New England is famous for a plethora of idyllic vacations including quaint towns, Autumn leaf peeping, beautiful drives and even horse drawn carriage rides just to name a few. New Hampshire (NH) enjoys all those along with it’s own special icons as well, from our remaining covered bridges to the rowdy and friendly gathering of motor cycle enthusiast during the summer’s Laconia Motocycle Week, begun in 1916, it is the worlds oldest and one of the largest rallies in the country. Of course, no trip to New Hampshire is complete without putting our fine local maple syrup on everything, from homemade pancakes to even eggs and bacon, where my personal favorite recipe is caramelized maple and black-peppered bacon. Maple syrup became a mascot, almost as quintessential as the “Live Free or Die” motto which New Hampshire takes quite seriously. From mid March to early April, sugar houses open their doors to the public for Maple Month inviting them to learn all about maple sugaring to tastings of fresh syrup and maple candies.
Be that as it may, once the weather gets nice, which to locals in the 603 means any temperature that doesn’t cause frostbite, everyone hits the seaside. There is nothing more New England than eating lobster by the waterfront, but in the Great Granite State we have to do much more than that to make the most of our tiny share of seacoast. Even though New Hampshire’s oceanfront is only 18 miles long, which is itself a destination as the Coastal Byway (Route 1A) is a scenic ocean drive, there are numerous activities to enjoy. Walking the boardwalk of Hampton Beach, a white sandy beach and home to a world-famous sand sculpting competition where contestants create giant sand creations from roughly 150 tons of imported sand, visitors will pass arcades, a long strip of water-facing shops, and endless fresh seafood at one’s fingertips. You know you are in fish territory when even McDonald’s offers lobster rolls!
Five miles North of Hampton Beach, a secluded paradise can be found in Fuller Gardens, a turn-of-the-century estate garden, which is one of the last working formal Estate Gardens of the Early 20th Century. As beaches fill up and the sun becomes unbearable, strolling through the lavish grounds blanketed in sweet-smelling roses offers a restorative and peaceful experience.
Traveling nine more miles North rests the historic port city, Portsmouth, with cobblestoned streets, a charming downtown filled with delightful shops and restaurants, and the exquisite waterfront Prescott Park. Portsmouth is not just a quaint seaside town perfect for romantic weekend getaways, but it’s also an alternative and trendy destination boasting effortless cool urban bohemianism with 12 indie theaters, vintage record stores, local craft breweries, and an annual film festival which attracts a young, 30-something year old, energetic, and intelligent crowd.
No day is complete in New Hampshire until you’ve crossed the border into Kittery, Maine and eaten fried clam strips from Bob’s Clam Hut. Established in 1956, Bob’s became a staple in seacoast living and has evolved over the years with commitment to the environment and sustainability. As self-described, Bob’s is a “corny little (gourmet) clam hut by the side of the road”.
However, if all this seems not exciting enough, windsurfing, sea kayaking, boating, ski-dooing, and many other water sports can satisfy any adrenaline thirst. Craving an early morning surf session before heading out for other activities or joining up with friends? Surf-friendly and amusing waves can be frequently found at Jenness State Beach in Rye. A couple surf shops offer rentals and lessons at an hourly rate (~$50 pp for one hour. semi-private) conveniently located across the road from the beach. Situated a few miles before Jenness, The Wall is a renowned surf spot with super consistent and powerful beach break waves offering a wide range of rides from walled-up right points to hollow left reefs giving hours of fun to the more experienced surfer. A relaxed and chill environment stereotypically associated with surfing, friendly locals, as well as picturesque point breaks make this location ideal for the avid surfer. Summer is the best time for beginner waves whereas, for the highly proficient surfer, winter doesn’t mean keeping inside next to the fireplace but rather it means thick, freezing swells forming off the coast leading to intense and advanced surfing requiring immense finesse. With water temperatures below 0°C and air temperature around -18°C (Wind chill factor gives -28°C to -34°C), winter surfing is not for the faint at heart, however with the right spirit, it can provide some of the best rides of a lifetime.