Portsmouth to Portland
April 24, 2007 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Cheap flight to Portsmouth + 4 days = what to see?

Skybus just started operating out of my hometown, so I got two round trip tickets to Portsmouth for $20 each. I've been to Portland before, and loved it, so I'm glad to be heading back to that general area...but there's a lot to choose from. We'll be there from June 3-8, and we'll rent a car for longer forays. I saw this question, and got some great ideas - just wondered if anyone had any alternate suggestions based on the time of year we're going, or tips about something new/not mentioned last time. I'm not much of a big city girl, so I probably won't venture near Boston...would much rather head North again. Should I poke about Portsmouth first, or save that for the day we leave?
posted by Liosliath to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Portsmouth's downtown is quite a bit like the Old Port area of Portland -- fun local shops, restaurants and bars, etc. -- but probably only gets about 75-80% of the foot traffic. It's definitely entertaining for an afternoon.

If you want a more focused activity, there's the Strawberry Banke Museum, a recreation of a colonial village. Not a "wow" destination, but an enjoyable one if you like historical sites.

If you're into the tacky tourist beach scene, you'll enjoy Hampton Beach or Salisbury Beach. Early June is maybe a couple of weeks too early for serious beach time, but everything will be open. There's also a nature reservation at Salisbury Beach and also at Plum Island in Newburyport. (Newburyport is also worth a visit -- much like Portsmouth, but significantly smaller.)
posted by briank at 7:04 AM on April 25, 2007

Kittery? Outlet shopping, trading post, and most importantly, Bob's Clam Hut!

The shopping's pretty good, and much closer than Freeport. (Though Freeport might be nice, too, or North Conway. Any of these places you'll love if you like shopping).

I'm a native Mainer whose favorite food is fried clams, and Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery (just past the trading post) is my favorite place to get clams. Sounds crazy, but I'm serious, and I've eaten countless delicious clams all up and down the coast of Maine. Eat Clams!
posted by lampoil at 10:56 AM on April 25, 2007

Best answer: Ok, so I live in Portsmouth, and you've picked an excellent time to visit. The weather should be nice -- although it could also be 50 degrees and rain the whole time -- and it won't be peak tourist season yet, so you should avoid the worst of the crowds.

Portsmouth is much smaller than Portland, so if you want to see stuff, it'll probably only take you a day or two to see just about everything there is. But it's really a lovely place to just hang out, so you could easily kill 4 days in Portsmouth and the surrounding area.

First, there are some really great restaurants, some of which are reviewed at SeacoastEats.com. There's also a lively bar and club scene, several places have open decks by the water along Bow Street, so you won't be at a loss for things to do in the evening. There's lots of information about the town and things to do here on PortsmouthNH.com.

Depending on the weather, the beach could be very nice or very cold. I actually think that the best beach (and best chance for warmish water) is north in Ogunquit. Hampton Beach is a unique experience, but it's infinitely trashier than briank's link would have you believe.

And, yes, there's Kittery for shopping, but it's the same outlets that they have everywhere. On the other hand, Bob's Clam Hut, as lampoil suggested, is really great.

Since you've already been to Portland, and since you say you'll have a car, you might actually consider going up to Lake Winnipesaukee or south to check out Exeter, NH, (and have a great meal at the Loaf & Ladle there), or Newburyport & Plum Island in MA.

There's plenty to do in the area to keep you busy for more than four days. If you tell us a little more about what you're interested in doing while you're here, it would be easier than just shot-in-the-dark suggestions for what's available.
posted by dseaton at 11:39 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

but it's infinitely trashier than briank's link would have you believe

No argument there! :)
posted by briank at 12:50 PM on April 25, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, great suggestions!

DSeaton...I should tell you what I don't like, first - outlet shopping and crowds give me the heebies, so I probably won't go to Kittery unless Bob's Clam Hut is really incredible. I like shopping, don't get me wrong, I just find other more interesting things to do on holiday. I like...going out on boats, old shops, friendly bars, historical sites, hanging out at the beach (but not swimming, just wandering around), talking to people, buying weird collectibles and local oddities, eating great local food, day hiking, geology...

Does that help?

BTW, my husband is eager to compare the fresh fish he gets on the coast of Morocco with what we find in NH...your link on places to eat will come in handy.
posted by Liosliath at 1:09 PM on April 25, 2007

Well, I often stop in Kittery for just clams and no shopping. While Bob's is my favorite, it's not soooo much better than some other great clam places that it's worth going way out of your way. On the other hand, it's so close to Portsmouth that it really won't be out of the way if you have a car, especially if you're heading to points North. It's right on Rt. 1 if you're taking that up, and it's literally less than a mile from the interstate if you're going that way. That's one of the reasons I like Bob's so much--it's so easy to stop by en route.

If you're heading as far North as Wiscassett, then the Sea Basket is another really excellent place for casual seafood scarfin'.
posted by lampoil at 3:47 PM on April 25, 2007

Best answer: Don't rule out a trip to Kittery (and Southern Maine) just because of the outlets, because there's much more to Kittery than just shopping. Just across the bridge from Portsmouth is Kittery Foreside, with a bunch of cute little shops. The Crooked Lane Cafe is great for lunch or a cup of coffee and is much quieter than its counterparts on this side of the river. There's also the attractive (and apparently good -- I haven't been) Anneke Jans.

From there you could head north on Rt. 103 and hit Fort Foster and Fort McClary (as schoolgirl report suggested in the thread you already saw). Both are neat little sites that are worth stopping for. You could go from there up to York on 103, and turn right on Rt. 1A and head to York Beach. From there, take Shore Road up into Ogunquit.

Check out the beach in Ogunquit, then head up Mountain Rd. and visit Mt. Agamenticus. On a clear day you can see both Mt. Washington and the whole coast from near Portland down to Portsmouth. Then you can head back to Rt. 1 and hit Flo's Hot Dogs on the way home. (I've never actually been there either, but it's supposed to be worth a stop.) That's probably a day's worth there.

One thing we haven't done, but have always wanted to do is to go out to the Isles of Shoals. I know a bunch of people who have, though, and all reported that it was a really great time. The Star Island Ferry doesn't run anymore, but there are still ways to get there (although maybe not during the week that early in the season.)

Since you like hiking, if you haven't been there before, it's worth a trip to the White Mountains. There are several excellent resources for planning trips there.

For the local seafood, BG's Boat House is a good alternative to Bob's. It's an excellent place for lobster. For more upscale fish, we really like Pesce Blue.

Hope some of this helps. Based on what you've said, you'll have a good time here.
posted by dseaton at 6:20 PM on April 25, 2007

Yeah, in fact there will probably still be snow in Tuckerman ravine when you're there if that interests you. That's definitely an unusual experience.
posted by lampoil at 4:23 AM on April 26, 2007

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