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The 5 Most Charming Beaches in New Hampshire

by Jessie Frizzell  |  Published April 22, 2024

New Hampshire’s beaches, though often overlooked, offer a relaxing seaside escape away from the crowds of some of the more well-known beach vacation spots in the Northeast. 

(Photo: Jessie Frizzell)

When people visit New Hampshire they often come for the rolling hills and craggy, granite-capped peaks of the White Mountains or the vibrant colors of the trees erupting into rolling hills of crimson and ochre and butter-yellow come fall. New Hampshire has long served as a vacation destination and retreat to nature, though it is rarely visited just for its 13 miles of coastline. But the sandy beaches of the New Hampshire oceanfront, scattered between slabs of granite and slate cliffs, are almost all public and a worthy destination for anyone looking for peace, tranquility and a few good spots for surfing. From secret inlets to expansive state parks, here are some of the most charming beaches in New Hampshire.

Seabrook Beach

(Photo: Jessie Frizzell)

Just on the border of Massachusetts, Seabrook Beach is one of the largest beaches in New Hampshire, stretching over the Mass border to Salisbury at its far end. Seabrook Beach sits directly south of the infamous Hampton Beach and Boardwalk, with a sliver of a channel dividing the two. It’s quieter than its neighbor to the north and far more stunning. Some of the last natural sand dunes in the state flank the western side of the beach. Tufts of local grasses and beach plumb bushes rise up from the top of the dunes, creating an idyllic backdrop and giving this beach a sense of privacy and seclusion. From May to July, visitors can take a walk along the high water line and scan for sea turtle nests. Continuing along the beach, they’ll find a small inlet on the north end where sometimes, if they’re lucky, they can see dolphins jumping in and out of the water during high tide.

Jenness Beach

(Photo: Jessie Frizzell)

In the charming New Hampshire town of Rye, locals favor Jenness State Beach. Jenness sits between two rocky points, which protect this mile of sand from the aggressive surf often churned up by the ocean. The calmer waters of this beach make it ideal for swimming, even with the chilled-down temperatures of the northern Atlantic. It also serves as a great beach for those who wish to learn how to surf on more modest waves before advancing to something more intense. Across the street, there’s a surf shop where aspiring surfers can take lessons and rent gear. The Sandpiper Cafe offers locally sourced bagels, smoothies, and bowls like their Baja bowl made with acai, banana, crisp granola, and honey. The perfect sweet and refreshing snack for a long day at the beach. Parking is extremely limited, with only 67 spots in the lot. So, if it’s full, be sure to head north on Route 1A and take a short drive along Old Beach Road to check for roadside spots near different beach access points – a tip from a local.

Pirates Cove/Wallis Sands State Beach

(Photo: Jessie Frizzell)

Pirates Cove/Wallis Sands is unique because it essentially divides into two halves, offering two different beaches in one place. Massive granite boulders separate Wallis Sands State Beach on the northernmost end of the beach. Although the beach itself is small (less than a quarter mile from end to end), the public parking lot is expansive (one of the largest in the state), and it’s super easy to walk over the wave break and find a quiet patch of sand on the Pirate’s Cove side. Pirate’s Cove, a local favorite, provides a sense of privacy that makes it unique. The entire oceanfront (aside from a few small parking lots reserved for locals with beach parking passes) is privately owned up to the high water line. While the beach itself is public, private homes line the shore, limiting parking. On the southern end of the beach, rocks accessible only during low tide make for great tide pooling.

North Hampton State Beach 

(Photo: Jessie Frizzell)

During high tide, this beach measures only a few yards long, making it one of the smallest in the state. However, even during high tide, you can still sit along the old granite wall and watch the waves or the sunrise on a clear morning, which remains lovely. When the tide recedes, you can cross over the sandbar to the rest of North Hampton Beach. The south side of this beach has stunning homes lining it and separates from the rest of the shoreline by a sandbar that you can only pass during low tide. Even on a gorgeous sunny day, this beach is rarely crowded. One of the best features of North Hampton State Beach is its proximity to the original Beach Plumb, which offers one of the best lobster rolls in New England and a massive list of handmade ice creams. It’s the perfect place to camp out all day away from the tourist crowds and noise of some of the larger state beaches; just make sure to check the tides so that you don’t get stuck.

The Wall/North Beach

(Photo: Jessie Frizzell)

Locally known as The Wall and officially designated as North Beach, this is the place where people go surfing. Unlike many of the New Hampshire beaches, The Wall has full exposure to the Atlantic, so the waves often reach a size suitable for shredding, rather than the longboard cruising that is most common in the Northeast. North Beach acquired its local name from the large wall that lines its back perimeter, with a walkway right next to it. This wall offers protection, making it an excellent spot to watch the surfers when the waves really roll in from a storm swell. Though this beach is long, the sand area is limited. When the tide is high, the beach reduces to just the rocks and flat slabs of granite laid out on the ocean side of the wall. If the objective of the day is simply to relax in the sun by the water, this beach provides ample parking, and hanging out on top of the wall is almost as enjoyable (and certainly as popular) as sitting in the sand.