York + Kittery
Visitors to York will find themselves awash in unique hiking trails, beaches, historic educational activities, and art galleries, while Kittery has developed a reputation for its downtown’s innovative eateries, cocktail spots, and shops.
I grew up in York, so I’m interested in spending time there as a visitor. The staff at York Harbor Inn gets us settled in to our historic but newly renovated room, with views of both York Harbor and nearby woods. The campus is beautifully maintained, yet is not overly manicured.
We make our way from York to Kittery via the scenic Route 103 for dinner at Tulsi. Once there, our server describes the Indian restaurant’s varied and thoughtfully prepared menu. We enjoy the peshwari naan, pork vindaloo, and chana masala. Chef and co-owner Raj Mandekar makes it clear that quality is his number-one concern, and he and his staff put their hearts in to every plate. Tulsi is one of my favorite restaurants not just in southern Maine, but anywhere.
With full bellies, we drive the winding Route 103 back to York Harbor Inn for a nightcap at the Ship’s Cellar Pub. Located in the basement of the inn, the pub offers a broad array of fine spirits in a beautiful wood and brass low-ceiling bar.
A quick bagel and coffee at Bagel Basket give us just the fuel we need to start the day. Open since 1994, Bagel Basket offers sandwiches, freshly baked bagels, and a variety of house- made cream cheese spreads in the heart of York Village.
No visit to York is complete without a walk down the Wiggly Bridge, which connects a footpath atop an old dam to the Steedman Woods trail. Even as an adult, it’s fun to stand in the middle and jump up and down to make it wiggle. My wife, who is the victim of my antics, may not agree.
Fort McClary State Historic Site in Kittery, once used to protect the Naval shipyard, is now a sprawl of rolling green hills, open buildings, and connecting tunnels for the public to explore and enjoy. After our walkabout in Fort McClary, a famous cruller from Lil’s Cafe in downtown Kittery and a hot cup of Tandem Coffee is in order. Not only does Lil’s offer a wide variety of mouth-watering house- made treats, but it’s also home to the Vinyl Vault, where you can paw through and purchase vintage records.
Around the corner from Lil’s, we stumbled upon the newly opened Foreside Bike Guys. Owners Steve Jacques and Aaron Chidester offer a unique combination of bike sales and service, as well as pick-up, delivery, and mobile bicycle repair.
When Pigs Fly in Kittery bakes its delicious breads at its bakery in York and delivers daily to the retail location. The shop is packed with freshly baked goods, as well as jams, butters, and spreads from around the state. Just north of When Pigs Fly on Route 1 in a newly expanded production space, Good To-Go is poised to produce half a million wholesome, gluten-free dehydrated meals this year alone. With distribution to over 500 locations, including a recent expansion into Canada, owners Jennifer Scism, a former New York chef, and husband David Koorits, an outdoor enthusiast, take pride in the fact that their products are made in Maine.
The Old York Gaol, a former colonial prison that dates back to 1720, is the crown jewel of Old York Village. It is one of the country’s oldest prison buildings and one of the oldest public buildings in Maine. The Museums of Old York offers tours of this and several other surrounding historic buildings and graveyards.
While in York, we visit some of the town’s numerous art offerings. At George Marshall Store Gallery, curator Mary Harding selects contemporary work from a variety of the region’s artists. The gallery is located in a historic building on the York River that is owned and maintained by the Museums of Old York. On Main Street near Sands Beach is Chases Garage, which houses a gallery, a ceramics and printmaking workshop, and artist studio spaces in a more-than 100-year-old auto garage.
We stop at Fox’s Lobster House for an ice cream cone and a glimpse of Cape Neddick Light, known as
the Nubble Light, one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. An image of the Nubble is included in a cache of photographs aboard NASA’s Voyager 2 satellite, alongside photographs of the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. Easy access from both Long Sands and Short Sands beaches keeps this destination hopping all summer long.
From here we walk to Short Sands Beach to enjoy a sunset stroll stop at Inn on the Blues for a couple of fine Hendrick’s Gin martinis. This gives us enough courage to brave the young crowd at Fun-O-Rama, a classic boardwalk arcade at the top of the beach with hardwood floors warped by the ocean spray. Armed with a fistful of quarters, my wife and I make our way through the collection of vintage and modern arcade and Skee-Ball games and the photo booth.
We close our evening with another walk and a late dinner at Stones Throw. The lobster roll keeps pace with most any lobster roll in size, quality, and value. Stones Throw also offers a full menu and bar with a breathtaking view of Long Sands Beach through an open garage door. Owner Joe Lipton is gregarious as usual and is beaming about his latest purchase, ViewPoint Hotel on Nubble Road.
Being from York I may be biased, but I have yet to find a better pizzeria/deli/coffee roastery/ beer and wine shop/gas station than Anthony’s Food Shop. Here we enjoy freshly roasted coffee and loose-leaf tea, coupled with two huge BLTs, before we head out for the day’s hike.
Mount Agamenticus in York provides well-groomed hiking trails and offers one of southern Maine’s most scenic vistas, with views of the ocean and the Presidential Range in the White Mountains, as well as the surrounding towns. You can enjoy a hike or drive to the summit, depending on your schedule or physical ability.
After our hike, it’s time for a little lunch at Flo’s Hot Dogs on Route 1 in Cape Neddick. Know what you want before you come inside and have your money ready. Flo’s is a second- generation family business that serves what its sign declares as “The Most Famous Hot Dogs with Hot Sauce on Rt. 1 from Maine to Key West, Fla.” This old hot dog shack, which remains essentially unchanged for the past 40 years (save for a few coats of paint), indeed serves one of the finest steamed dogs in the state and perhaps the whole East Coast.
Our final destination is Wiggly Bridge Distillery on Route 1 in York. The father-son run distillery serves its spirits straight or in delightfully crafted cocktails in a warm, rustic barn setting, which once housed a hardware store. Our final stop proves to be the perfect way to toast to our