This post brought to you by New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Barefoot Nomad.
New Hampshire is one of the most naturally pretty states in the USA. The New England state is known for its large stretches of wilderness, lakes region, and quaint, quiet towns.
Last week we piled us, our two kids and Charles’ Mom in the car for a 5 day road trip around the state to experience what it’s like to Live Free in NH. On the itinerary: the seacoast, the White Mountains, the lakes region and lots of ice cream at every opportunity.
First up, the New Hampshire seacoast.
Odiorne State Park
New Hampshire’s 18 miles of coastline are tucked away between Maine and Massachusetts. For such a short stretch, there’s a ton of things to see and do along the ocean, from walking around historic Portsmouth to working on your tan in popular Hampton Beach.
We loved feeling the salt spray from the Atlantic as we scrambled over the rocky shoreline at Odiorne State Park. After we all spent a few hours in the lovely Seacoast Science Center it was nice to go for a little walk along the seashore. Seven-year-old Jordan was mesmerized by the sea; staring out over the deep blue for what seemed like an hour before checking out the tide pools and playing on the huge playground in the park.
If you’re in the mood for a beach, check out buzzing Hampton Beach, which is hugely popular with families during the summer months, and only a few miles south from Odiorne State park.
Driving the Kancamagus Highway
The Kancamagus Highway (aka route 112) stretches for 56 miles through northern New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It’s a twisty, two lane highway that reaches up to 3,000 feet in elevation, with stunning views across the White Mountains.
There are many hiking and camping spots along the Kanc (as locals call it) that lead into the picturesque White Mountains, with plenty of waterfalls and streams just off the road.
We stopped at all the scenic lookouts, soaking up the views, and popped in to sample the hiking trails.
Tip: We visited New Hampshire in the summer, and the views were spectacular, but this would be a perfect spot for amazing views of fall foliage if you travel in autumn.
Despite that fact that Diana’s Baths were one of our favorite adventures in New Hampshire, you won’t find it in many New Hampshire top 10 must see lists. That’s a shame, because the kids loved scrambling over the smooth boulders to play in the naturally formed pools, with little waterfalls streaming into each pool. You can find Diana’s Bath’s near Conway, on the Eastern edge of the White Mountains.
We loved splashing in Diana’s Baths so much that we resolved to visit the waterfalls at one of New Hampshire’s biggest outdoor draws at Franconia Notch State Park.
But first, ice cream.
Must do – stops for a sweet treat
New Hampshire is the perfect state for touring smaller highways through quaint small towns, and stopping at the multitude of ice cream shops.
I’d be willing to take bets that New Hampshire has more ice cream parlors per mile than almost any other state in the US.
When Charles’ Mom offered to pay for our ice cream stops, I’m not sure if she knew what she was getting into. We love ice cream, so we stopped at least once every afternoon for a tasty cone.
Tip: Our favorites were Yazzi’s Ice Cream Shoppe in Conway, Kerwin’s in Portsmouth, and Ice Cream Delights in Lincoln.
The Flume Gorge in Franconia State Park
The Flume is an absolute must see in New Hampshire. It’s a natural gorge that extends about 800 feet at the foot of Mount Liberty. It’s a bit of an uneven, moderate uphill walk, but our kids, their spry grandma and the two of us managed it just fine. The kids loved the gushing waterfalls and moss-covered rocks and we loved the steep canyon walls as we got deeper into the gorge itself via the wooden walkways that take you into the heart of the gorge.
Interesting tidbit, the Flume was discovered in 1808 by 93 year old “Aunt” Jess Guernsey while she was fishing.
I was charmed by the 1886 covered bridge over the Pemigewasset River.
Tip: While you’re in Franconia Notch State Park, budget some time to enjoy scenic Echo Lake with its nice beach and paddle boat rentals, and don’t forget to also stop by the Basin, a large whirlpool naturally carved by rushing water.
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
The Cannon Mountain Tramway in Franconia Notch State Park takes you to the 4,180 foot summit of Cannon Mountain. From the summit, you can see mountains of New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Maine and even the Canadian province of Quebec to the south.
Lake Winnepesaukee is New Hampshire’s largest lake, and sits near the middle of the state. It’s a great place to take in outdoor adventures like camping, boating, and canoeing. Though it is the largest lake in the region, it’s also surrounded by smaller lakes and beaches and is a very popular area even for nearby state visitors.
We stopped by the western site of Lake Winnepesaukee near Laconia and Weirs Beach. We walked along the boardwalk at Weirs Beach, stopping for (surprise!) ice cream and to dip our toes into the sand.
Tip: If you want a break from the sun, or catch a rare rainy day, check out Funspot in Laconia. It has the world’s largest collection of vintage arcade games as well as modern arcades. The kids won an impressive collection of small toys at the carnival games, and I proudly hit the day’s high score in Centipede. And my Mom said all those years in an arcade in the 1980’s would never amount to anything.
Charming and accessible
What did we think of New Hampshire? It was the perfect place to go for a driving vacation with the family. While the state does have fast interstate highways, we chose to bypass them most of the time to meander through quaint towns on secondary roads. This made for a relaxing trip, which really just felt like a fun, extended family Sunday drive.
Tip: New Hampshire has no sales tax, making it a hugely popular shopping destination for travelers. We took advantage of the tax break to pick up a new Samsung phone and a new tripod. Expect to see some photo tips in an upcoming post!
In all, we only logged about seven or eight hours of driving time despite driving from Portsmouth and the seacoast, up to near the northern border of New Hampshire, and back through the lakes region down to Boston.
Have you been to New Hampshire? We’d love to hear your thoughts – where would you find your next adventure in New Hampshire? We’d love to go back again and experience some of the sights we missed the first time around!
Want to find out more?
Check out Visit New Hampshire to find more fun summer activities and Get Inspired to visit New Hampshire.