The New Hampshire coastline on the Atlantic is only 18 miles, so its status as a sandy summer playground is sometimes overlooked. That’s a mistake. The ocean shore has several gorgeous beaches with plentiful services that attract fans of swimming, fishing, and boating year after year. Also on the coast at the mouth of the Piscataqua River is the charming small city of Portsmouth, which rocks with lots of dining, entertainment and cultural attractions. Moving inland, to the fresh waters: Lakes Winnipesaukee, Squam and Newfound provide a glorious expanse of natural beauty and summer fun, in the water, on sightseeing cruises, and at historic houses and gardens.
Portsmouth is a scenic city, with great restaurants and other attractions spiraling outward from a central square that’s filled with people and live music in warm weather. The Music Hall is a small, handsome theater that brings in national-caliber musicians and authors. Strawbery Banke Museum tells the stories of Portsmouth residents going back 400 years, and offers skating and lantern-lit tours at Christmas. Prescott Park, on the river, has broad lawns, many flower gardens, and live programming all summer. Boat tours can take you down the river, bustling with fishing boats, tugs, and tankers, and out to the historic Isles of Shoals.
New Hampshire’s stretch of oceanfront has several popular beaches, including Hampton and North Hampton, Wallis Sands and Jenness beaches, all of which have parking and concessions. If waterfront history and views fascinate you, Portsmouth Harbor Cruises offers several options: with the busy harbor, inland and up the Piscataqua River, out to the ghostly Isles of Shoals, as well as sunset and wine-tasting cruises. New Castle, an old seaside town adjacent to Portsmouth, is home to a lighthouse variously called the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, Fort Point Light, New Castle Light, and Fort Constitution Light. The lighthouse hosts open house hours during the warm months.
Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lakes, along with Newfound Lake and White Lake, are just a bit west and north of the seacoast. The Lakes region has been laying out the carpet for family vacations for generations, in towns that include Wolfeborough, Moultonborough, Meredith, and Laconia. The choice of beaches is abundant at lakeside state parks, most of which also welcome vacationers to hike and camp. The M/S Mount Washington provides scenic and dinner-party cruises on Lake Winnipesaukee from spring through fall. The boat’s ports of call are Weirs Beach in Laconia, Wolfeboro, Meredith, Alton, and Center Harbor. Rising above Lake Winnipesaukee in Moultonborough is Castle in the Clouds, a 1914 Arts and Crafts mansion where visitors may tour the house, walk to cascading waterfalls, and hike mountain trails.
Besides the many outdoor and on-water activities on the New Hampshire seacoast, other ways to help kids have a fun vacation are found at the kid-specific places like Water Country in Portsmouth and the intriguing Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in the pretty, nearby town of Dover. Also in Dover in the Woodman Institute Woodman Institute Museum, a historic property where you are greeted – no kidding – by a gigantic stuffed polar bear that towers in the front entryway. In the Lakes region, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness is a fun immersion for all ages. Walk the nature trail, where many native animals live, or take any of several types of cruises on the lake. There’s a lovely perennial garden just down Route 3. For the most lively kids, Chuckster’s Family Fun Park in Alton Bay offers plenty of ways to burn off energy: mini golf, paddle boarding, kayaking and more.
This recipe for the Maple Margarita comes from Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield, NH
Maple Margarita Recipe
- 6 count pour tequila of your choice
- Splash of Cointreau
- 3 count pour sour mix (to make your own sour mix, use simple syrup and fresh lemon and lime juice)
- 1 ounce maple syrup
- Juice of 1/4 lime
Put in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Pour into glass, rimmed with sugar and salt. Garnish with a lime wedge.