After Kittery with its cheek-to-jowl shopping outlets come the Yorks, the collective name for a handful of villages near or beside the sea. Historic York Village, the oldest English settlement in Maine, straddles the meandering York River. Scenic U.S. Route 1A heads east to York Harbor, a shady enclave of waterfront homes and fashionable inns, where river meets sea. Route 1A turns north toward the amusement areas of crowded York Beach, whose vestiges of the past render it a cut above the honky-tonk. Beyond are Nubble Light, one of America's most photographed lighthouses, and Cape Neddick Harbor, a quieter and quainter fishing site. Sand gives way to rocks as Bald Head Cliff rises to the forested Shore Road leading into Ogunquit. A Chamber of Commerce brochure details walking and driving tours. Most of the York Historical Society buildings are concentrated along Lindsay Road, which leads to Sewall's Bridge, a replica of the first pile drawbridge in America dating to 1761. Nearby, Route 103 passes a mini-suspension bridge for pedestrians (called the "wiggly bridge," for good reason), which leads to a pleasant pathway along the river from York Harbor to Sewall's Bridge. The rambling 1718 Sayward Wheeler House (1718) at 79 Barrell Lane is opened weekends by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Out Route 91 is a small stone memorial next to the trickling Maud Muller Spring, which inspired John Greenleaf Whittier's poem.
York Historic District, 207 York St., York Village. The history of the first chartered English city in North America (a refuge for early Puritan settlers from Massachusetts) is on display here. The Old York Historical Society in the historic George Marshall Store at 140 Lindsay Road offers guided tours of its six properties. Costumed guides begin tours in the 1750 Jefferd's Tavern, a Colonial hostelry facing the Old Burying Yard and the village green in the center of town. One of New England's best collections of regional decorative arts is displayed in more than 30 period rooms and galleries spanning the period from 1719 to 1954. The 1719 Old Gaol, once the King's Prison, is the oldest surviving public building of the British colonies in this country; on view are the dungeon, cells, jailer's quarters and household effects. Also open are the Emerson-Wilcox House (1742) and the enormous Elizabeth Perkins House (1730) beside the river, the 1745 Old School House and the John Hancock Warehouse & Wharf, with old tools and antique ship models in a warehouse owned by a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (207) 363-4974. www.oldyork.org. Open mid-June through September, Tuesday-Saturday 10 to 5, Sunday 1 to 5. Adults, $2 each building. Combination ticket, adults $7, children $3.
>> York Harbor Lodging and Dining Suggestions
Stage Neck Inn, 22 Stage Neck Road (Off Route 1A), Box 70, York Harbor 03911. (207) 363-3850 or (800) 340-1130.
Dockside Guest Quarters, Harris Island, Box 205, York 03909. (207) 363-2868 or (888) 860-7428.
York Harbor Inn, Route 1A, Box 573, York Harbor 03911. (207) 363-5119 or (800) 343-3869.
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The Inn at Tanglewood Hall, 611 York St., Box 490, York Harbor 03911. (207) 351-1075.
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Cape Neddick Inn Restaurant, 1233 Route 1, Cape Neddick. (207) 363-2899. Entrées, $12 to $20. Dinner, Tuesday-Sunday 5:30 to 10.
The Indians who were its first summer visitors called this beach town Ogunquit, meaning "beautiful place by the sea." Today's summer visitor is apt to call it crowded. Thousands of tourists pack its streets, motels and beaches, to the point that the Chamber of Commerce became one of the first in the country to run a trolley service to shuttle people back and forth. Ogunquit's broad, white-sand beach rated one of the nation's top ten is three miles long and flanked by dunes, the northernmost in New England. Picturesque Perkins Cove, studded with fishing and pleasure boats, has inspired artists and intrigued tourists for decades. A promontory with a footbridge across the cove on one side and the open ocean on the other offers a number of shops, art galleries and restaurants, plus boat trips. The best way to savor the majestic Ogunquit waterfront is to walk the Marginal Way, a mile-long footpath along the rocky cliffs beside the sea. From Perkins cove, it undulates up and down as it climbs to a point, where it turns toward town and yields an eye-popping view of Ogunquit Beach. Arches of trees frame views of the sea for camera buffs, and benches provide resting spots along the way. The Ogunquit Playhouse, billed as America's foremost summer theater, is based in a graceful white barn structure with 700 seats on the southern edge of town.
Ogunquit Museum of American Art, 183 Shore Road, Ogunquit. Off the beaten path in a meadow overlooking a rocky cove and the Atlantic is this exceptional summer showplace for contemporary American paintings and sculpture. Francis Henry Taylor, the late director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, called it "the most beautiful small museum in the world." Visitors approaching the museum look directly through the main gallery to the ocean. Built in 1952 and enlarged in 1992 and 1996, the museum houses some of America's most important 20th-century works in five galleries. Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Burchfield, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent and Walt Kuhn are among those represented in the permanent collection. A reflecting pool on the grounds is a natural habitat for blue herons and kingfishers. Large and small pieces of outdoor sculpture enhance the spectacular seaside setting. (207) 646-4909. Open Monday-Saturday 10:30 to 5, Sunday 2 to 5, July-September. Adults $4, students $3.
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Cliff House, Shore Road, Box 2274, Ogunquit 03907. (207) 361-1000.
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