11 fabulous things to do in charming York, Maine

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When summer arrives in York, Maine, the city awakens from its quiet off-season existence and transforms into a bustling community of vacationers and day trippers. Floppy hats and flip flops are the expected uniform and amplifying the good times vibe is the one plan you need to end your day. You know you’re on vacation when the lingering smell of fried dough mixes with the aroma of salt spray and coconut sunscreen. You can almost feel your blood pressure returning to normal. This charming seaside town is good for your mind, body and soul.

There are so many fabulous things to do in York, Maine that you’ll want to plan a weekend getaway or even a working vacation all summer. Lively beaches, incredible seafood, fun shopping, cozy inns, and all-season campsites await your visit. Whatever your schedule in York, you’ll have a great time in the coastal city of southern Maine.

Some of the information in this article was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are mine.

Sandi Barrett

1. Short sand beach

Short Sands Beach is a popular spot for beach goers. Due to its small size and proximity to downtown entertainment, it can get crowded from blanket to blanket. The beach offers a large playground, good size parking and a grassy area. It is adjacent to shops, restaurants and the arcade, making it the perfect place to spend the day.

Just a block or two from the beach, you’ll find sugary treats like ice cream, fudge, and saltwater taffy to satisfy your midday cravings. Dining options, from takeout stalls to sit-down restaurants, offer favorites for beach fans. If you are traveling with tweens and teens, the Fun-O-Rama Arcade will be a huge hit.

Long Sands Beach York, Maine
Sandi Barrett

2. Long sand beach

Rough and rocky, Long Sands Beach is punctuated by sandy expanses. Bathers will find suitable places for towels in the central, sandy part of the long beach. The peripheral sections will require you to climb some rocks to reach the water. Long Sands is a favorite spot for surfers who provide fun entertainment while catching and riding the waves.

There is beachfront parking at Long Sands Beach. The walkway along the beach is a perfect place for a leisurely stroll. There are beach access stairs along the walkway and ramps near the public baths.

3. Port beach

Harbor Beach is a hidden gem frequented by locals and visitors alike who stay in the area or can get a coveted space along Route 1A. A gentle surf hugs the beach, making it the perfect option for families. Harbor Beach is adjacent to Hartley Mason Park, a beautiful green space with benches and shaded walking trails.

Cliff Walk in York, Maine
Sandi Barrett

4. Walk along the cliffs

The one-mile round-trip Cliff Walk runs along York Harbor and is adjacent to Harbor Beach. The two-hour on-street parking lot leaves plenty of time to complete this lovely walk. The view of the water is beautiful and the trail is perched above the rocky shore. The path is partially paved and fairly flat, but gives way to a narrow dirt track which requires balance and sure footing.

Cape Neddick Lightstation aka Nubble Light in York, Maine
Sandi Barrett

5. See Nubble Light

Built in 1879, and officially called the Cape Neddick Lightstation, Nubble Light sits on a “core” of land just off the mainland coast. Visible from Sohier Park, this is a wonderful place to sip your morning coffee and watch the sunrise. The picturesque white gingerbread-style caretaker’s house with its palisade and large lighthouse is perfect. The small bright red outbuilding completes the picture-ready picture.

If you visit Nubble Light later in the day, take a short walk down Nubble Road and stop at Dunne’s Ice Cream for a delicious cup or cone in the afternoon. You will find a long list of classic flavor options. Some ready-made taste sensations like Maine Whoopie Pie, Dunne’s Wild Irish Cream and Maine Wild Blueberry can tempt you to step out of your comfort zone. Either way, nothing says a vacation on the coast like delicious ice cream.

Inside the Stonewall Kitchen York, Maine
Sandi Barrett

6. Shop at the Stonewall Kitchen Company store

Everything you love about Stonewall Kitchen products is under one roof in York. If you claim their Maine Wild Blueberry Jam or Bourbon Bacon Jam but never find a jar in your local store, you have to stop by their company store. With all the kitchen supplies and jar treats available, you can stock up on all your favorite products.

After shopping, enjoy a snack at the Café. You can also take your goodies out to the outdoor patio and snack near the beautifully manicured flower beds.

Plan your visit around one of the fun and fabulous seasonal courses. For example, the menu for the “No Fiddleing Around” course includes sautéed mushrooms and fiddleheads with a tenderloin. It is followed by a crunchy rhubarb with ginger for dessert. The ‘Around the Globe’ series includes classy menus like ‘Down Under’, featuring Australian and New Zealand dishes. Start with a kiwi and macadamia nut salad followed by calamari with a mild chili sauce, meat pies and hasselback potatoes. Complete the dinner with a superb Pavlova. A cooking class that produces a fabulous dinner to share is the best of the best.

7. Enjoy fresh seafood

Take a seat on the deck and enjoy a perfectly cooked Maine lobster. Lobster Cove on Long Sands Beach prepares daily fresh seafood. It’s the perfect spot for a bowl of classic New England clam chowder, steamers, steamed twin lobsters, or a killer lobster roll. Place a take-out order for steamboats, lobster and corn on the cob, and enjoy a lobster feast on the beach or on your porch. You can’t get more from coastal New England than this.

Clay Hill Farm, near Cape Neddick, offers diners a serene natural setting. Certified wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary, you will enjoy a peaceful natural environment and local specialties. Start with their Lobster Bisque, it’s almost mandatory. The Maine Lobster Carbonara, Lemon Crusted Haddock or Vegetable Pie are carefully prepared. Recommended food and wine pairings accompany each menu option. take all the guesswork out of your wine decision. Clay Hill Farm is a lovely place for a relaxed and elegant dining experience.

Goldenrod York, Maine
Sandi Barrett

8. Saltwater taffy experiment

No trip to the Maine coast is complete without a sticky saltwater taffy box. Goldenrod has been serving this classic treat since 1896. You’ll know the taffy machine is on when you see a crowd gathered near the picture window. Watching stretched and drawn pastel-colored candies is a centuries-old tradition.

You can purchase a pre-mixed box or order your own favorite flavor blend custom made. Choose from perennial favorites like molasses, peanut butter, peppermint, chocolate and more to satisfy this must-have and sweet treat.

9. Seasonal camping by the ocean

Turn your caravan into your summer beach house. Camp Eaton is a community of seasonal campers stationed at the end of Long Sands Beach. The Camp Community is a summer getaway where family and friends come together to enjoy the beautiful southern Maine weather and have fun with their toes in the sand. The view from your home office will improve tremendously when you are sitting on a blanket with the Atlantic Ocean as the Zoom background screen.

10. Rent a beach house

The ocean view from a porch rocker is the perfect group getaway. When you rent an oceanfront cottage, like this Vrbo rental just steps from Short Sands Beach, you can experience the laid-back beach vibe for a short weekend adventure or an extended vacation. Take the family or a group of friends and share this adorable Premier Host cottage that sleeps eight.

A beach town getaway is best enjoyed when you can walk everywhere – no car required.

11. Stay at the York Harbor Inn

The charming York Harbor Inn offers comfortable rooms with magnificent views of York Harbor. The hostel complex comprises seven buildings with a variety of stay options that can accommodate a romantic getaway or a fun family vacation. There are several dining options on the property allowing guests to park the car and soak up the ambiance of York Harbor. The Inn is a short walk from Harbor Beach and Cliff Walk. Plus, generous sidewalks allow guests to stroll to Long Sands Beach and beyond.

When staying at the Main Inn, ask for a room with an ocean view, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine and a snack while watching the comings and goings of the neighborhood.

Pro tip: Parking along Route 1A is limited to two hours, perfect for a quick trip to the beach if you can find a spot. Short Sands Course is best for a daytime beach adventure.

Freeport, home to the LL Bean flagship store, is an hour north of York on the freeway or two hours if you take the Scenic Drive. To help you plan your day, visit How to Spend a Fantastic Day in Freeport, Maine: Shop, Eat, and Relax.

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