Maine Coast: York Beach Travel Guide
York, Maine is blessed with a cool seaside vibe and the charm of a traditional New England village. The Maine vacation destination boasts great beaches, a boardwalk, pretty harbor, historic district, and picturesque lighthouse. Our York Beach Maine Travel Guide will help you identify all the must-see sites.
Year after year, visitors return to this gorgeous slice of the Maine coast. They fall in love with the Nubble, Shorts Sands, Long Sands, the Goldenrod, the Gaol, and much more. Our guide will acclimate you to the area, and highlight all the fun things to do in York Beach, Maine.
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Settled in the 1600’s, York is one of the oldest towns in New England. In the 1800’s, the area’s beautiful beaches and proximity to Boston helped it develop into a sought-after summer resort. Today, York’s neighborhoods are filled with shingled colonials, pastel-painted cottages, and Gilded-Age mansions.
York is a 4-season New England town. It booms in the summer. Spring and fall bring cooler weather, but most businesses are open. In the winter, many establishments close (some think this is the best time to visit).
The town is spread out, and a personal vehicle is recommended to enjoy the region. There are four distinct neighborhoods to discover: York Beach, the Nubble Lighthouse, Historic York Village, and York Harbor. Also, York is home to a small, hike-able mountain, Mount Agamenticus.
York Beach and Village
York Beach Village sits directly behind Short Sands Beach. The beach town is made up of kitschy souvenir, upscale boutique, and food-related shops. In the center of town, tourists flock to the Goldenrod block to watch candy machines pulling taffy through plate glass windows. The village is rimmed by an amusement park and zoo, boardwalk, arcade complex, and Ellis Park with its bandstand and lawns for picnicking. A short distance away is the 1.5-mile Long Sands Beach.
The much-photographed Nubble Lighthouse (Cape Neddick Light) sits on a tiny island several hundred feet off the Maine coast. There are rows of beach houses and grand old hotels lining the avenue that leads to the lighthouse via Nubble Road. Sohier Park sits directly across from the lighthouse. Visitors can enjoy climbing on the park’s granite ledges, picnicking, painting, and taking in the spectacular scenery. Sohier has a parking lot, restrooms, and seasonal giftshop. There is a takeout restaurant by the park’s entrance.
Historic York Village
The York town center has a charming historic district. Many of the buildings in the area date back to the 1600 – 1800’s. The Old York Museum Center can help you coordinate visits to the Old Gaol Prison, the Emerson-Wilcox House, and several other historical sites. At the York Old Burying Ground search for the (suspected) witch’s grave. Hint: It is covered with a heavy stone slab so she cannot escape.
Later, explore the pretty First Parish Church and small Main Street area. Take a peek at the Civil War Monument (1906). Some say the statue is wearing a uniform that appears to be inaccurate for a union soldier. It has been suggested the uniform is confederate, or from the Spanish-American war era.
York Harbor is a quiet area framed by elegant seaside resorts and restaurants. In the neighborhood, you will find the York Harbor Beach, York Cliff Walk, and Hartley Mason Park. York Harbor Beach is lovely, but the beach parking lot is for residents only. Visitors can access the beach and York Cliff Walk via the shaded Hartley Mason Park (park your vehicle on Route 1A/York Street; 2-hour metered parking). The views from the .5-mile one-way Cliff Walk are gorgeous. However, beware of broken concrete and sheer drops (not suitable for small children or the mobility-impaired).
Once a ski area, Mount Agamenticus is now a 10,000-acre conservation area. A short uphill climb leads to the mountain’s peak. At the top on a clear day, hikers enjoy 360-degree views that take in Maine’s Casco Bay, Boston’s skyscrapers, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Parking and use of the trail system are free.
Long Sands Beach
Located between the villages of York Harbor and York Beach, Long Sands Beach stretches for 1.5-miles. Metered kiosk parking is available along Route 1A (about $2 per hour). Arrive early to secure a spot. Restrooms are located midway on the beach. Take-out shacks offer food along Route 1A.
The beach is mostly sandy. There are some rocky areas and tide pools to explore. Long Sands is popular with sunbathers, fishermen, and surfers. The beach has views of the Nubble Lighthouse and cliffs. Beware of the tides (at high tide much of the beach disappears).
Short Sands Beach
Short Sands Beach is situated between the rocky cliffs of Nubble Road and York Beach Village. Behind the .25-mile beach sits Ellis Park with restrooms, metered-kiosk parking, and lawns for kite flying. Visitors to Short Sands can walk to York Beach Village and the Funorama arcades. A wooden promenade runs along the beach, making this a great location for anyone who is mobility impaired.
Short Sands Beach is mostly sandy. The main activities are sunbathing and sand-castling. Like Long Sands, much of the beach disappears at high tide.
York Harbor Beach
Views from the 2-mile York Harbor Beach take in the rugged Maine coast and York Harbor marinas. To park in the small lot a resident’s sticker is required. Since parking is limited to 2-hour spots along York Street and by Hartley Mason Park, beach-goers consist mostly of locals and guests of the surrounding 5-star inns and resorts. The vibe here is relaxed and low key.
The beach itself is mostly sandy with a few rocks. There are restrooms onsite, but no food outlets or umbrella rentals. The entrance to the York Cliff Walk sits is at the edge of beach’s parking lot. The beach and Cliff Walk can be accessed via the Hartley Mason Park (which is lined with metered 2-hour parking spots).
Visitors will find a wide range of hotels in York, Maine. There are motel rooms, grand Gilded-Age hotels, historic inns, and modern all-inclusive resorts. Some of our favorites are the Anchorage Inn (York Beach), the Stage Neck Inn (York Harbor), and the Viewpoint Hotel (Nubble Lighthouse).
York restaurants offer a wide range styles and budgets. There are many eateries to be found throughout the area. If your tastes run toward the traditional regional favorites, try the Cape Neddick Lobster Pound, Foster’s Clambake, or the Dockside Restaurant.
YORK MAINE THINGS TO DO
Spend the day at the beach (Long Sands or Short Sands)
Visit the Nubble Lighthouse
Shop the Goldenrod and other stores of York Beach Village
Enjoy family fun in York Beach Village’s arcades and amusement park
Explore the York Historic District’s Old Gaol and Old Burying Ground
Walk York Harbor Beach and the York Cliff Walk
Shop at the Stonewall Kitchen and When Pigs Fly company stores
Spend the day golfing at one of York’s 18-hole public courses (The Ledges, and Cape Neddick)
Go antiquing along Route 1A
Hike Mount Agamenticus
York’s Wild Kingdom Zoo and Fun Park – York Beach
Funorama Arcades and Bowling – York Beach
Take Flights Aerial Adventure Course – Kittery, Maine
Hope you had a wicked good time, Laura and Randy
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