Right about now at the tail end of winter, most of us are looking for an excuse to get outside for a good walk, a chance to stretch the legs, breathe some fresh air and clear the mind. A walk along the ocean usually works for me, so on a sunny day recently I decided to check out a coastal venue I’d never visited before: Marginal Way in Ogunquit.

Marginal Way is a 1¼-mile long public pathway connecting Perkins Cove to Ogunquit Beach. More than 100,000 people walk the path each year, mostly during the summer visitor months. I pretty much avoid the crowded beach towns during that period, and that’s why Marginal Way remained unvisited by this walker for so long. But having some unexpected free time available, and this being the offseason, Marginal Way suddenly seemed a fine idea for a pleasant Sunday outing on foot.

The path leaves from the parking lot next to Jackie’s Too Restaurant in Perkins Cove. It’s an undulating route that winds in and out of the trees and shrubs and high over rocky promontories, hugging the shoreline or “margin” between the homes, inns and hotels to your left and the Atlantic Ocean to your right. Crashing surf, rugged cliffs, salty air and squawking gulls characterize the walk. And always there are the boundless ocean vistas.

Thirty park benches en route offer scenic spots to sit and relax, enjoy a snack, take in the view and contemplate the natural beauty of this special place. Halfway along, the replica of a lighthouse stands watch and Ogunquit Beach comes into view. Soon after, a staircase leads to a pocket beach, a good spot for exploring at low tide.

At Sparhawk Hotel, the path turns inland and reaches Shore Road. Turn right here and continue to Wharf Lane to follow the path down toward the Ogunquit River and a footbridge. Beyond, turn right on Beech Street and cross the bridge over the river to reach a large parking area and the official end of the path. Just ahead is Ogunquit Beach.

Josiah Chase of York donated the land along Marginal Way to the Town of Ogunquit in 1925. Since then, other abutting property owners have deeded access to the path, which is free to use, paved its entire length, and made it accessible to persons with disabilities.

The bold oceanfront geography that makes Marginal Way so spectacular also exposes it to the full force of coastal storms, which over time have wreaked havoc on the path, often destroying whole sections of it and causing millions of dollars in damage. Storms in 1991 and 2007 were particularly destructive and financially debilitating to the town.

In response, concerned citizens established the Marginal Way Preservation Fund in 2010. The nonprofit organization is tasked with generating an endowment fund of $2 million to help maintain and preserve Marginal Way. If you see a blue box along the path, that’s for donations. Any amount helps.

Marginal Way is not a walk in the wilds by any means, but it is a place you have to see and experience if you haven’t already. And now is the time to go before it gets too busy.

For more information on Marginal Way, go to www.marginalwayfund.org, where you’ll find a downloadable map and the lighthouse webcam that’ll give you a cool bird’s eye view.

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is freelance writer and avid hiker. Comments are welcome at:

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