New England may be a confusing patchwork of reopening and quarantine guidelines, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying what New Hampshire has to offer.
As new cases of COVID-19 dropped in May, Governor Chris Sununu began reopening New Hampshire’s economy and recreational spaces in earnest, with everything from campgrounds to bowling alleys resuming operations.
But to prevent further outbreaks, the state is enforcing restrictions on who can access these businesses. Anyone showing coronavirus symptoms will be turned away.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to know when planning a fun, and most importantly safe, Granite State getaway.
The government is requiring out-of-state visitors to quarantine at home for 14 days immediately before arriving in New Hampshire, only going out to purchase essential items and maintaining social distance and mask-wearing while outside the home.
To enforce this rule, the state is requiring all non-New Hampshire residents to sign a document certifying that they have completed their quarantine requirement upon check in to their campground, hotel, or other accommodation.
Places of lodging
New Hampshire allowed all rented accommodations, including hotels, vacation rentals, and bed and breakfasts, to reopen for business on June 5. Hotels with indoor room access can book up to half their rooms, while facilities with outdoor entrances or fewer than 20 rooms can operate at full capacity.
Masks are required for all guests when social distancing is impossible, such as in hallways or elevators.
To promote distancing, most common areas such as lounges are closed, with amenities like exercise rooms and pools subject to rigorous sanitation and 6-foot separation — even while swimming.
Campgrounds, public and private, opened to New Hampshire residents on May 4 and visitors on June 5. Interestingly, all out-of-state campers with seasonal or year-round passes are allowed to forgo the two-week self-quarantine.
Traditional campgrounds can open at 50 percent capacity, with up to six to eight people per site, while RV sites with full hookups (water, electricity, and sewage) or sewage holding tanks can open at full capacity, provided that campers follow distancing guidelines.
All restrooms will be frequently disinfected and supplemented with portable toilets where feasible.
Finally, state-owned campgrounds will refund the entire reservation and waive the $15 late-cancellation fee if visitors must cancel due to illness.
New Hampshire’s 93 state parks also opened their doors on May 4, with many changes to limit contact between visitors.
Visitors must bring their own water bottles, as all drinking fountains have been turned off. Picnic tables are also limited, as those that cannot be regularly disinfected have been removed.
As for lake shores, all state-owned beaches are operating at reduced capacity to prevent overcrowding, with group activities prohibited. Picnic tables will be spaced 10 feet apart and must be reserved in advance online.
New Hampshire’s ocean beaches originally opened to allow only active recreation — running, walking, swimming — but later expanded to allow leisurely activities such as sunbathing and picnics, as long as groups maintain social distancing.
Privately- and publicly-run nature activities, including attractions such as bike, kayak, and other equipment rentals, golf courses, and guided tours, can take place individually or in groups of 10 or fewer.
On June 15, restaurants entered the second phase of reopening, allowing them to open their dining rooms to indoor seating — with a caveat.
Restaurants in Belknap, Coos, Carrol, Cheshire, Sullivan, and Grafton counties have begun serving customers at full capacity, with tables capped at six guests and groups spaced at least 6 feet apart.
However, restaurants in harder-hit Rockingham, Merrimack, Strafford, and Hillsborough Counties — which account for more than 90 percent of New Hampshire’s cases and are nearest to the Massachusetts border — can seat guests at 50 percent, as of press time.
Bars can also reopen with dining rooms, as long as patrons remain distanced from each other. Standing and mingling, however, are prohibited, as are bar games like pool, darts, and arcade machines.
In the end, state authorities are very limited in what they can actually enforce. If you do drive up to the Granite State this summer, enjoy your stay, but remember that the responsibility falls on you to make sure your family members are maintaining social distance, wearing masks, and washing their hands at all times.
And please, if you are feeling sick, stay home and visit another time. New Hampshire’s not going anywhere.