15 Best Things to Do in Rye, NH

Rye, NH
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Enjoy a well-spent beach vacation in the Atlantic coastal town of Rye in Rockingham County, New Hampshire.

This laidback town lies on an 18-mile shoreline, offering magnificent ocean views and New England islands nearby.

The town has a rich history.

Established in 1623, Rye is New Hampshire’s first permanent settlement.

David Thompson started the settlement in the Odiorne Point area.

In 1785, Rye was incorporated.

Its booming dried fish industry supplied Europe during the 18th century.

Likewise, it’s one of the best places to live in New Hampshire.

The town has stunning beaches, exciting historical places, and beautiful parks.

Here are the best things to do in Rye, NH:

View the Lovely Landscapes at Fuller Gardens

The front garden of Fuller Gardens
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Check out the lovely rows of blooming flowers and lush garden plants at Fuller Gardens.

They developed the three-acre seaside botanical garden in the early 20th century.

These gardens decorated the “Runnymede-by-the-Sea,” a grand summer estate owned by Massachusetts governor Alvan T. Fuller during the 1920s.

Exterior of Fuller Gardens' conservatory
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Marvel at the colorful formal rose gardens, tranquil Japanese gardens, vibrant tulips, and annual beds.

Stroll the tropical and desert conservatory to find exciting plant species.

Pass by the views of English perennial borders and the hosta garden.

Don’t forget to see the fantastic dahlia display.

The plants inside Fuller Gardens' conservatory
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Meet the Sea Creatures at the Seacoast Science Center

Exterior of the Seacoast Science Center
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Discover the wonders of marine life at the Seacoast Science Center.

See marine microorganisms under the high-powered microscope at the Edge of the Sea Corner.

Learn about the importance of conserving and restoring the natural ocean reefs and the challenges of sea exploration and engineering.

Your little ones can enjoy the Tide Pool Touch Tank, where they can touch and hold sea stars, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and other live sea creatures.

Underwater habitat EDALHAB displayed on the grounds of Seacoast Science Center
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They can also dress up as fishermen and bring their catch to the play market at Jumpin’ Jay’s Discovery Dock.

View other sea creatures in the Gulf of Maine and learn how Tofu, the humpback whale, and seals are being saved to maintain the ocean’s health.

You can also sit back and enjoy the seaside view or enjoy a good book at the Reading Lounge.

Enjoy the Seaside View at Odiorne Point State Park

Aerial view of Odiorne Point State Park
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The Odiorne Point State Park is a popular public recreation area that offers one of the most remarkable natural settings along the state coastline.

This 135-acre seaside park also houses the Seacoast Science Center and the World War II ruins of Fort Dearborn.

Aside from the park’s impressive rocky shores, the location offers a taste of the town’s rich local history and other spectacular habitats.

Rocky shore of Odiorne Point State Park
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Enjoy a picnic at the wooded grove and grassy fields, and trek on the walking trails to the park’s woodlands.

You can also go fishing or boating in the freshwater and pond areas, though you can’t swim on the sandy beach.

Playgrounds for kids and restrooms are also available.

Boardwalk trail at Odiorne Point State Park
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Take a Trip to the Isles of Shoals

View of the waters from Isles of Shoals
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The Isles of Shoals, located about six miles off the coast of Rye, is a group of small islands overlapping the borders of Maine and New Hampshire.

In 1614, the famous John Smith arrived, and he named the islands “Smyth’s Isles.”

When the Isles became a thriving fishing port, it changed its name, owing to “shoaling” or fish schooling.

Residents abandoned it in fear of the British invasion during the Revolutionary War.

Since then, no one has lived there permanently.

A lighthouse at Isles of Shoals
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The Isles became famous during the heyday of island hotels during the 1800s.

You can find a hotel on Smuttynose Island, another on Appledore Island, and the Oceanic Hotel on Star Island.

Travelers might also hear about the tragic murder on Smuttynose Island during the 1800s.

Join tours from boat companies to cruise around these lovely isles and hear the tales of the isles’ colorful past.

Take some snapshots of panoramic ocean views of this U.S. Historic District.

Scenic view of a sailboat at Isles of Shoals
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Visit the Breathtaking Star Island

Welcome sign of Star Island
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Star Island is the second-largest island in the Isles of Shoals.

It got its name because it resembled a star.

Star Island is home to the Oceanic House, with other buildings accommodating guests for summer retreats and vacations.

Children playing on the grounds of Star Island
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The non-profit Star Island Corporation owns and operates Star Island.

Enjoy affordable retreats, whether you’re a solo traveler or with family.

You can have fun on the waters on a row boat and enjoy frisbee games, softball, or tennis.

Take a swim or go fishing and cap off the evening with a relaxing massage and hearty lobster meals.

Exterior of the Oceanic Hotel at Star Island
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Enjoy the Pool at Water Country Water Park

If you prefer to have some water fun at the pool, go to the Water Country Water Park.

Your family will have fun here with several themed pools, uniquely designed slides, and rides for kids.

Little ones can enjoy the Pirate’s Pool and Lagoon and Ollie Octopus, while teens and adults can go for Giant Wave Pool and Triple Giant Slides.

If you want a more adventurous and heart-stopping pool experience, ride the pool slides like the Racing Rapids & the Plunge and the Blackhole.

Grab filling snacks at the restaurant with all-American food from burgers to hotdogs and desserts like fried dough and ice cream.

You can also bring picnic lunches and stay at the picnic areas throughout the park.

Don’t forget to drop by the shop for some souvenirs and gift items to bring home.

Enjoy the Beachwaters of Wallis Sands Beach

The waters of Wallis Sands Beach
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The best way to experience the town is to enjoy its long strip of beaches.

Wallis Sands State Beach is among the beach recreation areas that give you a  stunning view.

Set your beach towel on this sandy beach for a tan, or relax on your chair and umbrella to enjoy the sea breeze.

You can also view the Isles of Shoals from afar as you swim in the cool waters.

You can also enjoy fishing and hiking in the area.

The state park also offers a large bathhouse, restrooms, grassy picnic areas with tables, a park store selling food and drinks, and ample parking space.

Learn Local History at Rye NH Historical Society and Town Museum

Established in 1976, the Rye NH Historical Society promotes the dynamic aspects of the town’s history and early culture.

Learn historical facts and interesting stories about the little village of Rye and its part in the history of New Hampshire.

See curated exhibits that feature the town’s birth and its developments over the decades.

You can view the vast collection of antiques, artifacts, and groups of photographs at the Rye Town Museum.

Tours are open every Saturday.

You may also book special tours.

Spend Time at the Rye Harbor State Park

Aerial view of Rye Harbor State Park
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Take a break at one of the town’s lovely state parks, the Rye Harbor.

Visit the Ragged Neck, a location at the park offering you a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean, the Isles of Shoals, and Rye Harbor.

You can go saltwater fishing or have a picnic at the tables with the smell of the ocean waters.

The waters of Rye Harbor State Park
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Drop by the 1614 Monument, an obelisk built in honor of Captain John Smith, the first European to explore the New England coast in 1614.

You can also find the New Hampshire Historical Marker No. 18 and read some information about the Isles of Shoals.

History marker of Isles of Shoals at Rye Harbor State Park
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Take a Relaxing Swim at Jenness State Beach

People enjoying the sun at Jenness State Beach
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One of the oceanfront settings in Rye perfect for a great beach excursion is the Jenness State Beach.

Kids will enjoy the vast sand area where they can run, build sand castles, and wade on beach waters.

Its waters are flat during low tides, so you can have a calm swim and enjoy the water by the shore.

Aerial view of Jenness State Beach
Spongetastic69, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Surfers can also catch some impressive breakers in this area on some days.

The beach location also includes restrooms, a bathhouse, and metered parking.

You can also find several snack shops, a pizzeria, and a variety of shops near the beach area.

Visit the Historic Elijah Locke House

The historic Elijah Locke House is among the oldest surviving structures in the state’s Seacoast region.

Accounts mention its construction in 1739; in 1979, the National Register of Historic Places added it to the record.

The house was presumed to have been built by the son of Captain John Locke, one of the earliest New Hampshire settlers.

The structure presents a typical Georgian-style façade, with its gable roof, chimney, and clapboard exterior.

You can also find old outbuildings like a barn and carriage house built around the second quarter of the 19th century.

Discover History and Magnificent Views at White Island State Historic Site

Scenic view of White Island State Historic Site
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The White Island State Historic Site houses the only offshore lighthouse in the state.

Built in 1820, the first lighthouse is on White Island, in the Isles of Shoals.

The structure comprised wood shingles and stones.

They rebuilt the lighthouse in 1859; you can still see the bricks and stones used in the rebuilding.

The White Island Lighthouse is now one of New England’s remarkable historic landmarks.

The Bureau of Historic Sites manages the lighthouse.

Walk down the wooden walkway from the keeper’s cottage to the lighthouse and marvel at the scenic ocean view.

Spot Whales with the Granite State Whale Watch

See the whales with the Granite State Whale Watch.

Join qualified and expert naturalists with a passion for the marine environment.

They’ll also answer your questions about anything you may want to know about the whales and their coastal habitat.

They consider each whale watch an exciting expedition because you don’t know what might emerge from the ocean.

The excursions can reach towards Jeffreys Ledge and sometimes as far as the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Tour the Fort Stark Historic Site

Exterior of Fort Stark Historic Site
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Fort Stark is a former military fort developed in the early 20th century from existing structures in the area.

It’s in New Castle, New Hampshire, 13 minutes from Rye.

This historic site gets its name from the distinguished New Hampshire officer John Stark.

He fought in the Battle of Bennington during the American Revolution.

The fort defended Portsmouth and the Naval Shipyard.

A small battery at Fort Stark Historic Site
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During World War II, the fort became a reserve training facility for the US Navy until its turnover to the state of New Hampshire in 1983.

Check out the areas around the old fort, but be careful as the structures are already old.

Trek the unmarked walking trail traversing the ten-acre site.

Catch the picturesque views of the Piscataqua River, Little Harbor, and the Atlantic Ocean.

You can also have a picnic and go canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

Tour the Old Weeks Brick House and Gardens

Visit the Weeks Brick House and Gardens in Greenland, New Hampshire, 11 minutes from Rye.

It is also known as Old Brick House.

Likewise, it’s one of New England’s oldest brick structures, dating back to 1710.

The Weeks family, a prominent political family, owns the house.

In 1975, the National Register of Historic Places added the house to the record.

Check out the historic house and the 33-acre farmstead with well-marked hiking trails.

Take a walk along the well-maintained garden containing various plants for household, medicinal, and culinary use.

Drop by the shop to buy books, clothing, and other memorabilia.

Final Thoughts

The scenic coastal town of Rye gives you several beach and water activities to enjoy with your family.

The oceanside sceneries and natural locations will delight any nature traveler.

The town is also famous for its historic landmarks and fascinating local parks.

Visit Rye on your next trip.

Book your trip today!