Aerial view of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.

9 Picture-Perfect Towns In New Hampshire

New Hampshire is a staple state of the New England region's character in the northeastern United States. There are natural wonders to explore in its dense woodlands and beautifully lush gorges like in Franconia North State Park, or quaint small-town characters like in the wineries and modest farms of Meredith. While New Hampshire may not be an illustrious destination on every traveler's list, these nine picture-perfect towns will satisfy the curiosity of any traveler to New Hampshire's natural, historic, and cultural charm. 


Boats are moored near a waterfront café on a calm summer day in Rye New Hampshire
Boats are moored near a waterfront café on a calm summer day in Rye, New Hampshire.

Rye is a seaside town offering both ruggedly beautiful coastlines and sweeping sand beaches. The most popular is the Jenness State Beach that follows along Ocean Boulevard with a picturesque backdrop of classic beach houses. The more rocky sections are best explored in Odiorne Point State Park's expansive system of shoreline trails, headlined by the Seacoast Science Center, which is filled with unique fish and diverse touch tanks. Periwinkle Cove within Odiorne Point State Park is also worth a visit because of its shallow seas ripe for exploration and its opportunities to make rock structures. Travelers searching for stories of local history should visit the Strawbery Banke Museum or the historic episcopal church, St. Andrew's-by-the-Sea. 


Smith Building at 177 Water Street in historic town center of Exeter, New Hampshire
Smith Building at 177 Water Street in historic town center of Exeter, New Hampshire. Image credit: Wangkun Jia -

Exeter's appeal is defined by the quaint scene created in its downtown core along the winding Squamscott River. The river's calm water, combined with large grass fields for picnicking and low-lying, brick-red industrial buildings, creates a perfect New England environment in Swasey Parkway. The town's center of dining and history are found along the river, including the American Independence Museum and its revolutionary-era artifacts, the quaint LANEY & LU cafe, and the popular Sea Dog Brewing Company. The best outdoor activities are in the Henderson-Swasey Town Forest, which is host to easy-going trails through tall trees and dense foliage, made especially vibrant in the red and yellow colors of the fall months. 


View of boats in Paugus Bay in Laconia, New Hampshire.

Laconia is a small town between the waters of Lake Winnisquam and Opechee Bay. As such, the surrounding area is host to beautiful natural scenery: Ahern State Park is a staple of peaceful and accessible trails through the high woodlands along Lake Winnisquam, and the nearby Belknap Mountain State Forest offers more secluded hiking opportunities and some picturesque lookouts atop rolling hills. Various attractions keep visitors in the center of town, like the Belknap Mill Society, a historic landmark full of nostalgia towards the region's industrial past; the lively Colonial Theatre Laconia, where plays, concerts, and most other popular events are held; and the most popular, the BankNH Pavillion, an outdoor theatre holding 8,000 seats and host to big bands in spring and summer months.  


The beautiful New Hampshire town of Wolfeboro.
The beautiful New Hampshire town of Wolfeboro.

Wolfeboro offers the best of waterside living along the calm shores of Lake Winnipesaukee and Lake Wentworth. Within the deepest bite of its natural harbor is the notable Cate Park, where sunsets are accented beautifully by long boardwalks, colorful gardens, wooden gazebos, and marina boats like the Wolfeboro Corinthian Yacht Club. Continuing along the harborside, travelers can find the open sands of Brewster Beach or pause at character-filled cafes like the Yum Yum Shop bakery and the Back Bay Boathouse. Many visitors are attracted to the town because of the adjacent Lake Wentworth and the Wentworth State Park, generally coupled with overnight stays in the Wolfeboro Campground. 


Meredith, New Hampshire, in fall.
Meredith, New Hampshire, in fall.

Meredith is a quintessential New Hampshire town full of activities and events for families, couples, and solo travelers. Moulton Farm is a premier destination with high-quality produce and a popular bakery and pumpkin patch in the fall months. Hermit Woods Winery and Eatery is a popular craft winery in the evenings, often coupled with live music or performances at the barn-shaped Winnipesaukee Playhouse or a movie at the BarnZ's Meredith Cinema. Other nighttime stops include the character-filled Frog Rock Taverns along the waters of Meredith Bay or, for families, the Funspot Video arcade. One of the most popular accommodations is The Inn at Mill Falls, offering four unique locations across either Lake Winnipesaukee or Meredith Falls. 


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

Franconia has everything an outdoor enthusiast hopes to find in New Hampshire. The most recognized of its natural offerings is Franconia Notch State Park and its scenic gorges, rolling mountains, summer hiking, winter skiing, and aerial tramway for less strenuous exploration that follows up the Cannon Mountain peak. The most popular hiking trail leads up to Mount Lafayette Mountain, and the most popular skiing destination is the Loon Mountain Resort, but the Cannon Mountain Ski Resort is also noteworthy. One of the most striking but lesser-known features of the surrounding natural landscape is Flume Gorge, a beautifully lush mountain hike leading to an 800-foot gorge at the base of Mount Liberty. 


The seaside community of Hampton, New Hampshire.
The seaside community of Hampton, New Hampshire.

Hampton's seaside, small-town appeal garners an enormous following of ocean-bound getaways. The capital of the resort town's activity is Hampton Beach State Park, which offers some of the best Atlantic Ocean swimming on the country's coastline. For a more immersive experience, book a whale-watching tour or a deep-sea fishing experience with the Al Gauron. The busy town streets nearby also house exciting events and amenities, especially at the Casino Ballroom live music venue. For the best in food and beverage, go to Smuttyrose Brewing Company or The Goat Restaurant and Whiskey Bar. Other than shallow sea exploration, the best natural landscape is in the Hampton Salt Marsh Conservation Area, a flat wetland with beautiful sunsets. 


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

Portsmouth is a bustling small town on the Maine-New Hampshire border. The downtown area holds impressive historical monuments and museums like the Strawberry Banke Museum, 10 acres of outdoor living museum, and the USS Albacore Museum that showcases maritime history with a specific lens through submarine history. There's also a lively event and venue scene, headlined by The Music Hall Theatre, founded in 1878, and within walking distance from popular restaurants like The Thirsty Moose Taphouse, Massimo's, Surf Portsmouth, and Library Restaurant. The dense downtown area contrasts with the beautiful greenspace in Prescott State Park, which is characterized by colorful flower gardens and walkways, perfect for afternoon escapes for seclusion and tranquility. 


The historic town of Rochester, New Hampshire.
The historic town of Rochester, New Hampshire.

Rochester has typical New Hampshire charm in a compact community along the Cocheco River. There's plenty of activity within the center of town, most recognizably the impressive Rochester Opera House, or in restaurants like Windjammers Seafood and the Revolution Taproom and Grill. The natural scenery and sense woodlands of the surrounding area are best explored along The Gonic Trails, a leisurely 7-mile round-trip walk, or on the Pickering Pond Loop Trail. Notable family-friendly stops include the Children's Museum of New Hampshire in nearby Dover or the pick-your-own-fruit Butternut Farm, great for apples and top-quality cider. 

The Bottom Line

These nine small towns in New Hampshire offer the best of the state in cultural, historical, and natural features. Whether enjoying the seaside views from Hampton State Park Beach on the Atlantic Ocean shoreline, enjoying energetic live music at The Music Hall Theatre in Portsmouth, or hiking through the red and yellow fall foliage of the unique Flume Gorge in Franconia, New Hampshire has something to offer every curious traveler in any season. 

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