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Plan A Trip To New Hampshire

If you and your partner can’t agree on landscapes or seascapes for your getaway, New Hampshire might just be the place for you. It’s the perfect babymoon destination or couples retreat while the kids are at the grandparents. Read on for more.

As the owner of ParentsCanada, I was recently invited to visit New Hampshire for a five-day trip and to check out all that it has to offer. New Hampshire is easily accessible by air from Toronto or Montreal, but living in Oakville, Ont., I decided to buckle up for the nine-hour car trip rather than stand in line at the airport, and was I glad I did! The scenic drive through the canopies of trees, small towns and fun shopping destinations (you bet I did a little retail therapy) of the eastern US were almost as stunning as our destination itself. Before I knew it, we had arrived in our first destination: Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Portsmouth

Nestled just 60 miles north of Boston, Portsmouth is one of New England’s most popular port towns. Located on the ocean—New Hampshire has 13km of shoreline—this town is a gem! It has plenty of interesting shops (and tax-free shopping across the entire state), great food, waterfront views and a rich history. We loved it so much that we even looked at real estate! We took the Portsmouth Harbor Sunset Cruise to get acclimated to the town and its surrounding oceanfront then retreated to our accommodation for the night. We stayed at the Port Inn & Suites right off the highway. The rooms are small, but the beds are cozy and if you pack a lot of luggage like we do, nothing beats pulling right up to the door of your hotel room.

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Formerly a bustling colonial port, Portsmouth served as the seat of New Hampshire’s provincial government until the American Revolution. A visit to Strawbery Banke Museum was a must, in order to immerse ourselves in this town’s incredibly rich history. Strawbery Banke Museum is a 10-acre outdoor museum featuring more than 30 historic buildings and historic gardens, and the staff are amazing at bringing 300+ years of history to life with costumed role players, traditional craft demonstrations and interesting house tours. 

Miller State Park

What struck me most about our trip to New Hampshire was just how many opportunities there were to engage with the diversity of nature. We left the seaside for a view atop the mountains at Miller State Park. Located in Peterborough (about 90 minutes from Portsmouth), Miller State Park is located on a 2,290-foot mountain called Pack Monadnock and is the oldest state-run park in New Hampshire. “Pack” means “little” in the language of the Abenaki Native Americans who first lived in the region. We drove up the 1.3-mile paved road to a scenic summit, where, on a clear day, you can see Mount Washington, the skyscrapers of Boston and the hills of Vermont. 

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Fuller Gardens

A must-see for gardening enthusiasts is Fuller Gardens in North Hampton. This public botanical garden was once part of the summer estate of former Massachusetts governor Alvan T. Fuller. The grounds were designed in the 1920s and feature some 1700 rose bushes that usually bloom from June through October, a Japanese garden and a conservatory.

Rhododendron State Park

Located in Fitzwilliam, about a two-hour drive from Portsmouth, Rhododendron State Park features an accessible 0.6-mile trail loop. We were serenaded by song birds as we walked through. The park is known for its grove of bright pink rhododendrons that bloom in mid-July. The 16-acre grove of Rhododendron Maximum is the largest in northern New England and was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1982. The state park website has a bloom report so you can try to plan your visit to see the flowers in action.

Keene and Cornish

After the Rhododendron State Park, we drove to the charming town of Keene, located only 30 minutes away, which is home to the most spectacular murals I’ve ever seen. The Keene Walldogs murals average 350 sq. ft. and are painted to last for decades. The Walldogs are a group of artists who painted external billboards and murals as advertisements from the 1890s to the mid-1900s. They were called walldogs because they were known for working like “dogs” through the summer heat. Today, the term walldog is used for the talented sign painters and mural artists who have embraced this tradition. After dinner, we rested our heads at the Courtyard Keene Downtown – Courtyard by Marriott located right in town.

An hour away from Keene is Cornish, which is home to the US’s longest covered bridge. We channeled Meryl Streep from the movie “The Bridges of Madison County” before moving on to our next stop. 

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Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park

We hadn’t had enough of the gardens in New Hampshire—there are so many beautiful ones to visit—so we hit the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park, which was home to one of America’s foremost sculptors, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. This stop was one of our favourites.  Roaming the grounds amongst the many sculptures was incredible.  

Sunapee and Hanover

After the gardens, we headed to Sunapee, a tiny, quaint town where we boarded the famous MV MT Sunapee 11 for a two-hour cruise around Lake Sunapee, which is known as the “waters of the flying goose.”

Before departing New Hampshire, we had to visit Hanover, a town often cited as one of the best places to live in the United States and a town that’s best known for Dartmouth College, the nation’s northernmost Ivy League school. 

Itinerary Highlights

Six South Street Hotel
For an upscale experience, I highly recommend this hotel. We stayed there on our last night and enjoyed some time in the beautiful lobby and bar.

Ceres Bakery
What a treat! This neighbourhood bakeshop has been making delicious lunches and home-made baked goods since 1980 and is a much talked about landmark in Portsmouth. We enjoyed a blueberry scone and shared a breakfast sandwich. 

Flag Hill Distillery & Winery
Sitting on 110 acres of conservation land, this farm switched from a dairy farm to a vineyard in 1987. They make both wine and whiskey and for $10 each we tried five delicious wines each, and we picked up a bottle of whiskey to take home.

Library Restaurant
Located in the Rockingham House, this is one of Portsmouth’s most valued historic landmarks that have housed some famous names including George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. 

Brewbakers Cafe
Located in Keene, this bright and beautiful eatery makes their own craft organic coffee and baked goods. It’s a great place to grab breakfast, lunch or a quick snack.

Fireworks Restaurant
Located in Keene, this is the place to go for a delicious brick-oven pizza.

Pickity Place
The little red cottage that houses this resto was built in 1786 and seems completely untouched by time. If it looks familiar, it might be because this little cottage was chosen by Elizabeth Orton Jones as the model for her illustrations in Little Red Riding Hood. The architecture isn’t the only draw here. The five-course herbal cuisine featuring fresh herbs and edible flowers harvested from their own culinary garden draws guests from all over. Be sure to ask for their lavender lemonade. 

PINE Restaurant
Located in scenic Hanover, PINE incorporates the farm-to-table philosophy, using local ingredients found throughout New England.

Visit https://www.visitnh.gov/ to help plan your trip to New Hampshire.

For my full itinerary, please email me at [email protected]. 

This trip was organized by the New Hampshire Department of Travel and Tourism Development and some elements were compensated. Opinions as always, are my own.

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