Hampton Harbor and the Hampton River Marina

Deep sea fishing boats, the Northern Star and the Big Rock at the main Hampton Harbor pier

Above, the F/V Big Rock and the F/V Northern Star at the end of a day of deep sea fishing, and from left to right below, bringing home a tuna, Al Gauron’s ticket office (don’t let the sign discourage you … they’re mariners, not sign-painters), a seagull waiting on a piling for a free lunch opportunity and the F/V Ashera waiting at the pier for high tide.

About Hampton Harbor

Hampton Harbor, a busy, deep-water Port Authority of New Hampshire facility, is located approximately five miles north of the Merrimack River and about seven miles south of Rye Harbor at the south end of Hampton Beach, directly across the street from Hampton Beach State Park. 

Hampton Harbor is an easy walk to and from the busy Hampton Beach Boardwalk and the many hotels, restaurants and attractions on the mile-and-a-half long sandy beach, though it has ample, mostly paved vehicle parking available for visitors for a modest, $5 all-day parking fee. 

The State of New Hampshire Hampton Harbor facility itself is capably managed by veteran Harbormaster Kevin Hanlon, at right, and has a launch ramp (usable at most stages of the tide) and the only diesel and unleaded fuel pumps on the river.

The telephone number at the harbor office is 603.929.0347.

Deep Sea Fishing and Whale Watching at Hampton Harbor

The State facility is fundamentally a commercial fishing port, populated mostly by lobstermen, a number of “six-pack” charter operators (deep-sea fishing boats licensed for six passengers), several large deep-sea fishing “party boats” including the Yellow Bird operated by Yellow Bird Deep Sea Fishing, as well as the Northern Star, the Big Rock, and the All In, operated by Al Gauron Deep Sea Fishing & Whale Watching. 

The 60-foot Yellow Bird (pictured at left) at the end of a day of deep sea fishing, takes a maximum of 30 passengers on ten to twelve-hour fishing cruises departing at either 5:00 or 7:00am, and returning at 5:00pm daily.  See the ticket office sign, pictured second from left, above.

The day-long Al Gauron fishing trips depart at 7:00am and return at 5:00pm on most days, though half-day mackerel fishing, striped bass and haddock bottom fishing trips are generally back at the Harbor by noon. 

Al Gauron’s half-day Whale-watching cruises also last four hours, and depart Hampton Harbor at 8:00am.  Reservations are always recommended, though walk-ups are often accommodated.

Al Gauron also offers single and double kayak rental packages in the adjacent Hampton- Seabrook Estuary that include life-jackets, rods, bait and annual fishing licenses for local and out-of-town visitors. 

Yes, we do have oysters here!

One of the few year-round tenants at Hampton Harbor is the squeaky-clean Swell Oyster Shack, at right, operated by a pair of young, professional aquaculturists and oyster farmers who sell their own fresh, shucked New England oysters and other fresh locally sourced seafood products, including bluefish, salmon and steelhead trout pates, and very good, locally made clam chowder.  The proprietors also operate public tours to their four-and-half-acre nursery on one of their two boats, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, in season. 

The proprietors are more than happy to introduce uninitiated customers to the fine art of raw oyster consumption, and educate them all about how and where oysters are cultured and harvested in their two oyster farms, one of which is in the Hampton River estuary and the other about a mile off shore from the Harbor.

The Swell Oyster shack is the third from the south end of the upper Harbor access road. (MAP)

Editors’ Note:  While researching this story, Visit New Hampshire’s Senior Editor consumed his first ever (and then second) raw oyster, with and without cocktail sauce here, not knowing what to expect, and found them quite palatable.  We recommend the house cocktail sauce, and aficionados will have multiple cocktail sauce options here.  Our Senior Editor says, “You’re never too old to try your first raw oyster”.  He’s in a position to know.

Yes, we have live lobsters, too!

Hampton Harbor is also the seasonal home (May through Columbus Day) of friendly Smitty’s State Pier Lobster Pound, pictured at left.  The GPS address is 1 Ocean Boulevard, Hampton, New Hampshire.  (MAP)

Smitty’s is located at the end of the line of small businesses located just after the Hampton Harbor Gatehouse and the ramp down to the pier, and it has its own ample free parking.

Smitty’s supplies fresh lobsters and fresh seafood, and is now open with a new owner, Todd Smith.

Other Hampton Harbor vendors

The Harbor is the home of Captain Bob’s Lobster Boat Tours, offering two-hour trips morning and afternoon, the Swell Oyster Company, selling fresh, locally farmed and harvested oysters to go, and fully Coast Guard-certified Hampton Beach Parasail and Paddleboard, all pictured from left to right respectively below.  

Click on any of the images below for more information.

Breakfast and Lunch at Hampton Harbor

Al’s Gauron’s Luncheonette, also known as Ute’s (pronounced Uta’s), pictured at left, may look like an unkempt hole in the wall, but it is a popular, let’s say, unpretentious hole in the wall, and the dozen or so expensive cars and trucks parked continuously outside from 5:00am until about 1:00pm daily are a testament its remarkable popularity. 

Like many holes in the wall of this genre that manage to stay afloat over the years, large portions, fair prices, and courteous service with a smile keep customers coming back.  

Outdoor seating, such as it is, is visible in the foreground at left, and is available in season.

Open mid-April to late December (MAP)

Getting to Hampton Harbor by Land

The GPS Address is 1 Ocean Boulevard, Hampton, New Hampshire. (MAP)

From the south, exit I-95 at Exit 90, then proceed east on Route 286 to the end at Ocean Boulevard (NH Route 1A) in Seabrook.  Turn left (north) onto Ocean Boulevard, cross the bridge into Hampton, and take the first left.  The harbor will be visible on the left as you cross the bridge.

From the West, take NH 101 to the end, at Ocean Blvd (Route 1A) at Hampton Beach, turn right, then bear right onto Ashworth Avenue, where Ocean Blvd becomes one-way northbound.  Continue south and stay in the right lane until Ashworth Avenue and Ocean Boulevard merge.  As they merge, make a half-right turn (after Duston Avenue) into the restaurant parking lot, then bear left down the access road that parallels Route 1.

From the North, exit I-95 at Exit 2, then bear left immediately after the tolls toward Hampton on NH Route 101 East.  Take NH 101 straight to the end at Hampton Beach and follow the directions above.

Arriving at Hampton Harbor by Sea

The Hampton Harbor Inlet is located roughly midway between the Merrimack River and Rye Harbor, at the south end of Hampton Beach. If arriving by sea, look for the flashing R“2” marker, then proceed to RG “4”.

Stay south of RG”4” to the harbor’s marked channel to avoid the shoals. Pass under the Route 1 bridge, which has 25 feet of clearance at mean low tide, and will open on request (Channel 13 in season, or with three hours’ notice, off season, by calling 603.271.6862). 

The State Piers and gas pumps will be visible off to starboard.

View Hampton Harbor Tides here.

The Hampton River Marina

The privately owned, 144-slip Hampton River Marina is just upriver from the State facility, has two large docks, and offers 20 slips for transient boat owners who may be dropping into Hampton to attend a show at the renowned Hampton Beach Casino or just to dine at one of the large boardwalk restaurants overlooking the beach and the North Atlantic.

In addition to the transient slips, the marina has a 25-ton marine travel lift and offers summer wet storage, winter dry storage, washing, winterization, launch and haul-out services. 

There are no fuel services at the Marina, but diesel and unleaded fuel is available at the adjacent State pier.

View Hampton Harbor Tides here.

Arriving at the Hampton River Marina by land.

The GPS Address is 55 Harbor Road, Hampton, New Hampshire. (MAP)

From the south, exit I-95 at Exit 90, then proceed east on Route 286 to the end at Ocean Boulevard (NH Route 1A) in Seabrook.  Turn left (north) onto Ocean Boulevard, cross the bridge into Hampton, and take the first left onto Duston Avenue.  Follow Duston to the end and turn right at the entrance.

From the West, take NH 101 to the end, at Ocean Blvd (Route 1A) at Hampton Beach, turn right, then bear right onto Ashworth Avenue, where Ocean Blvd becomes one-way northbound.  Continue south on Ashworth Avenue for one mile and stay in the right lane until Ashworth and Ocean Boulevard merge.  As they merge, make a hard-right turn at Duston Avenue and follow it to the end.

From the North, exit I-95 at Exit 2, then bear left immediately after the tolls toward Hampton on NH Route 101 East.  Take NH 101 straight to the end at Hampton Beach and follow the directions immensely above.

Arriving at the Hampton River Marina by sea

Follow the directions to Hampton Harbor, above.  The marina will be visible off to starboard, just beyond the Hampton Harbor Piers and Fuel pumps.