York Maine Things To Do
For a small New England town, York, Maine has an amazing assortment of things to do. The town is home to 3-sandy beaches, miles of rocky coast, a yacht-filled harbor, a well-preserved historic district, and a mountain overseeing it all.
York is located on the Maine coast about an hour north of Boston. It is one of the oldest towns in New England, and one of America's oldest summer beach resorts. Year after year, it remains a top Maine vacation destination due to its spectacular seashore and grand old resorts.
York is a 4-season New England town. It booms in the summer. Spring and fall bring cooler weather, but most businesses remain open. In the winter many establishments close. Always check ahead to confirm your destinations opening hours and days.
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The action in York is concentrated in four main areas: York Beach, York Village, York Harbor, and the Nubble Lighthouse. Living in New England, Joe and I are able to enjoy these areas every summer. Here is our list of favorite York, Maine things to do and attractions.
Relax and Unwind at the Nubble Lighthouse
A visit to the starkly beautiful Nubble Lighthouse (Cape Neddick Light) is good for the soul. The lighthouse sits on a speck of land just off of the Maine coast. Sohier Park is situated directly across from the lighthouse. The park consists of a free parking lot, restrooms, seasonal gift shop, and a ribbon of massive boulders that run along the seashore. Visitors enjoy climbing on the park’s ledges, picnicking, painting, and enjoying the spectacular New England scenery. Fox’s Lobster House and Bar is within walking distance of the park’s entrance.
Set Up Your Lawn Chair and Umbrella at Long Sands Beach
Long Sands is a fun family beach. Parking is sparse so arrive early to snag a metered space along Route 1A. The sandy beach stretches 1.5 miles between York Harbor and York Beach. There are rocky sections at one end of the beach good for tide pooling. In another section, there are granite steps for gathering and sun bathing. A good portion of the beach disappears at high tide so map out your section of sand accordingly. You will see many families, fishermen, and surfers at this location. There are restrooms mid-way on the beach, and umbrellas for rent. Take-out restaurants and souvenir shops are close by on Route 1A.
Wander the Shops of York Beach Village
York Beach Village is packed with beachy shops, eateries, and amusements. It is a lively oceanfront town busy with souvenir, gift, jewelry, and craft shops. In the middle of town, the Goldenrod candy store has large plate glass windows where visitors can watch taffy being made.
At the edge of the village is an entrance to the York Wild Kingdom with its amusement rides and zoo. At the other end of town there is the Funorama arcade complex, and Ellis Park with its bandstand and boardwalk. Beyond the wooden promenade is the .25-mile Short Sands Beach. You could spend a few hours in York Beach Village or you could spend a few days.
Hike York Harbor Beach and the York Cliff Walk
The York Harbor area is in a quiet section of town. Here, you will find the York Harbor Beach. This gorgeous 2-mile stretch of sand has views of the harbors’ yachts, a few grand old resorts, and the York Cliff Walk. The beach parking lot is for resident’s only, but there are 2-hour metered spots available on Route 1A in front of Hartley Mason Park. From Hartley Mason, you can access York Harbor Beach and the Cliff Walk.
The York Cliff Walk is a .5-mile one-way path along the rugged Maine coast. The path takes you past million-dollar summer cottages, crashing Maine surf, and a few pebble beaches. It is not a loop, so wherever you start, you will be retracing your route.
Though we recommend hiking the York Cliff Walk, we do want visitors to be aware of the path’s condition. Some portions of the path are paved concrete, but many of these sections are uneven and broken. In other portions, the path is gravel or dirt. There are sections of crumbling stairs, and portions of the trail near cliffs that do not have railings. In our opinion, the York Cliff Walk is not suitable for small children or the mobility-impaired.
Discover the York Historic District
Lovers of history will enjoy an outing to the York, Maine historic district. Begin your trip with a visit to the Old York Museum Center. There are 9 historic buildings available to tour which teach visitors about New England colonial life. Many people enjoy seeing the Emerson-Wilcox House (1735) and Old Gaol Prison (1656). Next to the Old Gaol is the York Old Burying Ground (where a witch is said to reside under a large stone slab).
Also, in York Village is the quaint First Parish Church, and a few locally owned shops and cafés on Main Street. Be on the lookout for the town’s Civil War Monument (1906). The statue is reported to be experiencing some identity-confusion. History buffs have pointed out that the statue is wearing a uniform that appears inaccurate for a union soldier, and that perhaps it is a confederate uniform or from the Spanish-American war era.
Shop the Area’s Company Stores and Outlets
York, Maine is close to a dizzying array of company stores and outlets. While in town don’t miss a visit to the Stonewall Kitchen York Company Store. The store’s large showroom is a foodies dream with a vast selection of jellies, jams, mustard, salsas, chutneys, and sauces – all for sampling. After you stock up on food and gifts (cookware, tableware, and crafts), stop for a snack at the onsite café.
Another epicurean delight is the When Pigs Fly Company Store and Pizzeria in Kittery on Route 1. The store offers 25 varieties of all natural breads and other baked good (cookies, pretzels, and donuts) as well as artisanal butters, oils, and jams. Next door, grab a wood-fired pizza, sandwich, or craft beer at the company’s 160-seat pizzeria.
Finally, no visit to York is complete without a visit to Kittery, Maine’s outlets and eateries. At the Kittery outlet-mall-mile, visitors will find a series of shopping centers and restaurants lining Route 1. Built in a New England style, all of the malls are full of designer stores selling regional and nationally known products. Parking is free. While in Kittery, don’t miss the sprawling and popular Kittery Trading Post with its many floors of outdoor sporting goods and products to peruse.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors (We are in Maine!)
Hike the tallest mountain on the southern Maine coast. York’s Mount Agamenticus (692’) is crisscrossed with hiking trails leading to 360-degree views. At the peak on a clear day, hikers can see as far as Maine’s Casco Bay, the skyscrapers of Boston, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. For a hike on flat land, try the 1.4-mile Steedman Woods and Wiggly Bridge trail. This well-traveled birding and walking trail loop skirts the York River, and includes a walk across a “wiggly” bridge. As an alternate to hiking, enjoy a round of golf at one of York’s 18-hole public golf courses; The Ledges and Cape Neddick.
Delve into York’s Amusement and Adventure Parks
Amusement park lovers should check out York’s Wild Kingdom Zoo and Fun Park in York Beach Village. There is a lot to do within the park including vintage rides, a haunted house, and mini-golf. There are exotic animals that can be viewed in their habitats, and a petting zoo where kids can feed, hold, and ride small animals.
Arcade lovers should make a visit to Funorama in York Beach Village. There are bowling alleys, shooting games, air hockey, skeeball, and other arcade games the whole family will love.
Adventure-seekers will enjoy a trip to Take Flight on Route 1 in neighboring Kittery, Maine. The facility offers an Aerial Adventure Challenge Course with over 65 activities, and two adventure zip line tours.
Explore Route 1A Antique and Junk Shops
York is a recycler’s paradise. Route 1 and 1A are lined with antique and junk shops. If you like antique (or junk) shops, you should reserve at least one afternoon to indulge. There are fancy showrooms and side-yard garage shops scattered through the region. A few notables are Columbary House Antiques, Carriage House Antiques, the York Antiques Gallery, and the Shops of Cape Neddick.
Stay in a York Harbor Grand Old Inn
York is chalk full of turn of the century Gilded-Age mansions that have been converted to luxury inns. Over the years, the original structures have been expanded and improved upon. Many of these resorts offer fine dining, trendy taverns, private beaches and pools, sprawling green lawns, concierge tours, and spa facilities. At least once, everyone should splurge. A few of York’s longtime favorites include the Stage Neck Inn and York Harbor Inn.
Hope you enjoy all York Beach as much as we do, Laura and Randy
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