We rarely get the opportunity to share with current and future UNH families why the seacoast area of New Hampshire is so uniquely captivating. Here’s why you have to allot ‘extra’ time when visiting our campus this year.
Portsmouth is the largest city along the NH seacoast and the harbor stretches from the Atlantic all the way to the edge of Durham. The 3rd oldest city in the US, Portsmouth features colonial America at it’s finest. Historic Strawberry Banke with it’s 17th century homes traces some 400 years of British settlement along the banks of the Portsmouth Harbor. An outdoor living museum, it features authentically restored homes, shops, period gardens and costumed inhabitants who present the daily life of colonial New England.
Once one of the busiest seaports on the Atlantic Portsmouth expressed it’s wealth in fine architecture. Beautiful examples of Colonial, Georgian and Federal style houses have survived here for decades, many restored to their original elegance. A walk in the center of town reveals stately brick Federalist shops and townhouses. Following the great fire of 1813 when over 200 buildings burned to the ground, the town instituted a brick and slate roof mandate which produced the town center’s distinctive look. Restaurants, shops, bookstores, coffee shops and local watering spots are sprinkled throughout the town center.
The 10 mile trip from campus to the heart of Portsmouth travels along the shoreline of Great Bay, revealing historic farms and rolling pastures. The fall is a particularly beautiful time of year to explore our area as the leaves begin their yearly transformation into shades of gold, orange and brilliant reds.
Along the harbor waterfront there are several different cruise lines offering fall excursions to outlying islands and around the harbor area. There are daily trips to the Isle of Shoals, a string of islands that served as fishing grounds for French and English settlers in the 1600′s and later were transformed into a respite with the construction of a large 18th century hotel built for summer visitors. Today the islands serve as home to seal colonies, a UNH Marine Laboratory, a conference center and a wildlife sanctuary.
The coastal towns that stretch along the Atlantic are some of the most beautiful in all of New England. Small beach communities populate the 20 mile stretch of coastline and in the summer vacationers flock to the area. A drive down route 1A reveals a mix of rocky coastline, sandy beaches, historic inns and elegant ocean front homes. The historic Wentworth Hotel sits just south of Portsmouth and served as a destination resort in the late 1800′s. Flanked by a spectacular harbor and ocean front golf course, this stately gem remains a sought after destination over a century later.
Some 40 years ago when first visiting the state I fell in love with the history. There is something uniquely captivating about being surrounded by it; not simply observing it in a museum. For me that remains as true today as it did in 1972. I still enjoy the striking architecture, the ancient white lighthouses that dot the rocky shoals, the two hundred year old farms that still operate and the sense that while much has changed…..many things remain the same. Things move a little slower in this part of New England. Far enough removed from the frantic urban pace of Boston, the NH seacoast is a gem that attracts millions of visitors every year.
For parents, relatives, friends and loved ones who venture into our little corner of northeast this fall to cheer on the Wildcats, make sure you make some time to explore the area. If you love history as I do then you’ll be enamored with the chance to walk down cobbled alleys, explore living museums, stroll our sandy beaches and see communities and towns lost in time. It’s one of the unique facets of New England life and no where is it more compelling and attractive than along our seacoast here in New Hampshire. Enjoy!