By Sandi Barrett, Contributing Writer
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – New Hampshire’s mighty port city is filled with charming local shops, historic homes, delicious eateries, and beautiful sunsets. At only about an hour’s drive from the Boston area, it’s a wonderful spot for a quick coastal getaway stay.
Places to visit
A short walk from downtown Portsmouth is the Puddle Dock neighborhood, home to the Strawbery Banke Museum. Experience this living history museum dedicated to preserving artifacts and buildings dating back to the region’s Indigenous Abenaki people to present-day life. Costumed role players set the tone when you enter their homes and businesses, reenacting the life and times of colonial New Englanders. Enjoy the beautiful gardens, historical homes, and busy workshops as you stroll through the active neighborhood.
On the waterfront side of Strawbery Banke Museum is Prescott Park with ten acres of pretty landscaped gardens, artistic sculptures, and inviting benches. It is a lovely spot for an afternoon stroll.
A must do when visiting Portsmouth is a sunset cruise through Portsmouth Harbor and along the Piscataqua River. It’s the perfect way to see the vibrant sunset and twilight lights of Portsmouth. Book passage on Portsmouth Harbor Cruises and enjoy over an hour of on-the-water scenery. Its dock is on the waterfront near all the restaurants and pubs, so you only have a short walk for a fabulous after-cruise dinner.
Hikers and wanderers will enjoy the 1.5-mile Little Harbor Loop Trail that winds around the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion. Guests can tour the period 40-room waterfront mansion that was home to New Hampshire’s first governor, Benning Wentworth.
Military history buffs of all ages will enjoy a self-guided tour of the USS Albacore submarine. The U.S. Navy tested top-secret features with the USS Albacore that led to modern-day submarine improvements. Enjoy crew member stories, peer from the periscope, and more during this unique marine vessel visit.
Portsmouth is a shopping paradise. Market Square is filled with unique shops; jewelry, boutiques, independent bookstores, galleries, and foodie-focused stores offer something for everyone. Window shopping and popping in and out of storefronts is a popular way to spend an afternoon. Portsmouth is also a short drive from Freeport, Maine, home to L.L. Bean’s flagship store. You will find independent and outlet shops lining the streets of Freeport.
Where to dine
Portsmouth’s restaurants offer diners a wide array of menu choices. From rooftops to waterfront, fine dining to pub eats, you will easily find a restaurant that fulfills your culinary desires.
The Rooftop At The Envio, located on the top of the AC Hotel, offers fine dining in a casually elegant setting. With one of the prettiest panoramic views of Portsmouth, it is the perfect spot for a delicious dinner. The Envio Shrimp Cocktail will become the benchmark for all future shrimp cocktail appetizers―it’s so good you might not want to share. Reservations are strongly recommended.
If you are in the mood for a more casual pub meal, the Thirsty Moose Taphouse should be your destination. With wall-to-wall televisions, this sports bar offers delicious pub grub and dozens of regional beers on tap. Finding something you love on the extensive menu is easy―narrowing it down to one dish is a difficult task. The prime rib sliders with horseradish sour cream come three to a plate, tasty and perfect for sharing while you sip a draft.
Where to stay
There are lots of great hotels clustered around the downtown Portsmouth area. It is a mostly flat, walkable city. Valet your car and add some steps to your daily count.
The Residence Inn Portsmouth Downtown/Waterfront is a lovely hotel. It straddles the waterfront and all the downtown shopping and dining. Another popular choice is the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel with rooms offering views of the harbor. The Hilton Garden Inn Portsmouth Downtown is in the middle of all the action. Whatever your budget, you will find a room perfect for your visit.
If you are looking for a close-by city that has dining, history, and fun things to do, consider Portsmouth, New Hampshire for your next getaway.