Family-friendly Short Sands Beach in York, Maine is one of the premier tourist destinations in southern Maine, hosting generations of New Englanders looking for a break from the hectic pace of city life. What it lacks in length it more than makes up for in entertainment alternatives. Here are my picks for the top five things to do at Short Sands Beach.
1. Scuba Dive the Nubble
The Nubble Lighthouse, located on an island a stone’s throw off Cape Neddick and walking distance from Short Sands Beach, is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Maine. Visits to the island are not allowed; however, fantastic views of the building are available from Sohier Park on Cape Neddick. With appropriate certification, scuba diving the Nubble is a fun and unusual way to experience this location. Local scuba groups meet to dive in this area during this summer, and tours/rentals are available from companies in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Divers report sightings of crabs, lobsters, flounder, rays and star fish as well as interesting rock formations during this intermediate-level dive.
2. Eat Ice Cream at Brown's
New Englanders know the importance of good ice cream, and Short Sands Beach is certainly not lacking for options. Make your selection worth the calories: Brown’s Ice Cream, located on Cape Neddick and conveniently on your way back to the beach from the Nubble Lighthouse, is homemade ice cream you’ll remember for a lifetime.
3. Inspire the Willy Wonka in You
The Goldenrod, a salt-water taffy shop and restaurant/old-time soda fountain, is a Short Sands institution. Adults and children alike enjoy peering through the large storefront windows as Goldenrod staff boil the taffy sugar, pour it on special cooling tables and place the cooled sugar on the taffy puller. Once pulled to twice its original size, the candy is moved to the cutting and wrapping machine, which churns out 180 pieces of taffy per minute in an astounding variety of flavors.
4. Take in the Local Culture
York welcomes its summer and fall tourists at Short Sands Beach each year in a variety of fun ways. Fireworks for Independence Day kick off the high tourist season. On weekend afternoons, free concerts are provided by local musicians, who perform a range of cover songs and standards in the large gazebo near the beach – bring your lawn chair. One of the most popular summertime Beach-area events is the York Beach fire station bingo game, a 40-year tradition. Festivals within walking distance to Short Sands include the August Chocolate and Dessert Fest, hosted by a local church, and the October Harvest Fest, which features raffles, games, arts and crafts and food.
5. Learn about the Area's (Haunted) History
If you’re in the interested in the history of this seaside town, settled just four years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, book a walking tour with the ‘Mad Man of York’ through Ghostly Tours. The journey highlights tales of local ghosts and folklore, superstition and shipwrecks and departs just steps from the beach.