It’s hard to imagine a typical day of leisure in the Seacoast. The list of options and combinations of activities available is endless. It’s no wonder that more and more people are discovering the Greater Portsmouth area as a vacation destination as well as a permanent address. For the beach lover, New Hampshire’s 18 miles of coastline offer an array of pleasures. Just 20 minutes from Portsmouth is Hampton Beach, the perennial family favorite, with its historic boardwalk and clean, white sand. Summer concerts outdoors at the oceanside bandstand or indoor musical and comedy performances at the Hampton Beach Casino and Ballroom are also very popular.
Wallis Sands and Jenness State Beaches offer serene locations ideal for kite-flying or tide watching. You can watch the yachts and fishing boats go by as you enjoy a picnic lunch at Rye Harbor State Park, or you can join a deep-sea fishing excursion with Al Gauron Fishing Charters. The Sushi Hunter or Seafari Charters. For those who enjoy viewing sealife in its natural environment, take a voyage for whale, seal or porpoise watching. Or if you just want to enjoy the clean fresh air and explore some of the area’s less traveled byways, Portsmouth Rent & Ride offers sea kayaking, bicycling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing rentals and guided tours of the Seacoast.
Portsmouth Harbor Cruises and the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company offer seasonal foliage cruises, sunset and evening fun cruises, and various harbor and island tours.
Strolling the historic streets of Portsmouth provides a quick lesson in this region’s colorful heritage. The Portsmouth Livery Company offers historic tours of Portsmouth’s South End by horse-drawn carriage in the Spring, Summer and Fall. The 42-building, 10-acre Strawbery Banke Museum is a popular stop that depicts Seacoast life from post-Colonial days through the Second World War. And a number of other historic homes, including the Governor John Langdon and Rundlet-May homes (maintained and operated by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities), as well as the John Paul Jones House, the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion and the Moffatt-Ladd House, are open for public tours from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.
Visitors may also explore the historical roots of Portsmouth through the city’s newest historical attraction–the Portsmouth Harbour Trail. A comprehensive 32-page map and guide to the walking tour is available through local merchants or the Chamber’s Visitor Information Center.
For those who like the dramatic arts, Portsmouth is home to five performing arts theatres including The Portsmouth Music Hall, which is celebrating its 125th year of bringing entertainment and world-class performances to the local community.
You may enjoy many of the scenic splendors along the coastal routes in New Castle, North Hampton and Rye by car. A northbound ride into Maine through York Village and York Harbor is visually breathtaking. The Nubble Lighthouse in York is a national treasure, and you may have a desire to abandon your vehicle and walk the Marginal Way in Ogunquit.
Those who like to admire the flora of the Seacoast will fill their senses with the sights and smells of Fuller Gardens in North Hampton and Prescott Park in Portsmouth. Or enjoy horseback riding through the local countryside.
The Seacoast certainly caters to children as well. Pro Portsmouth sponsors an annual festival for the younger audience—Children’s Day in May. Year-round activities at The Children’s Museum of Portsmouth and the USS Albacore are plentiful, and not a child (and nary an adult, for that matter) can withstand the temptation of Water Country, New England’s largest water park. York’s Wild Kingdom also is a rewarding family adventure.
Odiorne State Park in Rye, the site of the first European settlement in New Hampshire, is home to the Seacoast Science Center, which offers daily educational programs including explorations of the natural beauty and wildlife of Odiorne Point. Seasonal children’s camps are also offered. The Nature & Science Center at Seabrook Station will give the kids a wide-eyed look at the wonders of science, and the Sandy Point Discovery Center, located on the shores of Great Bay, provides an introduction to the flora and fauna of one of the most vibrant estuarine environments in the country.
There’s so much to do in the Seacoast that it would take a separate publication to list them all, so that’s why we’ve created the Chamber’s Guide to the Seacoast of New Hampshire and Southern Maine. The Guide is available free of charge by writing or calling the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 239, Portsmouth, NH, 03802, (603) 436-1118.
For more information on Portsmouth history, check out the Portsmouth Harbour Trail on the web at www.portsmouthnh.com/ harbourtrail/index.html. You may also find the Guide to the Seacoast, Coastline Magazine and a linked listing of nearly all local accommodations, restaurants and attractions and other businesses on the Chamber’s web site at www.portsmouthchamber.org.
The Seacoast offers a wealth of activities year-round, so don’t feel that summer is the only time to visit. "The Seacoast of New Hampshire–a "real" taste of New England!"