A Guide to the 20 Best things to do in York, Maine
Visiting York in Maine is a must if you’re in the area. We went on a trip to Maine as a family in April 2023 and we stayed in Kennebunk, which is very close to York.
We took several little trips to the York area, to see the Cape Neddick Nubble lighthouse (pictured above) as well as visiting the beaches and surrounding areas.
We didn’t get to do a lot of the following so quite a few of these are going on my to-do list for next time.
I would recommend visiting York, Maine after May when most of the below opens up from the cold winter. We found that there wasn’t a whole lot to do in April, but that’s not to say that we didn’t have a good time. Lots of windy beach walks and lobster rolls inside cafes!
York, a town full of history
York, Maine, has a rich history that spans several centuries. The history of York dates back to the early 1600s when European settlers, primarily English, arrived in the area. In 1624, the English established the Agamenticus Plantation, which included present-day York. The area was initially inhabited by the indigenous Abenaki people.
In 1652, the town of York was officially incorporated. It was named after York in England. The settlement gradually grew as a fishing and trading community, benefiting from its coastal location.
After the war, York experienced economic growth, particularly in shipbuilding, trade, and fishing. The town continued to thrive as a coastal community throughout the 19th century.
Today, York maintains its historical character while adapting to modern needs. The community is known for its beautiful beaches, historic sites, and vibrant cultural scene. The Old York Historical Society continues to play a crucial role in preserving and promoting the town’s rich history.
Here are 20 of the best things I’d recommend to do in York, Maine.
York beach consists of two beaches: long sands and short sands beach. Closer to Cape Neddick is short sands, so that’s a good one to tie into visiting the lighthouse at the same time. Short sands is a quarter of a mile long and is located in Ellis Park. There is metered parking for your convenience. It’s a great beach for families as you’ll find restrooms and a playground, as well as basketball courts and a gazebo to hide from the sun if you forget your parasol!
As it’s close to the town of York, you’ll find many restaurants and shops nearby too. Long Sands beach is located between York Harbour and York Beach. Another beach with restrooms and parking too. This is a good beach to come and surf as as they have a ‘mixed use’ zone allocated for doing so. There’s also access for those with disabilities. You’ll also find places to eat or takeout food nearby.
Cape Neddick and The Nubble Lighthouse
If you’re in York, you cannot miss visiting The Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick. Perfect for a cliff walk along the beautiful coastline and a look out at one of the most popular tourist destinations in Maine! It’s the perfect spot for a family picnic in Sohier park too. The best place to take a photo that you’ll treasure forever.
The Old York Historical Society
If you’re a history buff, the buildings listed on the Old York Historical Society website are worth a trip to. York was once the seat of the government for the province of Maine and was the centre of maritime commerce. There’s plenty of buildings full of history to discover. If you visit the Old York Historical Society website, you’ll see that there’s actually a trail of buildings listed. I’m going to list them below to save you time. All of the places are closed for the winter and don’t open until May, so just bare that in mind when planning. Tickets include all the buildings and are $10. 18 and younger go free.
Old York Museum Center
Starting here, you’ll find a visitors centre, the Virginia Ware Parson’s Education Center, as well as the Remick Gallery which often has exhibitions (current ones are ‘the best of York’ and ‘The Bulman bed hangings’ to peruse around; Jefferds Tavern, a restructured colonial tavern, and York Corner Schoolhouse, one of the earliest surviving 18th Century schoolhouses.
The Old Gaol
You’ll find the Old Gaol (a former colonial prison) at Lindsay Road and Main St, York. It was built in 1656. There’s a tour included with the ticket bought from the historical society.
Emerson-Willcox House Museum
A former house, general store, post office, stage tavern and tailor shop. Built in 1735 by George Ingraham with a Georgian architectural design. It’s now a museum you can walk around a discover its 10 rooms and hear about the families who once lived there.
Perkins House Museum
Located on Southside road in York, near Sewall’s Bridge, the Perkins House Museum was the home of the ferryman and Sea Captains of York. It then became the home of Mary Perkins and her daughter in 1898. They both gave the home a makeover and transformed it into a typical colonial New England home. Tour tickets are available at Simpletix and entry is not included in the historical society ticket. Open June to October.
George Marshall Store Gallery
An old store once owned by George Marshall in 1867. He used it to store wood and general building materials and was owned by the family until 1954. In 1996 it was revived by Mary Harding and turned into an art gallery that you can now visit. Opens in May.
Steedman Woods and The Wiggly Bridge Loop Trail
From what I’ve heard, it’s difficult to find parking for the wiggly bridge. A lot of it is permit-parking. There are some non-permit spaces but they fill quickly. Anywho, I’ll share this link to My Hikes for you which has parking coordinates on it, so you can give it a go.
The trail starts at a dam on York River. You walk across the Wiggly Bridge, which is basically a tiny suspension bridge (one of the smallest in the US!) which makes a slight wiggle and into Steedman Woods. Would make a lovely family walk as it’s only 0.7 miles.
Wiggly Bridge Distillery
Whilst you’re visiting the Wiggly Bridge, why not visit the distillery nearby too? They distill all sorts of alcohol, from rum to whiskey and vodka. You can take a tour too! There’s the founder’s tour where you can learn all about the distilling process. The tour is run by one of the head distillers who is a wealth of knowledge. You can also go for the more reasonably priced distillery tour. You can ask all the questions you want about the process whilst sampling some of the liqueurs too!
York’s Wild Kingdom Zoo Amusement Park
If you’re travelling with young kids, a trip to York’s Wild Animal Kingdom is a must! You’ll find all sorts of animals and birds their, from a Bengal tiger to a red kangaroo and a prairie dog! There’s too many to list here! There are rides for most ages: go-karts, The Wacky Mouse coaster, kiddle swings and kiddie boats, plus more. Definitely aimed at younger kids though. They are also extra $1 a token. You can bring your own picnic or buy food there. They close for the winter and re-open on May 25th.
Cool down on Ice Cream from Dunne’s at Cape Neddick
Dunne’s is the perfect spot to cool down whilst taking in the views of the Nubble lighthouse. There are sooooo many flavors: almond joy; bubble gum; butter pecan; cookie dough; frozen pudding; Maine tracks; mudslide; peppermint stick, Dole Whip (just like the one at Disney!) and raspberry swirl, to name a few!
Relax at York Harbor Inn
You could either stay at the York Harbor Inn and be at the heart of one of the oldest towns, or pop in for a dinner. Chef Jermaine serves up the likes of traditional Maine lobster rolls to corn chowder and a fillet Mignon! You know you’ll eat well at the inn.
York Harbour Inn has several buildings to choose from in terms of accommodation. You can stay in guest rooms at the Main Inn or the more luxurious Harbor Hill Inn, fit with gas stoves and jacuzzis. There’s also the Harbor Cliffs Inn with ocean views; Yorkshire House with its own hot tub. Harbor Crest Inn is near the Wiggly Bridge and Chapman Cottage with has outdoor dining and a fantastic menu. There’s so much choice here in York!
Stonewall Kitchen York Company Store
A friend had recommended the Stonewall Kitchen store to us but we ran out of time unfortunately. I’ve heard it’s heaven for foodies with their delicious gift store, demonstration kitchen and cafe. In the summer you can relax on Adirondack chairs on the patio whilst eating yummy baked goods, sipping coffee. You can also watch how they make jam all-year-round by peeking through the viewing gallery windows. The perfect place to pick up souvenirs.
Stay Beachside at Union Bluff Hotel
For those that wish to stay near Short Sands Beach, Union Bluff is the perfect option. There’s 18 different room types over 3 buildings. There’s old world charm and modern amenities. Dining varies from pub takeout to the Union Bluff Pub and the more upscale grill. You can find all the traditional dishes there, like lobster roll and clam chowder.
Oceanside Quarters at Stage Neck Inn
For breathtaking views over the Harbor, Stage Neck Inn is a fantastic choice. A great place for strolling out of an evening for a sunset walk as well as a short drive to York Village. Relax at the indoor and outdoor pools, play tennis at the tennis club and spend a rainy day at the spa. Enjoy a breakfast buffet and seafood aplenty at lunch and dinner.
Buy Artisan Bread at When Pigs Fly
A bread store with over 25 varieties to choose from. When Pigs Fly make all their breads natural with no added preservatives or flavor. You can enjoy the likes of sourdough, cinnamon raisin and New York rye, to harvest cranberry and pumpernickel. The store was opened by Ron Siegel back in 1993 after running his own restaurant in Boston. He baked 80 loaves on his first day and the bakery continues to churn out the same amount, and more!
Go treasure hunting at Hidden Treasures
York and Wells are both famous for their antiques. The thrill of the hunt is such fun and should be considered even if it’s not usually your thing. Hidden Treasures in York is an emporium full of second hand wares, from home decor to furniture. You may find yourself a souvenir or two if you’re lucky!
The York Antiques Gallery
If thrifting and antiquing is your thing, a visit to the antiques gallery, one of Maine’s finest multiple dealer shop, is a must-do. The gallery offers an eclectic mix of 18th, 19th, and 20th century furniture and decorative art.
Hike Mount Agamenticus
Mount Agamenticus, often referred to as Mount A by locals, is a prominent natural landmark located in York, Maine. It is a 692-foot (211 meters) high hill a part of the larger Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region, encompassing over 10,000 acres of land.
It offers numerous recreational opportunities for visitors. There are a network of hiking and biking trails that provide varying levels of difficulty, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced outdoor enthusiasts. You’ll also find breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including the Atlantic Ocean, the Isles of Shoals, and the White Mountains.
More hiking trails in York, Maine
York offers several hiking trails that allow residents and visitors to explore the natural beauty of the area. Keep in mind that trail conditions and availability may change, so it’s a good idea to check with local authorities or trail organizations for the latest information. Here are some popular hiking trails in and around York: Cape Neddick Nubble Trail; Steedman Woods Trail; Mount Agamenticus to the Sea Trail; Cliff Walk at York Harbor Beach; Wiggly Bridge and Steedman Woods Loop and Bald Head Cliff Trail.
Before heading out, consider checking with local authorities, trail organizations, or the Old York Historical Society for up-to-date trail information, conditions, and any trail regulations. Additionally, always practice Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the natural beauty of these hiking areas.