A 25-minute car ride from Portland, or just a $5 bus ride, will bring you to Old Orchard Beach (OOB) – a 7-mile stretch of motels, clam shacks, T-shirt and souvenir shops and Palace Playland, New England’s only beachfront amusement park.
In the summertime, OOB is akin to other East Coast boardwalk cities – Ocean City in Maryland, Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, Virginia Beach in Virginia or Atlantic City in New Jersey – but like the others, OOB has its own appeal.
For one thing, OOB doesn’t exactly fit the Maine image of quaint vacation town with long, quiet stretches of beach. In fact, at the height of summer, OOB is exactly the opposite.
The Brunswick – or the “Swick” as locals call it – is the kind of bar/restaurant that sets OOB apart from the typical Maine experience. With nearly a 500-person capacity, four separate bar areas and live music every night of the week, the Brunswick is where to find the party Friday and Saturday nights after Memorial Day.
Perhaps the biggest appeal of the Brunswick is its location. Situated directly on the beach, you’re only ever a few feet from sand and ocean (the bar even keeps a football and volleyball on hand). There’s covered seating outside in addition to the open-air deck, and inside is huge, with 22 TVs, ample seating and two bars.
From the outside, the Brunswick looks like a hotel – and that’s because it is. Open year-round, the Brunswick Resort offers nightly and weekly rentals but is considered a separate business from the restaurant downstairs.
Travelers looking for a peaceful hotel room on a weekend summer night, may want to think twice about staying at the Brunswick Resort.
For food and drink, the menu is simple and straightforward. For example, there isn’t even a cocktail list. Just tell the bartender what you like to drink.
A popular cocktail at the Brunswick is a Gin Blossom, which comes served in a plastic cup. In fact, anything you order, unless it’s a beer bottle, is served in disposable dining ware. You’re at the beach, after all.
The beer list is made up of about 30 bottles (there are no beers on tap), including local, conventional, gluten-free and non-alcoholic options.
The events page on the website is updated regularly. Live music starts around 7 p.m. every night – mostly local bands, many who cover popular radio tunes.
If you’re looking for a quiet place for dinner, try eating inside at the Brunswick before 6 p.m. on weeknights.
However, if sun, live music, cheap drinks and a fantastic beach patio is what you’re looking for, the Brunswick’s got it made. Wear your sunscreen.
WHERE: 39 West Grand Ave., Old Orchard Beach
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
AMENITIES: Lots of seating and standing room, four bar areas, 22 high-definition TVs, volleyball and football for beach games.
PARKING: Parking lot out front, but limited, especially on weekends.
BOTTOM LINE: The Brunswick claims to be the largest patio on the beach in Old Orchard, and by the looks of the place, that’s not a lie. With nearly a 500-person capacity, four bar areas, so many flat screen TVs (inside) and a patio that’s right on the beach, the Brunswick is by far one of the more frequented bars in town. There’s live music nightly and a list of more events on their website. Weeknights are calmer, especially inside, but expect a party crowd on the weekends in the summertime.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes.