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Take the Kids

Take The Kids: Explore New Hampshire’s Seacoast

  • Fun at Odiorne Point State Park.<br/><br/>(Concord Monitor photo/Ken Williams)

    Fun at Odiorne Point State Park.

    (Concord Monitor photo/Ken Williams)

  • Allison Flynn scoops out three lobster rolls for lunch; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.<br/>Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. On a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Allison Flynn scoops out three lobster rolls for lunch; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
    Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. On a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Brett Centracchio (left) and Eric Cizek, of Alpharetta, Ga. skip rocks across the water below Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier as they wait for their lunch order to come; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.<br/>Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. on a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Brett Centracchio (left) and Eric Cizek, of Alpharetta, Ga. skip rocks across the water below Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier as they wait for their lunch order to come; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
    Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. on a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Prizes inside an arcade game at a Hampton Beach arcade.<br/>John Tully/Monitor Staff

    Prizes inside an arcade game at a Hampton Beach arcade.
    John Tully/Monitor Staff

  • Liz Moreau talks with a passerby while she works the Shooting Gallery inside the Hampton Beach Casino Arcade on Friday afternoon, July 30, 2010. She has worked the Shooting Gallery for the past 25 years and began when she and her husband took it over and fixed it up.<br/><br/>John Tully/Monitor Staff

    Liz Moreau talks with a passerby while she works the Shooting Gallery inside the Hampton Beach Casino Arcade on Friday afternoon, July 30, 2010. She has worked the Shooting Gallery for the past 25 years and began when she and her husband took it over and fixed it up.

    John Tully/Monitor Staff

  • Sailboats are moored in the mouth of the Piscataqua river across from Fort Constitution and the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.<br/>Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. on a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Sailboats are moored in the mouth of the Piscataqua river across from Fort Constitution and the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
    Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. on a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Kyle Kuliga pulls two lobsters for a lunch order at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery Point, Maine; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.<br/>Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. On a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Kyle Kuliga pulls two lobsters for a lunch order at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery Point, Maine; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
    Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. On a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • The table watches as Eric Cizek (center) dips his first steamer in butter at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.<br/>Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. On a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    The table watches as Eric Cizek (center) dips his first steamer in butter at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
    Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. On a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Danielle Kronk Barrick and Dan Barrick, February 6, 2013. <br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Danielle Kronk Barrick and Dan Barrick, February 6, 2013.
    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Fun at Odiorne Point State Park.<br/><br/>(Concord Monitor photo/Ken Williams)
  • Allison Flynn scoops out three lobster rolls for lunch; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.<br/>Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. On a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Brett Centracchio (left) and Eric Cizek, of Alpharetta, Ga. skip rocks across the water below Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier as they wait for their lunch order to come; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.<br/>Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. on a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Prizes inside an arcade game at a Hampton Beach arcade.<br/>John Tully/Monitor Staff
  • Liz Moreau talks with a passerby while she works the Shooting Gallery inside the Hampton Beach Casino Arcade on Friday afternoon, July 30, 2010. She has worked the Shooting Gallery for the past 25 years and began when she and her husband took it over and fixed it up.<br/><br/>John Tully/Monitor Staff
  • Sailboats are moored in the mouth of the Piscataqua river across from Fort Constitution and the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.<br/>Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. on a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Kyle Kuliga pulls two lobsters for a lunch order at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery Point, Maine; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.<br/>Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. On a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • The table watches as Eric Cizek (center) dips his first steamer in butter at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier; Tuesday, June 4, 2013.<br/>Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier has been serving lobsters in Kittery Point, Maine since 1948. On a busy weekend they can sell almost 1,000 lobsters, not counting lobster rolls.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Danielle Kronk Barrick and Dan Barrick, February 6, 2013. <br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

Picture a summer day on New Hampshire’s Seacoast, and you probably think of strolling Portsmouth’s busy sidewalks or laying in the sand on one of the beaches. And while you can’t go wrong with either of those options, here’s a third choice – one with good food, great views, some history and nature lessons, and plenty of room for kids to tire themselves in the fresh coastal air. This itinerary will take your family from one end of New Hampshire’s coast to the other, and you won’t even have to get sand in your shoes.

We’ll actually start just across the border, in Maine. There’s no shortage of fine lobster pounds along New Hampshire’s coast, but Chauncey Creek in Kittery, is a very special place. And it’s a quick hop across the harbor from Portsmouth. (When the Memorial Bridge reopens to traffic next month, the route will be even shorter.)

Located on the bank of a quiet, wooded creek, this no-frills seafood shack offers all the standards: homemade chowders, steamed clams and mussels, and fresh lobster. But the atmosphere is especially laid back and family-friendly. Picnic tables line the dock, and customers are encouraged to bring their own drinks, additional foods and whatever else would make the meal complete. We’ve seen families unfurl tablecloths and drink from wine glasses. Perhaps more practically, it means you can pack sandwiches or snacks for younger kids, although Chauncey Creek does offer an inexpensive children’s menu, including pizzas, hot dogs and chicken tenders.

Parking here can seem tricky, since the restaurant is on a narrow, winding road. But during our visit, an employee was outside helping direct drivers to the best parking spots. And don’t be discouraged by the number of cars you see – the deck is packed with tables.

After lunch, head back across the harbor to New Hampshire and toward Odiorne Point State Park, a lovely, undeveloped stretch of coast just outside downtown Portsmouth. This spot offers plenty of history as well as natural beauty. In the 1600s, Odiorne Point was the site of New Hampshire’s earliest settlement. During World War II, the federal government built hulking concrete batteries here to guard the harbor from Nazi submarines. Today, it’s a state park whose miles of trails (many of which are stroller- and wheelchair-accessible) and ideal picnic settings draw people of all ages.

A small fee ($4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6 to 11) gives you access to the park’s 331 acres and range of habitats to explore – rocky shore, woodlands, salt marsh, ponds and rocky beach (but no swimming here). Bikes are welcome on many of the trails, and there’s also a large playground and benches scattered along the coastline, overlooking the waves.

The park is also home to the Seacoast Science Center, a small but vibrant educational center and nature museum. Inside, kids can trace the path of whales across the globe, touch starfish in a mock tidepool, observe fish, crabs, skates and a giant lobster – to name a few of the animals on view – in about a dozen tanks, and learn through a handful of games and exhibits.

The center clearly has worked to engage visitors of all ages (including adults), using a variety of senses. There are also exhibits explaining Odiorne Point’s rich history, including the lavish summer homes that once lined this stretch of coastline but were removed to accommodate the wartime fortifications.

There are other reminders of the Seacoast’s military past just up the shore, on New Castle Island. Fort Stark and Fort Constitution both offer coastal views amid the remnants of historic maritime defense posts – from the colonial era in the case of Fort Constitution and the 19th century at Fort Stark.

The sites, both of which are reached off Route 1B, offer little by way of interpretive material or exhibits. Come instead to enjoy the sweeping Atlantic vistas and open spaces. (But keep an eye on young visitors, as both sites – especially Fort Stark – have high walls and some rough ground.) Both sites are free to the public, but we’ve often found ourselves with no company other than the seagulls.

Continue driving south along Ocean Boulevard, past Great Gatsby-style mansions and rough-around-the-edges seafood joints and ice cream stands.

There are plenty of places to stop for a late afternoon treat. But we have a fondness for Hampton Beach, the most honky-tonk place we know in New Hampshire.

The scene here can be hectic at the height of summer, especially on a warm Saturday. But if you time your drive to arrive late on a Sunday afternoon, the crowds will have thinned out, yet there will still be plenty of sunlight. A simple stroll along the oceanfront strip – with stops for ice cream, the photo booths in the ageless Playland Arcade, and people-watching by the band shell – is the perfect way to end the day.

If you go

Chauncey Creek Lobster
Pier –
16 Chauncey Creek Road, Kittery Point, Maine; 207-439-1030; chaunceycreek.com; open daily, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Labor Day

Odiorne Point State Park – Route 1A, Rye; 436-7406; nhstateparks.com/odiorne.html; open year-round

Seacoast Science Center – 570 Ocean Blvd., Rye; 436-8043; seacoastsciencecenter.org; open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through October; admission: $7, $5 seniors, $3 children 3-12

Hampton Beach –
hamptonbeach.org

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