When you think of sand, surf, and sunshine, New Hampshire may not be the first place that comes to mind. But this New England state with just 18 miles of coastline will surprise you if you give it a chance. Along with New Hampshire’s beautiful Seacoast communities you’ll find plenty of sandy beaches as well as endless opportunities for hiking, camping, and sand castle construction.
Here are five compelling reasons to visit New Hampshire’s Atlantic coast this summer.
Portsmouth is one of New England’s oldest settlements, and its thoroughly walkable downtown provides access to dozens of local shops and restaurants, fabulous views of the Piscataqua River, and several beautiful parks and trails. Strawbery Banke Museum is a 10-acre outdoor history museum with 32 historic buildings, beautiful gardens, and lots of open spaces. Located right downtown, the museum is open from May to October. Just across from Strawberry Bank is Prescott Park on the edge of the Piscataqua River. This gorgeous park features elaborate gardens, fountains, and paths, and it is home to the popular Prescott Park Arts Festival, which takes place in July and August each year. Peirce Island, not far from downtown, is a perfect spot to spend an afternoon, and it has 27 waterfront acres, walking trails, and an outdoor swimming pool.
You don’t have to climb a mountain to get a good workout and find incredible views. The Seacoast Region has trails for all ages and abilities. Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 1,000 acres along New Hampshire’s coast — one of the longest stretches of undeveloped shorelines on the bay. Two easy trails are perfect for birdwatching, family hiking, and photography. For more varied hiking opportunities, check out the trails at Odiorne Point State Park, where you can explore the rocky shoreline, salt marshes, tide pools, and sand dunes, before heading inland to meander along miles of forested trails. Many of the trails can also be used for biking, and you can also find a picnic area, a playground, and old military bunkers.
Odiorne Point State Park is also home to the Seacoast Science Center, a beautiful interactive museum and aquarium that features touch tanks, live ocean critters, and hands-on exhibits for children and adults. It’s an awesome place to delve into ocean ecology and marine life, and it’s right on the ocean, so you can treat yourself to incredible views of the crashing waves while you’re exploring. The Seacoast Science Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and it is open every day in the summer. Educational programs are offered throughout the year, and traveling exhibits make appearances on a regular basis.
If playing in the waves and relaxing on a sandy beach is more your speed, New Hampshire won’t disappoint. The coastal beaches are beautiful here. Hampton Beach State Park can be busy during the summer, but you can’t beat the large beach for catching some summer vibes. There’s lots of room to spread out here, lifeguards are on duty from June through Labor Day, and it’s within walking distance of nearby restaurants. If you’re looking for a slower pace, check out Seabrook Dunes and Beach. It’s just down the road from Hampton Beach, but because it is less developed, there are fewer crowds. Jenness Beach is a popular spot for surfing and swimming. If you’ve always wanted to learn to surf, check out Summer Sessions Surf Shop for lessons and board rentals.
A campfire and a night under the stars is a perfect way to end your day of coastal adventuring in New Hampshire. Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham is one of the largest state parks in southeastern New Hampshire. Here you’ll find lakeside camping, a beautiful freshwater lake for paddling and swimming, and a mountaintop fire tower. There are 192 campsites to choose from, plus five camping cabins. If RVing is more your speed, check out Hampton Beach State Park, mentioned above. Waterfront camping is available for RVs, but tent camping is prohibited.