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Sea Picture of North Hampton and Rye NH
"One of the most scenic stretches of ocean road in New England"
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Photo of Rye Beach, N.H. on Route 1A
Ocean Blvd. in Rye Beach (photo by Eric)

Article and photo by Eric H.

Just north of the honky-tonk summer vacation town of Hampton Beach, NH on Route 1A, the coastal landscape on Ocean Blvd. in North Hampton and Rye changes so drastically that you'll feel like you're in a completely different world. The vacation rental shacks give way to spectacular mansions and oversized summer cottages, and the seemingly endless stretch of flat, sandy beach with wall-to-wall people surrenders to a rather isolated winding coast that serves as a trailer to the nearby rocky coast of Maine. Where parking is permissable, we recommend getting out and taking in the refreshing salt sea air, those grand homes and amazing ocean views.

Along the way, you'll find less crowded versions of the beach at Hampton Beach like North Hampton State Beach, Wallis Sands State Beach and Jenness State Beach. Although all get crowded during the summer, the feeling is so much more relaxing and in touch with nature as compared to a manufactured vacation town (no doubt, lots of fun, but sometimes you have to get away from the getaway!).

Rye Harbor exudes a low profile but quintessential New England harbor look with its boats in the water that doesn't seem to boast affluence but rather be thoroughly content as part of the overall landscape. Roadside dining gems like Petey's Summertime Seafood and the Beach Plum offer outside dining and lobster rolls, fried clams and chowder, while hotels The Dunes Motor Inn at Jenness Beach project an unassuming 1950s type of family lodging vibe.  After passing equally scenic Odiorne Point State Park, the coast quickly disappears until another brief appearance in Portsmouth and Newcastle.

The scenic drive in North Hampton and Rye, however brief, seems so rewarding every inch of the way. When thinking of the best of coastal New England, the Hampton and Rye Beach area resides at the forefront of my mind over several more popular New England coastal areas with many more miles of coastline. What a gem of a stretch of oceanside road, the perfect destination for those that love scenic drives!

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