But I am an active beach guy. An explorer, not a lounger. And when I set off on a stroll I’m often pulled up short. Stretches of sand end much too quickly. I find myself in rocky shallows where my flip-flops get stuck, and I end up wondering about mystery coves deep in the distance.
So I started dreaming. What if I packed up my knapsack and hiked an entire chunk of America’s shore? People walk the Appalachian Trail. I could do this! Poring over my maps, I pick New Hampshire. (It has the shortest coastline in the country.) I won’t see just a piece of where land meets water; I’ll see it all.
Seabrook’s wide sand is emptier than I would have guessed. With busier beaches ahead, this is the place to take in views of surf and sailboats without having to peer over a flock of beach umbrellas. It feels like a deserted island studded with sea grass and knots of sculptural driftwood. I see more seagulls than sunbathers. “Any idea when low tide is on this beach?” asks a woman dangling a child’s plastic pail and shovel. I kick myself for not packing a tide chart. “Sorry,” I say. “Wish I knew.”
I turn and ascend a smooth dune toward a bridge. “Captain Bob’s Lobster Tours!” screams a sign on the other side. Next door is “Rico’s Lobster by the Pound.” Tempting ... but I press on. Ahead lies a beach that, although in the same state, is another state of mind.
Left: Marine Memorial, Hampton Beach
Sue Hagen closes her register at the gift shop to take me on a tour. “The roses are our big draw,” Sue says, “but look at these espaliers!” She gestures at twisty apple trees, one shaped like a candelabra. Sue later points out the oldest statue: “It’s by a student of Michelangelo’s.” My finger traces the signature on its plinth: Michel Angelo Fanciullo.
I pass bobbing boats anchored in Rye’s state marina. This is the place to catch whale-watching tours, which head a dozen miles out to sea to spot humpback, finback, and right whales. Others come for a ferry serving Star Island, a summer retreat more than a century old.
Left: Art exhibit, New Castle
The next morning, I step out onto a playhouse-size Main Street. New Castle isn’t only small in population; it’s actually little. Plaques display 17th- and 18th-century dates, and clapboards are narrower near ground level, in the style of the time. A sign for watercolor lessons tempts me to visit Maddi Alana’s tiny studio along Route 1-B, but I have the rest of a state to see today.
There’s plenty more to keep a shopper busy. N.W. Barrett Gallery displays hundreds of crafts from local artisans. Or you can find abstract place mats, glass lamps, and more at the home-design store Nahcotta. Byrne & Carlson creates treats from imported chocolate. For something more substantial, head to the Portsmouth Gas Light Co. for lobster-stuffed haddock served downstairs or brick oven-baked pizza and calzones on the rooftop deck.
Left: Fort Constitution Historic Site, New Castle
(Published July/August 2009)