Sea Walk Suites ~ Hampton Beach, NH
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A Tour of the New Hampshire Seashore

Route 1A in Rye

New Hampshire has the smallest seacoast in the nation, a total of just 18 miles, stretching from Seabrook at the south, to the city of Portsmouth, on the banks of the Piscataqua River. What this coast lacks in size, it makes up for in sheer beauty. This is a great scenic trip with a variety of landscapes and experiences, from busy commercial beach areas to wonderous nature preserves. This trip should be taken simply for the beauty of the drive. This route is very popular with bicyclists, motorists, joggers, motorcyclists and others, who just want to enjoy the beauty of the coastline. There are not that many areas of New England, or even the entire United States where you can drive a road right along the coastline. The Pacific Coast Highway comes to mind, and there are others, but the New Hampshire coast drive is particularly beautiful, and is a great way to see a portion of New England coastline. Many coastal and beach areas around the country are hidden by private home and hotels, but here the road is right along the coast. In fact, in some areas you will see that barriers have been erected to prevent the ocean from coming across the road in hurricanes and off-season storms, known around here as "Noreasters". That there are interesting things to see and do along the route add to the adventure, and make this trip worth driving to from many other areas of New England. The entire route is only about 20 miles and can be enjoyed in a day, and within an hour if you choose not to stop at all, but you'll want to stop, so take a day or at least half a day and enjoy one of the really great scenic ocean routes of New England.

We are presenting our tour from south to north, Seabrook to Portsmouth. You can enter Seabrook via Route 286 from Route 1 and interstate Route 95.

Seabrook Beach: Seabrook and Hampton Beach are quintessential beach towns. The beaches are the dominating theme around which everything revolves. Seabrook is fairly quiet, and you can do some things here that Hampton Beach cannot accommodate, simply because of the size of the crowds. Seabrook beach is considered to be a little more "little kid' friendly by some. Hampton Beach is also great for little kids, but Seabrook is simply quieter. You can fish right from the beach, use jet skis adjacent to the harbor and boogie boards are allowed. There are half day fishing boat charters out of the harbor as well, and there are some good seafood restaurants along the beach area. Seabrook is simply more residential as a beach town. Parking for day beach goers is an issue. There is a public parking lot at the harbor on Route 1A, but that fills up fast on hot days, so get here early.

The scene along Hampton Beach
War Memorial
Beachside Playground





Hampton Beach - click images above for larger views: Hampton Beach was recently recognized by a national testing agency as having some of the cleanest waters of any beach in the country. The beach is very well managed by the town, and the entire area is clean, welcoming and well organized. Hampton Beach is one of those towns that thrive on beachside entertainment like arcades, amusement rides, Harley Davidson motorcycles and laying in the sun. The beach itself is large, flat and beautiful, and the "main drag" is lined with a wide variety of shops, restaurants and hotels. People love Hampton Beach and some would never go anywhere else in the summer. There are fireworks displays, festivals, sand castle sculpting competitions, beauty contests, and the Hampton Beach Casino has concerts from old rockers like Joe Cocker and many other great names from the past and present. There are paid parking lots one street back from the beach, and hundreds of metered parking spots along the beach. On a hot day you'll have to get there early or late. If you are riding through, it's definitely something to experience. Some might call it honky-tonk, but the many thousands who return year after year, call it fun. At many points the beach is just off the boulevard as you drive by, and at some other points it is hidden by a high sea wall that protects against off season storms. The sea wall is cement, but is nicely decorated by a wide variety of color blankets, beach chairs and colorful sun worshipers. In the middle of all this is a beautiful memorial statue commemorating New Hampshire's war dead. The inscription on the memorial reads, "In memorial of New Hampshire's heroic war dead... lost at sea in defense of our country." Artist Alice E. Cosgrove, who designed the statue, also selected words from a poem by John Gay for inscription on the base: "Breathe soft, ye winds, Ye waves in silence rest." The monument was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1957. 

As you continue north through the commercial section you will arrive at a traffic light, where Route 27 turns left. This is the dividing point between the more commercial and less commercial sections of Hampton Beach. The section surrounding this intersection is known as North Beach, and we will continue straight ahead, remaining on Route 1A. The beach areas here require a resident sticker, but there are some good restaurants in this area if you want to stop.

As we head north, the landscape changes to a more semi-rural seaside atmosphere of marshes, parks and beaches, and the road begins to wind in an interesting way, revealing the beautiful coastline in its rocky glory. Our over the horizon you begin to see the Isles Of Shoals, a series of islands 10 miles from land. When the sun is low in the sky it almost seems like you could swim the distance as the islands brighten in the afternoon light. There are boat tours in Porstmouth that take you to the Isle of Shaols, a trip that is highly recommended.

Click Images Below For Larger Views

Walking Path In Rye
Rye Beach State Park
Rye Harbor


Rye Harbor;
This is a small scenic spot to stop, and you will see Saunders, a popular restaurant, if you want to stop here to eat. There are some whale watches and fishing boats that sell tickets at the entrance, and parking lot requires a fee, but there are places to pull over and look at the scenery. Just around the corner ahead from Rye Harbor you will see the entrance to Rye Beach State Park, offering scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Isles of Shoals, and Rye Harbor, also called Ragged Neck. Favorite activities enjoyed in the park include saltwater fishing and picnicking with ocean breezes. Amenities offered include picnic tables and restrooms. There is a small entrance fee.

Continuing To Head North On Route 1A - the road winds and turns, and most of it is right along the shore. During the summer you will little parking areas here and there on the ocean side. You can simply pull in and park for a while and enjoy the view, take pictures, eat or just relax and enjoy where you are. There are a few beautiful beaches along this stretch, which are run by the state, including Wallis Sands.

The area's natural history and beauty are demonstrated in two exhibits a bit farther up the coast. Odiorne Point State Park is one of the best state parks anywhere, offering a lot in a little space. With a bit of sleuthing, seven varied and distinct ecosystems may be found here, from rocky shores to rustling marshes. Most visitors seem to gravitate oceanside. Come in the early morning, when the landscape is emptier and the rising sun glints off the water. Nearby are open fields and shady groves dotted with picnic tables and barbecues, where visitors soak up time on summer afternoons. To learn about the living landscape, leave time enough to wander over to Seacoast Science Center in the park at the water's edge. It's filled with engaging exhibits and hands-on activities, helping make sense of all that space out the windows-including what's lurking under the water. The museum's new million-dollar Gregg Interactive Learning Studio features a broadcast studio, a computer lab, and microscope stations that will open hidden worlds, from the deep and silent seas to the state's blustery mountains.

Freshly informed, you're ready to set off on Odiorne's hiking and biking trails in search of those ecosystems. Along the way, look for concrete traces of a more recent past: During World War II, the military acquired all the land, swept away the homes and hotels, and turned Odiorne Point into Fort Dearborn, which for 20 years was part of a network of defensive strongholds protecting Portsmouth's harbor. In 1961, the federal government sold the entire parcel to the state.

As we head on toward Portsmouth, you will encounter another state park on the right, overlooking the Piscataqua River, separating New Hampshire and Maine. Look for a sign for Fort Constitution State Historic Site. located on a peninsula on the northeast corner of New Castle Island, it overlooks both the Piscataqua River and the Atlantic Ocean. In 1791, the State of New Hampshire gave the United States the neck of land on which Fort William and Mary and a lighthouse were situated. The fort was repaired, renamed Fort Constitution and garrisoned with a company of United States artillery. Renovations, which included a wall twice as high as that of the colonial fort and new brick buildings, were completed in 1808. It is the ruins of this fort that are seen today. Fort Constitution is open to the public year-round at no charge. The grounds provide a casual gathering spot for picnics.

Further along, as you wind you way through toward Portsmouth, you will see another important site on the right side, with a parking lot. This is Strawbery Banke. The original name of this seaside settlement is today the name of a nonprofit museum consisting of an eclectic collection of historic houses and buildings-some grand, some common-that together provide a glimpse of coastal life over the span of three centuries, back to a time when New Hampshire itself was a blustery outpost of a distant empire. This historic village is set just across Prescott Park from the low-key harbor, but the water once intruded right between the buildings, and the settlement was originally bisected by a wharf-lined inlet. From here, your adventure moves on to Portsmouth, a wonderful small city and great for walking around with shops and restaurants throughout the downtown - and a subject for another tour to appear soon.

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