Best Things to Do in New Hampshire from the Coast to the Clouds
Words Iron & Air Staff | Images Dan Olivares & Josh Bogardus | Video Iron & Air Media and Big Brick Productions
Produced in Partnership with VisitNH.com
If you’re coming to New Hampshire for just one thing… don’t. Consider that the Granite State’s comparatively small size is also a big benefit. Where else can you take a dip in the Atlantic at sea-level and then ride through the clouds over a mile in the sky before your hair is even dry? New Hampshire, that’s where. While it’s less than a three-hour cruise from New Hampshire’s 13-mile coast (the shortest of any state bordering the ocean!) and the 6,288-foot behemoth, Mount Washington (the most prominent peak east of the Mississippi), there is plenty to do, see — and eat — between both points.
Since we proudly call New Hampshire “home,” we set off on a road trip from sea to sky exploring some of the best riding, roadside attractions, and cuisine that the Granite State has to offer between the two. So if you’re coming to New Hampshire for just one thing, think again. It’s all closer than you think.
Think of sea breezes, stunning ocean views and surfing along the Atlantic Ocean in Rye, NH. Toss in sandy beaches, rocky points and fresh seafood joints, and Route 1A is ten miles of paved heaven. Our advice? Hit the road before sunrise to catch the first golden rays of the day illuminating the waves around every turn. It’s worth the early wake-up call.
Great Island Common is 34 acres of green space and beachfront with views of lighthouses and moored boats that make it a perfect first pit stop on any coastal cruise. Located in New Castle — New Hampshire’s smallest township and one comprised entirely of islands — it’s the perfect spot to stop and breathe in the salty air, visit a historic lighthouse, or explore the ruins of a Colonial-era military fort at Fort Constitution State Park.
Tucked away in Portsmouth’s picturesque, brick-lined Commercial Alley, Elephantine Bakery is the brainchild of seacoast natives Sherif and Nadine Farag who turned their bread obsession into their business. Everything served at Elephantine is scratch-made daily on-site and the proof is in the dough (bread pun intended). Grab a taste of the slow-fermented sourdough which is included in either the Ricotta & Honey Toast or the Poached Eggs Cilbir. Wake up and get here early, there will be a line.
Walk through the doors of Calef’s Country Store in Barrington, NH and you’re transported back in time. Roughly 25 miles northwest of the coast, Calef’s has been in continuous operation since 1869 and features an assortment of NH-made products, a renowned cheese shop, and deli counter. Don’t leave without trying the Snappy Cheddar, a homemade pickle from the wooden barrel, or — for the more daring — a pickled lime. A lime a day keeps the scurvy away. You’ve been warned.
This lesser-known route is 25 miles of some of the twistiest tarmac in the Granite State that will definitely get your attention and let you clear the carbs. At times, it’s tough to keep your eyes on the constantly undulating road as you pass picturesque, 150-year-old farms and scenic vistas along the pristine Squam Lake.
With only 1,300 residents, the tiny town of Sandwich is a “blink and you’ll miss it” gem just north of Squam Lake. Located right downtown, the Foothills Café & Curio is reason enough to spend an afternoon in Sandwich. The Foothills provides a rotating menu of farm-fresh culinary creations from local bakers and chefs and serves them up in space that is equal parts local watering hole, marketplace, and co-working space. If you’re going to eat a sandwich in Sandwich, the Foothills is the place.
Beede Falls is a beautiful little waterfall and wading pool on Sandwich Notch Rd. — a dual-sport rider haven. A short walk down a well-worn path reveals a mossy rock shelf and crystal clear waterfall that’s a perfect picnic spot or place to hop off the bike and cool off in the middle of a hot ride. Best of all, it’s far enough off the beaten path that it’s almost guaranteed to be a quiet spot to unplug and simply listen to nature.
When ad-man extraordinaire, Steven Grasse, set out to make the best booze, he realized it should start with the best water. Enter the Ossipee Aquifer, which provides the purest water for Tamworth Distilling, located in Tamworth, NH. Akin to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, the distillery features experimental creations like Corpse Flower Durian Brandy (smell it if you dare), Eu De Musc Castoreum Whiskey (made with real beaver butt), Graverobber Unholy Rye Whiskey (infused with maple syrup tapped from trees growing in a Colonial-era graveyard), and more.
Standing 66 feet tall in the center of tiny Warren, NH is a missile that went up into space. The Redstone Rockets were ballistic missiles developed by Wernher von Braun and paved the way for the rocket science that would eventually put Alan B. Shepard — a Derry, New Hampshire native — into orbit on May 5th, 1961. Warren, NH is the only town in America with this type of rocket on display and is a great place to stretch your legs and ponder the universe.
The Kancamagus Highway gets all the attention, but Bear Notch Road connects the famous highway with Rt. 302 in Crawford Notch and is just as thrilling to ride. It is ten miles of smooth, winding asphalt that climbs through the lush ‘green tunnel’ of Bear Notch. With far less traffic than the ‘Kanc,’ Bear Notch Road offers golden opportunities to crank up the throttle.
Goodrich Falls sit on the border of Jackson and Bartlett, NH on Route 16 and is easy to miss but worth the effort to find. The falls are home to a hydroelectric facility that some may see as a pock mark but we feel it only adds to the intrigue. A discrete dirt road off Route 16 leads you to the 80-foot high falls along the Ellis River — a hidden gem and a beautiful sight to behold. We hear the brook trout love it too if tossing a line in the water is your thing.
Completed in 1861, this 7.5-mile road climbs 4,618 feet in elevation as it ascends the northeastern flank of Mount Washington, home of “The World’s Worst Weather.” The ride down the Auto Road is a test of riders' clutch and braking skills as some of the turns will raise your blood pressure when you peer over the edge into a thousand-foot abyss.
Located at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road, the Glen House is a 68-room hotel now in it’s fifth iteration since the early 1850s. The latest version of the Glen House is a tasteful nod to the Auto Road’s history, featuring automotive-inspired imagery in every part of the hotel. Just off the lobby, the Notch Grille, features classic dishes with a contemporary twist all with a mountain view. (Image Courtesy The Glen House)
A historic inn and watering hole in the idyllic village of Jackson that is a favorite of the locals. Upstairs there are comfortable, cozy rooms and suites at reasonable rates. Downstairs, the tavern features great food, old-time live music and al fresco dining, making a visit to ‘The Cat’ feel like a trip back to simpler times.
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