Heading to the New Hampshire seacoast? Peruse our Guide to the New Hampshire Seacoast — from things to do, to where to eat, shop and stay.
By Heather Tourgee
Jul 22 2022
Please note that many establishments throughout New England have modified their hours and/or operations in response to COVID-19. Please check with individual businesses and organizations for the latest information before making travel plans.
The New Hampshire seacoast is only 13 miles, but it’s long on character, beauty, history, and wonderful places to eat, shop, and stay. Have a look at some of our favorites in our Guide to the New Hampshire Seacoast, then share your own in the comments.
Want more of the New Hampshire seacoast? See the full feature, “A Short Coast with a Long Story,” by Julia Shipley in the May/June 2016 issue of Yankee Magazine.
Whether you’re looking for a classic New England seafood shack or fine dining within sight of the water, we’ve got you covered. For authentic, fresh seafood in a no-frills environment, head to Markey’s Lobster Pool in Seabrook. Popovers on the Square in Portsmouth can satisfy any other daytime cravings with its soups, salads, and bakery fare. For a bistro setting, try Martingale Wharf for seafood with a view, or The Black Trumpet with its locally-sourced Mediterranean dishes and wine bar.
With accommodations as luxurious as they are historic, the coast has no shortage of elegant, comfortable options. Big-name destinations like Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle attract a steady stream of visitors with the amenities of a large resort, but smaller inns like The Hotel Portsmouth and the Ale House Inn offer cozy, convenient alternatives in the heart of Portsmouth. The Sailmaker’s House (formerly the Inn at Strawbery Banke) is one of the seacoast’s newest independent, boutique inns, with ten bright and colorful en-suite guest rooms. Don’t forget Ashworth by the Sea in Hampton for unbeatable views and a short walk from the hubbub of the boardwalk. Be sure to book early for the summer as rooms go very quickly at all these locations.
A guide to the New Hampshire seacoast needs to include the water, right? Say what you will about the length of New Hampshire’s coastline, but its beaches are undeniably top-rate—not to mention diverse.
For the full boardwalk experience, head down to Hampton Beach. Here, you can enjoy a wide sandy beach, arcades, restaurants, shopping and souvenir stops along the surf.
If you’re not one for crowds, try Jenness or Wallis Sands in Rye. These state beaches may lack the retail opportunities of Hampton, but some like it better that way. Gaze out on the Isles of Shoals, enjoy a picnic on the grassy area, and swim in the Atlantic.
If the sand isn’t your friend, but you still want to witness breathtaking ocean views, the trails of Odiorne Point State Park and its onsite Seacoast Science Center provide an outlet to stroll along the rocky Atlantic coast and check out WWII relics. The family-friendly Science Center is home to two whale skeletons, a blue lobster, and many more opportunities for hands-on learning for children, plus tidal pools, playground, and picnic areas.
Check online or call ahead for parking fees and hours, as these vary by season and location.
Get out on the ocean with Al Guaron Deep Sea Fishing and Whale Watching or a more leisurely tour of the area’s lighthouses, forts, and mansions with Portsmouth Harbor Cruises. A short walk inland to Market Square in Portsmouth provides ample shopping opportunities, from boutiques like Puttin on the Glitz to local novelty favorite Macro Polo. Take a tour of the Portsmouth Brewery on the weekends after enjoying lunch there on Market Street.
In late June, a visit to the annual Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition promises to astound, and maybe even inspire you to build a sandcastle of your own. Check out Cinnamon Rainbows for all your surf and beach gear. A short walk from the beach lands you in the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, where musical guests like Snoop Dogg and Third Eye Blind have been known to perform.
The Strawbery Banke Museum is located at the site of Portsmouth’s original settlement in 1630. They operate nearly 40 period homes, covering 400 years of local history and lore. You won’t want to miss this wonderful look into a city steeped in history. The museum runs events through the summer, including the July 4 American Celebration, complete with a naturalization ceremony for new citizens. Adults: $20, Children 5-17: $10. 14 Hancock St, Portsmouth. 603-443-0301
Another important part of Portsmouth’s history was nearly lost when a property between State and Chestnut Streets was paved over. This plot is home to the African Burying Ground, a sacred location that had been used as early as the 1700s (it’s the only such property in New England dating to this era). Now, thanks to an effort by the city council and the Seacoast African American Cultural Center, the Portsmouth African Burying Ground is a main attraction along the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, walking tours, and self-guided tours. Free. 97 Chestnut St., Portsmouth.
Fuller Gardens in North Hampton is a turn-of-the-century estate and botanical garden that began in the 1920s. It features rose gardens, a Japanese garden, and continuous English perennial plantings. Escape the crowds at the boardwalk or downtown and delight in the ocean breeze and distinct history of the gardens and estate. Adults:$9 Seniors: $8 Children under 12: $4. 10 Willow Ave, North Hampton.
Prescott Park dates back to the days of Josie and Mary Prescott, who, after coming into a significant inheritance, bought and donated the land to the city of Portsmouth in 1940. Today, the park is free and accessible to all, a vision the sisters shared. Bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful gardens and scenery. Marcy St., Portsmouth.
See More:Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH | Photographs
Petitions for a lighthouse along Portsmouth’s coast date back to 1721, and the site has seen a long and decorated history since. Portsmouth Harbor Light is still an active Coast Guard station, open to the public Sundays May-October from 1-5 pm. Take a tour to the top of the lighthouse and climb a ladder to the lantern room. Also open for special events throughout the year.
What did we miss in our guide to the New Hampshire seacoast? Let us know in the comments!
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.