There’s no place like Ogunquit, Maine, for the holidays, as the town kicks off the season with Christmas by the Sea. Ogunquit is a town full of artists and captures that idyllic Maine coastal charm any day of the year, but come December, you’ll be walking in a Hallmark movie with a creative flair.
The annual event started in the 1980s and has grown so popular that even Travel + Leisure ranked it No. 2 on the list of “25 Best Christmas Towns in the U.S.” Pair that with the ranking from Tripadvisor that put Ogunquit Beach as one of the Top 10 U.S. Beaches.
Let’s make a list and check it twice to plan the perfect Ogunquit Christmas weekend.
All About Ogunquit, Maine
Ogunquit is a small town of 1,500 year-round residents, about halfway between the New Hampshire state line and Kennebunkport, just 40 miles south of Portland.
The name Ogunquit means “Beautiful Place by the Sea” in the Indigenous Abenaki language. While it was a village in the town of Wells until 1980, Ogunquit has always stood out on its own merits.
In 1898, the Ogunquit Art Colony was formed, drawing artists to the brilliant coastal landscape for plein air painting. That creative spark created a firestorm of art accolades and drew attention to what would otherwise be another fishing and shipbuilding port on the Maine coastline. Even the Ogunquit Playhouse has hosted some of the finest talents in performance art.
It’s important to know the background of Ogunquit so you can truly appreciate the Christmas by the Sea event. This is so much more than a holiday festival; it’s another expression of art in one of Maine’s most inclusive and diverse communities. Plus, they know how to throw an epic party!
When is Christmas by the Sea in Ogunquit?
The three-day festival is held during the second full weekend in December.
This should not be confused with the Camden Christmas by the Sea celebration, held the first weekend in December about 120 miles north.
Ogunquit’s Christmas by the Sea kicks off on a Friday and runs through Sunday evening. Expect temperatures between the 20s and 40s, with an average 5% chance of snow. Barring a major snowstorm, winter weather only adds to the holiday magic.
Follow the Ogunquit Facebook page to get updates on activities.
Ogunquit Christmas by the Sea Landscape
To make the most of your time during Ogunquit Christmas by the Sea, it helps to know the different parts of town.
- The Village: This is the central part of town along Main Street, with hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and shops.
- Perkins Cove: The hub of the art community, with more dining, shops, and activities.
- Ogunquit Beach: A nearly four-mile stretch of beach with two access points, one less than a 10-minute walk from The Village.
- Marginal Way: A walking path along the rocky shoreline with amazing views of the sea.
Ogunquit is just four square miles, so parking and walking are easy. In fact, The Village and Perkins Cove are just 20 minutes apart by foot.
Where to Stay in Ogunquit for Christmas by the Sea
It’s important to start planning early because the town sells out each year, with crowd sizes you can usually only see during the summer.
Ogunquit offers a variety of accommodations, but it’s the classic bed and breakfast inns or seaside resorts that really go all out for the holiday season.
This is one of the most LBGTQ+-friendly communities in New England while also being a romantic getaway destination. Certain hotels might cater to an adult crowd only. Be sure to check if kids are allowed or if there are age restrictions at your preferred hotel. The beauty of Ogunquit is that it’s a perfect place for everyone.
Christmas by the Sea Activities
No street, beach, or boat is left out of the Christmas by the Sea events. The events on Friday kick off in the late afternoon, leaving you plenty of time to travel and get settled in without missing a single Christmas jingle.
Christmas Tree Lighting
Ogunquit has two ceremonies to light Christmas trees, one in Perkins Cove and one in the Village. They are held about 90 minutes apart so that revelers can enjoy both if they’d like. Perkins Cove goes first, so be prepared to sing your favorite holiday tune because caroling is a top activity during this event.
After that lighting ceremony, a caroling candlelight stroll takes visitors to The Village.
You’ll also have a chance to see one of the famous lobster trap Christmas trees in Ogunquit, which are a staple in Maine’s coastal communities for the holidays.
The bonfire on the main beach is a hallmark part of Ogunquit Christmas by the Sea. One huge fire is built as guests surround the display. Fireworks are usually part of this special night as well.
Santa Arrives at Christmas by the Sea
Sometimes Santa arrives by lobster boat, and other times the Fire Department ushers him in; but he always arrives at Perkins Cove first. The big guy in red also makes special appearances throughout the weekend, which are detailed in the list of events for Ogunquit Christmas by the Sea.
Ogunquit’s art is celebrated and sold at the Christmas by the Sea Craft Artisan Craft Fair held at the Dunaway Center.
Items to fit every budget are available, from high-end art to the smallest stocking stuffers made with Maine love. Hands-on activities are planned for the kids, and you’ll get to meet creative vendors from across the state.
Some of the top crafts made in Maine include sea glass jewelry, lighthouse ornaments, personalized lobster claw ornaments, homemade quilts, hand-knitted scarves and gloves, wood carvings including everything from trinkets to furniture, and paintings of the Maine coastline.
The Music of Ognuinquit Christmas by the Sea
The Ogunquit Baptist Church puts on a show with a bell choir on the event’s first night. The church also has an annual living nativity scene outside.
Many of the nightclubs and performance venues have special shows each night of the Christmas by the Sea. That does include some adult-only activities, so check the schedules before you go.
Ogunquit and Wells hold their holiday parades during Christmas by the Sea weekend. The parades are specifically timed to avoid overlapping, offering a two-for-one experience since Wells is just four miles north of Ogunquit.
Main Street in Ogunquit is a mix of a Charles Dickens Christmas and a Hallmark holiday movie, so even just window browsing is beautiful. Most businesses offer hot chocolate stations or other warming samples to encourage camaraderie.
You’ll find cute boutiques, home goods stores, jewelry shops, and art galleries among the brick-lined sidewalk.
There is plenty of room at the inns here in Ogunquit come the holiday season, even if the place is sold out. Every business in town is decked out in nostalgic lights and with unique accessories. The Hartwell House Inn is one of the most popular inside and out.
You are invited to explore as many businesses as possible, and you’ll usually be greeted with a warm cup of your favorite winter beverage.
Despite all the times we tell you to avoid the cold water of the Atlantic in winter, this is one time you can safely take a dip with first responders while raising money for charity. The Ogunquit Ocean Rescue Polar Plunge is one of the most daring activities of Christmas by the Sea.
Of course, you can also layer up and watch from the shore for this popular event.
History & the Holidays
The Ogunquit Heritage Museum opens for Christmas by the Sea with guided tours and snacks to gather and share the holiday stories and history of the town.
Ogunquit Christmas by the Sea Dining
Throughout the weekend, every restaurant and cafe in town offers special samples and holiday menus for all appetites and age groups.
Two big food events are Chowderfest and Chocolatefest. Check the schedule of events for specific details, as those adjust yearly. Most restaurants with decks will open them up with fire pits or heat lamps to keep the festivities going inside or out.
A highlight of Ogunquit Christmas by the Sea is the Dinner with Dickens experience in Cape Neddick, just two miles from Ogunquit.
Matinee and evening shows are available, and the menu is mixed with coastal fare and locally harvested delicacies. With Charles Dickens interacting during the meal, this show will surely get you in the holiday spirit.
OPEN OR CLOSED: Many local restaurant websites might show they are closed for the season but will plan to re-open for Christmas by the Sea. Not ALL restaurants are open, but the majority of the town is as busy and bustling as the Fourth of July weekend.
Other Holiday Things to Do Around Ogunquit
While you’re in town to experience the festivities of Christmas by the Sea, there are some exceptional options nearby for visitors to explore.
Marginal Way offers more than a mile of walkway along the coastal cliffs. Weather permitting, this is a great way to soak in the experience. The path isn’t maintained in the winter, so just be careful. Plenty of benches line the path to relax in the magical moment of Marginal Way.
The Nubble Lighthouse in York sits just offshore of Soheir Park. The holiday illumination is a must-see for lighthouse and holiday lovers. Since the official lighting happens in late November, it will be glowing during Christmas by the Sea.
Lighthouse enthusiasts can see nearly a dozen beautiful lighthouses in Southern Maine.
Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude
The premiere holiday event in Kennebunkport runs for two weeks, starting before Christmas by the Sea and ending the same weekend.
Make Maine Your Holiday Destination
Christmas by the Sea is a one-of-a-kind Maine event where visitors of all ages can have fun, get into the holiday spirit, check friends and loved ones off their holiday gift lists with unique Maine-made gifts, and experience the magic of the holidays in Maine.
Whether you’re visiting Ogunquit and other towns in Southern Maine for the day, the weekend, or the season, look for coupons and discounts at businesses to get the best value for your time.
So come and revel in the fun of the holidays as you warm yourself around a cozy bonfire. The sights and sounds of this great annual event are the perfect way to welcome the holidays!