Surfing the New Hampshire Seacoast
Our coast might be small, but there’s plenty of ocean for surfing and paddleboarding.
New Hampshire surfers are dedicated. They know that watching wintertime mist rise off the ocean’s skin comes at the price of frozen hair, that the best waves come at hurricane season and that a Nor’easter is cause for celebration.
For its small coastline, New Hampshire has a huge range of surfing options. If you want to start out easy (or if you just want to beat the Hampton crowds), then check out the forgiving waters of Jenness Beach, where you can learn to surf, receive pointers from a friendly crowd or longboard on a calm day. Otherwise, “The Wall” just south of Hampton Beach is the most popular spot to catch bigger waves. Rye on the Rocks offers a challenging point break for more experienced surfers to test their abilities.
On those calm, small-wave summer days, you can rent a paddleboard and go stand-up paddleboarding, which is exactly what it sounds like. You might feel a little silly treating a surfboard like a gondola at first, but you’ll forget that when you’re viewing Portsmouth and the surrounding seacoast the way they’re meant to be seen: from the water. Rent your surf gear from Cinnamon Rainbows or Stevie at Pioneers Board Shop, who has been surfing year-round since before wetsuit technology caught up to New England temperatures.
Time to choose your adventure:
Climbing: Stonehouse Pond is more than an epic swimming hole — over the cool water hangs a monolithic rock slab zig zagged by climbing ropes, offering up great top-roping and some surprisingly challenging trad.
Hiking: Explore the twists and turns of Odiorne State Park’s trails, leading from abandoned stone forts to the rocky seashore through a maze of bittersweet.
Camping: What the Seacoast camping scene lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality at Pawtuckaway State Park, where you can sleep by the lakeshore after a day of canoeing, hiking and climbing.
Exploring: Take a Portsmouth Harbor Cruise out to the fabled Isles of Shoals, where you can listen to ghost stories or ecology talks and dine on the day’s catch at Star Island Resort.
Cyclists adore the flat, breezy chain of bridges that connects Newcastle Island with the mainland. Portsmouth Kayak offers themed tours of the Piscataqua and Great Bay that range from full moon to ladies night.
In the Water: Have you ever met a lobster in its natural habitat? At Portsmouth Scuba or Atlantic Aquasport, you can sign up for a guided scuba tour and experience a world of color and life beneath the waves.
Got an inner tube? Head to Wiswall Dam and spend the afternoon floating down the leisurely Lamprey River to Packers Falls.
Adrenaline: Portsmouth summertime traffic might raise your blood pressure, but to really get your heart pumping, you should head next door to Kittery for a zipline tour of Maine’s woods at Take Flight Aerial Adventure Course.