Nubble Lighthouse & the Maine Coast: US 1


If you’re in a hurry to head southward, you can always hop onto Interstate 95 for the drive to New Hampshire.  The toll-road interstate is just a minute’s drive away from US 1, which is an equal distance from the coastline.  It is so close, and yet so far — far enough that you won’t enjoy views of the Atlantic Ocean.

You will, however, see the typical scenes you’d expect for New England, like old farm equipment rusting in a field.  At times, it feels like you’re in the country, but for the most part, you’ll be passing through small towns and communities, past businesses and well-kept homes.

As you get close to Cape Neddick, take a detour off US 1…

… and head closer to the coast, via River Road or Cape Neddick Road.  If you choose River Road to Shore Road, you’ll get to drive across this inlet of Cape Neddick Harbor.  On the day I visited, the water seemed impossibly blue-green.

At the harbor, stop briefly to admire the Cape Neddick Lobster Pound’s float-covered shack by the shore.

Nubble Lighthouse

You’ll need to take another detour to admire a jewel of the southern Maine coast.  At the end of Cape Neddick Point (a small peninsula that juts out from the coastline), you’ll find picture-perfect Nubble Island, home to the Cape Neddick Light.  Yes, I know it isn’t always this beautiful.  The weather in Maine can be grey, cold, and miserable.  But I had the good fortune to visit on a day where the clouds seemed to radiate out of the lighthouse itself.

From Ocean Avenue (US 1A), take Broadway Street or Nubble Road to the tip of the peninsula.  As you’ll see in my Drivelapse video below, my GPS took me on an unconventional route to the point.

You can’t walk out to the lighthouse itself, but you can enjoy the view from the rocky shore.  The park at the end of Cape Neddick Point has plenty of parking and a gift shop.

Cape Neddick Light, a.k.a. Nubble Light, was built in 1879.  Jumble up those numbers, and you get the year in which it was automated: 1987.  The light is a fourth order Fresnel, 88 feet above sea level.  It’s an “isophase” light, meaning it’s light and dark for equal periods of time, repeating the cycle every six seconds.

Future visitors at Cape Neddick Light could include aliens from space.  NASA chose the lighthouse to represent earth, onboard the Voyager spacecraft (which left our solar system more than two decades ago).  The photo of Cape Neddick Light is among images of iconic earthly landmarks, that also includes the Great Wall of China and Taj Mahal.

Once off the peninsula, and back at US 1A, the main road turns from Ocean Avenue into Long Beach Avenue.  As the name suggests, there’s a long beach here, stretching out for about two miles.  On one side of the road is the beach and the ocean, and on the other, a long line of beachfront businesses. All along the beach, you can look to the north and see the lighthouse.  I wished I had time to stop here, or even spend a few days here.

York (York Harbor)

As soon as you lose sight of Cape Neddick Light on the horizon, US 1A turns inland and passes through the town of York Harbor.

York Street (US 1A) will take you in front of the York Town Hall (the building on the right).  It’s next door to…

… the First Parish Church, which was built in 1747.

 When constructed, it faced a different direction, but in 1882 the town decided it would look better if the church faced the road (which wasn’t there, a century earlier).  So, they lifted it up, rotated it, and moved it back 20 feet to its current location.

York’s sinners congregated across the street from its saints.  The Old York Gaol was built in 1719, and served as a jail until 1879.  After that, it was used as a school and a boarding house, and now, as a museum.

The gaol mostly housed debtors, although records from 1760 show that there were also some inmates who had been found guilty of drunkenness, petty theft, and slander.  More serious offenders were hanged, lesser offenders were whipped or placed in stocks.  Oh, and by the way, gaol is the old British way of spelling “jail” — the pronunciation is the same.

At York, turn onto Maine Rte. 103, which will take you across York Harbor and south towards Kittery, and to our next stop, Fort McClary.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a dash-cam, time-lapse video of the drive from Kennebunkport, Maine to Nubble Light:

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