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New Hampshire Seacoast Lighthouses

portsmouth harbor lighthouse

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 image or link below to find out information about each lighthouse including historic snapshots, directions, more photos, and links for places to visit.

portsmouth lighthouse

Portsmouth Light


White Island (Isles of Shoals) Lighthouse:
Best Viewed by Boat

isles of shoals lighthouse

White Island (Isles of Shoals) Light



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.

It is New Hampshire's longest beach with plenty of concerts at the Hampton Casino Ballroom. playing volleyball on Hampton Beach

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

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 sometimes 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 get great close up views of the Isles of Shoals (White Island) lighthouse.

Oceanic Hotel Here visitors can eat and stay over 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 and special events at Prescott Park. replica of Spanish galleon vessel
Replica of Spanish Galleon
Across Prescott Park During Festival.

In Portsmouth, you can explore the Albacore Submarine Museum inside the real USS Albacore submarine, the prototype for modern submarines used today.

Strawbery Banke with its Colonial and Federal architecture restored buildings 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 on new castle island in portsmouth

Sunset on Marina
New Castle, NH

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.

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.

autumn foliage in ordiorne park

Autumn at Odiorne Park
Rye, NH

The Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve provides an opportunity to hike and learn about the Native American cultures that thrived in the area.


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, nature, and weekly Isles of Shoals cruises that will drop you off and pick you up at Star Island for half and full day excursions. This is the largest vessel in the region, and provides dinner and nightlife cruises.
315 Market Street,
P.O. Box 311
Portsmouth, NH 03801
(603) 431-5500
(800) 441-4620

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
(603) 436-8084
(800) 776-0915

Lighthouses: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (NH), White Island Light (NH), Whaleback Lighthouse (ME)


Seabourne Sailing
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
Rye, NH
(603) 778-1372

Lighthouses: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (NH), White Island Light (NH), and Whaleback Lighthouse (ME)



Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses

Besides offering weekly tours of the tower of Portsmouth Harbor light in the summertime, including haunted lighthouse tours, they also organize special narrated sunset lighthouse cruises that pass by Portsmouth Harbor light, Whaleback light, and White Island (Isles of Shoals) light. There is also an annual 5-lighthouse cruise in September that also includes Nubble (Cape Neddick) light, and Boon Island light.
P.O. Box 8232
Portsmouth, NH 03802-5092
Phone: (603) 534-0537

Lighthouses: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (NH), White Island Light (NH), Whaleback Lighthouse (ME), Boon Island Lighthouse (ME), Nubble Lighthouse (ME)


Island Cruises
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
(603) 964-6446

Lighthouses: White Island Light (Isles of Shoals)



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
(603) 964-5545

Lighthouses: White Island Light (Isles of Shoals)



Cove Runner Coastline Cruises
Private intimate trips (up to 6 passengers) along the southern coast of Maine to destinations of your choice, in a smooth riding 23’ power catamaran. Cooler (BYOB), Bluetooth sound system, comfortable seating and a full-sized head provided. Enjoy seal sightings and other wildlife. Departs out of Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine.

Captain Bob Spencer
(207) 216-2844

Lighthouses: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (NH), White Island Light (NH), Whaleback Lighthouse (ME), Boon Island Lighthouse (ME), Nubble Lighthouse (ME)


Directions to NH Seacoast Marinas

Directions to Rye Harbor Marina

From Rte 95 South:

Directions to Portsmouth Docks

From Route I-95:

Directions to Hampton State Pier

From the North:



Additional Resources
For Coastal New Hampshire (and Southern Maine) Visitors

New Hampshire Seacoast Attractions

Southern Maine Coast

New Hampshire Out Of The Way Attractions

New Hampshire and Southern Maine Coastal News

Things To Do

Portsmouth Attractions

New Hampshire and Great Bay Tide Charts




My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, 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.

Look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and local coastal attractions




You can order these books through any pages on this website, and I'll be happy to personally sign and ship them to you anywhere inside the United States. You can also order from the publisher, Schiffer Books, who can ship anywhere globally.



Price is lower at $24.95 if purchased here.


Table of Contents

Over 50 famous stories with lots of details in my book New England Lighthouses: Famous Shipwrecks, Rescues, and Other Tales

There is a detailed story about acting lighthouse keeper, John Bragg Downs, saving members of a Russian brig during a blizzard at White Island Lighthouse, and Keeper Joshua Card's life and his ghost afterwards at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, among many others.

The book contains, along with my photographs, paintings by six famous artists for the Coast Guard, and vintage images from the Coast Guard, museums, and special collectors.


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