Grown-ups appreciate Ogunquit Beach, a three-mile stretch of gentle dunes and beach grass that wouldn't look out of place on Cape Cod. The southern end, reached by a bridge from Ogunquit, holds a few motels and snack bars and can be crowded; head north instead and you might have a dune to yourself. Go far enough north and the name changes to Footbridge Beach and then Moody Beach, a popular spot for (rather desperate) surfers.
Drakes Island, a small community across a causeway from Wells, is fronted by its own beach, which is somewhere between York's and Ogunquit's in character. The surf and the winds are stronger here, and parts of the island feel nicely removed from the traffic and crowds of the mainland.
Gooch's Beach, a few miles north in Kennebunk, isn't very wide, but the grand Newport-style mansions that line Beach Avenue are a lovely backdrop. There's a parking lot beside Mother's Beach, just down the road. Watch out for Kennebunkport teens in shiny new Land Rovers, learning to drive.
Nightlife in southern Maine tends to mean either a nautical-themed pub or a dance club catering to under-21's. For a lively evening out you'll probably prefer to head across the border to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, just 10 minutes from York. The many bars and restaurants of this red-brick-and-gas-lamps town draw couples and crowds from up and down the shore.
Prescott Park Between Marcy St. and the waterfront; summer Arts Festival hot line 603/436-2848. The lawn comes alive each summer night: musicals and plays take place on an open-air stage, and occasionally a swing band will pack a tent full of dancers.
Music Hall 28 Chestnut St.; 603/436-2400. Joshua Redman, Spalding Gray, Ani DiFranco, Twyla Tharp's dance company—if a national act comes to the area, it will perform at this historic theater. Off nights, the hall screens a selection of art-house films.
Portsmouth Brewery 56 Market St.; 603/431-1115. This spacious two-level bar and restaurant draws college students and older locals with its great homemade beer.
Poco Diablo 37 Bow St.; 603/431-5967. The food has gone downhill, but the main attraction is the wharf-side deck bar, overlooking the tugboats. Join the rest of town for margaritas at sunset. The similar deck at the Ferry Landing (10 Ceres St.; 603/431-5510) next door sits over the water and can be less crowded, especially after dinnertime.
If you want to actually be in the harbor, toast the sunset at the deck bar of Dunfey's Aboard the John Wanamaker (1 Harbor Place; 603/433-3111).
Portland may seem small-town, but it's a city to Mainers. If you search, you'll find it has what every city has—only smaller.
- Walk around the Old Port neighborhood, the jumble of cobbled lanes and century-old buildings that forms Portland's historical and commercial heart.
- Peruse the Portland Museum of Art, which keeps improving a collection that includes works by Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, Marsden Hartley, and Mary Cassatt.
- Have dinner at Fore Street (288 Fore St.; 207/775-2717; dinner for two $50), a copper-pans-and-exposed-beams hot spot serving some of the city's freshest fish.
- Grab a hand-pulled ale at Gritty McDuff's, an Old Port institution best savored on a weekend night or a blustery afternoon: everyone stops in for a beer (or seven) at some point.
- Sit in on a minor-league baseball game. Portlanders love their Sea Dogs (207/879-9500).
- Ride the Casco Bay Lines ferry (207/774-7871) around the islands of Casco Bay. Disembark at one of the islands—Cliff, Great Chebeague, Peaks, Long—for a walk; another ferry is bound to come by (but pick up a schedule just in case).
Portsmouth is just as attractive before sundown. Be sure to walk through the famed Strawbery Banke Museum (Marcy St.; 603/433-1100; admission $12) to see some of the city's architectural charms. The museum's intriguing wooden boatbuilding demonstrations take place at the Sheafe Warehouse, right across the street in Prescott Park. Toward the town center, Café Brioche (14 Market Square; 603/430-9225; lunch for two $10) is a terrific open-air hangout with a view onto lovely Market Square. Stop in for an old-fashioned ice cream at Annabelle's (49 Ceres St.; 603/431-1988), step out on the wharf, and inhale the salty air. Except for the green-haired teenagers beside you, it's the 19th century all over again.