Lakeside or oceanfront, action-packed or totally relaxed — when it comes to New Hampshire beaches, there’s something for everyone.
By Joe Bills
Oct 18 2022
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Despite having the shortest coastline (between 13 and 20 miles, depending on exactly how the measuring is done) of any non-landlocked state, New Hampshire makes great use of what it has, stacking five state park ocean beaches into that tiny footprint. And what the state may lack in ocean waves it more than makes up for with lakefront bliss. New Hampshire’s 273 lakes and ponds are incredibly varied, and several of them offer great beaches. Be they lakeside or oceanside, here are a few of what we consider to be the best New Hampshire beaches.
If you like your beach experience to be a bit over the top, with shops and shows and people-watching galore, look no farther than Hampton Beach. This is family fun with a little bit of honky-tonk thrown in, and the beach itself is glorious. Regularly honored as one of the cleanest beaches in the nation, Hampton Beach is the largest and most popular among New Hampshire beaches, with all the pluses and minuses that come with that designation. Venture a bit north to North Hampton State Beach for a somewhat quieter ocean experience, if that’s more to your liking.
For the lakefront version of the Hampton Beach experience, Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee has it all. Hang out near the 1,300-foot-long boardwalk to get your fill of arcades and souvenir shops, or wander farther afield for some of the most beautiful lake views you’ve ever seen. The beach sand may be imported, but you won’t give that a second thought once you’ve spread out your towel and claimed some space. Another plus: Midsummer water temperatures at Weirs Beach climb into the 70s, making for a somewhat more temperate swimming experience.
If a picnic in a grassy park and an afternoon stretched out on pristine beach sand sounds good to you, give Wallis Sands a look. This popular beach attracts a crowd, but it’s expansive enough to absorb a lot of beachgoers while still allowing for some personal space. With ample parking, a bathhouse, a snack shop, and great views of the Isles of Shoals, this is a beach you’ll be eager to return to.
Echo Lake in the White Mountains is proof that size isn’t everything, and the beach itself is on the small side, for sure. But lakes don’t come much prettier than this. Nestled beneath 700-foot Cathedral Ledge, this is the perfect spot to kick back for a couple of hours in between explorations of the plentiful hiking trails nearby.
This popular Newbury beach tends to reach capacity pretty quickly on prime summer days, so make plans to get an early start and beat the rush. The beach is large and well maintained, and an onsite store, playground, and bathhouse make it easy to spend a day here. The toughest choice will be whether to admire nearby Mount Sunapee from a towel on the sand, while bobbing in the water, or from one of the readily available rental kayaks.
If your ideal day at the beach involves less lounging on the sand and more exploration and adventure, the rocky beach of Odiorne Point may be to your liking. There’s history here: Explorer David Thompson landed here in 1623 and established the first settlement in what is now New Hampshire, and the ruins of WWII-era Fort Dearborn remain here for exploration. There’s nature here, too: Odiorne Point is regularly singled out as one of New England’s best bird-watching locales, and the aquariums and whale skeletons of the Seacoast Science Center provide an educational diversion and break from the sun. And there’s beauty galore, from the waves crashing on the rocks to the expansive views of Portsmouth Harbor.
Jenness Beach is every bit as gorgeous as its neighboring beaches, but limited parking nearby keeps it from getting quite as crowded. If you can solve the parking riddle, you’ll be rewarded with an ideal spot for lounging, swimming, and picnicking. You’ll also get a great view of the surfers who have chosen Jenness as a popular longboarding spot.
On the shores of beautiful Newfound Lake, the beach at Wellington State Park serves up the perfect mix of sandy beach, clear water, and shade trees. There are picnic spots and nature trails in the surrounding park — assuming you can pull yourself away from the water long enough to go exploring.
We’ve only scratched the surface here. What are your favorite New Hampshire beaches?
This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated.