Visit Picturesque Rye Harbor

Midsummer day with surf breaking over the jetty at Rye Harbor

Above, surf breaking over the South Jetty at well-protected Rye Harbor, and from left to right below, a July sunrise over the recreational pier, Captain Tom Davis completing his early morning pre-departure checklist aboard the M/V Uncle Oscar, a seagull perched on a moored skiff and Rye Harbor’s F/V Pinwheel bringing home another tuna.

Rye harbor sits in roughly the middle of Rye, New Hampshire’s eighteen-mile coastline, bookended between two State of New Hampshire beaches, and immediately adjacent to Rye Harbor State Park, on land, and between Hampton Harbor to the South, and Portsmouth Harbor to the North by sea.

Rye Harbor is indeed one of the most scenic locations along New Hampshire’s comparatively short coastline. (MAP) First visited by Samuel de Champlain in 1603, Rye Harbor is the setting for The Last Run, Stephen Clarkson’s fine novel about rum-running between Canada and New England in the 1920s.  Every Rye resident and Rye Harbor visitor should order a copy from Amazon.

The Harbor is not just for boaters and whale watchers.  It has become a regular breakfast, lunch and dinner destination for hundreds of summer visitors and local residents who flock there any day that the sun is shining (that is, most summer days between Memorial Day and Labor Day) to take in the scenery while enjoying a fresh lobster roll and chowder on the picnic tables beside the Rye Harborside snack bar or on the waterside park benches outside the Port Authority office.  The Harbor has also become a very popular breakfast destination for cyclists (and families) who come to Rye Harborside to enjoy grilled muffins and freshly cooked-to-order breakfast sandwiches from the picnic tables while watching the commercial fishing boats come and go.

Rye Harbor is also the home of the Rye Harbor Lobster Pound, which has developed a cult-like following of local residents who rave about its mass-produced (in Massachusetts, pardon the pun), aggressively promoted “Fluffy Chowder”, a phenomenon that Visit New Hampshire’s editors have followed closely.  (See the Editor’s Note in the Rye Harbor Food Vendors section at the end.)

Rye Harbor is, of course, also the home port for the M/V Granite State, a 100-passenger, 65-foot, naturalist-led, Whale Watching excursion boat, and the 49-passenger M/V Uncle Oscar (pictured at their birth, at right, on a rain-check day) that makes twice daily, five-mile ferry runs to the Isles of Shoals

And, the 36-foot Sailing Vessel Persistence, operated by experienced Captain Rick Philbrick, offering half-day, full-day, overnight and multi-day charters, as well as group and individual sailing lessons.

Six-Pack Fishing Charter Operators at Rye Harbor

The six following, Rye Harbor-based, so-called “six-pack” charter operators are licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry up to six passengers on near-shore and deep-sea tuna and striper fishing trips.  The six listed below are well known to Rye Harbor management and to Visit New Hampshire, and all six are highly recommended by our editors.

Black Dog Charters 

F/V Black Dog (pictured at left)

Captain Butch Tuttle

(603)964-0075 

Seacoast NH Sportfishing 

Captain Bob Weathersby (at left)

F/V Yellow Fin

603.394.5807

South End Charters

F/V Alexandra

Captain Ted Alex (at left)

(603) 235-3960

Harvester Fishing Charters

Captain Peter Aikens, lll

F/V Harvester (at left)

603.926.0264

Vintage Fish Company 

Captain Adam Baker (far left)

F/V Valhalla 

(603) 686-6606

Tontine Fishing Charters

Captain Patrick Dennehy

F/V Tontine (up to 12 passengers)

(603) 235-3960

Getting to Rye Harbor

Directions: The GPS address, 1870 Ocean Blvd, will get you close.

If arriving by land.  From Manchester and points North and West, exit Route 101 then bear right in Stratham onto Atlantic Avenue (Route 111 east) and follow it to the end.  Turn left onto Ocean Boulevard, and follow it, with the North Atlantic visible to the right, to Rye Harbor, 3.5 miles ahead.   From Boston, exit onto Route 101 East toward Hampton Beach, take the spur to the end, then turn left on Ocean Boulevard.

Rye Harbor is six miles from downtown Portsmouth and eight miles along Ocean Boulevard from the Hampton Beach Bandshell at the center of the Hampton Beach State Park.   (Click on the MAP at right).

If arriving by sea:  Pick up the Morse A buoy on approach, then follow the green buoys inside the protected breakwaters.

View Rye Harbor Tides here.

Parking and Boat Storage

Outside winter and summer storage for trailered boats and a launch ramp.

An 80-car parking lot for visitors, which fills up occasionally on busy summer and holiday weekends 

The boat-launch fee is $10. 

All-day parking is $5 gleefully collected by the Harbor’s friendly and refined parking attendants.

Rye Harbor Food Vendors

EDITOR’S NOTE: We can’t remember having a bowl of clam chowder that we didn’t like, and there is no place better than on the New Hampshire Seacoast, and in particular, at Rye Harbor, to enjoy one.   

Rye Harbor has become the destination of choice for resident lobster roll and clam chowder aficionados, where there are two vendors currently serving these Rye Harbor specialties to visitors.  

The Rye Harbor Lobster Pound has become quite popular for its “Fluffy Chowder” which our editors feel is overrated and overpriced (see the parody website, FluffyChowder.com, which contains at least a grain of truth).  The Lobster Pound’s chowder is, indeed, manufactured in Massachusetts and comes to the Harbor in boxes.  Moreover, the frozen lobster in its lobster rolls also arrives at Rye Harbor in boxes, cryo-packed in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

On the other hand, our editors have often observed the Rye Harborside proprietor’s daily ritual of bringing her own live lobsters in, from her own lobster boat, early each morning, for preparation of the freshest of lobster rolls by lunchtime.  (Rye Harborside also serves breakfast, as noted above, as well as hot dogs and hamburgers and a limited menu of sandwiches for children and non-seafood lovers.)

In conclusion, it doesn’t take an aficionado to know that fresh lobster is better than frozen lobster, and that less expensive lobster rolls made from the former are always a better value than more expensive lobster rolls made from the latter, or that chowder that comes in big boxes may be overrated.