If there is one place in America that holds a special place in my heart that would be Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Portsmouth was about three hours northeast of my home but it always an enjoyable drive across scenic northern Massachusetts’ old Route 2 highway. As a child in Cub Scouts, I went on field trips to Fort Foster in nearby Kittery, Maine which was an awesome place to explore for a little boy and was a favorite childhood memory. Fort Foster was a coastal battery with heavy artillery active from 1901-1946 that help protect the entrance to Portsmouth harbor at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. The remnants of the Fort’s concrete gun emplacements, bunkers, artillery casements, and six-story fire control tower were a young boy’s dream to climb around and pretend. Years later in my early college years, I came back to Portsmouth to work at a conference center on Star Island located in the Isles of Shoals that straddles the border between New Hampshire and Maine, approximately 7 miles from the mainland.
It wasn’t until my first ride out to Star Island on the tour boat that I realized where I was as we passed Fort Foster at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. The memories were palpable and I knew then that Portsmouth and its seacoast region would have a pull for me to visit in the years to come. It certainly did and has become a family favorite with traditions and must-see places on each visit; actually, must-eat places is more like it.
Portsmouth is a city in southern New Hampshire bordering the state of Maine separated by the Piscataqua River. It is a historic seaport and popular summer tourist destination. Settled by English colonists in 1630 and named Strawbery Banke, it was later incorporation in 1653 and named Portsmouth in honor of the colony’s founder, John Mason. He had been captain of the port of Portsmouth, England, in the county of Hampshire, after which New Hampshire is named.
Portsmouth past has played a role in many of America’s wars from the Revolution and Portsmouth’s Fort William and Mary protected the harbor from the Britsh Navy to its shipbuilding history with naval hero John Paul Jones supervising the construction of his ship Ranger on nearby Badger’s Island in Kittery, Maine along the Piscataqua River. As history progressed Portsmouth’s strategic coastal location became solidified by the establishment of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1800 during the administration of President John Adams. It is the U.S. Navy’s oldest continuously operating shipyard. During World War I, the shipyard began constructing submarines, the first-ever built by a U. S. navy yard and during World War II over 70 submarines were constructed in the yard.
When the war ended, the shipyard became the Navy’s center for submarine design and development. The last submarine built there was launched in 1969. Today the shipyard provides overhaul, refueling, and modernization work. However, Portsmouth is much more than the namesake navy yard; it is the hub for activities and idyllic living along the New Hampshire seacoast. The downtown around Market Street is a shopper’s paradise with quaint old shops that have been in Portsmouth for many years to more modern retailers with their unique downtown locations that blend in with Portsmouth’s historic atmosphere. And if you are into food then the selection of restaurants in Portsmouth is enough to satisfy any foodie’s palate or family-friendly dining. Exploring Portsmouth offers abundant choices from history, arts and culture, beaches and parks, to attractions and nightlife that the whole family can enjoy. I discover something new every time I visit! I look forward to road-tripping back to Portsmouth as soon as I can as a new full-time RVer with my trusty Airstream. I know the Airstream will feel right at home as I do in Portsmouth’s seacoast charm.