The state capital is Concord, although the largest city is Manchester, some 20 miles to the south.New Hampshire’s Atlantic shore – the Seacoast as it is known locally – does not compare with the coastline in Hampshire, UK. It is an 18-mile stretch whose main town is Portsmouth at the mouth of the Piscataqua river, one of the first places in America to be settled. HOW SIMILAR IS IT TO PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND? Portsmouth NH still has an old-world charm, with cobbled streets and a number of attractive, restored 18th-century mansions, most of which are only open during the summer. Close to the water’s edge is Strawberry Banke (001 603 433 1100, ), a restoration of Portsmouth’s earliest settlement. Many of the reconstructed buildings are open to the public, and although the complex has a rather folksy air about it, with actors in costume attempting to add to the period feel, it is an interesting area. The ticket booth is on Macy Street, and entrance costs $12 (Â£7.50). Strawberry Banke is closed in January; in winter (November-December, February-April) it is open Thursday-Saturday 10am-2pm, Sunday 12-2pm; in summer it opens Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm, and Sunday 12-5pm.There are regular cruises from Portsmouth harbour, which depart several times a day between early May and late October from the dock at Ceres Street (001 603 436 8084, ), not far from the Sheraton Hotel.
In addition to the hour-long harbour trips, there are also daily summer cruises to the Isles of Shoals, a group of nine offshore islands renowned, as their name suggests, for their fish stocks, but also for the pirates that once lurked there.For more information on Portsmouth, call 001 603 436 3998 or visit the website . I’D LIKE A SWIM The best of the beaches is Hampton (001 603 926 8717, ), a long sandy stretch with a lively family resort attached. During the summer season, which gets into full swing with the Memorial Day weekend (28-31 May), there is plenty of entertainment, including a sand-sculpting competition, free outdoor concerts in the Seashell Stage, and regular firework displays. BUT I WANT TO ESCAPE THE CROWDS For anyone who wants to combine water-based activities with a quieter atmosphere, the Lakes region may be a calmer choice. The area to the north-east of Concord contains 273 lakes and ponds, the largest of which is Lake Winnipesaukee. The most celebrated is Squam Lake, otherwise known as Golden Pond – the backdrop for the film that starred Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. No opportunity has been missed to exploit this Hollywood connection, and boat trips around the lake pass the locations used in the film.
These operate during the summer season (May-October) and depart from Holderness, Squam’s main town.The real highlight, though, is the opportunity to see some of New Hampshire’s wildlife at close quarters, including the loon, a black-and-white water bird often associated with the state. To maximise the number of birds and animals you see, visit the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, a large, wooded area just outside Holderness on Route 113 (001 603 968 7194, ). There are marked trails through the forest, as well as enclosures of mountain lions, black bears and other native animals, easily visible from the paths. The centre is open daily from 1 May until 1 November, from 9.30am-4.30pm, but during the winter there are weekend events and openings; entrance costs $11 (Â£6.85).The larger Lake Winnipesaukee is a lively holiday destination, with several lakeside towns, a long shoreline with rocky inlets to explore, some well-marked walking trails, and nearly 300 islands.
There are also opportunities to hire boats of various kinds: look out for Anchor Marine (001 603 366 4311, ) at Winnipesaukee Pier in Weirs Beach, on the western shore, or Trexlers Marina (001 603 253 7315, ) at Center Harbor.The most popular visitor attraction is a cruise on the MS Mount Washington, which sails the lake daily from mid-May to late October (001 603 366 5531, ). The main departure point is Weirs Beach, but it makes several other stops around the lake to pick up and drop off passengers. Tickets start at $19 (Â£12); family tickets and special deals are often available. I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL SUMMER In winter, you have the added attraction of a magical landscape, clear blue skies and deep, white snow.