whimsical garden statuary and handsome copper topped bird houses of gargantuan scale, you can’t miss it when traveling on Route 1. Spend some time wandering the garden paths and you’ll make some fabulously worthwhile discoveries: stone, copper and glass garden accents of the highest caliber (we're not talking Garden Gnomes or Pink Flamingos here people!). Inside the small buildings, there are all sorts of interesting finds, some of which you’d expect to find in Palm Beach or Greenwich, Connecticut. Again another delightful surprise.
Being in this part of the world, how could I not scoot up the coast to Freeport, home of LL Bean, just north of Portland. It’s a masssive campus of stores with clothing, food, housewares and of course the outdoor adventure gear they are famous for. A little annotation: I think their classic LL BEAN Tote bags make the absolute best beach bags ever. I keep a couple in the back of my car at all times stocked with sunscreen, magazines and a beach towel. You never know when the perfect beach may beckon!
When there, be sure to go to (the grand-daughter of the founder) takeout window. In the land of lobster rolls, Linda’s is truly to write all my fabulous friends about. It has a very light coating of mayo which is hardly noticeable, some fresh spices and is served on the yummiest buttered and grilled frankfurter roll. Served with chips and a pickle of course.
Go to Maine! Take it from Carson, you’ll love it.