— YORK, MAINE — Maine, the Pine Tree State, is known for lighthouses, rocky coastlines, lobster rolls, and sandy beaches. It became the 23rd state in 1820 and is the single largest producer of blueberries in the United States. And, in 1847, the donut hole was invented by 16-year-old Hansen Gregory. He hailed from Rockport and was working as a crewman aboard a lime-trading schooner. I mean, who knew?
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Everyone seems to have a favorite place to enjoy all that Maine has to offer. Mine is York, and below I’ll share a few reasons why I love this area so much.~Theresa St. John
1. Nubble Lighthouse
I love lighthouses and am drawn to them whenever I travel. Nubble Lighthouse is by far my favorite. I’ve been visiting York, Maine, since the early ’70s, and I always stop here when I do.
I love to catch the sunrise or sunset – they’re both stunning. Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to see both. You can often see anglers on the rocks, sightseeing tour boats passing close to shore, droves of people just there to enjoy the sea air and view.
The lighthouse is located in Sohier Park and offers a cute little shop where you can buy trinkets to remember your visit. There are public bathrooms, which are open most of the year.
2. The Goldenrod
Oh, my gosh, who doesn’t love an old-fashioned candy store that brings up wonderful childhood memories of long, lazy days at the beach?
I can stand for hours at The Goldenrod watching them make taffy in the front windows, choose my bag or box of candy from their counter display, or enjoy a delicious meal in their dining area.
I love salt water taffy, fudge, and all kinds of other candies – so to say I’m in 7th-heaven is an understatement for sure.
Edward and Mattie Talpey established their business in 1896 – in the exact spot where it stands today. The following year brought the first electric trains of the Portsmouth, Kittery, and York Railway.
Because it was the first stop for those traveling on the railway, word spread quickly about the candy shop, and they remain tremendously popular today.
3. Short Sands Beach
Short Sands Beach is enormously popular, and true to its name, short. Only a quarter-mile long, the sandy beach is surrounded by beautiful shops, restaurants, a zoo, and more than a handful of hotels to choose from when you decide to stay in the area.
Folks I talk to say it’s one of the best places to find sea glass after a storm, and you can often find beach-lovers carrying a colorful assortment in their pockets.
A few years ago, a brutal nor’ easter unearthed an old shipwreck along the shore – man, did I feel fortunate to be in the area when that event occurred. The ship has been visible only a few times over the years. Archeologists agree that the relic dates pre-Revolutionary War, though many other facts are unknown about the boat.
4. Lobster Cove Restaurant
I love seafood, and Maine certainly offers up the freshest. The Lobster Cove restaurant is right on the beach, and for the past few years, they even have handcrafted picnic tables and umbrellas for outside dining during the warmer weather.
I always recommend this place when friends are driving up to the Maine coastline. I’ve never had a bad meal, the views are spectacular, and the waitstaff is super friendly.
And, if seafood isn’t your thing, they offer chicken, beef, even macaroni and cheese. If you go, please try the French Onion Soup. I’m a snob when it comes to this appetizer, and theirs is top-notch.
5. Wiggly Bridge
Oh my gosh, after visiting this area of Maine for almost fifty years, I can hardly believe I only discovered this wonderful place only a few years ago. Wiggly Bridge is known as the world’s smallest suspension bridge and is named ‘Wiggly’ because, well, it wiggles when you walk across it.
I’ve visited this unique attraction all times of the year, during all hours of the day. Sunsets are beautiful, and just standing silent, watching the boats, listening to the water’s current under the bridge is a relaxing way to spend some downtime.
Once you cross the bridge, you can enjoy a quick walk through the woods. I’ve picnicked here with friends, and though dogs are welcome, owners need to keep them leashed.
6. Yummies Candy & Nuts
When I was a kid, my dad and grandpa would take the five of us to Jimmy’s Penny Candy Store on Main Street in the rural town where we grew up. My sisters and I could march in with a dollar and come home with a bag full of candy. I love childhood memories that make me smile for a minute.
Yummies Candy and Nut shop, located just a few miles from York, is a place that always amazes me. The shop carries over 10,000 pounds of candy and nuts in floor-to-ceiling displays. Everything is neatly marked, and they sell so much of the sweets I remember as a kid.
Love salt-water taffy? They have a gazillion flavors, and you can pick and choose your favorites from bins in one section of the store. They carry Gummy Bears, all kinds of tasty nuts, chocolate-covered everything, and nostalgic candy bars from yesteryear. You name it – I bet they have it.
7. The Cutty Sark Motel
Whenever I can squeeze in some free time to travel from New York to Maine, The Cutty Sark Motel is definitely in my top five places to stay.
Firstly, it’s been a family-run business since 1975, and I love staying overnight in hospitality-driven establishments that pay attention to every little detail. I can call to let them know I won’t be arriving until after office hours, and they tape my key in an envelope to the office door.
Every room has a fantastic ocean view overlooking Long Sands Beach and the main drag, so I get to see sunrises and sunsets from my windows or outside on the lawn, bundled up in the colder weather if I want to. The rooms are super clean, and the prices are very affordable – especially with the bonus sound of ocean waves making their way to shore, lulling me to sleep every night.
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8. Fox’s Lobster House
You have to try another great seafood restaurant when making your way through York. Fox’s Lobster House, located next to The Nubble Lighthouse in Sohier Park, has everything you could want in a seaside eatery. It’s been there as long as I can remember, and one of their specialties is serving blueberry pie and this thirst-quenching delicious blueberry lemonade.
I love their whole-belly fried clams and onion rings, but the lazy man’s lobster is another go-to of mine. Count me in! The meat is delicate and sweet, soaked in melted butter – all of the deliciousness of lobster meat without the mess of cracking and picking.
If you choose to sit upstairs, the windows afford a marvelous view of the rocky shoreline and the Nubble Light from where you’re seated. The motto is catchy – “One nibble on the nubble, and you’re hooked.” I couldn’t agree more.
9. Long Sands Beach
If you talk to people who love York’s beaches, it’s funny to learn how some love Short Sands while others are die-hard Long Sands Beach fans. This beach is nearly two miles long, with plenty of space for the thousands of visitors that flock there and spread out in the summer months.
You’ll find people setting up chairs at first light and watch them break down their site after dusk – that’s how popular it is there.
A few years ago, when the nor-easter blasted the shoreline, taking out sidewalks, streets, leaving tons of seaweed and destruction in its place, the town promptly went to work fixing the damage. Today, they’ve rebuilt walkways, the seawall, and there’s even a brand new bathhouse about halfway down the beach.
10. Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
If you drive just a few miles north of York, The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge will treat you to one of the best outdoor experiences. Established in 1966 to protect coastal sea marshes and estuaries for several migrating birds, I love wandering through any time of year.
Rachel Carson was a well-known marine biologist, author, and environmentalist who drew attention to the biological consequences of using chemical pesticides during WWII, among other things.
I often wander through the property’s numerous acres with binoculars and camera, excited to see wildlife and a variety of winged friends walking the path to the coastline beyond.
11. Old Parish Cemetery
Old cemeteries are popular with people worldwide – and it seems like the older, the better applies here in The Old Parish Cemetery. These headstones date back to the 17th century, tucked beneath shady trees, and surrounded by an ivy-covered low stone wall.
Some folks say there is a witch buried there. I have seen her headstone, where visitors leave gifts of money and other trinkets to honor her life, but my photos never come out well. (Maybe she doesn’t like to have her photo taken?)
If you spend some time in the area, be sure to visit a few of the beautiful historic buildings nearby – they do a great job-sharing York’s rich past.
12. The Old Gaol
Listed as a National Historic Landmark and erected in 1719, The York Old Gaol has always intrigued me, being it’s the first royal colonial prison on this side of the Atlantic. A pillory-type device stands in front of the stone and wood building, where families can pose and take funny pictures to remember their trip.
You can take a self-guided tour inside, view the dungeons, and read about the prisoner’s fates from information posted throughout the building. There are also exhibit cases displaying animal bones, broken wine glasses, and other items from archaeological digs in the area.
Because I love history, this is a place I love to visit, and I am always grateful for the guides willing to answer my questions.
13. The Viewpoint Hotel
There’s nothing better than drifting off to sleep with the sound of ocean waves outside the bedroom window, and nothing more calming than seeing the Nubble Lighthouse from your living room suite at The Viewpoint.
This luxury boutique hotel is great for family travel, as well as a romantic getaway, wedding venue, or girlfriend’s weekend. Each suite is well-thought-out, with plenty of room inside. I also love the kitchen for dining in after a fun-filled day at the beach.
The Viewpoint is beautifully landscaped, boasts a pool, outdoor grilling area, lounge chairs to lie down and relax in, and views that take your breath away.
14. Stone’s Throw Restaurant & Hotel
And if you aren’t up for an over-the-top luxury resort stay, Stone’s Throw, sister hotel to The Viewpoint, is another option I love. It’s a charming hotel, right across from Long Sands Beach. The views from the main building are where I suggest you stay – you have the best view of sunrise and the sandy shorefront.
Everything is super clean, the rooms are bright and comfy, and the entire staff is friendly and helpful. I’ve stayed here three times now when I travel to York – it remains one of my favorite places to lay my head.
There’s a great restaurant downstairs that serves up the freshest seafood in really creative ways. In the colder weather, heaters are on the outside deck, allowing you to see and enjoy the ocean while not freezing to death.
15. The FinestKind Cruises
I was lucky enough to book a cruise on The FinestKind my last visit to Maine. I loved this because it’s a small boat cruise, 14-miles long, and it travels from Ogunquit’s Perkins Cove to Nubble Lighthouse and back again.
I was thrilled to get a different view of the lighthouse as the boat travels around the backside – something I’ve never had the chance to see before. The guys giving the tour were knowledgeable and funny – a great combination when you are out on the water for two hours.
We laughed a lot, asked questions – which they were quick to answer, and chatted with others during the ride. It was incredible learning some of Maine’s rich history. The cruise serves drinks and snacks for an extra charge, and there are bathrooms onboard.
16. StoneWall Kitchen
I always say that a trip to York has to include a visit to The StoneWall Kitchen. Firstly, you are greeted by a fabulous garden, with various flowers and plants and decorations – depending on what time of year it is. The grounds there are meticulously maintained and a photographer’s dream.
Inside is a company store, with jams, crackers, mustards, china, stemware, giftware, even a café. I don’t even want to admit how much money I’ve spent there – the products are so tempting; I simply can’t resist.
I am impressed that there is a cooking school on the grounds and sometimes you can watch the cooking demonstrations and speak with staff on duty who can answer any questions or observations you might have.
If you’re so inclined, you can even observe the production line from gallery windows and learn all about how the kitchen makes their flavorful jams. You can even take a cooking class hosted by professional chefs. It’s a great stop during your time in this part of Maine – I hope you make room for it.
I still want to do so many things in the York area – I need to get back there and cross some off my must-see list. Maine is a beautiful state with treasures I’ve yet to uncover.
*Opening photo – York, Maine ©Theresa St. John