When summer arrives in York, Maine, the town awakes from its quiet off-season existence and morphs into a bustling community of vacationers and daytrippers. Floppy hats and flip flops are the expected uniform and amping up the good times vibe is the only plan you need to complete your day. You know you’re on vacation when the lingering smell of fried dough mixes with the aroma of salty ocean spray and coconut suntan lotion. You can almost feel your blood pressure return to normal. This charming beach town is good for your mind, body, and soul.
There are so many fabulous things to do in York, Maine you will want to plan a weekend getaway or even a summer-long working vacation. Lively beaches, amazing seafood, fun shops, comfy inns, and season-long campsites await your visit. No matter what’s on your York agenda, you will have a great time in Maine’s southern coastal town.
Some information in this piece was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.
1. Short Sands Beach
Short Sands Beach is a popular beachgoer spot. Due to its small size and proximity to the downtown fun, it can get blanket-to-blanket crowded. The beach does offer a large playground, a good size parking lot, and a grassy area. It is adjacent to shops, restaurants, and the arcade making it the perfect spot to spend the day.
Just a block or two from the beach you’ll find sweet treats like ice cream, fudge, and saltwater taffy to satisfy your midday munchies. Dining options from takeaway stands to sit-down restaurants offer beach-friendly fan favorites. If you happen to be traveling with tweens and teens, the Fun-O-Rama Arcade will be an enormous hit.
2. Long Sands Beach
Rough and rocky, Long Sands Beach is punctuated with sandy stretches. Bathers will find towel -friendly spots in the sandy, central part of the long beach. Outlying sections will require scrambling over a few rocks to reach the water. Long Sands is a favorite spot for surfers who provide fun entertainment as they catch and ride the waves.
There is beachside street parking at Long Sands Beach. The walkway along the beach is a perfect place for a leisurely stroll. There are access stairs to the beach along the walkway and ramps near the public bathhouse.
3. Harbor Beach
Harbor Beach is a hidden gem frequented by locals and visitors who are staying in the area or can secure a coveted space along Route 1A. A gentle surf laps the beach, making it the perfect option for families. Harbor Beach is adjacent to Hartley Mason Park, a lovely green space with benches and shaded walking paths.
4. Walk Along The Cliffs
The one-mile, out-and-back Cliff Walk runs along York Harbor and is adjacent to Harbor Beach. The two-hour, on-street parking affords ample time to complete this pretty walk. The water views are lovely and the trail is perched above the rocky shoreline. The path is partially paved and fairly even but it gives way to a narrow dirt path that requires balance and sure-footedness.
5. Viewing Nubble Light
Built in 1879, and officially called Cape Neddick Lightstation, Nubble Light sits on a “nub” of land just off the mainland coast. Viewable from Sohier Park, it is a wonderful spot to sip your morning coffee and watch the sunrise. The picturesque white, gingerbread-style keeper’s cottage with its picket fence and tall lighthouse is picture-perfect. The small, vibrant red outbuilding completes the photo-ready tableau.
If you visit Nubble Light later in the day, take a short walk up Nubble Road and stop at Dunne’s Ice Cream for a delightful afternoon cup or cone. You will find an extensive list of classic flavor options. A few out-of-the-box flavor sensations like Maine Whoopie Pie, Dunne’s Wild Irish Cream, and Wild Maine Blueberry may tempt you out of your comfort zone. Anyway you scoop it, nothing says coastal vacation like a decadent ice cream treat.
6. Shop At The Stonewall Kitchen Company Store
Everything you love about Stonewall Kitchen products is under one roof in York. If you clamor for its Wild Maine Blueberry Jam or Bourbon Bacon Jam but can never find a jar at your local store, you need to stop at their Company Store. With all of the kitchen items and jarred goodies available, you can stock up on all your favorite products.
After shopping, enjoy a nibble at the Café. Alternatively, take your treats to the outdoor patio and munch by the beautifully manicured flower beds.
Plan your visit around one of the fun and fabulous seasonal classes. For example, the “No Fiddling Around” class menu includes mushrooms and sauteed fiddleheads paired with beef tenderloin. It is followed by a gingered rhubarb crisp for dessert. The “Around the Globe Series” includes class menus like “Down Under,” featuring Australian and New Zealand dishes. Begin with kiwi and macadamia nut salad followed by calamari with sweet chili sauce, meat pies, and hasselback potatoes. Complete the dinner with a stunning pavlova. A cooking class that produces a fabulous dinner to share is the best of the best.
7. Savor Fresh Seafood
Grab a seat on the deck and enjoy a perfectly cooked Maine lobster. The Lobster Cove on Long Sands Beach cooks up catch-of-the-day fresh seafood. This is the spot for a bowl of classic New England clam chowder, steamers, steamed twin lobsters, or a killer lobster roll. Place a to-go order for steamers, lobster, and corn-on-the-cob and enjoy a lobster feast on the beach or your porch. You can’t get more coastal New England than that.
Clay Hill Farm in nearby Cape Neddick, offers diners a serene natural setting. A certified wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary, you will enjoy the peaceful natural surroundings and locally sourced specialties. Start with their Lobster Bisque, it is almost required. The Maine Lobster Carbonara, Lemon Crusted Haddock, or Vegetable Tart are experly prepared. Recommended wine pairings accompany each menu option. taking all the guesswork out of your wine decision. Clay Hill Farm is a lovely spot for a casually elegant dining experience.
8. Saltwater Taffy Experience
No trip to the Maine coast is complete without a box of sticky, saltwater taffy. The Goldenrod has been serving up this classic treat since 1896. You will know the taffy pulling machine is running when you see a crowd gathered by the picture window. Watching the pastel-colored candy stretched and pulled is a time-honored tradition.
You can buy a premixed box or custom order your own favorite flavor mix. Choose from perennial favorites like molasses, peanut butter, peppermint, chocolate, and others to satisfy that must-have, sweet tooth treat.
9. Seasonal Oceanside Camping
Turn your camper trailer into your summer beach house. Camp Eaton is a community of seasonal campers parked at the end of Long Sands Beach. The camp community is a summer-long getaway where family and friends gather to enjoy the beautiful southern Maine weather and toes-in-the-sand fun. Your home office view will improve immensely when you are sitting on a blanket with the Atlantic Ocean as your Zoom background screen.
10. Rent A Beach House
Views of the ocean from a front porch rocker is the perfect group getaway. When you rent a beachfront 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 extended vacation. Grab the family or a group of friends and share this adorable Premier Host cottage that sleeps eight.
A getaway to a beach town is best enjoyed when you can walk everywhere — no car required.
11. Stay At the York Harbor Inn
Charming York Harbor Inn offers cozy rooms with beautiful views of York Harbor. The inn complex comprises seven buildings with a variety of stay options that can accommodate a romantic getaway to a fun family vacation. There are several dining options on property allowing guests to park the car and just soak up the York Harbor vibe. The Inn is steps away from Harbor Beach and the Cliff Walk. Additionally, the generous sidewalks allow guests to stroll to Long Sands Beach and beyond.
When staying at the Main Inn, request a room with an ocean view deck, it is the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine and a nibble while watching the comings and goings of the neighborhood.
Pro Tip: Parking along Route 1A has a two-hour limit, perfect for a quick trip to the beach if you can find a spot. The lot at Short Sands is best for a day-long beach adventure.
Freeport, home to the L.L. Bean flagship store, is an hour north of York by highway or two hours if you take the scenic route. To help plan your day, visit How To Spend A Fantastic Day In Freeport, Maine: Shopping, Eating, And Relaxing.