During the summer, we try to go on a road trip every weekend. You would think that there are not that many places we have not visited within a two-hour drive of Boston. Yet, last weekend we have made several “discoveries” in the nearby Coastal Southern Maine! We are happy to share them with our readers before the summer is over.
.STOP 1: YORK, MAINE
We left our suburb south of Boston around 8:30am and arrived at Nubble Light House, our first destination of the day in roughly 1.5 hours.
I have chosen York, Maine as our first stop on this weekend road trip. York has great beaches, picturesque coastal walks and history. The town of York is one of New England’s earliest colonial settlements and is America’s first incorporated city (1642). “Museums of Old York” society has several historical buildings in their care that are available for public touring for a small fee (some are free). For specific touring hours and building locations, use this link.
We visited on a very hot summer day in August, and although we stopped at the Old York Museum Center to get the maps, we decided to leave the touring of the Museums for the colder months.
During this visit we stayed closer to the water:
Nubble Light House. When you think of coastal Maine, you probably picture a lighthouse in your mind. York has (arguably) the most photographed lighthouse in Maine – Nubble Light House.
To see the light house, park at Sohier Park off Nubble Road in York. We arrived shortly after 10 am on a Saturday and did not have a problem with finding a space to park. (as we were exiting in about an hour, we saw cars waiting to get in).
Other than looking for a best position to take your own shot of iconic Maine, there are a couple of benches to take it all in for a few minutes, a small gift shop, and a restaurant with an outside self service window.
When we felt that we have taken enough pictures, we headed to our next destination-
Fisherman’s Walk. To get to the Fisherman Walk from the Light House, we drove along York Road, passed a busy York Beach that seemed to attract many families. We parked further along, next to the beautiful little free Mason Reservation (be sure to read the most interesting historical note next to the entrance). A short walk down, was a small picturesque Harbor Beach.
Here, you have a choice to either walk the Cliff Walk (on your left) or Fisherman’s Walk on the right.
We chose a family friendly (flat) Fisherman’s Walk along York River that starts at Harbor Beach and runs for about a mile to Wiggly Bridge. You can also start the walk in the other direction – at Wiggly Bridge (park at Lilac Lane – route 103).
There are boats on the river, but no commercial activity on shore, so we had the road all to ourselves.
STOP 2. OLD ORCHARD BEACH.
We booked our overnight lodging in the town of Old Orchard Beach, less than thirty-minute drive North of York. I have to admit that Vit and I did not find our lodging (or the town) particularly charming. That said, I am sure that plenty of families love the area and come back year after year (back home in the old country we had our own share of family memories built at the simple seaside places on the Black Sea).
The town’s sandy beach is a winner with families. It offers miles or walking (seven miles, to be exact) and “gradual” ocean entrance is appealing to families with young children. There is a busy pier and an amusement park right on the beach. The two seven-year old girls in our party were so busy building their sea tunnels that they failed to notice the amusements from the distance (I am sure they would find them calling!). We have had a busy day and were too tired to visit the park. (Next time we are passing the area, we will give the Pier a chance, I promise. ) We did not feel too bad about missing on the beach amusement park – we had plans to visit FunTown SplashTown USA in nearby Saco on Sunday afternoon.
Note to those timid around dogs: in the summer, dogs are allowed on the beach after 5pm.
STOP 3. PORTLAND, PEAKS ISLAND
We will tell you more about Portland in our next installment on Maine. This weekend we have parked at the Casco Bay lines pier on Commercial street and bought ferry tickets to Peaks Island (a neighborhood of the city of Portland), just three miles (15-minute ferry ride) away. The company runs a variety of “runs” to Casco Bay islands, including a daily three-hour mailboat run with stops on several islands, but we opted for a nearby Peaks Island. There are hourly weekend departures to and from the island (be sure to check fares and full schedule here).
Once on the island, you can walk the entire 4-miles perimeter (or rent a bike). We stocked on some fruit and drinks in the supermarket just left off the Pier and then walked to the picturesque Sandy Beach where we spent a couple of relaxing hours.
Back on Portland’s Commercial street we could not leave without tasting the lobster rolls ($17) at the Portland Lobster Co. further down Commercial street. It was a lively place with live music and water views and casual counter self-service (they page you when they are ready to help you with a table – a little unusual but it worked for us: we found the table before we had our food). The rolls were great if only small.
STOP 4: FUNTOWN SPLASHTOWN USA, SACO
The kids were wonderful all weekend and deserved a fun stop of their own! FunTown Splash Town USA was a convenient 30 minutes drive from Portland (in Saco, Maine, on route 1) – and back towards Boston. It was a perfect summer family stop with both amusement park and a water park in one place. We made it to the park shortly after 3 pm and headed straight to the water park (Splashtown).
In addition to nine water slides with various degrees of thrill, there is a Pirates Paradise AquaPlay area with smaller slides for kids of all ages, as well as several family pools (no wave pool though).
In the three hours, our girls had all the fun they had in them and were ready for the FunTown part. I hate to disappoint you, but we sticked to the kiddie favorites here. There are over a dozen thrill rides for those willing!
The Splashtown closes at 6pm, while the FunTown stays open until 8 or 9 pm in season. Check website for hours and tickets options (they are single park and combined with discounts for later admission). Thank you, Funtown/Splashtown for inviting us to check out the park!
This was a weekend trip that pleased the entire family (yes, I do believe that our teen secretly enjoyed the coastal walk).
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