Planning an excursion to the New Hampshire coast? Kick start your trip to the Granite State with the best things to do in Portsmouth, NH. With over 300 years of rich history, gourmet eateries, and plenty of local boutiques, this quaint coastal city is the perfect New England seaside getaway.
At the Strawbery Banke Museum, discover an entire neighborhood of restored 17th- and 18th-century homes and meet the residents who lived there. Get your hands wet in the Seacoast Science Center’s touch tanks and tide pools. Then, indulge in Portsmouth’s vibrant gastronomy scene with seasonal specialties at the Black Trumpet Bistro.
Can’t decide how to map out your ideal Portsmouth holiday? Plan your trip with this ultimate guide to the best places to visit in Portsmouth, NH.
Best places to visit in Portsmouth, NH
Start your Portsmouth holiday off at picturesque Prescott Park. Situated along historic Marcy Street and overlooking the Piscataqua River, this public park features stunning waterfront views, flourishing gardens, and fascinating sculptures.
Stroll through the buttery daffodils and vibrant annuals. Stop by one of the many bubbling fountains and enjoy the ambiance of Prescott Park. There’s a good chance a butterfly will flit by you as the gardens are designed to attract them. Carry on toward the pier for a lovely spot to look out on serene sparkling waters dotted with boats on the horizon.
The Prescott Park Arts Festival hosts live-action theater and concerts throughout the summer. Grab a sub from Googie’s Sandwich Shoppe and a cone from the Red Rover Creamery. Claim your spot on the lawn for a picnic and a show to wrap up your peaceful Portsmouth day.
Strawbery Banke Museum
American history comes alive at Strawbery Banke Museum. Your family will be transported 300 years back in time as you explore 32 historic homes and working farms—and meet the Portsmouth residents who lived there.
One of New Hampshire’s oldest surviving homes is The Sherburne House. Step inside for a peek into the lives of settlers circa 1695. Check out The Pitt Tavern to experience a 1775 inn and meetinghouse, complete with residents going about their 18th-century business. Chat with actors playing business owners, immigrants, politicians, and homemakers throughout the property about their lives in the Puddle Dock Neighborhood.
Strap on some wings and take the Fairy House Tour with your little ones to explore the tiny fairy villages crafted among the lush gardens. In the winter months, join the Candlelight Tour to experience the neighborhood set aglow with lanterns and festive decorations.
Soak up the charm of Portsmouth as you mosey around Market Square. Located at the intersection of Daniel, Pleasant, Congress, and Market Streets, Market Square is lined with quaint storefronts and historic architecture.
Did someone say shopping? Duck into Opal Oak Boutique for New England aesthetic clothing and jewelry. Off Piste has an eclectic array of treasures with personality, from quirky socks to colorful travel mugs. Gus & Ruby Letterpress is popular for its handmade paper and notebooks. And the best part of shopping in Portsmouth? No sales tax!
Follow the sounds of music and applause to the North Church, where dancers, artists, and singers often perform.
Stop by Popover’s on the Square for a cup of clam “chowda” while you people watch in the vibrant heart of downtown. Then, at the Portsmouth Brewery, try a flight of New Hampshire-made craft beer. Portsmouth is so walkable that you could hit both in one day!
Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden
If you’re planning a Portsmouth weekend getaway and you’re short on time, include the Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden in your travels. This Georgian mansion brings colonial-era and Revolutionary War history to life with pristine restoration and exhibits.
Entering the Moffatt-Ladd House, notice detailed furnishings and decor, like the striking wallpaper in the Yellow Chamber and the ornate trimmings around the rooms.
Take a tour and learn about the lives of the free and enslaved inhabitants throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Your docent will tell you fascinating and intimate tales like how early inhabitant William Whipple planted the tree in the backyard after signing the Declaration of Independence.
Outside, enjoy the vivid colors of the historic garden against the tealish grey of the house. Keep exploring to find the Moffatt-Ladd Warehouse, a peek into a colonial merchantile shop. The natural beauty and heritage of this museum are worth a visit.
USS Albacore Museum
Discover Portsmouth’s naval heritage at the USS Albacore Museum. The USS Albacore was a research submarine used to test features that helped develop modern ones. Today, it rests in Albacore Park. Your family will love exploring every inch of this well-preserved American submarine.
Taking a self-guided tour of the USS Albacore is an immersive experience. Imagine yourself plunging beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean as you lay in the cramped bunks and wedge yourself down tight hallways. You can peer through the periscope and tinker with the instrument panels in the control room. Along the way, hear narrations from real crew members about life aboard the Albacore.
Stop by the tranquil Memorial Garden and remember those lost at sea during the Cold War and World War II. Walk around the forested paths and admire the various granite monuments and the dolphin-shaped statues representing the submarine force.
Odiorne Point State Park
After a ten-minute drive south, cross the border into Rye and follow Ocean Boulevard to Odiorne Point State Park. The 330 acres of forest trails, rocky coastline, historical markers, and scenic views of the Atlantic are bliss for nature and history aficionados.
Go kayaking or canoeing in tranquil Little Harbor, or hike Sagamore Trail with stunning views of the Atlantic along the way. Take a rock climbing break or search the tide pools for bits of petrified wood, opalescent shells, and tiny crabs.
Continue on to Frost Point and tread carefully on the rock jetty jutting into the Gulf of Maine. In the distance, see the abandoned Fort Stark Historic Military Site.
Carry on until you find the massive World War II bunkers, perfect for adventuring under and around. If you’ve got little explorers with you, take them by the Seacoast Science Center for some nautical science meets playtime.
Seacoast Science Center
Tucked away in Odiorne Point State Park is the Seacoast Science Center. Hands-on encounters and mesmerizing exhibits will keep you and your budding marine biologist engaged for hours.
Is your kiddo brave enough to plunge his or her little hands into the touch tanks? Feel bumpy starfish and friendly hermit crabs, and meet Raspberry the turtle.
Let your child’s imagination run wild at Discovery Dock, pulling on fishing gear and guiding the boat back to shore. At the Edge of the Sea exhibit, check out ocean organisms under microscopes.
Take the exploration outside and hop along Rabbit Run until you reach the Sunken Forest Tide Pools. Search for local aquatic creatures and smoothed-out sea glass.
Enjoy a picnic in the green spaces around the center while you admire the stunning views of the Isle of Shoals across the water.
History buffs young and old will want to set aside a few hours in their Portsmouth itinerary for the Warner House, known as the “Dame of Daniel Street.” This 1716 stately brick house is the oldest of its kind in northern New England. Complete with original artifacts and furniture, the Warner House offers a unique look into the lives of those who lived here.
Upon entering the Warner House, you’ll be greeted with colonial folk art murals from 1718. Gaze upon Mohawk Native Americans and a man supposed to be Prince William on horseback. Find decorative details throughout the historic home like children’s books and toys, American Queen Ann furniture, mementos, and portraits.
If you’re visiting with your little historians in tow, you’ll be happy to hear about the opening of the Polly’s World Tour. Your youngster will learn what life was like for the children of the Warner House in the 18th century.
The Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion was home to politicians like Benning Wentworth and notable New England artists like J. Templeman Coolidge III from 1753 to 1954. Today, it’s America’s last remaining Royal Governor’s residence. The fascinating history and beautiful gardens make this historic house worth a visit while in Portsmouth.
At the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, you’ll be welcomed by a sprawling garden of daffodils and the oldest lilacs in the US. Inside, discover immaculately restored furniture and decor like elegant day beds, tea tables, and portraits.
Head outside and mosey along the Little Harbor Trail. Pass green conservation land and the Creek Farm Reservation forest. The viewpoint at the northern end of the trail gives sweeping views of the Portsmouth shoreline and Lady Isle.
If the history and hiking helped you work up an appetite, head to the Ice House. Indulge in some of New England’s finest seafood like fresh lobster rolls, fried clams, and homemade ice cream.
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse
About ten minutes east of Portsmouth, you’ll find two interesting things: New Hampshire’s only island town, New Castle, and the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse settled on its shores. Swing by this historic attraction for the quintessential New England picture-perfect view of the lighthouse against the backdrop of the Atlantic—not to mention the incredible history you’ll learn along the way.
The original wooden lighthouse was lit up in 1771, and in 1878, a cast-iron lighthouse was reconstructed in its place. Sign up for a tour about the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse keepers and their duties throughout the years. Then, climb 48 feet to the top and check out the massive Fresnel lens. Take this chance to appreciate the dazzling blue waters and foamy waves crashing along the rocky shoreline.
After your tour of the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, enjoy seaside chic dining at Latitudes Restaurant. Tuck into the fresh lobster salad, fish and chips, or zesty fish tacos inside or alfresco.
Governor John Langdon House
If you’ve got half an hour in your schedule to fill, spend it discovering a bit of New Hampshire history at the Governor John Langdon House. John Langdon was an important figure throughout the Revolutionary War, a signer of the Constitution, and a three-term governor. Stroll the grounds of this historic mansion to be immersed in the atmosphere of a true colonial-era New England home.
Step into the bright Entry Hall, and you’ll be mesmerized by the intricate details of the arching woodwork and the period furniture. If you opt for a Langdon House tour, your guide will explain the history of the architecture throughout the house and the Langdon family’s 18th-century traditions and way of life.
Looking for a bite after the tour? Nearby is Ristorante Massimo, known in the area for authentic Italian dinners and pastries, and a luxurious atmosphere.
John Paul Jones House
Dive into maritime history and a vast collection of relics at the John Paul Jones House. The home boasts centuries of history dating back to 1758, when Gregory Purcell built it. Purcell’s widow ran a boarding house here after she lost her husband. It’s rumored that war hero and founder of the Navy, John Paul Jones, rented out a room in 1777.
Take a tour to get an inside scoop on the history of John Paul Jones House, or mosey about and examine each exhibit at your own pace. Read informational plaques describing the furniture and the collections. Wander through the many rooms to see floral bedspreads, realistic model boats, cutlery, children’s toys, portraits, and more.
If you’ve worked up an appetite after your history hunting, march down Congress Street to the Flatbread Company. The popular restaurant servers some of the best pizza in town, made with local ingredients.
Portsmouth Book & Bar
Bookworms, musicians, and craft cocktail connoisseurs will feel at home in the Portsmouth Book & Bar. You can’t miss this magnificent 150-year-old Greek Revival-style Customs House. Stop by to peruse over 10,000 used books curated from around New England.
Find a table by the massive windows and order the famous Pretzel Rolls or a gooey, handmade chocolate chip cookie. Wash this down with a fresh coffee—or something stronger. Cozy up on the plush couches with a book in one hand and a drink in the other. Explore the aisles and leaf through the wide array of literature.
When the sun goes down, pop into the Portsmouth Book & Bar for one of its events. Sip your Cold Brew Martini in the romantic low light of the poetry readings, or sway to the live music as you enjoy a chilled glass of A Clockwork Orange.
Looking to escape the city center? Peirce Island offers a serene atmosphere with various paths cutting through lush forests and against rocky shorelines. The island is within walking distance of Prescott Park across the bridge, but if you’re bringing your beach gear, driving over is also an option.
Peirce Island has a history of being the site of shipbuilding well through the 1800s, but these days it’s used for outdoor activities and recreational purposes. The nautical past of Peirce Island is still present today at the Boat Launch, where you can watch small speed and sailboats as they come and go.
The walking trails here are perfect for connecting with nature. On the east side of the island, get your camera ready for unique perspectives facing the shore of Prescott Park. From the north of Peirce Island, look across the water at the incredible ships in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Black Heritage Trail
To fully understand Portsmouth’s history, you’ve got to appreciate its deep-rooted Black history and past slave trade activity. The Black Heritage Trail does just this, shedding light on the free and enslaved Africans and African descendants who helped to build New Hampshire.
Begin your thought-provoking tour near the African Burial Site on Chestnut Street. Meet Black seaman, Jack Staines, and hear about his life as a slave aboard a ship. Visit the sites of child slavery auctions, or follow the partial route of Ona Marie Judge, who escaped from George Washington and made her way to Portsmouth.
Choose from over ten themed tours, including Black Soldiers and the American Revolution, Ain’t She a Woman, and the Green Book Tour, detailing the hurdles Black people faced while traveling in the 1900s.
Throughout each tour, hear tales of resilience and grit of the African American people as they worked toward freedom and equality.
Black Trumpet Bistro
All of your wildest foodie dreams will come true at Black Trumpet Bistro. The cozy yet upscale bistro and wine bar are serving up artisanally crafted meals that make it difficult to resist licking your plate.
Walk along Ceres Street, enjoying scenic views of the Old Harbor, until you reach the picturesque brick bistro. Grab a seat at the bar to chat with the friendly bartenders as they mix up a custom cocktail for you, or head upstairs for views of the harbor.
Order seasonally rotating dishes like Seafood Paella or Beef Tartare garnished with capers. Save room for a decadent dessert of Coconut Buttermilk Panna Cotta or Enna Chocolate Pot de Crème.
Gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diners will be delighted to know that the Black Trumpet Bistro caters to these dietary restrictions. From the warm waitstaff, comfortable atmosphere, and mouthwatering eats, you’ll leave with a full belly and good memories.
Raleigh Wine Bar + Eatery
After galavanting around Portsmouth, a view of the Piscataqua with a glass of wine in your hand is the perfect way to end the day. The Raleigh Wine Bar + Eatery has just what you need to unwind and enjoy gourmet cuisine in an intimate atmosphere.
Raleigh Wine Bar + Eatery has a skillfully curated and diverse wine list. The sommelier will help you find the perfect glass to suit your palate. The executive chef takes great pride in creating delectable dishes like the Poached Hen’s Egg topped with sea trout roe, Seabass with parsnip puree, and Magret Duck Breast with duck confit presse.
Find a seat at the marble bar, at the high-top tables, or choose patio seating for a magnificent view of the Memorial Bridge crossing into Maine. The atmosphere, dinner, and drinks at Raleigh Wine Bar + Eatery will turn your Portsmouth travels into a romantic getaway.