Best Beaches in New Hampshire for the Perfect Summer Day 

The New Hampshire coastline is often overlooked compared to its New England counterparts. But don’t be fooled, this 13-mile stretch of jaw-dropping rocky cliffs and flat sandy beaches is a true natural wonder. Drive along Route 1A, a stunning coastal state highway from the border of Massachusetts up to Portsmouth. Each beach along the way has a unique atmosphere, from enjoying live music to relaxing with a good book. Out of the best beaches in New Hampshire, there is a choice for every type of beachgoer. 

Throughout my time growing up in Northern Massachusetts, I have always found New Hampshire’s seacoast to be a hidden gem. Most people have heard of Hampton Beach, but miss out on amazing beaches just miles away.

I have vivid memories of picnicking on the wall at North Beach, learning how to surf at Jenness Beach, and kicking around a soccer ball at Wallis Sands State Beach. The water temperatures can be chilly, but they tend to warm up by late July and August. The summer months in New England get hot and humid, so beat the traffic down south and head to the golden New Hampshire Coastline. 

Looking for a specific type of beach? Here are some favorites for each type of beachgoer:

Best for party lovers: Hampton Beach 

Best for families: Wallis Sands State Park 

Best for surfers: Jenness State Beach

(Due to recent coastal flooding as of 2024, it is advised to stay up to date on potential road restrictions and temporary closings.) 

Best Beaches in New Hampshire

Views from Residential Beach in Seabrook

Each beach is only miles apart along the same road, which is convenient but can lead to traffic. Located directly on the Atlantic Ocean, these beaches offer stunning views and decent waves for surfing.

Make sure to check the flag color (red, green, or yellow) to indicate the safety of the water conditions. Staying up to date on safety measures regarding rip currents is important as well. It is also helpful to check the tides and wave heights beforehand to prepare for your beach day.

South Beach (Hampton Beach State Park)

Hampton South Beach is a beautiful nature-based beach across the harbor from Seabrook. Cross over sand dunes to a gorgeous sandy beach. The beach is fully equipped with a large parking lot, in-season lifeguards, restrooms, and a small beach store. 

South Beach is a great place for swimming, fishing, picnicking, or even RV camping; the campground has full hookups! There is also a jetty where you can explore tide pools. On a first-grade school field trip I found tons of shells and a sand dollar! South Beach is a great spot to avoid crowds, as it is one mile south of Hampton Beach.

As part of the New Hampshire State Park system, you can purchase a season pass which can be used for both Hampton Beach State Park (South) and Wallis Sands State Park. Normally parking is a $15 fee per vehicle, but you can make reservations ahead of time to beat the crowds on busy days. 

South Beach is best for nature lovers, those who prefer more space to spread out, and families with kids. If you are hungry, Brown’s Lobster Pound is a popular place to eat nearby. It has fresh seafood and lovely views of the marsh. Tripoli is right across the street from Brown’s and has delicious beach pizza.

Hampton Beach (State Park)

people sitting and walking on the beach during a sunny day
Beachgoers enjoying a sunny summer day at Hampton Beach

Hampton Beach is your classic oceanfront entertainment hub full of fried dough, live music, and sunbathing. There is always something going on: bikers joy-riding, teens playing pick-up soccer, and kids going to the arcade. Events like weekly fireworks on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m., talent shows, and seafood festivals are just a few of the attractions. The annual Country Music Fest is a fun time where beloved artists take the stage at the Seashell Oceanfront Pavilion. The beach is only part of the event when you come to Hampton Beach. 

This area attracts more of an adult crowd due to its vibrant nightlife of bars and casinos. Many teens flock to the area as well as it’s a popular hang-out spot. The strip alongside the beach includes several restaurants and shops.

Bernie’s Beach Bar is a local favorite, consisting of two levels, three bars, and live music every night. As the largest deck in New Hampshire, you are bound to have a thrilling experience eating seafood and taking in the views. Sea Ketch is another well-known option for food near the beach. 

The beach itself is large and sandy with public restrooms and many lifeguards on duty. There are two main parking lots right next to the beach, but there are extra parking lots a block or two away when it’s busy. However, these can get a bit pricey depending on the time of year. Everyone can find something they enjoy here, but if you have young kids, it may be better to escape the crowds and head North. 

The Wall (North Beach)

Long cement wall next to rocks leading to the water
The Wall at North Beach

North Beach, also known as “The Wall”, is a lesser-known, locally preferred beach. A large cement wall divides the beach from the walking path and metered parking, which is $2 per hour in the summer. The wall is big enough to sit on and picnic with friends, a popular pastime for local teenagers. During the day it is common to see runners and dog walkers along the path.

This mile-and-a-half beach only has large rocks to sit on at high tide, with some sandy areas as the tide retreats. Despite the lack of crowds, there are still restrooms and lifeguards in season. The waves are great for surfing, skimboarding, and boogie boarding. Since the beach is more hidden and further away from restaurants and shops, North Beach is a nice spot to relax for the day.

North Hampton State Park 

View of sunset over low tide at the beach
Sunset at North Hampton Beach

North Hampton State Park Beach is smaller and calmer, attracting those looking for a relaxing experience. Metered parking is available steps from the sand, for $2 per hour in peak season. High tide is rockier but the beach is still quite sandy. There are clean restrooms and lifeguards on duty, but fewer crowds. 

This beach is a great spot for walking, enjoying the view, and eating at Beach Plum! Across the street, Beach Plum offers fresh seafood and ice cream. Get some clam chowder or lobster rolls for dinner and end the night with your favorite flavor of ice cream. The location is convenient because you can grab an ice cream cone and sit on the wall enjoying the salt water air on a hot summer day. 

Bass Beach 

rocky beach with few people and calm waters
Relax on Bass Beach

If you are looking for a quaint, tucked away cove then Bass Beach is perfect. It’s really rare to find crowds here as there is no official parking, food, shops, or restrooms. However, most people don’t come here for the extravagant beach experience.

Bass Beach is more fit for beach combing, reading a good book, or just taking in the view. Enjoy being tucked away among the large rocks that surround the beach. The sand is gravel-like with many tiny rocks, so its good to keep your shoes on.

This beach is a very popular spot for surfers, but unless you are very comfortable in the water, I wouldn’t recommend this spot for swimming due to the lack of lifeguards. Dogs are allowed during the peak season before 9:00 a.m. and after 7:00 p.m. When my friends and I go to this beach, we usually lay out a blanket to chat and enjoy the scenery.

Jenness State Beach

Low tide sandy beach alongside houses
Low tide at Jenness State Beach

Jenness Beach is an all-time favorite. After driving alongside the rocky shoreline up from Hampton, you enter the gorgeous residential coastal town of Rye. The area is more upscale and has a big surfing culture. 

Jenness Beach has metered parking for $2 per hour during the summer, but the lot is small and fills up quickly. Usually, my friends and I park in the dirt lot across the street for about 20 dollars for the day. If you are lucky, there are some free street parking options as well. 

The beach is fully equipped with lifeguards and restrooms, making it a great spot for swimming. The flatness of the beach creates decent waves, attracting tons of surfers. Lifeguards are attentive to making sure the surfers stay in their section and do not disrupt the swimming area. 

Want to learn how to surf? Summer Sessions is a surf shop and cafe located directly across from the beach. They offer surf lessons, and surfboard and wetsuit rentals for either the first or second half of the day. One summer I rented so many times I ended up buying my equipment from the shop. The Sandpiper Cafe is connected to the surf shop where you can grab acai bowls, smoothies, coffee, or ice cream! 

This beach attracts many families and locals, making it less touristy than Hampton Beach. However decent crowds still flock here because the beach satisfies many interests.

Wallis Sands State Park

If you have young children and are looking for the quintessential beach day, Wallis Sands is the best option. There is a huge grass area to picnic, kick around a soccer ball, or fly a kite. Two small jetties surround the sandy beach, creating a safe enclosed spot for swimming. This beach is small, not too crowded, and one of the cleanest beaches. I went here with a group of friends in middle school and we had a fun time swimming and walking the beach. 

As part of the New Hampshire State Park system, season passes are available to guarantee parking. Parking is otherwise $15 per vehicle, but the lot is a pretty good size. There are lifeguards, a beach store, restrooms, and outdoor rinse areas. Concessions are also available for food and drinks. It’s a great spot for a family beach day with the perfect balance of everything. 

Weirs Beach

The coastline has wonderful beaches, but New Hampshire is also famous for its lake beaches. Lake Winnipesaukee’s Weirs Beach is a historically popular spot at the connection of the Weirs Channel to the main lake. Located in Endicott Park, it is the most popular beach on Lake Winnipesaukee. There is a boardwalk with food options and souvenirs, a playground, and a grassy area with picnic tables. A day here is a whole event. 

Enjoy the view of the mountains over the lake or hike the nearby nature trails. In the surrounding area, there are bumper cars, mini golf, and an arcade. The water at the end of the beach near the boardwalk is more shallow, perfect for the little ones. It’s a very family friendly destination. There is no admission fee but parking is $2 per hour. Restrooms are also available.

The New Hampshire coast may be small, but it’s dense with an array of beach day options. Pick the one that matches your vibe! 

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Images courtesy of Lily O’Neill

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