Twenty Things to Do in the NH Seacoast RegionMarch 14. 2013 11:34PM
Thinking about spending some time in the Seacoast Region? This easternmost area of the state is extremely popular with summer tourists but tends to quiet down after Columbus Day. There are many attractions here, including the 1940's style boardwalk of Hampton Beach. But slip off the "beaten path," and you'll discover some of the "other" great things that this region has to offer. We've picked out Twenty Things to Do in the Seacoast Region to get you started. For a more expanded list of ideas, see our list of the 101+ Things to Do in NH.
See the Wagon
The 130-acre Wagon Hill Farm on Route 4 in Durham offers sweeping views of the fields next to the old wagon atop the hill. These views are exquisite at sunset. The property features well marked trails leading to a nicely developed waterfront with picnic tables and swimming in Little Bay. The farm itself was preserved by the residents of Durham. Please respect the rules of the property. The site is also popular with cross-country skiers and sledders during winter months.
Flag Hill Winery in Lee is both a winery and a distillery, which means it produces wines and spirits. At Flag Hill, there are more than 20 acres of vineyards that feature nine varieties of grapes suitable to New England's harsh climate. This produces red and white wines in a variety of flavors, including fruit wines with blends of strawberry, raspberry, apple and Wild Maine blueberries. In keeping with their "made in New Hampshire" pride, Flag Hill has a Heritage Red Wine that is blended with maple syrup. They have also created a Sugar Maple Liqueur that blends maple syrup with their signature Vodka, the General John Stark Vodka. The winery invites visitors to explore the vineyards, and stop in the Tasting Room to browse through 15 varieties of wine. Call them to set up a private tour, 603-659-2949.
Fuller Gardens, located in North Hampton is a gardeners paradise. The estate is the home of over 2,000 rosebushes, perennial borders, hundreds of tulips, dozens of dahlias, a conservatory, and a Japanese Garden. Spend some time sitting on a bench and admire this turn-of-the-century formal garden. Nearby Prescott Park in Portsmouth offers demonstration beds, and plentiful perennials with fountains serving as a focal point. Brick walkways carry you around the gardens, and benches beckon to those who want to surround themselves with the beautiful blooms.
Grab a Brew or two
Visit Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth. The pub, which is known as the Cataqua Public House, is attached to the brewery. There you'll find a seasonal outdoor beer garden, function rooms, and a beer paraphenilia-filled Gift Shop. You'll also find all their famous ales and a restaurant serving pub-style food. Take a tour of the brewery or do some taste-testing. But make sure you pay them a visit.
Cross the Footbridge
The Cocheco River Footbridge, which crosses the Cocheco River and deposits pedestrians in Henry Law Park, gives the City of Dover character. This 155-foot bridge was constructed in 1996 offsite and rebuilt at this location. It was constructed to help promote and develop the waterfront, attracting businesses and restaurants to the downtown area. A riverwalk and the Cocheco Mill Museum offer a glimpse into the manufacturing industry that served the City of Dover and notes the historic properties along the way.
Portsmouth Harbor's Fort Constitution, located off Route 1B in New Castle, overlooks the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The fort was built in 1631 to protect Portsmouth Harbor. It was attacked in 1774 in the first battle of the American Revolution. The ruins of the fort, which is found on the grounds of the U.S. Coast Guard Station, also contains the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. The lighthouse is only open to the public during open houses held throughout the year. For details on open houses, contact the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse at 603-431-9155.
Stroll New Hampshire's Oldest Neighborhood
Portsmouth is home to New Hampshire's oldest neighborhood and some of the oldest homes in the state. Many of the historic structures can be found on the streets surrounding Strawbery Banke, but if you want a total history experience, we highly recommend visiting the living museum. The Moffat-Ladd House and garden, located on nearby Market Street was built in 1763. It was built by Captain John Moffat, a merchant-trader who hired his crew to build the home. The National Historic Landmark contains period furnishings, some made in the Portsmouth area, a spectacular stairway, and a lovely garden designed by Alexander Hamilton Ladd. The house is open to the public from June through October. Another notable residence is the 300 year old Warner House, located on Daniel Street. It was built from 1716-18 for Captain Archibald MacPheadris and his bride-to-be, Sarah Wentworth, the daughter of Governor John Wentworth. The home features dramatic murals that are the oldest Colonial wall paintings still in place in New England. The house is open to the public from June through October. There are many other historic homes within walking distance in Portsmouth, and that's what makes it such a special place to visit.
Rye Harbor State Park showcases the rocky New Hampshire shore better than any other location along the 18-mile coastline of the state. Saltwater fishing is popular with the many chartered boats that set out from the harbor. This is also a popular spot for weddings and picnics. Cruises heading out to the Isles of Shoals also depart from this location. Escape the hustle and bustle of Hampton Beach with a short ride to Rye. The park is open late-May to mid-October.
Where the Potters Are
If you like to watch artists at work, take a trip to Salmon Falls Stoneware in Dover. The beloved stoneware is highly prized and has become an American tradition for more than 20 years. The pottery is hand-made and hand-decorated, with traditional or country designs. In 1983, Salmon Falls purchased an old building in Dover, known as the Boston and Maine Engine House, that was used to service train engines back in the 1920s. The building would become Salmon Falls Stoneware, a studio and shop where visitors can watch artisans create pots, electric lamps, crocks and vases made in the tradition of 1800's stoneware. The pieces are uniquely New England, making this shop a true landmark in the City of Dover.
Take in the view
New Castle's Great Island Common is a hidden gem that few (other than locals) know about. Located on Route 1B on the island of New Castle, the park is a 32-acre Oceanside haven that features a rocky outcrop, a view of two lighthouses, a small beach, a pier, benches and a grassy knoll offer places to relax and enjoy the ocean breeze. There is a small admission fee to get into the park but its beauty is unparalleled. Get a photo of the sculpture in the park. It looks like a man painting a canvas, and at just the right angle you can see the lighthouse that is being "painted."
Dine on a Gundalow
The Gundalow Company offers dinners, outings, and makes regular appearances throughout the seacoast for different occasions. Gundalows are shallow drafted cargo sailing ships sort of resembling a barge. Their history goes way back to the 1600s when these vessels were poled or rowed with large sweeps, or oars. Don't miss out on the opportunity to take a tour or enjoy a fine dinner aboard one of these historic vessels. The Gundalow is usually present at the annual Tall Ships parade each summer. Now that's an event you don't want to miss!
Granite State Whale Watch, located in Rye, offers some of the best Whale Watching Cruises from their ship (which also serves as a research vessel). You might also see dolphins or harbor seals on your journey. And you'll definitely see seagulls! But the highlight, if you are lucky to experience it, is finding a humpback whale; you'll be even luckier if you get to see its tail arc out of the water as they wave hello. There are several other whale watching boats that take visitors out, most notably in Hampton Harbor and Rye Harbor.
No ordinary Odiorne
Visit The Seacoast Center at Odiorne Point State Park. The state park is worth exploring all by itself, for its 350-acre park with hiking trails and multiple habitats, located right on the Atlantic. The Seacoast Science Center takes you deeper into those habitats with a tide pool touch-tank. There are also interpretive exhibits, a 32-foot skeleton of a humpback whale, amazing views of the seashore, a rare blue lobster in their "Gulf of Maine" exhibit hall and more. Bring the kids and enjoy a day learning about the coastline and all of its creatures.
Float to the Shoals
The Isles of Shoals is steeped in legend and lore. But the islands are a destination for history buffs and photographers, vacationers and lighthouse lovers. Find a ship that will take you there by visiting the Portsmouth Harbor Cruises, which leaves from Portsmouth Harbor and cruises 6 miles out to the Isles and explores all nine islands. New Hampshire only owns four of the islands; the other five belong to Maine. Interested in spending the night at the Shoals? You'll have to stay at Star Island, the only island of the nine that offers lodging facilities.
Not just any ol' country store!
Calef's Country Store, located in Barrington, has been around since 1869, and there's no place like it in the whole country. The store was originally known as "Calef's Big Store" and they stocked everything from barrels of salt fish and molasses brought in by oxen cart, penny candy and — even — penny nails. It was the go-to place for whatever you needed. By the 1930's they sold Ford Model "A" automobiles for between $445-495. The history is thick here but today the store still stocks penny candy and molasses pumped fresh from the barrel (!) in addition to hundreds of other items like gourmet foods, gift items and their famous "Snappy Old Cheese." And when you're out of any of your favorite products, they can be ordered online.
Fly at the airfield
Rye Airfield, is the largest indoor skate park in all of New England with 50,000 square feet of ramps, rails, pyramids, ledges, spines, bowls pools and so much more. Racing and riding is available for skateboarding, BMX, and inline skating. Come put your skills to the test or watch the kids doing their thing.
Running with the dogs
Seabrook Greyhound Park offers a live simulcast seven days a week and a charity poker room in addition to their "Great Greyhound Race" at the track that was known as the "House of Action" back in the day. The track does have some fantastic races and if you've never been to a race, come see why it's easy to get caught up in all the action.
Follow the Lamprey
Follow the Lamprey River through the quaint little town of Newmarket with its mill buildings and riverwalk. There are lookout spots all along the Lamprey at various spots and you can walk down Main Street, stop in for a bite to eat or some coffee and move on to Durham where you'll find Packers Falls. Though not officially a waterfall, the area has historic significance. What doesn't around here, really? Look for the historic marker at the corner of Route 108 and Bennett Road.
The American Independence Museum, located in Exeter, is a museum dedicated to the role New Hampshire played in the American Revolution. Discover the stories behind America's revolutionary past and take a peek at an original Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence and early drafts of the U.S. Constitution.
A Sunken Forest?
Along Route 1A at Jenness Beach in Rye look for the historic marker indicating the Atlantic Cable Station and Sunken Forest whose remains may be seen at low tide. The gnarled stumps of the Sunken Forest, remnants of the ice age, are intermingled with the original Atlantic Cable.