York Beach is a nifty coastal town full of life and a flavor found only in New England. It's kind of funky. There's a huge amusement park and zoo complex just a block from the beach, a fantastic old-time carousel still goes 'round, and eateries appear everywhere.
Blended with the spectacular rocky beaches, quaint shops are around every corner, and lodging is traveler friendly. As a popular summer beach resort, York Beach is an affordable alternative compared to larger, trendier beaches.
There are miles of pristine beaches along this southern coast of Maine, where swimming, sunning, surfing, boating, kayaking and fishing are the pursuits of the day.
The Communities of York Beach, Maine
The communities of York Village, York Harbor, and York Beach are collectively called "The Yorks." Steeped in history, York Village (the historic part of town) was the first American city to be chartered by England. Then over a century ago, York Harbor was built as a luxurious summertime resort. York Beach has become the beachfront where both locals and tourists flock for summer vacations.
Money Magazine has listed "The Yorks" as one of the top ten places to vacation in the U.S. It is rich in outstanding restaurants that cook up fresh Maine fare such as lobster and crab cakes.
York Beach Lodging
There is a commendable selection of fine hotels and inns on this southern Maine coast. Lodging in and around "The Yorks" is second to none.
You can take your pick of atmosphere and pricing. For instance, the renowned oceanfront York Harbor Inn has been featured on the Travel Channel, complete with its own pub, outdoor hot tub and conference facilities. For the full resort experience with tennis, golfing and spa, the Stage Neck Inn boasts AAA Four Diamond ratings.
Yet if you're looking for accommodations that are easy on the wallet, many chain hotels, plus Bed & Breakfasts, cottages, and motels are nearby. Beach vacation rentals are spacious and comfortable, and are the choice of many families and groups staying for weekly vacations.
Map of York Beach
The water is chilly! Yet the sun is warm and these wonderful beaches offer old-fashioned fun. They are actually quite close to one another. Some of the beaches require metered parking, so bring along plenty of quarters.
Long Sands Beach is 2 miles of beautiful public coastline along Route 1A. This is a popular beach for surfing (surfers have a designated surfing area), swimming and walking... and volleyball tournaments happen all summer long. There is metered parking along the beach road, and the rest areas are portable. You can rent rafts and beach umbrellas, and lifeguards are on duty during the summer months. Be sure to leave enough time to enjoy some great seafood at the Sun and Surf restaurant.
Just north of Long Sands is Short Sands Beach, next to the downtown area of York Beach. You'll find plenty of metered parking. Outdoor showers and a bathhouse are a big plus, and there's a good playground for the kids. The views are beautiful, and the beach is kept very clean – it is rarely overcrowded. The tide goes out a great ways, leaving a large sandy beach area. The kids will love the Fun-O-Rama arcade. While you're at Short Sands Beach, stop by Goldenrod Kisses restaurant on the boardwalk strip for the best home-made candy and taffy anywhere. Right in the heart of York village, Short Sands Beach is handy to shops as well as restaurants and lodging.
York Harbor Beach is a small, horseshoe-shaped beach, and is a favorite of York Beach residents. It's a great family beach with gentle surf, a bit more secluded than Short Sands and Long Sands. Kids love the excellent tidal pools that form to play in and build sand castles. Parking is by permit only, so many vacationers simply walk from their nearby lodging, such as the wonderful York Harbor Inn. There are beautiful oceanfront beach homes and stately mansions along York Harbor Beach, plus quaint shops, restaurants and art galleries.
Near the mouth of Cape Neddick Harbor is Cape Neddick Beach– also known as Passaconaway Beach – and is another locals' favorite. Lots of sand bars develop with the tides, with makes it perfect for shell collecting. The harbor offers deep sea fishing, boating, golfing, shopping and several fine restaurants.
Things To Do
One of the best things about the area is so many attractions are within walking distance. You can enjoy wonderful shops and fine dining all along the way. Better yet, ride the old-fashioned trolley that runs through the York Beach area.
Visit the oldest jail in America! The "Old York Gaol," built in 1720 in Historic York Village, was once the prison for colonial Maine, and inside are dungeons, cells and jailer's quarters.
Take part in the Candlelit Walking Tours through old York Village. You'll enjoy expertly spun ghost stories and tales of witches – great fun, and it's not super scary so bring the kids.
Visit York's Wild Kingdom Zoo and Amusement Park. This is the largest zoo and amusement park in Maine, where you can see hundreds of animals from around the world. Exhibits include a Bengal tiger, bear and monkey exhibits, and elephant shows. Plus there's plenty of amusements such as bumper boats, batting cages, go-karts, a 90-ft super slide, paddle boats, video games - even a haunted house!
One place to visit while in York Beach, Maine is the Cape Neddick Light, also called "the Nubble". This beautiful lighthouse, built in 1879, sits watchfully on a small island just offshore Cape Neddick. The nickname "Nubble" is the name of the rocky island where it's located. You can view the lighthouse from Sohier Park, or take one of many cruises to see this magnificent piece of history.
Plan your vacation to come in time to celebrate "York Days", a week-long festival to welcome in the summer season, or enjoy the "Harvest Fest" celebration in October.
Just a short drive north on Highway 1 are the vacation beaches of Ogunquit, Maine and Kennebunk, Maine.