Whenever I flee New York City for a weekend, slowing down is the primary goal, finding good food a very close second. Turns out, Maine is great for both.
Even if you don’t live for lobster (the crustacean is so prevalent here, that even McDonalds serves up a seasonal McLobster sandwich), America’s northeasternmost sea-loving state is never short on charm—and York is one town there that does charm best. Its quiet glamour and pre-colonial lodgings have long lured those looking for oceanfront escapes, and that it’s never over-crowded makes it feel like a best kept secret when it comes to summer resort jaunts.
Just over four hours outside of NYC by car, York is a bit of a drive, but if you plan it right, you can still max out on your weekend away.
If you decide to venture north to York, here’s what to do with two days there.
Sleep at the Inn | 10:00 p.m.
If you’re leaving the city after work, by the time you reach York, the town will be more or less asleep and there’ll be little else to do than settle into where you’re sleeping. And if you’re smart, that place will be the York Harbor Inn. With an ocean view, in-room fireplace and the best breakfast in town, there’s hardly anything lacking at the more than 300-year old inn. Its position among oceanfront estates reminds you of the area’s old time glory days and eliminates any potential flood of tourists. I’ve been in both winter and summer and the place really is pretty year-round. You’ll likely have to skip the beach in colder months, but on the bright side, cool weather means there’s hot apple cider for your drinking pleasure awaiting in the lobby.
Eat lobster eggs benedict | 9:00 a.m.
So on to that best breakfast in town. When the sun peeks into your room and you awake to the sparkling sea across the street, the fact that you can go from bed to breakfast in a few short minutes adds to the weekend’s leisure. Since you’re in lobster territory, there’s no better way to begin your two-day crustacean binge than with the lobster eggs benedict at the Inn’s 1637 restaurant with panoramic sea views. It would be futile to try and find the right words to describe this divine dish, but it’s the kind that makes you close your eyes and sigh with every bite because you can’t quite believe the joy your tastebuds are experiencing. Don’t miss this one.
Set sail | 11:00 a.m.
Sailing is one way to feel instantly at ease: breeze blowing, hair fluttering and only the sound of the sea. A quick drive from York gets you to Perkins Cove in Ongunquit, (known for having some of Maine’s prettiest beaches) the town’s working harbor where ships set sail and lobstering (catching them) gets underway. Look for the Silverlining, a stunning 42-foot wooden ship once left for dead that’s now beyond beautifully restored and open for your sailing pleasure. If you ask, the owner will tell you the vessel’s story while you take in some rugged coastline, sip champagne and relish how sweet it is to be away.
Grab some grub | 1:30 p.m.
With all that relaxing, you will have worked up an appetite, so when you make your way off the sail boat, head right into the Lobster Shack for a lobster quarter pounder, a lobster BLT or lobster stew, which you’ll consume casually from a stool out front, weather permitting. Though lobstering is an all-year activity in Maine, peak season is from mid-summer to mid-fall, so if you’re there during that time, the lobster will be ever-abundant. If you’re tapped out on lobster for the moment, there’s good old homemade chowder touted as some of the best around, crab cakes and fish tacos.
Shop in Cape Neddick | 3:00 p.m.
If you’re like me and have to do at least some shopping in a place to consider a trip complete, The Shops at Cape Neddick nearby is a fun place to do it. It’s a renovated old carriage house turned into six little shops selling Maine antiques, gifts and art. Maine Coast Vintage was by far my favorite with handcrafted local reclaimed wood carved into fish, birch-covered vases and vintage furniture finds and the Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint if you’re up for refinishing one of those finds and want it to retain its aged look. This is my pick for best place to find souvenirs your loved ones will actually like and not the typical nicknacks they’ll likely cast aside.
Look at a Lighthouse | 4:30 p.m.
Lighthouses may all start to seem the same if you’ve seen too many of them, but the Nubble Lighthouse in York is one of those really picture perfect ones you could spend some time staring at. The little 1800s lighthouse sits on Nubble Island, which is where it gets its more familiar name (it’s official name is the Cape Neddick Lightstation), and it’s managed to be considered America’s quintessential lighthouse, getting photographed by the Voyager II spacecraft alongside landmarks like the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.
Dine at the Cove | 7:00 p.m.
When I was there, a sign outside the Lobster Cove restaurant said twin lobster dinner for $28, and that’s what did it. The place is simple but the service is good, the food even better and the windows are panoramic for views of the sea across the street. For that price, we had two 1 1/4 lb. lobsters, two sides and two corn cobs, pretty much a deal that can’t be beat. Since we were saving, we added on a bowl of clam chowder, which was superior even to the lobster.
Stroll the beach |
You can’t beat a beach that’s across the street from your weekend quarters, but beyond just being close, York Harbor Beach is uncrowded. The smooth sand seems to stretch for days and you can pick out your own stretch of beach where you won’t be close to anyone else and can just enjoy the calm waves lightly lapping on the shore.
Get lobster to go | 1:30 p.m.
It’s quite you’ve already exceed what should be considered a normal amount of lobster, but in the event that you want one last fix, you’ll find it on your way out of town at Maine Lobster Outlet. It may look like more of a mini fish market, but if you want a lobster roll, here they’re packed to capacity, simply made and extremely fresh with the toasted and lightly buttered bread that makes the lobster roll as glorious as it is. If you can’t bear the thought of your upcoming lobster-free days once you’re back home, grab a pre-frozen pound or two of the good stuff and they’ll pack it up for you in a cooler bag. They’ve got really good chowder to go too.
Stop at Stonewall | 2:00 p.m.
You really can’t leave York without stopping at Stonewall Kitchen. We stopped there originally looking for last-minute souvenirs and walked into the wonderful world of kitchen stuff. To many, that may not sound particularly scintillating, but if you’ve got any kind of culinary inclination, this place is a haven. It’s chockfull of jams of every flavor: wild blueberry, apple cider, fig, onion, you name it. There’s also handmade Maine birdhouses, every kitchen gadget you could think of—even ones you’d never think of, and a chef prep station where you can learn to make something using their fresh made goodies. The best part, though, is that everything in there is tasteable. Everything. So try your very best to leave a smidge of room for Stonewall before heading home, it’s worth it.