Just an hour away from Boston, the seaside town of Rye, New Hampshire offers beautiful beaches, tasty seafood, and plenty of coastal fun.
New Hampshire’s seacoast is famously short, just eighteen miles, and of its few towns, Rye is home to the largest amount of coastline. While it might not have the fanfare of Hampton or the bustle of downtown Portsmouth, Rye (sandwiched right between the two on Route 1A) offers stunning ocean views, beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, and easy access to nature.
More than half of Rye’s 35.5 square miles are wetlands or marshes. You may even see folks set up with an easel, capturing the beauty of the sea and wetlands on canvas.
A short distance from the ocean, Rye has a charming little town square where the library, town hall, Congregational church, and historical society are located.
Bountiful fishing drew early settlers and small farms developed through the nineteenth century with a tradition of frugality and hardy self-sufficiency. During the Victorian era, Rye was known throughout the eastern United States as a first- class summer resort. None of the numerous large wooden hotels and boarding houses of that period remain on the mainland and today the Town is primarily residential.
The 2010 census credited Rye with a population of 5,298 residents, many of whom volunteer to serve through community organizations and our numerous Town boards, committees and commissions. Residents take pride in the degree of civic engagement demonstrated by means of participation in local activities and are dedicated to preservation of a semi-rural environment. Rye voters have consistently supported marsh restoration, acquisition of open space and protection of our coastal resources.
There are many beautiful beaches in Rye to enjoy. Jenness State Beach has a sandy beach, bathhouse, and metered parking for nearly 70 cars, plus the added benefit of Summer Sessions Surf Shop and the Jenness Beach Seaside Grill across the street where you can rent surf or paddle boards or grab a healthy bite to eat.
Less than a ten minute drive north from Jenness, Wallis Sands State Beach is another sandy beach with a bathhouse equipped with hot and cold showers, plus a parking lot with room for 500 cars (at $15 per day, per carload). On a clear day, the Isles of Shoals are visible in the distance, and a snack bar is nearby for food and drinks.
Hungry? There are several dining options in Rye, from classic fried seafood and lobster rolls to ice cream and burgers. Our family always makes a few visits throughout the year to either Petey’s Summertime Seafood or Rays Seafood. For more upscale dining, great atmosphere and delicious food, the favorite for locals is The Carriage House or The Atlantic Grill. Both offer an extensive menu, cozy bars and “fresh off the boat” seafood
Beyond the beaches themselves, there are lots of options for keeping busy. Abenaqui Country Club is a private golf club with beautiful grounds, clubhouse and pro-shop. While not open to the public, we always enjoy our walks past the beautifully manicured lawns and greens on our way to the beach. Back at Rye Harbor, you can board a boat for a deep- sea fishing excursion, whale watch, scenic boat cruise, or ferry to nearby Star Island.
You can also head a few miles north of Rye Harbor to the fantastic 330-acre
Odiorne Point State Park, named after the Odiorne family that first settled the area in the 1600’s. The land was privately owned and home to a number of grand summer homes and resorts until 1942, when the government purchased the property to build Fort Dearborn to protect the Portsmouth Harbor and the Naval Shipyard nearby during World War II and the 1950’s. In 1961, the land was sold back to the state for $91,000.
The park is a gem, with rocky coasts, flowering bushes, remnants of WWII fortifications and bunkers, a kid-friendly Science Center, and plenty of perfect spots to enjoy a picnic lunch (picnic tables included) or explore the many tide pools.
Popular with children and families, the year-round Seacoast Science Center was built in 1992. Inside, find touch tanks, interpretive exhibits, and the largest public display of marine mammal skeletons in northern New England, including a 32-foot humpback whale skeleton.