What to do when you get here — An insider’s guide to interests and attractions in the area surrounding The Cliff House Resort & Spa.
FREE (and almost free) Things To Do - Part 1
Beaches & Lighthouses
On a recent visit to The Cliff House I woke once again to the timeless sounds and smells of the ocean, and I decided this was the day to explore the coastline. There are several sandy beaches in Wells, Ogunquit and York. I chose York, and drove to Long Sands Beach, kicked off my shoes and walked along the wet sand at low tide. This is indeed a long, sandy beach with houses perched high on the rocky shore on either side. Sandpipers dashed back and forth like spilled marbles, avoiding the waves licking at their tiny feet. My footprints joined theirs as I, too, explored the edge of the cold Atlantic. In the distance, I could see the Nubble Light and decided that would be my next stop. Driving north on Route 1, I took my first right onto Nubble Road and continued toward the light less then a mile away. I pulled in to Sohier Park where there is plenty of parking, benches and restrooms.
Built in 1879, the landmark is officially known as Cape Neddick Light, but because it is on a nub of land it is frequently called The Nubble. I found myself clicking away at this most photographed lighthouse. You can’t walk to the light — the nub is an island. I could see Boon Island Light blinking at me, even though it is six miles away. This 133 foot gray granite, conical tower was built in 1811. You’ll need a telephoto lens to get snaps of this light. I learned from another clicking-camera visitor that Whaleback Light off Portsmouth is well worth the drive, but not for me today. I wanted to sit on my balcony back at The Cliff House, sip a glass of wine, order a picnic lunch from the front desk for my next excursion, and plan my day trip for tomorrow. I’m calling it Fort Day as I plan to visit both Fort Foster and Fort Constitution. Research the lights and beaches you want to explore at www.meliving.com/lighthouses/south.shtml and www.southernmainecoast.com/beaches.htm.
Forts & Lighthouses
I turned left at the end of The Cliff House driveway and headed for Route 1 South to Kittery with my Cliff House picnic lunch on the seat beside me. It is about 15 miles to Kittery Point, and I enjoyed the drive, parts of it breathtakingly beautiful. Fort Foster was an active military site from 1873 to 1948 and was one of the last forts built in the Portsmouth area. I discovered that it cost $10 per car to enter — well, that’s almost free. The park surrounding the fort has walking trails, bike paths and picnic areas. I ate an early lunch, sitting on a granite bench along the open river and watched waves crash against strange rock formations as a family of gulls watched me, hoping I would share my lunch. I did not! I looked straight ahead — and there it was on a reef — Whaleback Light and beyond it the Isle of Schoals. A fog bank began to move in, but I could see my next stop: Fort Constitution at the mouth of the fast flowing Piscataqua River.
Fort Constitution in New Castle, New Hampshire was built in 1631. It was originally named Fort William & Mary, after the reigning king and queen of England. And it was preparations here that caused Paul Revere to gallop from Boston to Portsmouth to warn the colonists that the fort was about to receive a large supply of armaments to quell their uprisings. The colonists intercepted the shipment and, it is said, used these very arms against the British in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The fort is vacant now and can be reached by a short walk across the Coast Guard Station parking lot. There is an exquisite lighthouse there, automated now, but still warning ships of the granite coast at the mouth of the river. Walking over grassy knolls and past tumbled-down bunkers, I was moved by the palpable history of this place. Ghostly fog moved toward me from across the ramparts.
A visitor could spend a week exploring the forts and lighthouses of Portsmouth Harbor and the south coast of Maine. You can find more information at www.nhstateparks.com/fortconstitution.html and www.meliving.com/lighthouses/south.shtml.
My day was done, and I took the trip back to The Cliff House. Sitting in Ocean Terrace with a martini while watching the waves dash against Bald Head Cliff, I was tired from Fort Day but not from what I saw. My photos just can’t capture the beauty or convey the history. The same is true of this place and this cliff.