HAMPTON BEACH, N.H. — New Hampshire gets squeezed. Maine from the north and Massachusetts from the south flex their mussels — sorry — and leave the Granite State with a measly 13 miles of shoreline.
What’s a state to do? Why, take that 13 miles — yes, some measurements do stretch that number out a bit — and pack it with things to do.
We don’t think we’re going out on a limb here with our claim that, mile for mile, New Hampshire makes better use of its shoreline than any of the other 22 states in the country that are blessed to bump up against an ocean.
Just ask the Lewis family from Utah. Or the Hiltons of Bedford, N.H.
Three generations of the former were having a blast riding the waves on boogie boards on a warm but overcast midweek day in mid-July.
“We love the beach,” said Julie Lewis, taking a quick break from riding with her father and a couple of her kids on her first visit to New Hampshire. “The sound of the waves is so relaxing. Our 14-year-old, our oldest, already said we don’t ever need to go to Disneyland again, let’s just go to the beach. I’m not sure the other kids will agree.”
Another evening, Dale Hilton, fresh off his first surfing lesson off Jenness State Beach in Rye, was all smiles.
The best part. “Standing up. Some people said I did a good job.”
New Hampshire gets ripped off? Perhaps a bit.
But the state does pack a lot into a limited shoreline. Here are 13 of the myriad adventures — some more adrenaline-producing than others — to help you do that, too.
Paddle up. We love any chance to get on the water and kayaking is one of our favorite ways to do it. Seven Rivers Paddling (www.sevenriverspaddling.com) out of Portsmouth Marina can get you out there, too, with rentals, lessons, family and group tours, even multiday adventures.
The Doctor is . . . out. Fishing. Dr. Mark Arsenault, a third-generation chiropractor, doubles as Captain Mark, a second-generation captain of a tuna fishing boat, also out of Portsmouth Marina. He takes his small groups anywhere from 12 to 30 miles out to the best fishing grounds around with a primary target of bluefin tuna and they catch haddock and other species as well. His father captained Whiplash, by the way, and Mark’s boat is Spine-A-Liner. The day after we talked, his party landed a 500-pound tuna. www.thecharterdoctor.com
Surf camp: Anna Hilton grew up surfing in New Jersey, got her husband, Steve, into it, and Dale will no doubt lead his three younger sisters into the sport. Summer Sessions (www.newhampshiresurf.com) in Rye and Cinnamon Rainbows (www.cinnamonrainbows.com) in Hampton, have boards for rent and sale, wetsuits, and everything you need to get started or get reintroduced to the sport, including lessons and surf camps geared to kids or senior citizens.
A bunch of boxes. A number of our adventures check a number of boxes, including educational and historical, perhaps none more than Odiorne State Park in Rye with its trail system, boat launch, kayak tours, military history, and more. The Seacoast Science Center there makes it a must-stop for those with kids in particular.
Cruise night. Portsmouth Harbor Cruises (www.portsmouthharbor.com) offers assorted journeys: Isles of Shoals, harbor, evening, and sunset among them. Here’s one you may not have considered: An inland cruise, especially popular in the fall, explores Great Bay or goes up the Cocheco River into Dover.
Sail away. What’s not to like about mixing a little music and history while cruising out of Prescott Park in Portsmouth on the gundalow Piscataqua on the river Piscataqua? Gundalows, a shallow draft version of a cargo barge, date from the mid-1600s. Sunday and Thursday evenings feature concert cruises and there’s a speaker series Tuesday evening. www.gundalow.org
Fly like an eagle. Here’s one way to get a true bird’s-eye view of the beach. Hampton Beach Parasail offers the chance to fly high above the water behind a boat. How daring are you? Options allow you to soar 500 or 1,000 feet high. www.hamptonparasail.com
BYOBB. Or pick one up a boogie board at any number of stores at Hampton Beach or along the beach route. Slap on some waterproof sunscreen. Enjoy.
Walk a ways: I’ve become a bit of a fanatic about walking since the pandemic hit. I can walk for miles on the beach. But a 2.5-mile mostly paved trek starting at North Hampton Beach State Park, with waves breaking on the rocks beside you, was a neat discovery.
A Walk in the park. One Sunday morning in mid-July we walked through Prescott Park in Portsmouth and got a kick out of a young theater group warming up on the main stage and checked in on the Gundalow and the park’s extensive gardens. For the second straight year, thanks to COVID-19 curtailing visits to Appledore Island, the famed garden of poet Celia Thaxter has taken up residence in the park. It’s a treat.
SUP New Hampshire? Standup paddle boarding continues to grow in popularity: Several shops already mentioned, including Cinnamon Rainbow and Hampton Parasail, sell or rent boards and offer lessons. Have we mentioned that it’s all about getting on the water?
Try a bike. You won’t go far without seeing a bicyclist or two, perhaps a dozen riding in a group, on and around the seacoast. Ocean Cycles at Hampton Beach (www.oceans.rentals) rents bikes. Joining one of several group rides out of Gus’s Bike Shop in North Hampton (www.gusbike.com) is a fun way to go.
Ride in style. Matt Reid planned to expand his boat ride business (newenglandecoadventures.com) to Hampton Beach last summer (it began three years ago in Kennebunk, Maine). The pandemic messed with the timing. They’re here now and are offering whale watching and thrill ride trips, among other adventures. These boats can move. And everyone gets a front-row seat.
Allen Lessels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.