Our Seacoast Unfolded

Join us as we hit the beaches and cruise the backroads on a sun-drenched quest. This guide is designed to reveal the riches that await you on along the country’s shortest seacoast, whether you are shopping, sightseeing or just seeking a great place to eat.

Seacoast Hot Spots

OK, our seacoast is a only a measly 18 miles, but it’s packed with more stuff to do than Maine could shake a stick at. So start your car, jump on a bicycle or put on some serious walking shoes and follow Rte. 1A from south to north.

Start at the Seabrook Education Center. There, everything you wanted to know about nuclear energy can be found at The Science and Nature Center. While you’re there, walk the center’s Owascoag Nature Trail, a one-mile boardwalk where you can see marsh and woodland creatures. (www.fpl.com)

Next, plunge into the cool ocean water at Hampton Beach State Park It has a wide sandy beach with bathhouse, showers and lifeguards, along with blocks of attractions, restaurants, and hotels.

Want a quieter place to ride the waves? Try North Beach It also has a sandy beach, bathhouse and lifeguards. If air is your element, head to Hampton Airfield in North Hampton. Put on some goggles and do some sightseeing in an open-cockpit biplane, or just watch others take off from a café near the airstrip. (www.hamptonairfield.com)

Get close-up again at Fuller Gardens in North Hampton where you can enjoy two acres of formal flower gardens (hundreds of tulips and 2,000 rose bushes) at a turn-of-the-century estate. (964-5414, www.fullergardens.org)

Time for another dip? Check out North Hampton State Beach It has a bathhouse and lifeguards, too. Those islands you see from the beach have many treasures. Poet Celia Thaxter’s garden on Appledore Island is one of the must-see places on the Isles of Shoals. Operated by Cornell University, (607-255-37170).

Father from the madding crowds at Hampton Beach is Jenness State Beach in Rye — another sandy beach with bathhouse and lifeguards. Rye Harbor State Park is a great place to see an ocean sunset — or sunrise. Whale watches, fishing trips and the Seacoast’s only lobster boat tour leave from this scenic harbor. (www.nhstateparks.org)

On your way north, take special note of the so-called “two-mile drive” It’s said to be the most spectacular ocean-side drive on the East Coast. Start on Rte. 1A in North Hampton and go north through Rye. On the right is the ocean; on the left, big beautiful homes. Like wide beaches? You’ll find one at Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye.

Great oceanfront swimming with a beach that’s 150 ft. wide at high tide. It, too, has a bathhouse, showers and lifeguards. If it’s views you want, go straight to Odiorne Point State Park in Rye. It’s the site of first N.H. settlement in 1623. The park offers sweeping views of the ocean, bike paths and picnicking. The Seacoast Science Center is on the grounds. (436-7406, park; 436-8043, center)

Go from scenic grandeur to architectural grandeur with a visit to the Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle. High on a hill overlooking the Atlantic is the renovated and expanded Wentworth by the Sea, one of the few grand hotels in the state — an elegant place to stay or, at least, have lunch. (www.wentworth.com)

Learn some N.H. history at Fort Constitution /Portsmouth Light in New Castle. The fort is the oldest fortification in the state; now modern, the original light was a lantern on a flagpole at the then-British garrison. (www.nhstateparks.org)

Enjoy the nearby Great Island Common in New Castle. It’s a town-owned oceanside park, ideal for picnicking and swimming, with great views of Piscataqua River traffic and three lighthouses. (www.newcastlenh.com/town/) Route 1A has turned windy now, but it takes you to Portsmouth and its many attractions, like Prescott Park and Strawbery Banke. Right on the water’s edge, the park offers beautiful gardens and places to spread out for a picnic or nap.

Nearby Strawbery Banke museum traces the city’s history with recreated homes and costumed interpreters. (www.prescottpark.org, www.strawberybanke.org) Check out some real live working ugboats at the Ceres Street pier in Portsmouth. The bright red of the tugboats offers an interesting backdrop for dining on the decks of nearby restaurants.

Cruise the river in a 1960s-era tugboat, Tugboat Alley Too. (www.tugboatalley.com) Up for an informative walk? Travel the Harbour Trail . This tour passes more than 70 points of scenic and historic significance in Portsmouth. It’s all interlaced with tales of the characters who lived in the Port City for the past 400 years. (610-5510)

For a bit of naval history, go to the Portsmouth Maritime Museum & Albacore Park. See how submariners lived back in the 1950s touring a dry-docked submarine, USS Albacore, on the banks of the Piscataqua River. (www.ussalbacore.org )

When you’ve had enough of land-based pleasures, head out to sea. There are all kinds of cruises and tours, sailing, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, lighthouse and more.

Seacoast Tours

So much to see, so little time. You can take in more of everything when you let the experts guide you.

Haunted Pub Tour
Market Square, Portsmouth. Checkout the Northeast’s only haunted pub tour and you’ll be treated to ghost stories, local legends and even a few beverages along the way. Tours start at 2 p.m. at the North Church in Market Square. The cost is $25 per person and reservations are required. Tours are held on the following dates: Sunday, June 3; Sunday, June 24; Sunday, July 8; Sunday, July 22; Sunday, August 5; Sunday, August 19; and Sunday, September 9. Call (207) 439-8905 or visit www.newenglandcuriosities.com for tickets and more information.

Maritime Mysteries and Ghostly Lighthouse Lore Walk
Prescott Park, Portsmouth. This guided tour takes place on the beautiful Portsmouth waterfront while exploring the often scary and sometimes amusing stories about local landmarks, such as the abandoned Portsmouth Naval prison. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children. Reservations are recommended. Tours at 7 p.m. on the following dates: Thursday June 21; Thursday July 19; Thursday, August 16; Thursday, September 20. Call (207) 439-8905 or visit www.newenglandcuriosities.com for tickets and more information.

Historic Portsmouth Legends and Ghost Walk
Market Square, Portsmouth. This walk takes you to the most historic and haunted spots in Portsmouth. While on the tour you’ll learn about the phantom of the Music Hall, weird disappearances, wrongly accused women, ghostly lights and much more. The tour starts at the North Church in Market Square. The cost is $10 for adults and $8 for children. Tours are at 7 p.m. on the following dates: Saturday, June 9; Saturday, July 7; Saturday, July 21; Saturday, August 4; Saturday, August 18; and Saturday, September 1. Call (207) 439-8905 or visit www.newenglandcuriosities.com for tickets and more information.

Shadows and Stone Tours
Point of Graves Cemetery, Portsmouth. On this tour you’ll explore New Hampshire’s oldest graveyard, dating to the late 1600s. Along the way you can hear stories that range from witchcraft to lost souls wandering around the gravestones. The tour starts at the graveyard located on Mechanic Street adjacent to Prescott Park off of Marcy Street. The cost is $10 for adults and $8 for children. Tours begin at 5 p.m. on the following dates: Saturday June, 23; Saturday, July 14 and Saturday, July 28. Call (207) 439-8905 or visit www.newenglandcuriosities.com for tickets and more information.

Sightseeing Cruises with the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company
315 Market St., Portsmouth. Get out on the water for narrated sightseeing cruises including morning and afternoon trips to the Isles of Shoals, various lighthouses, Portsmouth Harbor and afternoon Piscataqua River and Great Bay Wilderness cruises. The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company also offers dinner cruise options. Times and prices of the different cruises vary. Visit www.islesofshoals.com or call (800) 441-4620 or (603) 431-5500 for more information and a complete schedule of tours.

Portsmouth Harbor Cruises
Ceres St. Dock, Portsmouth. Enjoy casual, narrated tours that range from harbor cruises to evening and sunset cruises around Portsmouth Harbor. Adult prices range from $15-$20. Visit www.portsmouthharbor.com or call (800) 776-0915 or (603) 436-8084 for a complete schedule of summer tours.

Tugboat Cruises
47 Bow St., Portsmouth. Head out on the tugboat “Tug Alley Too” for a view of Portsmouth from the water. Up to six people at a time for $49 per adult and $29 for children. The tugboat runs Monday-Saturday at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. On Sundays there are three tours ever two hours starting at noon. Visit www.tugboatalley.com or call (877) 884-2553 or (603) 430-9556 for more information.

Hampton Beach Trolley
Hampton Beach to Kittery, Maine. Hit all the shopping stops in Hampton, Portsmouth and Kittery while taking in the sights from the trolley. The trolley Uncle Bob is the beach express traveling around the beach area. Trolley’s Miss Sarah and Little Steven travel around the Hampton Beach and Hampton area. Trolleys connect Hampton Beach visitors with campsites, motels and hotels, the dog track and shopping sites. Visit www.hamptonbeach.org/trolley.cfm or call (603) 926-5789 for a schedule of stops and times plus information about the Seacoast and Portsmouth trolleys.

Sailing Charters
Rye Harbor State Marina, Rye. Visit the Isles of Shoals aboard the sailboat Sea Bourne. You will sail out of Rye Harbor to various islands including Appledore, Star, Smuttynose, White Lunging, Cedar, Malagar, Seavey and Duck. Fishing, swimming, tours and cookouts are available. Rates start at $30 per hour for adults and $15 for children under 12. There is a three-hour minimum. Visit www.sailnh.com or call Captain Rick Philbrick at (603) 778-1372 or (603) 380-3804 for more rates and information.

Portsmouth Harbour Trail
The trail passes more than 70 points of scenic and historic significance in Portsmouth, including ten buildings on the National Register of Historic Buildings, ten National Historic Landmarks, and three homes maintained by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Tours are offered July 4 through Columbus Day, 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday; and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Visit www.portsmouthnh.com/harbourtrail or call (603) 436-3988 for more information.

Al Gauron Deep Sea Fishing
Sate Pier, Hampton Beach. Head out on the ocean for fishing, whale watching and a tour of New Hampshire’s ocean. Weekday rates are $40 for children, $42 for seniors and $50 for adults. On weekends the rates are $42 for children, $52 for seniors and $56 for adults. Call (603) 926-2469 or (800) 905-7820 or visit www.algauron.com/ for more information.

Eastman’s Deep Sea Fishing
Seabrook Beach Dock, Seabrook. Try some deep sea fishing, or enjoy whale watching, private charters, sightseeing and educational cruises. Rates and schedules vary, so visit www.eastmansdocks.com or call (603) 474-3461 for more information.

Dining out Surfside

There’s something about a water view that makes dining out a great experience, stirring the appetite and bringing on the romance. New Hampshire offers plenty of restaurants from a basic lobster pound to the finest of the fine dining all with soothing vistas of bay, inlet, harbor and ocean.
~By Rachel Forrest

Seacoast dining central is often downtown Portsmouth, especially in the evening when a night of live music or theater follows a great meal. While the town is filled with terrific places for great food, The Decks , a series of lively spots on the harbor along Ceres and Bow Streets, is stop number one for tourists and locals alike.

Hang out at Old Ferry Landing, The Stockpot, Harpoon Willy’s, Poco’s Cantina and The Blue Claw for casual fare and festive cocktails. They’re all in a row so you can graze and sample.

For more upscale harbor dining there’s The Wellington Room (www.thewellingtonroom.com) with creative New England cuisine, the historic Oar House (436-4025) and Dolphin Striker (www.dolphinstriker.com), and the new Black Trumpet Bistro (www.blacktrumpetbistro.com) with local cuisine with an exotic twist.

Fine dining can be found at The Wentworth-by-the-Sea Hotel and Spa (www.wentworth.com) in New Castle or try some down-home seafood at BGs Boathouse (www.bgsboathouse.com) right up on the marina where kayakers row up for lobster and clams. In Rye, Petey’s (www.peteys.com) is an old local favorite for fried fish and clams, while The Carriage House (www.carriagehouserye.com) offers cozy ocean view dining in an elegant setting. Saunders (www.saundersatryeharbor.com) at Rye Harbor has live music and is so close to the sea you can smell it right along with your fine steak.

Travel farther south along Route 1A and hug the shore moving toward Hampton Beach. Whether the surf’s up or not stop off for a colorful cocktail and some lobster mac n’ cheese at 931 Ocean (www.931ocean.com), right across from North Beach. Their creative cuisine takes you away from the everyday before going into the hubbub of the resort town of Hampton Beach. There’s plenty to choose from here with walk-up stands for fried dough and pizza to fine dining from Ron’s Landing (www.ronslanding.com). The Purple Urchin (www.purpleurchin.net) with inventive seafood is right near the popular music venue the Hampton Casino Ballroom and across the street from the evening fireworks.

Sea Ketch (www.seaketch.com) has three floors of ocean views, live music and tropical cocktails. Le Bec Rouge (www.labecrouge.com) is a lively nightspot with tasty seafood or get to Little Jack’s (926-8053) for your dose of steamed lobster.

Farther down the coast is Seabrook with Brown’s Lobster Pound(www.brownslobster.com) on the water, where you can choose your own lobster and get right into the claws. Top of the Harbor (www.topoftheharbornh.com) is also on the beach and has seafood and good Lebanese cuisine as well, and the Round Rock (474-3220) is the traditional Oceanside stop for prime rib and lobster before crossing over into the wilds of Massachusetts, but who needs to when there are all these great dining spots and so many more all with a water view right in New Hampshire.


Market Square Day
June 9, Market Square, Portsmouth. Market Square Day was first celebrated in 1977 to mark the renovation of downtown Portsmouth. The festival grows every year and is the unofficial start to summer on the Seacoast. The day features regional artists, music, dancing and much more. The downtown area is closed off and turned into a pedestrian-friendly zone. The day begins with the Market Square Day 10K Road Race. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free. Visit www.proportsmouth.org for more information.

Sand Castle Competition
June 15-29, Hampton Beach. Come watch 12 masters of sand sculptures compete for $10,000 in prize money. The 6th annual Sand Sculpting Competition starts on Friday, June 16, when 250 tons of imported sand is dumped on Hampton Beach. The entire area is illuminated for night viewing until June 29. The awards are Saturday night, June 23, at 8 p.m. with fireworks following at 9:30 p.m.
Admission is free. Visit www.hamptonbeach.org for a full schedule and more information.

Catamaran Regatta
June 23-24, Hampton Beach. Champion and new sailors alike will head to Hampton Beach for a weekend of sailing. The weekend is well organized, with races throughout the day held close to shores so that visitors can watch. For more information, visit www.sailnecsa.org.

Hampton Beach Fourth of July
July 4, 9:30 p.m. A dual celebration of Independence Day and 100 years of Hampton Beach. Other dates to see fireworks at Hampton Beach are June 23 and 27; July 11, 18 and 25 and August 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.

Miss Hampton Beach Pageant
July 29, Hampton Beach. This will be the 61st pageant in Hampton Beach. The event is free and will be held on the Seashell Stage at 2 p.m. For more information on the pageant visit www.hamptonbeach.org.

Seacoast Shopping

Ah, the pleasures of the hunt, the thrill of the chase, the satisfaction of the triumphant return with the carcass of a caribou slung over the shoulders of the
happy hunters.

~By Rick Broussard

The closest thing most people have to that kind of primal ecstasy is the adrenaline rush and endorphin high that comes from a great day of shopping. And the Seacoast of New Hampshire is the perfect place to arouse those native instincts. There are shopping-rich waterholes that are so dense with great targets that you barely have to aim your credit cards before firing them off. There are thickets that require some patience, instinct and cunning to bring down that bargain you’ve been stalking. There are some long open veldts where speed and endurance pay off, and where, even if you go home empty handed, the scenery alone was worth the trip.

Traveling north on the coast allows one to start out slow and train the eyes for opportunities. Seabrook is not famous for its shopping districts, but even here there are treasures for those with special interests. Not to take the “hunting” theme too literally, but Big Al’s Archery (474-3575) has the largest collection of bow, arrows and hunting paraphernalia in the state, with a great indoor video archery range upstairs. Some of the largest and most flamboyant fireworks stores (e.g. Rockingham Fireworks: 474-2017 or the national chain Phantom Fireworks: 474-3322) in the state are both within bottle rocket distance from one another along Rte. 1. And the famous Linda’s Breakfast Place (474-2200) is a unique place to soak up some local color and pack some carbs and caffeine for the road ahead.

Mosey up Rte. 1/Lafayette Rd. to Hampton Falls and discover a bizarre seacoast treasure trove of bargains: Eno and Dave’s Seacoast Bargains (929-1146), known by locals as the Pink Store. Think of it as a cross between Building 19 and the Christmas Tree Shop. There’s also high-end lighting at the Harbor Lights (926-8500) and some choice shops for kids clothing nearby.

Drive into the village of Hampton and you’ll want to stop and shop immediately, but take a detour on 101, east to the beach where the best souvenirs in the state (plus some nice clothes) can be bought at the old Surf Hotel (926-3822). At North Beach there’s Cinnamon Rainbows (929-7467) with a dazzling array of upscale beach stuff, bikinis and surfing gear.

Downtown Hampton has a big free public parking lot, but you might be getting hungry so you can always park at The Old Salt (926-8322), catch a bite and then walk around. Hampton is surging with cute storefronts like the Little Vintage Shop (926-0808) and Peaceful Life (929-6200). Get back in the car and head north and notice the antique automobiles of Hampton Motors (926-6005) for sale on your right. Ahead, Brumby Saddlery and Boot Co. (929-0027) has enough flamboyant leather footwear to outfit a couple of rodeos plus the Grand Ol Opry. O’Donnell Imports (926-2733) stocks collectibles from the kitschy (think Thomas Kinkade) to the classic (Waterford crystal at bargain prices).

North Hampton is home to C’est Cheese (964-2272) with delightful specialty foods and a great selection of cheeses (try the mango-laced stilton). Don’t miss Drake Farm (964-4868), perched on of Rte. 1, a mile and a half north of Rte. 111. This place is packed with used books, art, linens and antiques. If there’s a husband along for the trip who is getting weary, you can always drop him at Drakes to spend hours browsing the book-filled rafters or talking with Bob, the ever-genial proprietor. Don’t forget to pick him up on the way home. They usually close around 6.

Christine’s Crossing (964-6063) takes a little navigating to find, but it’s well worth the effort. About another mile north take a right off Rte. 1 at a traffic light onto Washington Rd. Less than a mile ahead it’s in an old peach barn packed with three floors of treasures, gifts, contemporary furnishings, antiques and couture.

Retrace your path back to Rte. 1 and head north through the Portsmouth Traffic Circle and the heartland of great shopping waits to reward you for your spirit of adventure. There’s ample metered parking by the Whale Wall (you can’t miss it) or in the municipal garage, but hunters love a challenge and street spots do appear around the downtown shopping district, if you don’t mind taking a couple of loops.
Portsmouth’s Market Street has been named the “Best Shopping Street in New Hampshire” by Boston magazine’s New England Travel & Life.

Not to be outdone, New Hampshire Magazine picked Commercial Alley , between Market and Penhallow Streets, as the “Best Alley” in the state. Both are dense with shops and places to eat and relax, but really, to pick a great store in the heart of Portsmouth is a bit like picking seeds from a pomegranate. Each one is compact, juicy and full of promise. NH

Night Life Seaside

When the sun sets, there’s a whole other world to explore — Hootie and the Blowfish and Carlin are there to entertain.

The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
In existence in one form or another since 1900, the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom is now home to hundreds of the biggest names in the music and comedic world. From B.B. King to the Ramones and Bonnie Raitt, the Casino Ballroom’s concerts vary in music genres and styles. All in all, a great place to catch a summer concert. The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom is located at 169 Ocean Rd. in Hampton Beach. For more information on the Ballroom’s history and a complete schedule, call (603) 929-4100 or visit www.casinoballroom.com. Here are a few of the upcoming shows for the summer months:

June 29: Hootie and the Blowfish. 8 p.m., $40 in advance and $42 the day of
July 13: Trisha Yearwood. 8 p.m., $38 general admission
July 25: KC and the Sunshine Band. 8 p.m., $30 general admission
July 26: George Carlin. 8 p.m., $36 general admission
August 5: Chris Isaak. 8 p.m., $26 general admission
August 31: Susan Tedeschi. 8 p.m., $23 general admission

The Music Hall
Portsmouth’s Music Hall is a center for all of the performing arts. From concerts to movies, The Music Hall offers it all. The historic 900-seat theater was built in 1878 and has since been designated an American treasure by the U.S. Senate.

Currently, The Music Hall is undergoing a major restoration project, which, among other things, has discovered historical decorative paint. Every summer The Music Hall hosts “SummerFilm,” a three-month calendar filled with tons of the very best independent, foreign and Hollywood blockbuster movies. Tickets are $8 and available 30 minutes before show time. The Music Hall is located at 104 Congress St. Visit www.themusichall.org or call (603) 436-2400 for more news about the restoration and history of the Music Hall and a full schedule of events. Note: The Music Hall will be closed in August to continue with restorations.

The Press Room
77 Daniel St., Portsmouth. If you’re looking for a night of jazz, then you should head out to the Press Room, which offers music seven nights a week. Featuring jazz, folk and blues, the Press Room offers pub fare and entrée with nightly specials. Call (603) 431-5186 for more information.

Muddy River Smokehouse
21 Congress St., Portsmouth. The kitchen serves up award-winning BBQ until 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. At night enjoy live music and dancing. Visit www.muddyriver.com or call (603) 430-9582 for more information.

Dolphin Striker
15 Bow St., Portsmouth. Enjoy fine dining all week and live jazz, classical guitar and low-key rock most evenings Tuesday through Sunday. Visit www.dolphinstriker.com or call (603) 431-5222 for more information. Here are a few of the upcoming musicians:

June 3: Singer and guitarist Tim Gurshin. 8 p.m.-11 p.m. No cover.
June 5: Classic American covers with Tom Yoder. 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. No cover.
June 6: Honky-tonk master Denny Breau 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. No cover.
June 7: Guitarist Randy McNally. 9 p.m.-
12:30 a.m. No cover.
June 8: Rockers The Julie Dougherty Band. 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. No cover.