Located along the scenic coastline of southern Maine, York is the quintessential English heritage town in the country. Settled among 400 years, the town is known for its cultural and historical background, amazing scenery, and spectacular scenery.


Settled by English immigrants in 1624, the area was inhabited by the Abenaki, an indigenous tribe that thrived in the coastal area. English settlers initially built only a small plantation known as Agamenticus, which was the Abenaki word for the nearby York River. In a few years, the small group of settlers changed the plantation’s name to Bristol after their hometown in England. The establishment quickly grew after the lord proprietor of Maine, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, changed the town’s name to Gorgeana and named it the region’s capital.


Gorgeana was the first town in the American Colonies to be incorporated after it was chartered by King Charles I in 1642. Shortly after this decision, the town grew as an important commercial center in the area. After just ten years, Gorgeana was renamed again, receiving the modern name York, after Sir Ferdinando Gorges’ hometown of York, in England. Unfortunately, the evolution during this period was slow because of the continuous tensions between New England and New France, which eventually incited the French and Indian Wars.


The conflict evolved into the devastating but short King William’s War that culminated in the town’s destruction during the Candlemas Massacre of 1692. The Abenakis killed dozens of locals, and hostilities lingered until 1723. Peace was not finalized until the French defeat at the Siege of Louisbourg in 1745 and the 1763 Treaty of Paris. 


York’s economy grew a lot thanks to its deep harbor and important role in trading. The town was also the site of the Royal Gaol (the jail), and housed numerous warehouses, commercial areas, and wharves. Major exports were lumber, agricultural products, while the town imported sugar and molasses from other harbors in the south. 


York saw a tremendous transformation during the 18th and 19th centuries. The town evolved as a maritime hub, with new industries like fishing, shipbuilding, and logistics gaining importance. The rivers in the area, particularly the York river, provided power to grain and paper mills, that produced and processed textiles and lumber. 


York As A Major Tourist Attraction Along The Coastline


By the 19th century, York had become an attractive tourist spot. Throughout its history, York has been an attractive area thanks to its picturesque coastline. Visitors came from hundreds of miles away to relax and enjoy the ocean and the seafood. Its amazing beaches, interrupted by rocky spots, have always attracted nature and hiking enthusiasts.


York is divided in four main areas, each with a very distinct cultural and historical heritage:

  • York Harbor – includes the historic harbor area, numerous inns, historic homes, and large, wealthy estates
  • York Village – the town center, including upscale shops, historic buildings, and pedestrian areas
  • York Beach – the new section of York, with numerous tourist attractions, such as souvenir shops and stores, arcades, restaurants, cafes, and a zoo
  • Cape Neddick – quiet residential area, known for the Cape Neddick Lighthouse, built in 1874

York is also famous for the Short and Long Sands Beaches, both long stretches of sandy beaches between York Harbor and York Beach. The area is a major attraction for tourists who arrive during the summer to enjoy the breeze and sun. 


Other major attractions in York are the John Sedgley Homestead (built in 1715, the oldest homestead in Maine, and open to the public), the Goldenrod, and Mount Agamenticus, which offers spectacular views of the area.