From Poughkeepsie: 4 hours
Modest as New Hampshire’s coastline may be — its 18.57 miles of ocean is the shortest of any state — the Seacoast Region has numerous towns worthy of exploring, Portsmouth foremost among them. Settled in 1623 (making it the third-oldest city in the US), Portsmouth was a center for maritime trade, and the port is still an active one, but the waterfront is now better known for waterside dining.
Sit patio-side for locally caught fried clams at Old Ferry Landing or on one of three wooden decks at River House Restaurant, for seafood chowder and lobster BLTs, while taking in views of tankers and tugs on the Piscataqua River. Closer to Market Square, Portsmouth’s community and commercial hub, are breakfast specialists The Friendly Toast, European-inspired café/bakery Popovers on the Square, and perhaps the city’s top seafood spot, Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Café (try local monkfish, pollock, and diver scallops, plus a can’t-miss roasted-pear-and-radicchio salad with Port-wine drizzle).
(L to R) Tugboats on the Piscataqua River; Old Ferry Landing
Get your bearings for the historically preserved seaport (and walk off all those calories) at the Discover Portsmouth welcome center (secure a map, book a tour and watch a 10-minute film covering the city’s history). Founding father John Langdon’s Georgian House, the Wentworth-Coolidge Colonial Mansion (home to New Hampshire’s first Royal Governor) and the circa 1716 Warner House (the oldest urban brick house in northern New England) are but three of many historic estates to explore. If you’re a true history glutton, head to Strawbery Banke, a 10-acre open-air living history museum populated with 70 structures dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
STAY: Martin Hill Inn
The unhurried charm of this snug bed-and-breakfast begins even before check-in, with the stroll along the leafy garden path from the parking lot. Housed within two 19th-century structures, each of the seven guest rooms — named for such historic ships as the 1851 merchant vessel Typhoon and 20-gun frigate Ranger — sports Federal-style décor, with original pine-board floors, antique Governor Winthrop secretary desks, and four-poster beds. Fuel up for a day of exploring with a homespun two-course breakfast courtesy of innkeepers Russ Levreault and Meg Hunter (e.g., lemon ricotta pancakes, spinach-artichoke quiche), and grab a chocolate chip cookie for the leisurely 10-minute walk to Market Square. A second one, for an amble along the brick-paved waterfront, wouldn’t be a bad idea either. From $200/night; www.martinhillinn.com