Heading North through Hampton, Rye, and Portsmouth
There are only two lighthouses on New Hampshire’s 17 miles of coastline. Portsmouth Harbor Light was built by the British inside a military fortification and became the sight of one of the first acts by the Colonists against the British that started he Revolutionary War. Portsmouth was and still is an important shipping and trade port and Portsmouth Harbor Light was built to guide mariners through the treacherous currents of the Piscataqua River into Portsmouth.
White Island Light, sometimes referred to as the Isles of Shoals lighthouse, was built among a series of islands called the Isles of Shoals to guide mariners around these rocky islands. The Isles of Shoals has many stories including the belief that the pirate Black Beard buried his treasure there, although it has never been found.
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse:
You Can Drive or Hike To
Note: Portsmouth Llighthouse mentioned below, which you can drive to, can also be viewed from various boat tours offered, see Boat Tours below. Southern Maine and New Hampshire is heavily populated during the summer with tourism.
Click any lighthouse link below to find out information about each lighthouse including historic snapshots, directions, more photos, and links for places to visit.
White Island (Isles of Shoals) Lighthouse:
Best Viewed by Boat
Places to Visit Nearby:
New Hampshire Seacoast Region
Although New Hampshire’s seacoast is only 18 miles long; there are plenty of parks, beaches and tours for visitors, including Hampton Beach, which is New Hampshire's longest beach with plenty of concerts at the Hampton Casino Ballroom.
As you travel along coastal Route 1A, you'll enjoy some picturesque views of coastal Victorian and 20th century mansions. Fuller Gardens is a turn of the century public botanical garden, located along the shoreline in North Hampton. The Rye Harbor State Marina offers plenty of fishing, lobstering, and whale watch expeditions.
Atlantic Aquasport offers diving expeditions off White Island, near Isles of Shoals lighthouse.
Star Island Cottages
|The Isles of Shoals are 9 islands split between the New Hampshire and Maine borders. They are a beautiful location for tourists, writers and artists alike. Granite State Whale Watch offers sunset tours to the Isles of Shoals Lighthouse in the summer season, and Island Cruises offers stopovers at nearby Star Island where visitors can eat at the Victorian Era Oceanic Hotel and explore Star Island and its timely stone cottages, while enjoying views of the Isles of Shoals lighthouse on nearby White Island. Isles of Shoals Steamship Company out of Portsmouth provides daily and sunset tours out to the Isles of Shoals.|
Historic Portsmouth offers many cultural events, tours, and theater events you can enjoy along with plenty of specialty shops and restaurants. During the summer months, you can enjoy the beautiful gardens, take in an outdoor theater play, and visit various arts festivals at Prescott Park. In Portsmouth, you can explore the Albacore Submarine Museuminside the real USS Albacore submarine, the prototype for modern submarines used today. Strawbery Banke next door offers an outdoor museum depicting how coastal people people lived from the late l7th to the mid-20th centuries. Narrated tours by the Seacoast Trolley Company provide views of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse and Whaleback Lighthouse during their tours of historic areas in Portsmouth. To cool off on a hot summer day, visit New England's largest water park at Water Country off Route 1 in Portsmouth.
The Music Hall, built in the late 1800’s, provides visitors with film, music, theater, and dance performances year round.
Sunset on Marina
|The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company and Portsmouth Harbor Cruises offer narrated tours that pass by Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, along New Castle Island, and out to the Isles of Shoals. The Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses provide tours inside Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse during the summer months.|
Lighthouse historian and FPHL founder, Jeremy D’Entremont, offers Lighthouse Tours around Portsmouth and up Maine’s coast, and also helps in seting up tours of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.
The scenic oceanside park of Great Island Common, located on New Castle Island which you can drive to, offers a small beach, open spaces for recreation and picnicking, and views of Portsmouth Harbor and Whaleback lighthouses. You can also walk around the grounds of Fort Constitution nearby and get very close views of Portsmouth Harbor lighthouse.
In the autumn, explore nearby Ordiorne State park for some breathtaking scenery. The Seacoast Science Center offers extensive programs and exhibits in marine education and is located on Odiorne Point Park with wooded seaside trails and shoreline beach. The Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve provides an opportunity to hike and learn about the Native American cultures that thrived in the area.
Autumn at Odiorne Park
Boat Tours: New Hampshire Seacoast, Isles of Shoals,
and Portsmouth Harbor
Boat cruises mentioned below offer many types of cruises. Most offer specific lighthouse cruises, and some will pass by specific lighthouses as part of charters, narrated wildlife and historic tours, ferrying passengers, whale watching, fishing tours and other types of excursions.
Isles of Shoals Steamship Co.
Provides narrated history of Portsmouth Harbor and Isles of Shoals tour that provide close up views of lighthouses. Dinner and nightlife cruises.
315 Market Street,
P.O. Box 311
Portsmouth, NH 03801
Lighthouses: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (NH), White Island Light (NH), Whaleback Lighthouse (ME), Boon Island Lighthouse (ME), Nubble Lighthouse (ME)
Portsmouth Harbor Cruises
Narrated Portsmouth Harbor cruise provides visitors a historical tour of nearly 400 years of the area's history, and a chance to view Portsmouth and Whaleback lighthouses. The Isles of Shoals Cruise covers all nine islands and provides close views of White Island Light.
64 Ceres Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801
Lighthouses: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (NH), White Island Light (NH), Whaleback Lighthouse (ME)
Sailboat charters to the Isles of Shoals and Portsmouth from Rye Harbor.
Contact: Captain Rick Philbrick
Malagar Group LLC
188 Bunker Hill Ave
Stratham NH 03885
Lighthouses: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (NH), White Island Light (NH), and Whaleback Lighthouse (ME)
Various tours to the islands along the Isles of Shoals. Stop over to eat at the Oceanic Hotel and explore Star Island. The founder of the “Lighthouse Kids” who raised funds to help the Isles of Shoals Light, Sue Reynolds, owns the boat.
Rye Harbor State Marina
Rte 1-A Ocean Blvd
P.O. Box 66
Rye, NH 03870
Lighthouses: White Island Light (Isles of Shoals)
Sunrise Adventure Charters
Two-hour Portsmouth Harbor tour and Isles of Shoals cruises that provide close views of the lighthouses. Deep sea fishing excursions aboard a 25-foot Sport Cabin boat.
(603) 345-4946 or (603) 424-4946
Lighthouses: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, White Island Light, and Whaleback Lighthouse
Granite State Whale Watch
Besides daily whale watching tours, they offer a narrated sunset tour of the Isles of Shoals, which includes White Island, providing close up views of White Island Lighthouse, followed afterwards with fireworks near Hampton Beach.
1870 Ocean Boulevard
Rye, NH 03870
Lighthouses: White Island Light (Isles of Shoals)
The Friends Of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, in cooperation with Granite State Whale Watch, has a special lighthouse cruise in September that takes visitors around Boon Island light in Maine, and 4 other local lighthouses. They will also be having a couple sunset lighthouse cruises to view Portsmouth Harbor light, Whaleback light, and White Island light in June.
Directions to Rye Harbor Marina
From Rte 95 South:
- Take Exit 3B. Right onto Rte 33 East.
- Go 1.4 miles to 4th light; right onto Peverly Hill Rd. (becomes Elwyn Rd.)
- Go 2 miles to Rte 1A; south 6 miles to Rye Harbor State Marina.
- Take Exit 2 onto Rte 101 West. Follow 1 mile.
- Take exit 12. Right onto Rte 111 East.
- Follow 6.4 miles to Rte 1-A.
- Left onto Rte 1-A North. 3 miles to Rye Harbor State Marina.
From Rte 95 North:
Directions to Portsmouth Docks
From Route I-95:
- From Route I-95 North take Exit 5 to the Portsmouth Traffic Circle. From I-95 South, take NH Exit 7, then LEFT at lights.
- At the traffic circle, take your second right on to the Route 1 Bypass North (Towards Maine)
- Take the 2nd exit on to Maplewood Avenue and make a right at the end of the ramp.
- Proceed to first set of lights and take a left onto Deer Street.
- Follow Deer Street to the end, take a left at the stop sign and the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company dock is located on the right just after the salt pile across from the Sheraton Harborside.
- For Portsmouth Harbor Cruises, just past the Sheraton Hotel on your right, you will see a small alley on your left marked "Private Way and the "Olde Harbour District". This is Ceres Street where you’ll find the dock.
Directions to Hampton State Pier
From the North:
- Take I-95 South to the Hampton toll booth.
- Take Exit 2 and Route 101 East until you reach the beach.
- Turn right. Drive about 1 mile until just before the Hampton-Seabrook bridge.
- Exit on the right.
From the South:
- Take I-95 North to just over the New Hampshire state line.
- Take Exit 60.
- At the second set of lights, take a left onto Route 286.
- Follow all the way to the beach.
- Turn left. Go about 1.5 miles.
- Just past the Hampton River Bridge on the left.
For Coastal New Hampshire (and Southern Maine) Visitors
My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, published by Schiffer Publishing, provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses, along with the coastal attractions and tours near each beacon, and contact info to plan your special trips. You'll find over 360 images inside as well. I'll be happy to sign it for you here, or you'll find it in any fine bookstore.