This burg northwest of bustling Portsmouth and south of the college town of Durham is something of a hidden gem, known more for its New Hampshire mill history than for the eclectic mix of music, dining, and distinctive shopping options it offers. Newmarket has found ways to blend its past with its updated present. A stroll on Main Street, along the Lamprey River, will take you past old mills that have been turned into a vibrant and inviting blend of shops, restaurants, and condominiums, emblematic of the town’s transformation and revitalization.
While there is no lodging in Newmarket proper, there are plenty of quaint options nearby. The Three Chimneys Inn (17 Newmarket Road, Durham, 603-868-2964, www.threechimneys
inn.com, $159-$209), built in 1649 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, offers an elegant, romantic setting with just a touch of rustic flair. The Exeter Inn (90 Front St., Exeter, 603-772-5901, www.the
exeterinn.com, $155-$335) is a plush, luxury inn with fine dining at Epoch Restaurant and Bar and New England charm oozing from every wooden beam. A great option for families is the Anchorage Inn and Suites (417 Woodbury Ave., 800-370-8111, www.anchorageinns.com, $80-
$259) in Portsmouth, a hotel that offers comfortable, casual accommodations in addition to an indoor whirlpool, swimming pool, and sauna, at rates that won’t strain the wallet.
If you are heading into town early, hit the Big Bean Cafe and Bakery (116 Main St., 603-659-8600, www.thebigbeancafe.com, entrees $7.75-$11.75), one of the first establishments you’ll see as you drive up Main Street from the south. Here, you’ll discover an impressive array of omelets and egg dishes, homemade bread, and seasonal fruits and vegetables served in a lively environment with local artwork adorning the walls. For a hearty lunch, visit Rocky’s Famous Burgers (171 Main St., 603-292-3393, www.rockysfamousburg
ers.com, $7.29-$9.89), boasting some of New Hampshire’s most noted burger creations, all made to order. Try the “Dare Devil,” for which you pick the patty (Angus beef, bison, turkey, chicken, or veggie), and leave the toppings — which can include various cheeses, veggies, hot peppers, guacamole, cranberry, and sauces — to the staff. For comfort food like lobster mac and cheese and prime rib, Riverworks (164 Main St., 603-659-6119, www.theriverworks.com, $9.25-$21) fits the dinner bill,
or a more eclectic experience awaits at Popper’s Restaurant at the Mill (Suite 216, 55 Main St., 603-292-0110, www.poppersat
themill.com, entrees $18-$31) with an extensive charcuterie and cheese menu and main courses such as braised bison short ribs and fresh cod with braised kale prepared by chef John “Popper” Medlin.
DURING THE DAY
The Newmarket Mills (55 Main St., 944-2580, www.new
marketmills.com) is the crown jewel of the town’s revitalization project. The renovation of the historic mills opened the door to an explosion of new shopping and dining options, including the aforementioned Poppers, the Bloom’n Cow Ice Cream and Gelato — specializing in homemade ice cream, gelato, and baked goods — and Newmarket Sewing Works, which offers custom-made cushions, window treatments, and more. Head downstairs for the funky vibe of Cool Ed’s International House of Art and Stuff. The studio combines the creations of local oil painter Johannah Robertson and sculptor Jan Knox. Visit by appointment (603-219-3616) or just browse some of their creations in the adjacent hallway. If you’re done with the Mills and in need of a cup of joe, the obvious option is Crackskull’s Coffee and Books (86 Main St., 603-659-8181, www.crackskulls
.com), where visitors can relax with a coffee, pastry, and perhaps one of the hundreds of used books for sale. Free Wi-Fi is also available at this eclectic stop. The artistic side of Newmarket comes alive at Good Juju (108 Main St., 603-292-5095, www.facebook.com/good.juju
.7), where local jewelry, art, and other creations meet the inquisitive eye. Outdoor enthusiasts may want to wend their way to nearby Doe Farm (Cold Spring Road, Durham, 603-868-5571), a seven-minute drive from downtown Newmarket, where an extensive variety of trails for hiking, jogging, and cross-country skiing await.
Unquestionably the hottest music venue in town,
The Stone Church (5 Granite St., 603-659-7700, www.stonechurchrocks
.com) has hosted such bands as Phish and Aerosmith. Besides serving up a diverse menu of musical artists, Stone Church is also known for its array of burgers, tacos, and rotating list of local craft brews. It even offers craft brew cocktails. Peat Racer (a mixture of Smuttynose IPA and Laphroaig Scotch) anyone? Not in the mood for music? Visit the nearby Lamprey River Grill and Tavern (110 Main St., 603-659-3696, www.facebook.com/pages/Lamprey-River-Tavern/
130369526995627), a watering hole open until 1 a.m., for a nightcap or come back on the way home for its weekend brunch.