I have been severely lax this summer in updating my blog. I'll need to catch up with hikes, fishing trips, camping, and more but the highlight of our summer so far has been a week at Old Orchard Beach in Maine.
We rented a cottage within easy walking distance of the beach.
One of the first questions I get regarding vacationing on the beach in Maine is about the water temperature. Surprisingly, in August, the water temperature was not frigid. It was nearly 70 degrees. The surf was rather large at high tide, which made for some fun activities. Old Orchard Beach also has a dramatic low tide that reveals hundreds of yards of flat beach. During low tide you find many families (including ours) utilizing this flat, packed sand area for activities like bocce, Frisbee, football and kite flying. The beach itself is large enough that getting a spot is not an issue. We had no trouble getting enough real estate to spread out on the beach. However, the beach does become more crowded closer to the pier area.
The weather cooperated for us, and although some days were overcast, the rain mostly held off. It was a good week of relaxing on the beach.
Old Orchard Beach is 7 miles long. The north end of the beach features a wooden pier. This is the center of the commercial operation of the beach. Around the pier you find a lot of the kitschy tourist stuff like t-shirt shops, souvenir shops, and arcade, and an amusement part. There are several eating establishments that should be able to appeal to any appetite. Several ice cream shops are set up around the pier area, many featuring home made ice cream.
For the adults, there are also many bars and clubs in and around the pier. Although I did not get a chance to check any of them out, several seemed to be quite active.
The south end of the beach is home to a section of the beach called Ocean Park. Ocean Park is much smaller and lest tourist oriented. If has a delicious ice cream shop, a nice bakery/deli, and some small shops. If you feel like a nature hike, there is a pine forest in the Ocean Park section of town with some easy to walk trails. The Ocean Park section is less known to tourists than the pier, but I recommend checking it out if you are staying in Old Orchard Beach.
Old Orchard Beach certainly has people, but it's not so crowded that you can not get around by car. Access in and out of the area with most of the cottages is not difficult. The closer you get the pier, the more difficult driving becomes due more to the high number of pedestrians more than the car volume. Although car travel is doable, by far the best way to get around Old Orchard Beach is by bike. Cars are generally courteous to bikers and pedestrians. Since the roads are paralleling the sea, most of them are flat and easy ride. Each day we rode, usually multiple times, to the pier area and to Ocean Park.
Besides the beach and the town, there are several nearby attractions that make good day trips. We took 2 day trip adventures. One was to Freeport to do some shopping at the headquarter store of LL Bean. The other was to the Maine Animal Park with a stop in downtown Portland for a late lunch. Others went to a nearby Zoo in York, an amusement part, and a water park known as the Aquaboggin.
The fact that I was able fully read two books while I was there speaks to the laid back nature of the vacation. Even with 4 kids, the adults were able to relax as the kids kept themselves mostly busy on the beach. I think we made a good decision breaking up the beach days with a couple of day trips.
I hardly did an official investigation, but I believe the "going rate" for a small cottage within easy walking distance of the beach was about $1500 per week for a 2-bedroom cottage. Bigger houses are available, and most people split the cost with one or more families. There are also many motels lining the beach on both sides to the pier. All of them were fully booked while we were there (we saw many No Vacancy signs), so I would suggest booking well ahead of time. One note on location: since there is a large, protected grass dune between the buildings and the beach at Old Orchard Beach, there are really no true "beach front" cottages. All cottages and houses are separated from the beach by the grass dune. Therefore, even if at the first house closest to the beach, a short walk is still necessary to access the beach. For that reason, I recommend saving money and not getting the "beach front" cottage, and go for one, two, three, or four back from the beach. The walk is insignificant, but the cost savings is significant.
My family enjoyed our time at Old Orchard Beach, and would like to try to make it back in the near future.
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