With so much visual wonder around Ogunquit Beach during the day, we sometimes forget about the breathtaking views directly above, a shimmering image on view long before the famous Maine sunrise. Ogunquit stargazing is well worth pushing bedtime back a bit — here are our favorite places to spot summer constellations around The Dunes.
One of the best places to enjoy the night sky is just steps away from your cottage or guest room. You’ll notice surprisingly little light pollution on the lawn right here at The Dunes. Downtown Ogunquit, a half mile away, has strict rules about how big signs and other light sources can be, and we benefit even more thanks to the tall pines that surround the property. With even ground and plenty of wide open space, the large grassy area in between our swimming pool and the tidal river is an ideal spot to set up a tripod with a camera or telescope. Bring a blanket and lay on your back for big-picture views of the Milky Way.
If you’re ready to get serious about identifying the stars above, print out a handy version of this month’s star chart and start mapping. The easiest way to begin is to face south, look straight up and just a little to the east (your left), where you’ll find the bright Summer Triangle made up of the stars Altair, Deneb, and Vega. On The Dunes lawn, this means you’ll be standing with the Ogunquit River on your left, looking down it toward Main Beach and Perkins Cove and just a little out to sea. Read up on how to find your way around the summer night sky to see where the Summer Triangle can lead you.
If you’re up for a stroll, nighttime at Ogunquit Beach has its own special set of rewards. There’s nothing quite like watching a full moon rise over the open water. When the tide is out, just walk straight across the tidal river and cross the boardwalk over the dunes. For safety reasons, we keep the rowboats docked at night — be sure to keep an eye on the tides and plan ahead.
As you head toward the beach, be sure to stop on the boardwalk at the top of the sand dunes and look back toward the cottages. In mid-to-late August, you’ll find the Big Dipper just above and to our right. This is a good place to orient yourself with the night sky due to its slight elevation and its distance from the trees, which can add some framing to the view due west when you’re on the lawn.
On top of the regular show put on by the stars and moon every clear night, the Maine coast has been a fantastic spot to catch bigger events like the Perseid meteor shower, which returns in the middle of August every year. For more tips on how to see these shooting starts, check out Observing the Perseids — a Perennial Guide. We’re far enough north that the occasional solar flare can bring the aurora borealis to our skies, too. The next time you get to spend a few days by the beach, consider spending at least an hour or two out at night. You just might catch a shooting star.