Snacking on lobster rolls at weathered seafood shanties in Perkins Cove. Walking arm-in-arm, feeling the ocean gusts along the cliffside Marginal Way. Teasing the waves on the three-mile stretch of white-sand beach below. Sounds amazing, doesn't it? Everyone else thinks so, too, and that's why prices and crowds in Ogunquit, Maine, rise with the summer heat. Instead of fighting for parking and a tiny patch of sand, come in late May or early June, when you can have more of this charming seaside village to yourself and pay less than $500.
The air and ocean temperatures might not be super warm this time of year, but the weather is certainly quite pleasant, as it can hit 70 degrees or more. More importantly, the flight options are strong and the hotel prices can't be beat. Plus, whoever said lobster is just for hot summer days?
Getting to Ogunquit, Maine
Visitors to Ogunquit have the benefit of three airports to choose from—Boston (90 minutes); Manchester, New Hampshire (70 minutes); or Portland, Maine (50 minutes)—and thus more opportunities to find a good price. While it's the furthest away, I assumed Boston would have the best flight options since it's such a major city. Not necessarily so. From a quick search, it turns out that the closer Portland and Manchester airports had some of the cheapest prices. Here's a sampling of round-trip fares, including taxes, for late-May or early-June flights.
- Baltimore to Portland: $203 (US Airways)
- Atlanta to Portland: $207 (US Airways)
- Ft. Lauderdale to Manchester: $209 (US Airways)
- Chicago to Boston: $213 (AirTran)
- Kansas City to Boston: $240 (US Airways)
- Minneapolis to Boston: $240 (American)
- Buffalo to Portland: $249 (US Airways)
- St. Louis to Manchester: $255 (US Airways)
- Los Angeles to Manchester: $287 (US Airways)
US Airways owned most of the best fares and, as expected, East Coast and Midwest departures were the cheapest. However, if your dates are flexible, you can find affordable fares if you live further afield, as is the case with Los Angeles.
The one catch is that no matter what airport you fly into, you'll need a rental car, which will run you between $30 and $40 per day, so budget accordingly.
Where to stay in Ogunquit, Maine
Finding early summer rates at Ogunquit hotels was almost too easy. In a few minutes, I looked at a handful of properties and nearly every single one of them had reduced rates for late-May and early-June stays, most of which were feasible for a small $500 budget.
For example, late-spring/early-summer rates at the Mariner Resort, located on the Ogunquit River, start at $72 (plus a 7 percent state tax) for two queen beds. As a bonus, you can upgrade to a suite for just $104 per night (compared to $219 for stays during peak season in July and August). The Seafarer Motel had even more affordable rates, although the indoor pool is currently being rebuilt and won't reopen until later in June. Standard rooms here start at $64 in early June, plus, you can stay three nights and get the fourth for free if you go midweek. For a little more money, you can stay right by the ocean, with rooms from $83 per night at Terrace by the Sea, or from $95 per night at The Dunes on the Waterfront. The most expensive of the bunch, the off-beach Gorges Grant, has posted early-June rates starting at just $97.
At any of these properties, a three-night stay would fit nicely within budget. For instance, the total at the Gorges Grant would come to $311.37 (including tax), or $155.69 per person if you share with someone else. Any of the other hotels I've mentioned would obviously cost a bit less. Best of all, these properties are all rated in the top six hotels on TripAdvisor, so fellow travelers think highly of them. Additionally, Ogunquit offers a vast array of other hotels, motels, and inns, most of which are kept in tip-top condition and have reduced shoulder-season rates.
Here's the cost breakdown for the most expensive airfare-and-hotel pairing on my list:
$287 (airfare from Los Angeles) + $155.69 (three nights at Gorges Grant) = $442.69 per person
All other combinations will cost less, and there should be plenty of money left in the budget for a car rental, and even some seafood. Can't make it by June? Try going in September, when rates drop and the crowds begin to disperse all over again.
Special treat suggestion:
Ogunquit is home to Arrows Restaurant, owned by award-winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, and one of the top restaurants in America. While an Arrows meal can cost you more than $400 for two, the duo has recently opened the more affordable MC Perkins Cove. I had dinner there last summer and found the food, often sourced right from the sea and from Arrows' organic gardens, to be a real treat. Look for specials like Monday-night all-you-can-eat prime rib and the three-course, Wednesday-night tasting menu (with a bottle of wine) for $52.
Been to Ogunquit? Comment below on your favorite money-saving tips or places to eat and stay. Or, post questions for fellow travelers to answer.
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel.com is published by Smarter Travel Media LLC, a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network.)