Rye and North Hampton are small, affluent, seaside, summer retreat communities of about four and five thousand residents respectively, nestled midway between Maine and Massachusetts along New Hampshire’s picturesque 18-mile coastline.
Above, picturesque Rye Harbor early on a summer morning, and from left to right, below, a summer view of the salt marsh near Odiorne Point in Rye, a long, North Hampton driveway on an autumn afternoon, and a view of the Rye salt marsh on a snowy morning in March.
Visit Rye, New Hampshire
Rye is perhaps best known to visitors for its long, North Atlantic state park beaches, including Wallis Sands State Beach and Jenness State Beach, as well as for two additional oceanside State Parks, Odiorne State Park (and its Seacoast Science Center) and Rye Harbor State Park at Ragged Neck Point, offering panoramic views to the historic Isles of Shoals, and the home of the 1614 Monument commemorating Captain John Smith’s expedition there. Rye is also the home of Rye Harbor, a New Hampshire Port Authority-operated public harbor for recreational and commercial fishermen and boaters.
Additionally, four of the nine historic islands that make up the Isles of Shoals, alluded to above, including Star Island, Appledore Island and White Island (discovered by Captain John Smith in 1614), are part of the Town of Rye.
Rye Harbor (top and at left), was first visited by Samuel de Champlain in 1603, and is the setting for The Last Run, Stephen Clarkson’s fine novel about rum-running between Canada and New England in the 1920s, a must-read for every Seacoast resident and Rye Harbor visitor.
The picturesque harbor is known not just by boaters, but also as a harborside, seafood lunch and dinner venue for visitors who come from all over the Northeast, who come for fresh lobster rolls and chowders.
Rye Harbor is also the point of departure for the twice daily (in season) ferries to Star Island and the Isles of Shoals, five miles to the east, and a popular whale-watching gateway.
Rye, New Hampshire Hotels
The Rye Motor Inn, reborn in a historic, tastefully-renovated, 1950’s motel, is the creation of local hospitality industry visionary, Doug Palardy, whose other nearby properties include the boutiquey Great Island Inn and the Islander Café in New Castle, and The Inn Down Town in Portsmouth. All inspected by Visit New Hampshire’s editors, and highly recommended.
Things to do in Rye, New Hampshire
The Seacoast Science Center, overlooking the Atlantic at Odiorne Point, is a popular, not-for-profit, marine education and interactive science center for families with children of all ages who are visiting Portsmouth, Rye or Hampton.
There is more than enough here, inside and out, including a touch tank, a wave action tank, the Discovery Dock (a play space for younger kids), and tide pools in the intertidal zone to keep children and their parents busy and entertained for hours.
If you’re planning to bring your family to the seacoast region, this is fun, intereting and affordable, and just not to be missed. (MAP)
Visit North Hampton, New Hampshire
North Hampton, Rye’s neighbor to the south, is well known for its mile-long, rocky coastline drive with North Atlantic vistas to the east (click on the image of the surf off North Hampton’s Little Boar’s Head at right) MAP and of grand historic mansions on the landside, and for the seaside Fuller Gardens, public botanical gardens originally commissioned by Massachusetts Governor Alvin Fuller at his summer home.
The Fuller Gardens were designed by the Olmsted brothers, sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture, and are now capably curated by Garden Director, Jamie Colen.
The fuller Gardens are open daily, in season, from early May to mid-October. (MAP)
North Hampton State Beach
North Hampton State Beach is located a scenic, easily walkable, three-quarters of a mile south of the Fuller Gardens. Parking here is somewhat limited, so plan an early arrival. The popular Beach Plum carry-out restaurant, is well-known for very good lobster rolls, is even better known for large portions of homemade ice cream, and is conveniently located directly across the street from the bathhouse. North Hampton State Beach is a quarter mile along Ocean Boulevard from the Little Boar’s Head lookout, pictured at right, above. (MAP)
Two small, upscale, North Hampton retail food stores visitors should know about.
Regular summer visitors know that North Hampton is also the home of two of the New Hampshire Seacoast’s dependably best and busiest retail food stores, Joe’s Meat Shoppe (MAP) well known for all-natural beef, pork, poultry and lamb (as well as soups and sandwiches made to order, limited groceries, and beer and wine), and Al’s Seafood MARKET (MAP), locally famous for crab cakes, salmon burgers, cooked lobster meat, shrimp and oysters, and for its popular, co-located, Al’s Seafood RESTAURANT, (MAP) serving boiled lobster, chowders and fried, grilled and baked seafood (closed on Mondays).