Walking New Hampshire
Follow in the footsteps of writer Peter Mandel as he chronicles the shortest shoreline of any state—taking in the beauty of iconic New England towns and scenery.
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)