When you think about a typical beach vacation, you probably imagine relaxing on the sand... and not much else. And while New Hampshire's 18 miles of coast might offer the chance to do just that, there's also a whole lot of other awesome stuff crammed into those 18 miles. So, if you should tire of laying on the sand, there's islands and sunken forests to explore, craft beer and seafood to sample, submarines and Japanese Gardens to visit, and loads more on this coastal cruise from Portsmouth to Hampton. Grab your beach towel and get ready to hit the road!
First up on this thrilling road trip is a brewery that has firmly-established roots in New Hampshire. Founded in 1981 in Seattle, Washington, the Redhook Ale Brewery expanded its reach from Seattle to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1996 and has been meeting the needs of east coast beer-lovers ever since. The brewery not only creates delicious beer, but also provides tours and delicious cuisine. The cost-effective tours take place all week, but make sure you call ahead, as spots quickly fill up. After seeing how the delicious brews are made, be sure to pop into the Portsmouth Pub to try unique and local foods supplied by Portsmouth vendors. This coast-to-coast favorite is a must when in the area.
After getting your fill of amazing brews and food, stop by the famous USS Albacore. This research submarine was the first Navy-designed vessel with an underwater hull of cylindrical shape, which has become the standard for submarines worldwide. This particular submarine was used from 1953 to 1972. It was placed in Portsmouth’s Albacore Park in 1985, where it has been visited by curious passersby ever since. History buffs, especially those with an interest in the Navy, along with those who have ever dreamed of exploring the ocean floor, all flock to see this epic submarine and to also visit the Museum of Submarine History located nearby. It might seem like a small, overlooked part of history, but it's not to be missed.
After visiting the USS Albacore, you may want to explore the water for yourself. The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company allows visitors to take various cruises and tours of the New Hampshire seacoast. For over 25 years, Isles of Shoals Steamship has been cruising the local Piscataqua River and the Isles of Shoals, so a cruise with the company will surely give you an experience that you will never forget. Whether you take the Star Island walking tour, which allows you to exit the boat and walk the beautiful island, or choose a more historic cruise around the Isles and Portsmouth Harbor to learn the history of the area, you certainly will not be let down. New Hampshire's history alone is a vital part of the United State's past that is important to revisit and respect, and the beauty that comes along with learning about these various happenings and inventions is an added bonus. Grab your camera and hop on board!
Located in the heart of historic downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Strawbery Banke is a 10-acre outdoor history museum featuring a plethora of American history. On the property, explore 8 heritage gardens, 32 historic buildings, and ever-changing,actor-lead demonstrations that reflect the rich history of the area. In addition to amazing grounds and exhibits, the museum also has a display of over 30,000 artifacts, and interprets the stories of the people who lived and worked in the Puddle Dock neighborhood. If you aren't a history buff, don't worry. The Banke also hosts an ever-growing number of special events and programs year long, so there is always something new or different going on. Make sure to check in advance what the property has in store for your visit, as the schedule is jam-packed with things to do.
Named after lifelong Portsmouth resident Josie F. Prescott, Prescott Park is a beautiful park located on a once run-down patch of industrial land. The park was born under the terms of the last will and testament of Josie, and she would be proud of what the park has become. It is home to an amazing Arts Festival that hosts music, theater, movies, and special events to which people from across the country come. To be precise, since 1974, the Prescott Park Arts Festival has presented more than 10,000 productions to over 3 million people. This park is not only beautiful to see and experience, but it also always has something entertaining going on.
Learn about New Hampshire's first royal governor, Benning Wentworth, (if that isn't a royal governor kind of name, I don't know what is) and his mansion at the Wentworth Coolidge Mansion Historic Site. Mr. Wentworth lived in this spacious 40-room mansion while serving from 1741 to 1767, and the property still reflects the architectural styles of that time. After walking through the mansion, feel free to take a leisurely stroll on the Little Harbor Loop Trail nearby. This relaxing trail is 1.5 miles long and curves along the waterfront, so feel free to take your time and soak up the beautiful landscape. This historic environment is a perfect way to relax and still feed your curiosity about our country's ancestors and the way they lived.
Located on New Castle Island east of Portsmouth, the Great Island Common is a unique area to visit. It is nestled next to the Maine and New Hampshire border, near the Piscataqua River on the north Atlantic Ocean. This 32-acre seaside green space is open 365 days a year. Once in the park, feel free to play frisbee, picnic with the family, walk along the beach, or take the kids to the spacious playground area. After perusing the park, feel free to grill out here. This family-friendly (and vast!) space is kind of like the backyard of Portsmouth, and a community feel makes it all the more special.
If you love learning about and connecting with sea life, including seals, dolphins, and porpoises, then the Seacoast Science Center is the place for you. The center is located within Odiorne Point State Park, and many people come to enjoy the special programs, touch tanks, and educational, entertaining exhibits daily. Feel free to peruse exhibits to learn interesting marine mammal facts, experience fascinating live animals from the Gulf of Maine, and hold a sea star from the touch tank. If touching the animals isn't quite your thing, don't fret. The Center also hosts the infamous Marine Mammal Rescue Team that responds to and takes care of marine mammals in the New Hampshire and Maine area. Some of the amazing animals the team attends to are Harbor Seals, Gray Seals, Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins, and Harbor Porpoises. If you love marine mammals, this is the place to be!
After checking out some of the local marine wildlife, be sure to swing by Rye Harbor State Park; it's located adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and right by the cute town of Rye, New Hampshire. This local favorite offers the chance to walk out on a small peninsula to be surrounded by water on three sides, and many people come to take photographs of the amazing scenery. This small, grassy area offers the perfect opportunity to also picnic and fish when you simply need a break from society. Even if you just take a moment to kick back and watch the ships and boats come in and out of the Rye Harbor, you won't regret stopping by. The cool sea breeze at sunset is unlike anything you'll experience at any other beachside park!
Right off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, off Rye North Beach, Petey's Seafood and Bar will help you refuel from a busy morning or afternoon spent on the New Hampshire coast. This local favorite serves up the best seafood grub, and they have the awards to back it up. The onion rings, fried claws, and clam chowder are renowned across the state, so you know you can't go wrong with a meal here. The restaurant has been catching, cooking, and serving its own food since 1990, and like a fine wine, it has been getting better and better with time.
Continuing along the coastline, Jenness State Beach would be a great place to unwind and digest your amazing meal from Petey's. Right outside the town of Rye, this great family location serves as a front seat to the Atlantic Ocean. The sandy beaches are ideal for laying out in the sun, playing frisbee, or even swimming in the cool ocean. This beach has showers to help you get rid of the pesky sand that you picked up along the way before getting back into your car.
If you're extra lucky, you might spy a glimpse of one of the sunken forests of New Hampshire here. While sightings are rare, it's mind-boggling to think that just below the surface of the water are 56 stumps that are thousands of years old-- once part of a massive forest. It's thought that long ago, the shoreline was 75 miles further east than it is today! Another sunken forest is back up at Odiorne State Park. Odiorne's "Drowned Forest" is made of 4,000-year-old white hemlocks and pines, and you can spot the tree roots at low tide.
Located near the town of North Hampton, Fuller Gardens is every nature lover's dream. This turn-of-the-century garden is one of the last working formal estate gardens of the early 20th century. Created for Governor Alvan T. Fuller and designed by the Olmstead firm, this meticulously-maintained botanical garden is absolutely gorgeous. The magnificent Japanese garden is stunning, the wide variety of roses is breathtaking, and this garden is full of blooms all season long. After checking out the wonderful gardens, stop by Fox Hill Point for a distinctly New Hampshire view of the ocean.
After taking in all of the beautiful sights of the Fuller Gardens, Throwback Brewery will help quench your thirst and fill your belly. Throwback is a smaller brewery dedicated to crafting delicious, farm-fresh beers from local ingredients. This unique brewery has a vision: they aim to get 100% of ingredients from local suppliers. They're nearly to that goal, with about 70-90% of ingredients sourced locally today. In addition to the vision of locality, this eco-friendly brewery has some other delicious features. Throwback is the largest solar-powered brewery in New Hampshire, and offers in-house recycling of bottles bought and used at the brewery. Pretty cool! Lastly, this brewery also offers visitors a superb lunch and dinner menu to pair with the tasty beer selection. This mindful brewery will certainly leave you full and happy.
Finally, to round out this amazing journey, stop by Hampton State Beach. Kick back for the day, or enjoy oceanside RV camping if would like to stay longer. (We don't blame you if you stay longer, the view is amazing.) This family-friendly beach is vast, so you and your family will have plenty of space to set up chairs, picnic, play sports, or even build sandcastles. This final destination is the best place to round out your amazing New Hampshire coastline experience.
From great local beer and food to tranquil beaches and lavish gardens, this coast is not your average southern coastal experience. New Hampshire offers nostalgia, yet immerses visitors in fresh ideas and experiences for a twist of excitement. The entire coast is beautiful in a wide variety of ways at different times of the year, and you'll never run out of things to see and do. A road trip through this part of the United States is one that will be different from anything you've experienced.
With seven distinct regions and so much to see and do, there’s no wrong way to visit New Hampshire. Hike one of our 4,000 footers and inhale crisp mountain air. Take a boat ride on a glassy lake, or a refreshing dip in the Atlantic Ocean.