Enjoy Maine's splendor as a day trip
nicole catapano - special to the post-star
Nubble Lighthouse, located between Long Sands and Short Sands in Maine, is a historic site for visitors to the region.

If you want to see the ocean - but don't want to deal with summer rentals - why not do Maine in a day?

Maine in a day is possible. Travel from Glens Falls to York Beach, Maine, is only 4.5 hours. And with lower gas prices once you leave New York, there is no reason not to trek to the coast.

To maximize the trip, you will need to leave very early (think 4 a.m.), and plan wisely.

On the road

The road from Glens Falls to York Beach brings you through Vermont and New Hampshire. Along Route 4 in Vermont, Rutland is a great first stop for some coffee to keep you going. The Dunkin' Donuts is open 24 hours and always has the best selection of Munchkins.

Past Killington, Woodstock is the next pick-me-up place. In the early morning hours, little is open, but there is a terrific gas station with a Maplefields store. With its clean restrooms and large selection of Green Mountain coffees, it is a suggested stopping place at the start and end of your journey.

After passing the Fool on the Hill shop with masses of farm animal lawn art, and Scotland by the Yard, an all things Scottish store, another stopping place is Quechee. On the route out, stop and see Quechee Gorge, while it is quiet and the morning mist is fading. On the way back, Quechee becomes more lively with shops and eateries. This marks the midpoint of your trip.

After Quechee, take route 89 and 93 in New Hampshire. Aside from the combination discount liquor stores/rest stops, there is little along this route. After New Hampshire, take 101 to Maine, and follow signs for York Beach, via US-1A.

Prepare for several tolls along the route, as well as quarters for parking meters once you arrive in York.

Things to do

For beach options, Long Sands and Short Sands offer two different experiences. Long Sands hosts surfers in the morning and has a short walk from the road to the shoreline. Parking runs along Long Sands, but there are fewer options nearby for dining and shopping. Short Sands is like a cul-de-sac of sand, with a metered parking lot and rest rooms linking the beach to the many shops and eateries in York.

In York, at the eastern point of Cape Neddick, Nubble Lighthouse is located between Long Sands and Short Sands beaches. A visit to "Nubble" may include seeing scuba divers braving the frigid water or a bride and groom celebrating their special day.

A walk along the rocks provides a great photo opportunity amidst the roar of the ocean and the salty sea breezes. Wander over to the Visitor's Center for more information and rest rooms.

Famous for sidewalk view of taffy making, the Goldenrod has been a staple in York since 1896. Flavors range from peppermint to peanut butter and can be mixed and matched to your liking (mail order for $7.38 per pound at www.thegoldenrod.com if you eat it all before you make it home). Other sweet treats include truffles, gummy everything - including gummy lobsters - and penny candy.

The Goldenrod Restaurant breakfast line is always long, and patrons do not seem to mind as they browse the store. Check out the family friendly prices, such as two eggs with toast for $3.49 and a waffle filled with walnuts for $4.49.

Shopping choices include the typical T-shirt shops to upscale summer sports wear. Fun items like flip-flop and seashell-shaped soap for only $1 apiece can be found at the Lazy Lobster; look for the life-size lobster at the entrance. A neat little alternative to candles are Smelly Jelly fragrance jars. With scents like "ocean" and "raspberry" and a cap depicting Nubble Lighthouse, these souvenirs will last longer than the taffy.

Fun for the kids, the York Animal Kingdom hosts a variety of animal attractions, including Maine's only white Bengal tiger. Listen for the call of the gibbons, spend some time watching the playful prairie dogs or wander through the petting zoo.

Connected to the zoo is an amusement park with the traditional rides, games and midway snacks, and there is plenty of free parking. Admission is $19.50 for both the zoo and rides, $14.50 for the zoo only. Children 4-10 years old pay $14.50 for the zoo/ride combination; $9 for zoo only. Children 3 years and younger cost $4.50 or $1 for the zoo/ride combination and zoo only, respectively. Discount admission coupons are available on their Web site (www.yorkzoo.com).

'Lobstah extravaganzah'

With the weak tourism season, visitors will find bargain prices for lobsters to take home. Look for specials at around $4.99-$5.99 per pound. Be sure to bring a cooler, a newspaper, water and an ice pack to carry your purchase home without paying top prices for these simple but necessary accessories. In these lobster-by-the-pound shops, the cooler and ice pack will cost more than the lobster.

For great casual dining, visit the Cape Neddick Lobster Pound-Harborside Restaurant on Shore Road in York. Choose indoor or outdoor dining overlooking the Cape Neddick River and look for their twin lobster deal with tasty side dishes and hot melted butter ($32.95). If you want seafood and cannot choose just one kind, feast on the Captain's Platter, a fried fish frenzy with scallops, shrimp, clams and haddock for about $18.95.

An informal dining option that is always popular and within walking distance of Nubble Lighthouse, the Fox Lobster House has a lobster roll ($16.95) that is sure to please or lobster bisque to warm your belly ($8.50 a bowl).

So get your cooler packed and fill the gas tank as most areas remain open through Columbus Day weekend.

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