Photo Credit : Tichnor Brothers/Boston Public Library
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Part seaside resort and part old-time carnival, Hampton Beach is the attention-hogging star of the show that is New Hampshire’s 18-mile stretch of Atlantic coast. Easily the busiest beach in the state, Hampton Beach State Park has been repeatedly singled out by the National Resources Defense Council for its clean water.
Timing is everything when visiting Hampton Beach. During the off-season, it’s possible to have the expansive beach almost to yourself. On a summer weekend, when the population swells from 2,300 to as much as 200,000, it can be a festival of people-watching. Not sure which type of day you’re in for? Check the Hampton Beach webcam for a sneak peek of the beach from the roof of the Sea Ketch Restaurant. The Atlantic Ocean is the main attraction, of course, but you’ll miss out on much of the fun if you don’t set aside some time for a stroll along Ocean Avenue, where arcades, T-shirt stands, and souvenir shops elbow for space with fast-food joints, fried-dough vendors, and candy shops.
Guide to Hampton Beach, NH | Hotels, Restaurants, Events & Activities
Hampton Beach Entertainment
The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom opened in 1899 and has long been a popular venue for rock shows. Everyone from the Ramones to Billy Idol, Led Zeppelin to Ryan Adams, and the Doors to Snoop Dogg has taken to the Casino Ballroom stage. Across the way, on the beach side of Ocean Boulevard, right near the center of the strip, the seashell stage plays host to a popular series of free Concerts on the Seashell. From May through September, more than 80 Hampton Beach concerts are held on the outdoor stage. If movies are more your thing, Hampton Beach has you covered there too. Throughout July and August, the popular Monday Night Movies on the Beach offer up free shows starting at dusk.
Hampton Beach Fireworks!
On Wednesday nights throughout the summer, and on special occasions year-round (and they’re pretty good at coming up with special occasions), free Hampton Beach fireworks shows are a regular occurrence. The Hampton Beach Fourth of July fireworks show is always particularly memorable.
Hampton Beach Events
From midwinter penguin plunges to midsummer talent shows, there’s almost always something happening at Hampton Beach. Among the biggest events each season is the Sand Sculpting Competition, which brings more than a dozen master sand sculptors to Hampton Beach each June. Visitors are able to watch the creations take shape over the course of four days. The finished artworks are then illuminated for evening viewing for two weeks. The annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival marks the close of the summer season each year. Held the weekend after Labor Day, the festival supports multiple nonprofit organizations and attracts more than 150,000 visitors to what has been acclaimed as one of the top 100 events in North America by the American Bus Association.
Hampton Beach Arcade
No visit to Hampton Beach is complete without a step back in time with the video games, Skee-Ball, and pinball machines at the Funarama Arcade, which has been a featured attraction on the ground floor of the Casino Ballroom since 1905. Buc’s Lagoon Mini Golf is another fun mainstay of the strip, combining ice cream with some challenging golf course obstacles.
Hampton Beach Restaurants
While some of Hampton’s fine-dining options require a trip farther afield, there’s some good food to be found at a few Hampton Beach restaurants on the strip, with seafood, not surprisingly, being the central attraction. Ashworth by the Sea boasts three good restaurants (Breakers, the Sand Bar, and Wharfside). The Sea Ketch Restaurant has been a fixture on the strip for more than four decades. The Boardwalk Café and Pub and the Purple Urchin are worth a look as well. If you’re aiming for something on the lower end, of the eat-on-the-go variety, the strip is the place to be. Grab one of the “biggest slices on the beach” at Sal’s Pizza or an order of wings from Farr’s Famous Chicken Beach Shack. Indulge your sweet tooth at Sweet Hannah’s Ice Cream or Blink’s Fry Doe.
Hampton Beach Hotels
Wondering where to stay in Hampton Beach, NH? There are plenty of Hampton beach hotels and lodging options, although the best places are booked up well in advance. On Ashworth Avenue, just off the strip, a series of lower-end Hampton Beach hotels and motels offer modest amenities but convenient location. A little farther afield, particularly to the north, a number of excellent Hampton Beach rentals and condos provide more upscale options. Although they may demand a pretty penny during peak season, many Hampton Beach rentals are available at a fraction of the price during the rest of the year.
If you are aiming to stay close to the beach, these Hampton Beach hotels located right on Ocean Boulevard are worth a look:
Ashworth By the Sea (295 Ocean Blvd.) has been a Hampton Beach landmark for a century but has evolved to include all the modern conveniences and three excellent restaurants. Kentville on the Ocean (315 Ocean Blvd.) was built as a single-family home in 1917 and was remodeled into an inn with 40 clean, modern units in 1986. Grand View Motel (353 Ocean Blvd.) offers single and double rooms, some with full kitchens. Hampton House Hotel (333 Ocean Blvd.) has 51 rooms with ocean views and balconies, and coffee lovers will appreciate the on-site coffee house, Jumpin Jack’s Java. Jonathan’s Hotel (415 Ocean Blvd.) has two buildings of condo-style units available for long- or short-term rental. Atlantic Breeze Suites (429 Ocean Blvd.) and the affiliated Roy Family Studios (705 Ocean Blvd.) offer sales and rentals of studios and one-bedroom suites. OC Studio Suites (703 Ocean Blvd.), built in 2006, features 28 furnished studio suites with balconies and ocean views.
Hampton Beach Camping
Although camping is not allowed on the beach itself, there’s a handful of good options within easy distance of the waves. Located by the mouth of the Hampton River, the Hampton Beach State R.V. Park features 28 sites and is open from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Shel-Al Campground in North Hampton is open from mid-May through the end of September, with 178 campsites ranging from basic tent sites to full trailer and RV hookups. Tidewater Campground offers family camping 2½ miles from the ocean from mid-May through mid-October. Wakeda Campground in Hampton Falls is about 8 miles from Hampton Beach and has more than 400 sites available, including camping cabins nestled in the pines, wooded tent sites, and trailer sites with electricity and sewer hookups.
Have you ever visited Hampton Beach? Which Hampton Beach restaurants, hotels, events, or activities would you add to our list?
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.