View of Market Square, the main economic and commercial center of the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, via quiggyt4 /

7 Most Memorable Small Towns in New Hampshire

Say "New Hampshire" to the average traveler (American or otherwise), and you will likely hear stories of seaside scenery, lovely lakes, picturesque skiing, and a quiet quality of life. These small towns, hailing from all parts of this small New England state, confirm all the best travel stereotypes: New Hampshire is a terrific place to spend time and an ideal destination for some memory-making with family and friends. For all kinds of travelers, the "Live Free" State offers quality time the visitor will not soon forget.  


The Bandstand in Central Square in Keene, New Hampshire
The Bandstand in Central Square in Keene, New Hampshire

Keene, with a population of 22,800, is a mid-sized, southwestern town with an abundance of charm. It provides a pleasant stop on the road to of from neighboring Vermont, or Massachusetts to the town's south. The place is also double college town: Antioch University New England, and Keene State College both call the town home. Every autumn, Keene puts on its beloved pumpkin festival, bringing visitors in peak leaf-changing season. 

Outdoors fans will enjoy Greater Goose Pond Forest, not to mention Wheelock Park, and the Horatio County Nature Preserve. Runners may prefer the Cheshire Rail Trail; hikers should also check out Chesterfield Gorge. 


Historic buildings near Market Square in downtown Portsmouth.
Historic buildings near Market Square in downtown Portsmouth. Image credit Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock.

Portsmouth has 22,300 people and sits on New Hampshire's short, southeastern sea coast. First settled in 1630, the town became famous as a port and shipyard long before 1905, when the Treaty of Portsmouth, signed here, brought an end to the Russo-Japanese War. Today the town is an especially popular draw for summer tourists, many of whom come to see the colonial, Federal, and Georgian styles of architecture of its historic homes. 

For some (more) time outside, places like Four Tree Island and Pierce Island offer accessible fun for groups or by oneself. Prescott Park, a waterside green space overlooking the Piscataqua River, puts on a concert series each summer. 


The picturesque town of Henniker, New Hampshire.
The picturesque town of Henniker, New Hampshire.

Henniker, population 6,200, is a smaller but equally pleasant destination. Tucked into a rural part of south-central New Hampshire, Henniker offers a quieter visit among quaint surroundings. The place is the location of New England College, making it another university town, like Keene. For generations the town balanced agriculture with textile manufacturing. That legacy is part of what bestowed Henniker with its celebrated collection of bridges, with styles ranging from covered (wood) to stone. 

For fresh air, visitors should seek out the Pat's Peak area. Wintertime visitors have the chance to ski there, while in fall, it is a peeper's favorite, with leaves changing to yellows, oranges, and reds in spectacular fashion. Fun fact: the game of paintball originated in Henniker in 1981. 


Thirsty Moose Tap House restaurant at 83 Washington Street at Central Avenue in city center of Dover, New Hampshire
Thirsty Moose Tap House restaurant at 83 Washington Street at Central Avenue in city center of Dover, New Hampshire, via Wangkun Jia /

Dover, with 33,400 souls, has long been a favorite among out-of-state visitors. Just up the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, the historic town — which in 1623 became one of the United States' first incorporated places — offers a variety of cultural, natural, and just-plain-fun options for those who want moments to remember.

For fun on the water, Dover provides easy access to the Piscataqua and Bellamy rivers, not to mention proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Art fans may prefer the Woodman Museum, which gives a glimpse into  local art and history, and also has a science section. (Look out for the stuffed moose, a species native to the state, and a not-so-local stuffed polar bear.) Animal fans can also come to town during its "Pet-A-Palooza," another celebration of (domesticated) animals that is held on a schedule that varies each year.  


Downtown on Main Street looking east in Littleton, New Hampshire
Downtown on Main Street looking east in Littleton, New Hampshire

The little town of Littleton, population 6,100, sometimes goes overlooked among New Hampshire's travel itineraries. Found in the state's north, it sits near the White Mountains as well as the Moore Reservoir, which forms the limits of both the town and the state, separating both from Vermont. 

Littleton's celebrated Main Street offeres a slew of art galleries and vintage stores to browse in. The Downtown Historical Walk, a tourist trail, leads the visitor by historical plaques and other signs. Littleton makes for a convenient launch pad for the White Mountains or Victory State Forest, just across the Vermont state line. Other points of interest, especially the Appalachian Trail, will help create lasting memories here.


Fall foliage reflected in Chocorua Lake in Tamworth, North Conway, New Hampshire
Fall foliage reflected in Chocorua Lake in Tamworth, North Conway, New Hampshire, via Rhona Wise /

Tiny Tamworth, with only 2,900 residents, promises a quiet visit in beautiful surroundings. Incorporated in 1766, the place is tucked into New Hampshire's Lakes Region, long a favorite vacationland for New Englanders and others, Tamworth itself is located near White Lake State Park, which includes the famous Chocorua Lake.

Those on the road with young children will enjoy the Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm, a worthwhile outing that illustrates bygone modes of New Hampshire country life. The town has long attracted leading cultural lights: novelist Henry James, poet E.E. Cummings, and writer Julia Ward Howe — who wrote the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" — have all vacationed in Tamworth. 


Main Street in Seabrook, New Hampshire.
Main Street in Seabrook, New Hampshire.

Seabrook, population 8,400, lies the Atlantic coastal corner of the state's southeast. Settled in 1638, part of the town limits are in fact the state border with Massachusetts, like Littleton for Vermont. The town's first inhabitants included Quaker families, a religious minority then common to New England and other parts of the eastern United States. 

Today, Seabrook's visitors can stroll the beach or choose instead to visit the Blackwater River estuary. The Seabrook Back Dunes, a sandy nature area, makes for yet another place to enjoy the town's seaside flavors. And Seabrook attracts more than nature-minded beachcombers. In recent years the town has burnished a reputation as a hub for surfing, said to be one of the best surf spots on the US east coast. 

New Hampshire's Small Towns Are Made For Memories

The small towns of New Hampshire blend history, culture, and some of the loveliest parts of the New England outdoors. In other words, the state has more than enough for lasting memories, whether from a vacation with family, a weekend with friends, or a moment in nature all of one's own. The sea coast offers, sand, sun, and surfing, while a jaunt into the White Mountains or the state's Lakes Region make for a great way to spend some free time. New Hampshire's "live free" attitude makes the state one to visit often — and to remember long years later. 

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