Thursday, October 20, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 125: York, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 125:  York, Maine
October 5, 2011

            A trip months in the making the town of York did not disappoint me.  Located only a few minutes across the Maine border this town has the feel of ‘classic Maine’ as I have come to know it while also being close enough to make a day trip out of it.
The front of The Stolen Menu Cafe
            Before visiting even one of the spots on my itinerary I needed to stop for some sweets at a very well known establishment.  The Stolen Menu Café has been featured on such shows as The Phantom Gourmet.  Once you step inside it is easy to see why.  I was face to face with a showcase filled with delicious muffins, cookies, cakes, pastries and more.  I began picking and choosing before realizing that I needed to restrain myself from spending my entire daily budget there.  I highly recommend a visit here during any trip to York, be prepared however to fall in love with basically everything they make.
            After collecting my bounty from The Stolen Menu Café I headed to my first destination.  Cape Neddick Lighthouse located on Nubble Rock has been a dream destination of mine since I began travel writing.  Once you arrive at Sohier Park the lighthouse is in plain sight.  It is much closer to the mainland than it appears in photos.  On this day the tide was low and there may have been thirty to forty feet of water between the coast and Nubble Rock.  It is very tempting to cross but signs remind you that no unauthorized people are allowed on the rock.
Cape Neddick Lighthouse
            This is a very popular destination and one of the most photographed and painted lighthouses in the country.  It looks like a spot that should be painted, and also is a perfect snow globe souvenir thanks to its location on Nubble Rock.  I had the chance to sit and have lunch at Sohier Park and enjoyed every second of my time at Cape Neddick Lighthouse, but there is much more to see in York.
            Located on either side of Cape Neddick are beaches.  To the south is Long Sands Beach, to the north is Short Sands Beach.  The names come obviously from the size of each beach.  I ventured north to Short Sands Beach.  The drive around Cape Neddick was magnificent.  I had to slow down every time I passed a clearing so I could gaze out over the ‘classic Maine’ coast. 
The view from Short Sands Beach
            The parking lot was virtually deserted even on a beautiful sunny day.  The tide was low and I was able to walk a good distance out.  There was a charter boat out just past the breakers heading in toward Cape Neddick Lighthouse; it was the only visible vessel on the water.  This beach was amazing as it is sort of funneled in toward the shore by the rocky coastlines of the village of York Beach.  There are shops next to the beach and also an arcade and a bowling alley which give Short Sands Beach a definite summer destination feel to it. 
            For the history lovers I visited Jefferd’s Tavern, part of the Museums of Old York.  It was built originally in Wells, Maine in 1754 and moved to York in 1939 and restored in 1941 before being moved to its current location in 1959.  It currently serves as a visitor and education center.  The outside of the building has changed little since its construction.  The inside still has the look of a Colonial-era tavern and harkens back to America’s early history.
            Across the street from the tavern is The Old Burying Yard which contains the graves of some of the first settlers of York.  The oldest graves date back to before 1650.  There is also a marker telling the story of one of the worst massacres of the Colonial days.  On a January morning in 1692 Native Americans of the Abenaki Tribe attacked the village of York killing forty and marching nearly 300 off to Canada; many died along the way.  The remains of the victims are located not far from the spot of the marker.  It is a sobering reminder of how wild America was for the first few generations of settlers that lived here.
York's Old Gaol(Jail)
            Finally I visited one of the most important Colonial buildings remaining in the United States.  York’s Old Gaol(Jail) was built in 1719 on a hill which now overlooks Rt. 1A.  It incorporated wood from a previous jail built in 1653 in York so it has a connection dating back more than 350 years.  The name ‘gaol’ is pronounced ‘jail’ and has been associated with the building since it was built as the Kings Prison for the Province of Maine.  It was the main jail for the state up until just before the American Revolution.  After that it was the York County Jail until 1860.  After the Civil War it fell into disrepair.  The cause to restore it and use it as a museum came in 1900 thanks to William Dean Howells, a summer York resident and editor of Atlantic Monthly,  and also York resident Mary Sowells Perkins.
            Although it took many months for me to finally make it there York, Maine for me was worth the wait.  Cape Neddick Lighthouse immediately became one of my favorite places I have visited thus far.  The beaches, both Long Sands and Short Sands, were exquisite.  Do not forget to make time to stop in and have something delicious at The Stolen Menu Café as well!  Have fun and happy traveling! 
     My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

Directions:  Cape Neddick Lighthouse:  From I-95 N passing through NH into Maine take Exit 7 for Rt. 1.  Turn left onto Rt. 1 and follow 3.2 miles.  Turn right onto Cape Neddick Rd., follow 1 mile.  Slight right onto Shore Rd., continue onto Main St., turn left onto Railroad Ave.  Railroad Ave. becomes Church St., follow .4 miles, turn left onto Nubble Rd., stay right to stay on Nubble Rd.  Follow ½ mile, take 1st right onto Sohier Park Rd., follow to lighthouse.
            The Stolen Menu Café:  From I-95 N passing through NH into Maine take Exit 7 for Rt. 1.  Turn right onto Rt. 1 S, turn left onto York St., continue onto Long Sands Rd.  Follow ½ miles, café is on right.

References:  York,
            The Stolen Menu