From the carousel and arcades in York Beach to the peace and quiet of the one of the largest wilderness areas on the East Coast, York truly is an ideal vacation spot -- for all reasons. York has miles of beaches: the popular Long Sands and Short Sands, and, off the beaten track, Passaconaway and Harbor Beach. York is a well-known summer resort and is home to three 18-hole golf clubs, three sandy beaches, and Mount Agamenticus. It includes the villages of York Village,York Harbor, York Beach and Cape Neddick.
Many spots throughout The Yorks have picturesque views of the famous Cape Neddick Light at Nubble Rock, which has figured in both artists' work and souvenirs of the Maine coast. Visible in clear weather is the 133 foot tall Boon Island Light on Boon Island, located 6.2 miles off York. Old-fashioned restaurants, like the Goldenrod, maintain the historic character of the York Beach area.
Nubble Point is first mentioned in 1643 when William Hooke engaged Henry Blaisdell to take care of a herd of goats on the Nubble. As the settlement grew and active sea trade developed local fisherman, traders and Captains of coastal schooners were moving their ships in and out of Cape Neddick River and York Harbor. A steady pace of maritime traffic was soon developed. Fog, rough seas, storms and a tough navigation around an under sea ledge just off the shore created tricky navigation. These early sailors experienced many close calls and as time passed they became witnesses to several serious shipwrecks. By the 1800's these seafarers determined a beacon light was needed to warn of the impending dangers. The rocky slopes at Cape Neddick were chosen for the location.
York is an old colonial town that shares in the proud maritime history of New England, with its history going back to December 1631 when Sir Ferdinando Gorges received a grant of 24,000 acres. Settlement soon followed.
York is actually the fourth name that the town has known. The earliest records refer to the general area as Agamenticus, after the original inhabitants. The first English settlers, having come from the region of Bristol, England, lent that name to the town until it became a chartered city under Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who renamed it Gorgeana in 1642. The name York was appointed after the fall of the Loyalists under Cromwell in 1652, commemorating the town (York, England) in which Cromwell defeated the King's forces.
The center of York Village was along Lindsay Road as York River was the most important mode of transportation. After the Abenaki Candlemas Day Raid of 1692, the town reorganized itself on higher ground that evolved into the present day center of religious, civic and governmental functions.
As tourism developed in the late nineteenth century, more and more of the town's tax dollars came from the businesses and homes of the wealthy summer residents. Although they sought the colonial quaintness of the town, they also wanted the amenities of the cities: public water, streetlights, sidewalks, paved roads, electricity and libraries. The locals, however, had the advantage of the vote, and farmers would not vote for improvements at York Harbor or York Beach.
In 1901 York Harbor and York Beach presented bills to the Maine legislature requesting the creation of York Harbor Village Corporation and York Beach Corporation. The incorporation process allowed these sub-towns a certain degree of self-government and a "refund" of 65 percent of the taxes they paid to York, permitting such independent services as fire, police, and highway departments.
York Harbor Village Corporation developed the first zoning ordinances in the state of Maine and was among the first in the nation. Zoning held the rapid growth in check as well as defined the types of businesses that were considered appropriate. York Harbor Village Corporation did not give up its autonomy until 1975.
York Beach Village Corporation was premier in bringing the amenities of the city to York. The village boasted the first sidewalks, streetlight, fire department, and public sewage and water. York Beach Village Corporation folded in 1977.
Cape Neddick, the residential suburb of York, was the last section of York to be developed due to its geographic remoteness from the town center. Lumbering operations and its associated mills along Cape Neddick Josias Rivers furnished employment. The name Cape Neddick is one native place name that has survived and remained a prominent landmark since contact, known first as a navigational marker and today as the site of an oft-photographed lighthouse.The English added the word "Cape", but Neddick is believed to be an Algonkian word meaning "solitary" and refers to the nubble of land isolated from the peninsula.
A small sheltered, horseshoe-shaped sandy beach with gentle surf, bordered by York Harbor and rocky cliffs making for a an extremely rugged cliff walk. Known as the locals beach, it often is full of children riding the waves and families picnicking in the sand.
Long Sands Beach
Long Sands is the town's longest beach with more than a mile of sand stretching between York Beach and York Harbor. Dozens of five star hotels and other accommodations operate in the York Beach area, although most close after summer. A family favorite due to its gentle surf.
Short Sands Beach
A sandy beach surrounded by shops, restaurants and evening concerts in the summer. This York Beach area is home of many childhood memories. An arcade makes it family-friendly.
Passaconaway Beach (Cape Neddick Beach)
York's smallest beach, low tide exposes the sandbar and tidal pools.
York's Wild Kingdom
Located in the heart of York Beach, Maine is the largest zoo and amusement park in the area and has something to offer every member of the family. Each year more than 200,000 people come to visit its rare species and exotic animals from around the world, including Rewa, Maine's only white Bengal tiger. It also offers family rides, a mini golf course, paddle boats, a petting zoo, picnic grounds, a haunted house and butterfly kingdom. Educational learning sessions from their knowledgeable curators take place throughout the day.
Old Gaol (Old Jail)
The gaol was a colonial prison building for York County, Maine and served as a jail from 1719 to 1879. It was built in four phases, including construction of its original stone cell portion in 1719. The original portion of the jail was constructed using timbers from the earlier York jail built in 1656. The present structure's shape was finalized when the building was enlarged in the 1790s in response to a demand for better conditions in debtor's prisons after an increase in debtors following the American Revolution.
Visitors see the gaoler's quarters accurately restored and furnished to reflect the occupancy of Gaoler William Emerson and his wife Eunice in 1789. The cells still echo with the stories of criminals and debtors confined within their walls. Three rooms in the south end of the building serve as a display gallery chronicling the history and evolution of the building.
After 1879 the Gaol was used as a school, warehouse, and boarding house until 1900 when it opened as a colonial museum of relics. The Old Gaol continues to be a museum and reflects the jail and jailer's quarters as they were in 1789 and is operated by the Old York Historical Society. Jefferd's Tavern, and The Emerson Wilcox House are neighboring historical sights.
The Mount Agamenticus region covers nearly 30,000 acres in the southern Maine towns of Eliot, Ogunquit, South Berwick, Wells and York. It is now a park reservation which provides both habitat for wildlife and venue for recreation.
The Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region contains 10,000 acres of land and is one of the largest remaining expanses of undeveloped forests in coastal New England. The region is known for its abundance of vernal pools, rich biodiversity, and unique trail system and is home to many of Maine’s rare plants and animals. State, local and non-profit landowners are working together to protect Mount A’s water, wildlife, and land.
From the top on a clear day, you can see Boston, 70 miles away.
Nubble LightAs one of the most scenic and photographed lighthouses in the world, thousands of people visit it annually. Twice a year the lighthouse is outlined in Christmas lights and is lit at night for special celebrations. Christmas in July is held during the last week in July and the first week of August. The Lighting of the Nubble celebration is held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving with hot cocoa and homemade cookies provided. Santa arrives via fire truck to turn the lights on and the lighthouse stays lit until mid-January, weather permitting.
"Curse you, Red Baron!!!"