Have you ever visited a destination that really (pleasantly!) surprised you? That’s how I felt about Portsmouth, New Hampshire—a hidden gem on our New England road trip!
Honestly, I think the entire state of New Hampshire is incredibly underrated. New Hampshire has a bit of everything—the coast, the countryside, the mountains, and quaint historic cities. And all of it is stunning!
We drove through Portsmouth on our way to Portland, Maine, from Newport, Rhode Island. We stopped for dinner, and during our time there, we fell in love with the city so much that we decided to rework some of our travel plans so we could come back to explore some of the best things to do in Portsmouth, NH, a few days later!
We found some great spots during our day in Portsmouth. Here are my favorite things to do in Portsmouth, NH, during a day trip from Boston, Portland, or other surrounding cities!
The Best Things to Do in Portsmouth, NH, for the Perfect Day Trip
1. Strawberry Banke Museum
The Strawberry Banke Museum is a must-visit for history lovers (like me!), and it’s one of the best things to do in Portsmouth, NH. The Strawberry Banke Museum sits on a ten-acre campus and brings over 300 years of history to life.
The Strawberry Banke Museum is situated in what used to be the Puddle Dock neighborhood—a collection of homes, gardens, neighborhood stores, and taverns converted into an interactive museum.
You can travel from home to home to learn about the people who lived in each place over three centuries. Aside from houses, you can also tour a tavern visited by the Founding Fathers, a general store and victory garden from World War II, and the Goodwin Mansion, the home of the Governor of New Hampshire during the Civil War.
You can also learn about horticulture, construction, woodworking, and sailing. Overall, I thought the Strawberry Banke Museum was fascinating and fun to visit. We spent almost three hours touring the homes and property! It’s definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Portsmouth, NH.
Tip: Use the map to discover which homes you’re able to tour. Many homes in the neighborhood are still private residences, which will save you from awkwardly walking through someone’s front door! Also, the historic homes are only open from mid-June to mid-October, so be mindful of these dates before planning a trip.
2. Flatbread Company
After spending the morning at the Strawberry Banke Museum, you’ll probably be ready for lunch. I’d highly recommend visiting the Flatbread Company in Downtown Portsmouth!
Like most places we discovered in Portsmouth, we wandered into Flatbread by chance. We were craving pizza, and I’m so glad we ended up here!
From the outside, Flatbread looks like a small, local dive. However, on the inside, you’ll discover a spacious restaurant with high ceilings, cozy décor, and a wood-fired pizza oven in the center of the restaurant. I loved the ambiance here just as much as the food.
We ordered their weekly special, a flatbread pizza with mozzarella cheese, figs, arugula, locally sourced bacon, and a balsamic glaze. It was tasty! Flatbread also has tons of other pizzas, salads, and a great list of local beers on tap. I’d say getting a pizza here is one of the best things to do in Portsmouth, NH!
Tip: Flatbread Company is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so plan your dining experience accordingly.
3. Market Square
After lunch, spend some time exploring Market Square—the heartbeat of Portsmouth. You’ll be able to identify Market Square by the beautiful, historic North Church of Portsmouth, and the square is filled with hundreds of shops, local restaurants, and more.
Although Portsmouth was settled in the early 1600s, most of the brick buildings in Market Square were built in the mid-1800s, offering plenty of character and charm.
You’ll want to spend some time browsing Market Square. It’s a quaint spot to walk around, and one of the best things to do in Portsmouth, NH! We loved visiting a wine and cheese shop and picking up some cheese and crackers to snack on during our day. You can also visit boutiques, souvenir shops, galleries, book stores, and more.
4. Black Heritage Trail
One of the most impactful things to do in Portsmouth, NH, is to walk the Black Heritage Trail, a series of monuments and historically significant locations meant to share information about Black life in early America.
Downtown Portsmouth was one of the earliest settlements in the United States, which unfortunately means it was also one of the first sites of slavery in the country. In 1775, the census showed that there were more than 650 enslaved Africans in New Hampshire. The Black Heritage Trail promotes awareness and appreciation of African American history and culture in New Hampshire.
You can take a trolley, bus, or self-guided walking tour along the Black Heritage Trail to see sites like the Governor John Langdon House, Sherburne House, North Church, African Burying Grounds, South Church, Long Wharf, and more. Most locations include a descriptive plaque for self-guided tours, and the trail follows history through the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
Fun Fact: Many of the locations along the Black Heritage Trail also intersect with the Strawberry Banke Museum.
5. Prescott Park
Prescott Park is a quaint park that overlooks the Piscataqua River, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and the border of New Hampshire and Maine!
Prescott Park is a great place to walk around. I especially loved walking around the Trail Gardens, a super beautiful array of flowers, greenery, shrubs, and more. We saw so many butterflies and bees buzzing around while we strolled through the garden!
I’d also recommend walking out to the Southern Pier for a great view of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. While we were at the Strawberry Banke Museum, we learned that the Naval Shipyard was a massive employer in New Hampshire during the 1900s, and it was the location where the first American Naval submarine was built!
Today, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is responsible for the overhaul, repair, and modernization of Navy submarines. Learning about the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was one of my favorite things to do in Portsmouth, NH.
6. Thirsty Moose Taproom
The Thirsty Moose Taproom is a small chain of brewpubs located in New Hampshire with great beer and great food! Their location in Downtown Portsmouth is a cozy spot to enjoy dinner and a drink.
Although they are known for their wide selection of brick oven pizzas, I loved the “Guinness French Onion Soup.” It was so delicious on a cold, rainy night! My husband ordered the “Burganzola” burger with caramelized onions and gorgonzola cheese and loved it, too.
We both ordered seasonal beers, mine was a pumpkin ale, and my husband’s beer was a pumpkin coffee porter, and we both enjoyed them! Overall, I would recommend stopping here during a visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Other Things to Do in Portsmouth, NH
If you’re staying in Portsmouth for longer than a day, here are some more suggestions for extra things to do in Portsmouth, NH!
- Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden—Two signers of the Declaration of Independence lived here!
- Warner House—Home to the oldest painted mural in America.
- Portsmouth Harbor Cruise—The best views of the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse and Fort Constitution.
- USS Albacore—The submarine that pioneered submarine design and operation in the American Navy.
- Book & Bar—A bookstore converted into a cozy, upbeat eatery and pub. I was so disappointed this was closed while we were in Portsmouth. If you visit, you’ll have to let me know how it is!
- Cava Tapas & Wine Bar
- Elephantine Bakery
- Toscana Chop House and Wine Bar
- Popovers on the Square
Best Places to Stay in Portsmouth, NH
Although exploring Portsmouth on a day trip is feasible, if you’d like to extend your stay, here are some hotel recommendations in the city!
- Residence Inn by Marriott Portsmouth Downtown—Modern suites equipped with a kitchen, seating area, and comfortable beds.
- The INN Downtown—Cozy boutique studio apartments in the heart of Downtown Portsmouth.
- The Hotel Portsmouth—Charming historic home with a continental breakfast with great reviews and in walking distance of Market Square.
Enjoy the Best Things to Do in Portsmouth, NH, on a Memorable Day Trip
Which of these things to do in Portsmouth, NH, would be first on your list? Have you ever been to a location that surprised you? Let me know in the comments below!
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