Weekend Destination: New Hampshire

weekend new hampshire composite

By Julie Madsen

Why: the shore, shopping, history, seafood
How far: 3.5 hours

The New Hampshire coastline -- all 18 miles of it -- is often overlooked as a summer getaway. You always hear about people traveling to other New England beach hotspot such as Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Newport in Rhode Island, or Ogunquit in Maine.

But perhaps Portsmouth, New Hampshire likes it that way -- and its charm is reserved for just those in the know.

Head east on I-90 and north on I-95 and discover the beauty of New Hampshire in the summertime...

Pit stop: Pinball Wizard Arcade


It will tack on some extra time to your trip, but a stop at Pinball Wizard Arcade is totally worth it if you love pinball. There are over 100 machines - many of which I have never seen before, along with great retro arcade games, pool tables, skeeball, and air hockey. Some of the games give out tickets and you can redeem prizes. Exchange your dollars for tokens and remember this tip: you get a slight discount if you spend $20, which will afford you a few good hours of fun. 150 Bridge St, Pelham, NH 03076

Beach: Great Island Common


There are many beaches to choose from along the coast. Hampton Beach has a lively boardwalk and Rye beach has long stretches of sand. However, Great Island Common has its own lure. The water is stunningly crystal clear -- but even during the dog days of summer it is freezing! Few brave people dunk completely, but if you do it will revitalize your entire being. There are tide pools to examine and two lighthouses within view from the soft sandy beach. The park is also home to a playground, a grassy field for kite flying, and a pavilion for shade. 301 Wentworth Rd, New Castle, NH 03854

Explore Portsmouth


+ Surf Restaurant
A great spot for lunch or dinner to enjoy some seafood in a trendy setting. Request to sit out on the deck overlooking the harbor for a beautiful view. The fish tacos were superb and people really rave about their raw bar menu. 99 Bow St, Portsmouth, NH 03801


+ Popovers
In the evening this is the best spot to grab dessert and people watch on the patio. There are so many sweets in the display case, but how can you resist the namesake item? Get yourself a simple popover with maple butter - or better yet a whopping popover sundae (that's the pic above). 8 Congress Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801

+ Breweries
There are multiple breweries in town including: Earth Eagle Brewings, Portsmouth Brewery, and Redhook Brewery.

Prescott Park
The busy Prescott Park sits right on the water. There are plenty of fountains and flowerbeds to admire, a pier to walk down so you can get a great view of Memorial Bridge, and often live performances (the town park's website has a schedule). 105 Marcy St, Portsmouth, NH 03802


I've never been to a city with so many unique small shops! And the fact that there is no sales tax in New Hampshire absolutely gives you the green light...
+ Tugboat Alley for all of your nautically themed purchases - 47 Bow St, Portsmouth, NH 03801
+ Marco Polo for toys, gag gifts, gadgets, or gizmos - 89 Market St, Portsmouth, NH 03801
+ Tulips for beautiful local artisanal artwork - 62 Market St, Portsmouth, NH 03801
+ Prelude for exquisite jewelry and accessories, many made in New England - 65 Market St, Portsmouth, NH 03801


+ Strawbery Banke Museum
Visit a living history museum with 39 historic buildings from the 17th-19th centuries. 14 Hancock St, Portsmouth, NH 03801

+ USS Albacore
Take a self-guided tour to learn about the former Navy research submarine and listen to recordings by former crew members. 600 Market St, Portsmouth, NH 03801

+ Isles of Shoals Steamship Company
There are various scenic cruise options including a narrated history of the islands that were charted by John Smith, and walking tours of Star Island. 315 Market Street Portsmouth, NH 03801

Bonus State: Kittery, Maine

Take a hop over the border into another state with just a 10-minute drive.


Have yourself some Maine lobster and a view of the water on the upstairs deck at Robert's Maine Grill. 326 Route 1, Kittery, ME 03904

Investigate a fort
+ Fort Foster has World War II fortifications to explore, views of Whaleback Lighthouse and Portsmouth Harbor, hiking trails, swimming beaches, tide pools, playground, and picnic areas. Pocahontas Rd., Gerrish Island, Kittery Point, ME
+ Fort McClary was used in five different wars. Here you can read up on historical information, enter bunkers, an underground tunnel, and a blockhouse from 1844 to get a great view of the surrounding area. Pepperrell Rd, Kittery Point, ME 03905

More of a lake person?


If you veer inland and to the north from the coast, you'll end up in New Hampshire's lakes region, which -- as its name would imply -- has many lakes to explore. Try out Newfound Lake at Wellington State Park on the western side of the region -- it's said to be one of the cleanest lakes in the world. Enjoy swimming, hiking, fishing, and kayaking in the pristine water. 614 W Shore Rd, Bristol, NH 03222

And if you're in the lakes region, you're also right on the doorstep of the White Mountain National Forest, where there are plenty of spots to explore.

Julie has got the travel-bug. Whether it's day trips, weekend getaways, or wandering around the world -- she's always up to something. Read more about her adventures at juliejourneys.com.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Exploring New Hampshire
+ Weekend Destination: Thousand Islands


Robert's Maine Grill is wonderful! My family and I always stop there when vacationing in the area.

Great article as usual, Julie!

Surf is great and so is day drinking on the decks.

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