NH coastline offers more than boardwalk and crowds

If you’ve talked about going to the beach in New Hampshire, you’ve undoubtedly been asked if you went to Hampton.

While parking shortages, boardwalk shops and crowds of high schoolers and twenty-somethings may be for some people, it’s not for me.  That’s why my family and I explore some of the other great options the NH seacoast area has to offer.

The beach at Great Island Commons

There are many beaches along the 18 miles of NH coast, sans trashiness.  Our favorite is the Great Island Commons in New Castle, NH.  More commonly known as New Castle Beach, this area offers a little bit of everything and would even make a great stop for a late season beach day (according to the website it’s open 365 days/year).

We’ve visited this beach twice this summer and both times we had no difficulty finding a spot in the sand with plenty of elbow room.  After paying the small day-use fee ($3 for adults, $1 for youth 6+) we easily found parking spots and took the short walk through shady picnic areas to the beach.  After dropping our gear, setting up our umbrella and eating lunch, we spent our time on the beach building sand creations and exploring the tidal pools on the rocks jutting out of the water just off the shoreline.

My young boys (my wife and I too) enjoyed climbing on the rocks and exploring the shallow waters and tidal pools surrounding them.  We particularly enjoyed catching the snails and crabs that make these rocks their home.

Pools of water on the rocks team with sea life.

This beach also has a unique aesthetic appeal.  With two lighthouses and and an island house visible just off the coast, the Great Island Commons offers beautiful landscapes.  The gently curving beach, book ended by jagged rocks and light harbor traffic, along with the lighthouses, make this portion of NH coastline a real treat for the eyes.

The Commons itself is also a beautiful space.  Upon entering the park, you are greeted by a large, well manicured grassy field, ringed by small shade trees.  There are numerous pavilions and picnic spots spread out throughout the park.  The trees provide the perfect amount of shade without the overbearing feeling being in the woods can create.  There is also a nice playground for kids and a pier jutting out into the ocean for fishing.  The beach itself is well tended, with clean sand, few birds and little trash.

While you’re visiting this beach, you may want to take the time, as we did, to take the short, two-mile drive (bike ride, walk or run) and spend the evening in Portsmouth, NH.  With plenty of dining, shopping and history, this coastal city makes a great end to a day at the beach.  We drove from the Commons, parked in the city, went running and then walked around.  We visited Prescott Park, a few shops and stopped for a cold treat at Clark’s Ice Cream on State Street.

So, whether you’re looking for a beach away from the crowds, a dynamic area for the kids to explore and play or a coastal area with beautiful vistas, the Great Island Commons in New Castle is the ideal spot.


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