Portsmouth, New Hampshire: A Guide

Click through for a guide to one of our favorite towns in New England (eats, sleeps, and do’s included!)  

If it’s not the colorful colonial homes nestled against the shore that’ll get yah, the quaint downtown that’s full of good eats, boutique shopping and scenic points of interest will definitely keep you around. This historical seaport was settled in 1623, making Portsmouth, NH, one of the oldest cities in America. Today, it’s got the perfect mix of old and new. Portsmouth is a part of the region in New England known as “the Seacoast”: A handful of picturesque towns that take over the some of the prettiest bits of land on the map. Make your way to the other side of the Piscataqua River and you’ll be shaking hands with Kittery, Maine, its next door neighbor. The easy accessibility to other towns is one of the things I loved most about Portsmouth — if you run out of things to do in town (which I doubt will happen, but, just in case), you’re only a couple minutes drive up or down the coast from your next adventure.

No matter where you choose to explore, grab a bite, or rest your head, Portsmouth is well worth a visit. Check out some of our suggestions below!

Where to explore:


Drive: If you’re into taking pictures, or just want to see some really pretty parts of New England, take a drive along the coast. Start in Rye Beach, New Hampshire, and make your way north to York, Maine. Take route 1A, then link up with route 103 once you cross the Piscataqua River. The scenic views are unreal.

Pierce Island: This 27 acre island is just 3 minutes from downtown Portsmouth, and will give you some great views of the city and the adjacent naval shipyard. If you’re visiting in the summertime, take a dip in the pierce island pool or explore one of the many walking trails.


Pickwick’s MercantileOn your way to Pierce Island, stop at Pickwick’s Mercantile, a shop that’s full of just about anything you can think of. Candles, candy, spell books, hand crafted soaps, Portsmouth memorabilia, sketch books…it’s easy to find yourself digging through this shop way longer than planned.

Jenness BeachWhile you’re in Rye, stop by Jenness Beach. Take a walk along the beautiful wide shore, or watch the surfers out in the water at this well known surf break.

Salt Cellar: Walk down some steps and make your way into the Salt Cellar, a mecca for gourmet, Himalayan, and Dead Sea Salt products. I left the store with a fresh bottle of Sriracha Himalayan salt, perfect to sprinkle on avocado toast or freshly baked bread for a spicy kick. They also offer a variety of bath products and cooking supplies!


York Wild Kingdom: Like their sign says, this is New England’s only zoo AND amusement park. Apparently, that combo is hard to come by in the northeast. We visited during the winter, so the park was closed for the season, but the road that weaves throughout the park remains open. The abandoned rides make for an eerie adventure. All of the animals were indoors, except for some goats that we were able to check out close to the road :)

What to eat: 


The Friendly Toast: It’s hard to say what to get excited about first; Either the array of wacky art that hangs about, or the free chocolate chip cookies upon entrance. The Friendly Toast is a spot favorited by all of Portsmouth. Stop in for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or a late night snack paired with a beer. During the week, they stay open until 3 am! I highly recommend ordering the Peasant with a side of their homemade anadama bread. I also heard their bloody mary’s are killer, no pun intended.


Cafe Kilim: Decorated in little bits and bobs from Istanbul, this worldly cafe serves up a mean latte and you can drink it while you shop the Turkish goods in the room next door.


Street: This Portsmouth favorite serves up street food from around the world with its own unique twist in an eclectic environment. Be sure to stop in for a bite and check out the awesome mural our friend Sam just painted!


Cava: For dinner, make your way to Cava. This tapas style restaurant is tucked away down a cobblestoned alley and serves up a menu that is continuously rotating. Click here to check out what’s being served this month.

Where to sleep: 


Ale House Inn:  This boutique hotel comes fully equipped with iPads in each room, carefully programmed to help you locate all of the best shopping, eating and sightseeing in Portsmouth. Located right on the water, request a harbor-view room to watch the boats making their way down the river. Also, the beds. The comfiest bed I’ve ever had the pleasure of sleeping on.


The Hotel Portsmouth: This hotel has history just like it’s mothering town. With the original building being built in 1881, you’ll be sleeping like a queen (or king) in this Victorian style mansion. Be sure to wake up for the gourmet small-plate complimentary breakfast and chat with one of the very friendly concierges’ that can help point you in any direction of Portsmouth!


+Have any other suggestions we should add to the guide? Let us know in the comments below!

Be sure and check out Lark Hotels to book a room the next time you’re traveling to New England!

Check out more New England content from the BLDG 25 Blog. 

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8 years ago

I’ve heard that Portsmouth is supposed to be great. Now I have more of an excuse to go see it!


8 years ago

I love when you feature places close enough for me to take a weekend trip to. Portsmouth looks lovely! Adding it to my list for 2016 <3

8 years ago

You touched on one of the best parts about growing up in New England – if you get bored, a different state is usually just a stone’s throw away. xo

8 years ago

Aww that Portsmouth is so much cuter and prettier than our Portsmouth in England.

7 years ago

The Book And Bar is also a great spot (-:

7 years ago

Portsmouth is easily one of my favorite towns in NH. Don’t forget the local arts there. Be sure to check out Lady Luck Burlesque on Facebook as well as the Sea Coast Rep (LLB currently performs here) the Music Hall, 3S, and Bullmoose music shop. There is also Deadwicks (part of Pickwicksmercantile)