North Conway, New Hampshire.

8 Of The Most Charming Small Towns To Visit In New Hampshire

New Hampshire, one of the northern states in the American Northeast’s New England region, is bordered by the expansive Gulf of Maine apart from the Canadian province of Quebec and the adjoining US States of Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Lovingly referred to as “Granite State” due to its bountiful granite formations, New Hampshire is also renowned for its lofty mountains, luxuriant wilderness areas, and crystal-clear water bodies that attract adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.

While Manchester, Nashua, and the state capital Concord are the White Mountain State’s most popular metropolises, the innumerable charming small towns dotting the state’s 8,954 sq. mi terrain are waiting to be discovered by vacationers.


historic town center of Exeter, New Hampshire
115 Water Street in historic town center of Exeter, New Hampshire. Editorial credit: Wangkun Jia /

An attractive river town, Exeter is located along the tidal Squamscott River banks in Rockingham County at New Hampshire’s extreme southeastern corner. Established by John Wheelwright, a Puritan clergyman, in 1638, the town boasts a wealth of historic architecture and tree-lined streets, perfectly blending small-town peacefulness with modern-day amenities. In addition to being home to one of the oldest secondary educational institutions in the nation - the Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter has plenty of other interesting sites like the Exeter Historical Society Museum, Gilman-Garrison House, American Independence Museum in the Ladd-Gilman House, Bandstand, and Exeter Town Hall.

At the town’s lively Downtown, holidayers can peruse the locally-owned stores such as Whirlygigs Toy Shop, Chocolatier, and Water Street Bookstore; art galleries like Art Up Front Street Studios & Gallery; and excellent breweries and restaurants like Sea Dog Brewing Company, Laney & Lu Café, Otis Restaurant, the Green Bean, etc. The Swasey Parkway, Founders Park, Gilman Park, and Robert H. Stewart Waterfront Park are must-visits for those wishing to partake in outdoor activities.


Aerial view of Gorham, New Hampshire
Aerial view of Gorham, New Hampshire.

Gorham, nicknamed the “Switzerland of America,” is an alluring Coös County community in the northern extremity of the Presidential Mountain Range in Androscoggin Valley. Located amidst amazing natural surroundings, the special tourist attractions in Gorham include the Medallion Opera House, Douglas A. Philbrook Red Barn Museum, and Gorham Historical Society & Railroad Museum. During winter, vacationers can participate in multiple winter recreations, whereas in the warm season, they can avail themselves of numerous opportunities for hiking, ATV riding, and mountain biking.

Adventure enthusiasts can cycle along the Presidential Rail Trail, take a tour up the Mount Washington Auto Road to get sweeping views of the entire White Mountains region, spot native wild fauna with Gorham Moose Tours, camp at Moose Brook State Park, and be amused by the beautiful water bodies with a guided kayak trip by the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center.


Hanover, New Hampshire
The college town of Hanover, New Hampshire.

Chartered on July 4, 1761, by Governor Benning Wentworth, Hanover is a tranquil college town in Grafton County that sits on the banks of the Connecticut River in the stunning Upper River Valley. Named after Hanover, Connecticut, the hometown of its many initial settlers, the town is home to the main campus of Dartmouth College, one of nine colonial colleges founded before the American Revolution. Hikers are especially attracted to the Appalachian Trail that passes through the town’s downtown, linking it with other nature preserves and hiking trails.

The town also invites travelers to witness the vast collection of artworks and artifacts at the Hood Museum of Art, watch a game of baseball at the Red Rolfe Field, enjoy a movie at Nugget Theater, and various other performances at Hopkins Center for the Arts. Do not forget to savor some delicious cuisines served by the Base Camp Café and Murphy’s on the Green.


Littleton, New Hampshire
The River Walk Covered Bridge with the Grist mill on the Ammnosuoc River in Littleton, New Hampshire.

Littleton, a charming Grafton County town situated at the northern margin of the White Mountains along the Ammonoosuc River, serves as the economic center of New Hampshire’s North Country (White Mountains region). Holidayers must stroll down the town’s Main Street and window shop from the abundant vintage stores, boutiques, breweries, coffee shops, and restaurants. Adventurers must discover the many hiking trails, tour the Riverwalk Covered Bridge, pay tribute to the bronze statue of “Pollyanna of Littleton” outside the Littleton Public Library, know more about the bygone days at the Littleton Area Historical Museum, and rest after a hectic day at the Thayers Inn.


Aerial view of Meredith, New Hampshire
Aerial view of Meredith, New Hampshire.

Home to 6,662 inhabitants as per the latest US Census, Meredith is at the center of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region in Belknap County on the western shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. Initially called “Palmer’s Town” and later renamed after Sir William Meredith, this principal resort town is noted for its uncountable large and small water bodies, including Lake Winnipesaukee, Wickwas Lake, Lake Winnisquam, Pemigewasset Lake, and Lake Waukewan. Meredith Village, the town’s commercial mecca, lies between Lake Waukewan and Meredith Bay’s northern end.

While in town, visit the Meredith Marina, ride the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, shop at the Mill Falls Marketplace, tour the Stonedam Island Conservation Area and Meredith Sculptures, watch theatrical performances at Winnipesaukee Playhouse, enjoy a scenic cruise aboard MS Mount Washington, taste wine at Hermit Woods Winery, and learn about the town’s past at the Meredith Historical Society & Museum and Meredith Children’s Museum.

North Conway

Downtown North Conway, New Hampshire
Downtown North Conway, New Hampshire.

A renowned four-season resort destination in the White Mountains, North Conway occupies the eastern part of Carroll County along US Route 302, approximately 136 miles from Boston. Travelers visiting the town must check out the historic properties and the scores of antique stores, art galleries, and coffee shops on Main Street, aside from the 60-plus factory outlet stores, bookshops, cafes, bakeries, and eateries at Settlers’ Green Outlet Village. Also, traverse the Green Hills Preserve that encompasses mountains like Rattlesnake Mountain, Black Cap Mountain, Peaked Mountain, and Middle Mountain in the Mount Washington Valley, participate in skiing activities at the adjoining Cranmore Mountain Resort, and gain knowledge about the skiing history of the region at the New England Ski Museum.

The town and its abutting areas provide ample hiking opportunities at the White Mountain National Forest, sightseeing via the Conway Scenic Railroad rides, and rock-climbing activities in Echo Lake State Park’s Cathedral Ledge. Thousands of tourists flock to the town from late September to the beginning of October to witness the spellbinding autumn foliage.


Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire
Beautiful fall colors in Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire.

Christened by Benning Wentworth, the colonial Governor, as “Franconia” due to the terrain’s similarity with the Franconian Switzerland in Bavaria, this picturesque town in Grafton County is situated on the western side of the White Mountains. A haven for nature lovers and adventurists, Franconia is renowned for being home to the Franconia Notch State Park’s northern section and parts of White Mountain National Forest in its southern and eastern portions. During the cooler months, the Cannon Mountain Ski Area offers skiing and snowboarding activities.

In the fall and summer seasons, holidayers must survey the mesmerizing sites at the Franconia Notch State Park, including Flume Gorge, Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge, Artist’s Bluff Trail, Franconia Notch Bike Path, the Basin, Flume Covered Bridge, Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, and the Echo Lake Beach. Furthermore, the town’s other noteworthy places of interest, such as the Lafayette Place Campground, Frost Place - Museum & Poetry Center, Besaw Iron Furnace Interpretive Center, Franconia Heritage Museum, and the New England Heritage Museum, also draw a lot of tourists.

Sugar Hill

Drone shot of St Matthew's Church in Sugar Hill New Hampshire
Drone shot of St Matthew's Church in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.

Sugar Hill, named after the huge sugar maple groves grown within the town boundaries, this quaint New England town in New Hampshire’s Grafton County overlooks the White Mountain National Forest, offering mind-blowing views of the Dalton, Kinsman, Presidential, and Franconia Mountain ranges. The well-known Polly’s Pancake Parlor on Sugar Hill Road serves mouthwatering homemade pancakes, waffles, and French toast topped with authentic maple syrup, while the iconic Harman’s Cheese & County Store caters to the foodies with their top-class white cheddar cheese, in addition to various unique gifts and other locally-made dishes.

Heritage buffs can learn about the town’s glorious past by checking out the artifacts exhibited at the Sugar Hill Historical Museum. Revelers must not miss the annual Sugar Hill Lupine Festival, where the abutting farms, fields, and gardens are filled with blooming pink and purple lupine flowers only for a short time during June every year. The festival activities also include an art show, town dance, concerts, and an open-air market with local vendors.

From the gorgeous river town of Exeter to the scenic White Mountain town of Sugar Hill, there is so much to see in these small towns in the country’s 5th smallest and 10th least populous state. Having a welcoming atmosphere, remarkable attractions, colorful festivals, large open spaces for a variety of outdoor recreations, and appealing downtowns, these adorable, close-knit communities in the Granite State are ideal destinations to spend long vacations or quick weekend escapes with your dear ones.

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