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Explore Maine Real Estate

The Southern Gateway

Kittery LIbraryApproximatley 100 miles from Boston, York County - Maine's southernmost county - is by far its most visited region. It's also the state's second fastest-growing region, experiencing a development boom that's only likely to continue following the recent widening of the Maine Turnpike and passenger rail service from Amtrak's Downeaster. The towns of Kittery, Old Orchard Beach, and Parsonsfield occupy the corners of the roughly triangular county, and each characterizes the diversity of the region. Kittery is known as the home of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and myriad factory outlets, and is the state's principal gateway. The sleepy, rural town of Parsonsfield is in the foothills of the western mountain region and, like many of the communities on York County's northwestern flank, its forested knolls are still dotted with pastures and farms. There are also several developed lakes and ponds, sites of summer camps and cottages, in the area. Old Orchard Beach, with its beach, pier, and amusement park rides has an allure unlike any other in Maine, attracting thousands of visitors, many from French-speaking Québec, with its carnival atmosphere.

Many more thousands flock to the long white sand beaches of the Yorks, Ogunquit, Wells, and the Kennebunks. Mark Twain once quipped that it would be difficult to throw a brick in the Yorks and not hit a postmaster. It's still true - the town is divided into a handful of distinct villages with their own services: York, York Harbor, York Beach, and Cape Neddick, each of which has its own waterfront.

Ogunquit, MaineOgunquit is probably best known for its three-mile beach, considered by many to be Maine's finest stretch of sand. Brimming with tourists come July, Ogunquit gained fame early in the twentieth century as both art colony and summer resort - today it functions more as the latter with its gift shops, inns, condominiums, and large hotels, but the presence of the former can still be felt. Ogunquit's neighbor to the north, Wells, is also a busy summer community and its many antique shops and used bookstores make it popular with shoppers of the rare and unique. Much of the large Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, acres and acres of salt marshes and stretches of woods, sits in Wells.

The profile of nearby Kennebunkport was first raised when George H.W. Bush was elected president and has again found itself in the news with the presidency of George W. Bush. Tourists are again flocking to Walker's Point, the Bush family's impressive summer compound, but more come to the neighboring towns of Kennebunkport and Kennebunk for their beaches, inns, scores of shops, impressive Colonial architecture, and historic small-town ambiance.

With their robust Franco-American heritage, the twin cities of Biddeford and Saco constitute the industrial and population centers of York County - although they also include the summer colonies of Camp Ellis and Biddeford Pool. Inland, Sanford is one of the state's fastest-growing communities, and the Berwicks and the Eliots are residential, riverside communities that house many who work at the shipyard and in New Hampshire.

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This article has been adapted from the February 2004 issue of Down East Magazine.



 
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