Need a prescription for a deep, restful night’s sleep? How about the soft rhythmic sounds of ocean waves rolling gently up and receding back from a boulder-strewn beach?
“Just what the doctor ordered,” you say? Ask “Doctor” Norm Davidson and his wife, Candy, third-generation owners of Libby’s Oceanside Camp in York Harbor, Maine. For more than 80 years, since its founding in 1923 by Norm’s grandparents — Fred and Lilla Libby and their daughter, Cora — it has been under the direct control of the family. Located on a 3 1/2-acre spit of grass-covered rock that curves gently out into the Atlantic Ocean, Libby’s first-tier sites offer oceanfront locations. Most second-tier sites have an ocean view, and all 95 sites have water, sewer, cable TV and 30- or 50-amp electrical services. The immaculate, modern bathhouse features plenty of hot running water, and other impeccable sanitary facilities are also totally handicapped accessible.
The Davidsons pride themselves on having both seasonal and transient sites at Libby’s. Some of the families with seasonal sites have been coming back to the campground for 75 consecutive years. Others have a 20- and 25-year history here. It is not unusual for grandparents, parents, children and even grandchildren to gather together to enjoy some of Maine’s recuperative powers. Ken Knight, Libby’s on-site campground manager, first came to stay at Libby’s with his parents as a 6-year-old lad, and started working at the campground before his 16th birthday. Whether looking for a weekend getaway or a summer stay, an advance reservation is recommended to reserve your desired location. The odds of getting a short-time location are, of course, much better at the beginning and end of the season. Libby’s is long on amenities … literally. The state’s Long Sands Beach goes for 1-1/2 miles at the park’s north end. This is a great beach for walking, and it has a protected swimming area. Ocean-boating and swimming access are also available at the south end of Libby’s Camp.
Sea-kayaking and even a sturdy canoe can safely be utilized in the area surrounding Libby’s — in the hands of an experienced operator, that is. It’s highly advisable to set out only on the calm days, which feature a soft onshore breeze blowing in from the sea. The astute sportsman or woman will always wear a good personal flotation device and a helmet, as Maine’s coastal rocks are seldom forgiving to the ill-prepared. Constant vigilance is the watchword of safe boating. Spectacular sunsets, however, are the rewards for those prepared to meet the sea’s challenges.
Need further enticement? Stop in at the Finestkind Fish Market in York, and purchase a few lively two-claw Maine lobsters (Homarus americanus). Once back at the campground, retrieve a bucket of fresh Atlantic Ocean seawater, bring it to a boil and insert lobsters. When the lobster turns bright red and floats, sit down with some hot melted butter, a few fresh lemon wedges and a bib. Any of the campground regulars will provide you with easy instructions for extracting the delectable lobster meat.
Once you have finished your lobster repast, you might want to head out to one of the areas premier attractions: the Cape Neddick Lighthouse on Nubble Point. There’s plenty of free parking space for RVs. The Nubble is a small, rocky island a short distance off the eastern point of Cape Neddick, near the entrance to the York River. In 1602 explorer Bartholomew Gosnold met with local Indians on the island and dubbed it “Savage Rock.” Placing a lighthouse on the Nubble had been recommended by many local mariners since 1807. An 1837 proposal was rejected on the grounds that there were already three lights in the vicinity: Boon Island, Whaleback and Portsmouth Harbor Light. Even after the wreck of the Isidore in 1842 near Bald Head Cliff, north of the Nubble, it still took close to four more decades before the lighthouse was established in 1879.
The Isidore, according to legend, still occasionally reappears as a ghost ship, complete with a phantom crew. Exploring some of York’s ancient burial grounds appeals to many campers. A favorite hobby is making rubbings of the unique horizontal granite gravestone markers. The gravestones have not simply fallen over from lack of attention, but were placed that way on purpose — and with good reason — more than a century ago. This action was taken, depending upon who you believe to: prevent looting of the recently buried; to prevent free-roaming pigs, cows and other wild and domestic animals from rooting up the newly dead; or to assure that the newly deceased remained where they were placed upon their demise. Apparently, free-wandering spirits weren’t welcome in Old York, Maine.
A much more modern-day pursuit is ambling through the wonderful shops available only a few miles down the road in nearby Kittery, Maine. The Maine Kittery Outlets is a major center with brand-name stores, including Tommy Hilfiger, Timberland and Banana Republic. Pepperidge Farm, Russell Stover Candies and Harry & David offer great gift ideas, and will also make sure you don’t go away hungry. The bottom line, after a full day of tourist activities, is simply to return to your RV at Libby’s Oceanside Camp. Take your shoes off, pour yourself the libation of your choice, put your feet up, listen to the waves as they roll inexplicitly in and out and most importantly, watch the rest of the world go by.
Libby’s Oceanside Camp, (207) 363-4171, libbysoceancamping.com.