Aerial view of buildings and lush foliage in downtown Dover, New Hampshire.

7 Most Inviting Towns in New Hampshire

The Granite State, thriving historically with a collection of granite quarries, is more known for its friendly nature, fishing industry, dairyland, and flowering foothills under the White Mountains, all of which lend an inviting feel to every type of traveler. Less famous than its New England brothers of neighboring Massachusetts and Maine, these New Hampshire towns offer an authentic taste of the region in a serene atmosphere, whether on a food prowl along Dover's revamped, red brick downtown or Sugar Hill's slumber as a historic mountain village with a sweet name, 600 residents, and treats. Moreover, whether it is mountains or a scenic coastline, each town has something unique to share with curious travelers.


Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire.
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire.

Much like the name implies, Cornish is a cute riverside town with a down-to-earth vibe to enjoy on a relaxing escape in the Upper Valley of the state, just across from Windsor in Vermont. Nestled along the lush Connecticut River banks, from the Blow-Me-Down Bridge to the most popular pursuit of canoeing, the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge is a world-class attraction that sparkles in the small-town atmosphere. Once the longest covered bridge in the United States and continuously used since the 1800s, the wooden tunnel connects the two states in a span over the entire river width. It offers lovely photo opportunities in fall colors that are ideal for a New Hampshire postcard.

Back in town, the Chase Inn is a lovely stay when you come for Old Home Day, an annual summer celebration. Drenched in nature, the Cornish State Wildlife Management Area encompasses plenty of outdoor activities, while riverside strolls can turn into hikes or longer bike rides at the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park with trails, gardens, and preserved buildings. Once the summer home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the great American sculptor, visitors can meet artisans in residence, view demonstrations, or sign up for a class when not enjoying rafting, swimming, or snowshoeing in the relevant season.


Aerial view of downtown Dover, New Hampshire.
Aerial view of downtown buildings in the town of Dover, New Hampshire

Set on top of the confluence of the Bellamy and Piscataqua Rivers, at the border with Maine, this up-and-coming town welcomes visitors for a riverside stroll through the heart to check out its historic red brick downtown. For the best food/drink combo, Thompson Tavern serves delicious appetizers on decks overlooking the dam, while the casual feel and pizzas from a brick oven attract families to La Festa Brick & Brew to follow up with some ice cream for dessert at Dover Delite or Cowlicks Dairy Bar. Still, the hole-in-the-wall diners treat visitors to a local vibe, with nooks like Fat Dog Kitchen and 2 Home Cooks.

After a meal, nature lovers can fill up days outdoors at Vaughan Woods State Park minutes east or the Gonic Trails just north for the active. Over at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire, there's something intriguing for all ages, including a monthly night for adults catered by the Dover Brewery 7th Settlement. Just west, in Lee, the Haunted Overload is one of the most spooky-creative attractions in New England, open to enjoy the Halloween feel even in the summer.


View of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
View of the Ivy League Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Nestled at the border with Vermont across the Connecticut River, Hanover, "Where the Appalachian Trail Meets the Ivy League," is a truly unique town to experience in various ways. Namely, outdoor adventures, world-class arts, good food, and great architecture come together under quintessential New England charm. Home to Dartmouth College and a population of under 12,000, the inviting locals are your best guides for tips in between philosophical talks. With an intellectually stimulating feel permeating the atmosphere, the college extends its warmest welcome for every group to stroll on campus.

Take on a section of the legendary Appalachian Trail, which acts like a tube for travelers on their way through Hanover. This favorite stopover has attractions like Nathan's Garden, the stoic Baker-Berry Library, and the popular Hood Museum of Art. Nestled along picturesque landscapes within dense forests, Hanover provides endless opportunities for nature lovers year-round, from riverside strolls or paddling the Connecticut River to the local ski hills and trails in winter.


Aerial view of Lincoln and surrounding White Mountains.
Aerial view of Linclon, New Hampshire and the surrounding White Mountains.

Lincoln is a scenic town in the illustrious foothills of the White Mountains. It is one of the state's best winter destinations. White Mountain National Forest attracts skiers and snowboarders with a crowdless feel, making it the place to learn or master the skill of slope-shredding down Loon Mountain. Nearby, Alpine Adventures thrills with year-round opportunities for off-roading and ziplines. For a summer experience, Franconia Notch State Park is one of Mother Nature’s best blessings in this town. Boaters are invited along the Pemigewasset River, which offers boundless outdoors for breathtaking adventures like Flume Gorge. Located at the base of Mount Liberty, the chasm is accessible for hikes, camping, and waterfall chasing, with pretty views of its many gems over a picnic after an easy two-mile loop.

Back in town, the friendly locals are always willing to share a drink or chat. As of the most recent census, Lincoln has 1,600 residents, and spots like Seven Birches Winery and White Mountain Bagel bustle with life. From great food and drink to lively conversations, few towns are as inviting and beautiful as Lincoln.


The Congregational Church in Rye, New Hampshire.
The Rye Congregational Church in the town center of Rye, New Hampshire.

Cute like its name, there's a lot to awe about in Rye, a town under cover of more than half of its 37 square miles comprising wetlands or marshes of breathtaking beauty. Just 5 miles from Portsmouth and near the Maine state line, Rye attracts nature lovers, adventurers, and photographers—so pretty that it makes visitors want to sit down with an easel and paint the inspiring landscapes. The coastal town, which looks out to the deep Atlantic, features attractions like the Water Country Water Park and Wallis Sands State Park, with its beach and sweeping maritime views.

This oceanfront town, named after one in England, flaunts most of the state's famously short 18-mile coastline. Home to some 5,600 residents and eight miles of inviting seacoast, visitors can experience New England's finest in a serene, more local environment. From boating to other popular water spots, the Seacoast Science Centre invites enthusiasts for hands-on discoveries of the marine and coastal worlds, regardless of age.


View of Main Street in Seabrook, New Hampshire.
Aerial view of Seabrook's main street in New Hampshire.

Seabrook is a southern gateway into the Granite State. Nestled against the border with Massachusetts, just 40 miles from the Greater Boston area, the town thrives from the first Quaker settlers-established industries. Settled in 1638 and named to honor the brooks meandering into the Atlantic Ocean, Seabrook is home to quite a few, snaking through its extensive salt marshes, catering to the rich surrounding agricultural scene. From Seabrook Beach to the Blackwater River estuary, there's plenty of room for sunbathing, kayaking, and strolls, while a recent surfing trend makes Seabrook a real find to hang a ten in the tiny state. Moreover, the Seabrook Back Dunes and Seabrook Beach State Reservation create a wonderful area full of scenic views and charming opportunities.

Connecting the northern and southern parts of the region, this historic town offers a blend of both and a legacy of its fishing industry in world-class restaurants and attractions. Brown's Lobster Pound is arguably the top contender for Maine's lobster, with a vibrant ambiance and similar dishes. Visitors can enjoy attractions like the Brook, a casino, and the famous Hampton Beach State Park just across, so there is something for everyone in town. The town also lights up during Independence Day in July, and fireworks blaze a trail from neighboring Massachusetts.

Sugar Hill

St. Matthew's Chapel in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.
St. Matthew's Chapel amidst the White Mountains in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.

Don't let the sweet name and slumber of this tiny, historic mountain village with charming buildings from the past fool you. Home to around 600 sweet residents and easy to miss in between Franconia and Littleton, this town is often called "New Hampshire’s best-kept secret.” Its true name comes from the large grove of sugar maples in the area, which, combined with the dominating views of Mount Washington, offers the illustrious scenery of the heartland. Moreover, the town rests along the White Mountain National Forest, so visitors can choose from activities like hangliding, hiking, climbing, and sightseeing. After the outdoor activities, there is no shortage of great food to recharge one’s mind and body. Polly’s Pancake Parlour is an ideal first stop for a hearty stack to explore, and the picturesque red Harman’s Cheese & Country Store, a haven for dairy lovers, your last to stock up on some of the 13 tons of premium-grade white cheddar cheese that it annually produces.

New Hampshire is home to a variety of towns, each with its unique charm and attractions. From the coastal towns of Rye and Seabrook to the mountain towns of Lincoln and Sugar Hill, there is something for everyone in the Granite State. Nature lovers will enjoy hiking in the White Mountains or kayaking on the Connecticut River, while history buffs explore the many historic sites, including the Cornish State Wildlife Management Area and the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park. Moreover, without urban distractions, each experience is much more memorable.

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