Don't Miss These Historic Attractions At America's Oldest Port

The northeastern United States is a popular destination for historic sightseeing. After all, the country's first major cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC are located here. While each of these cities are chock full of historical sites from the early European settlements to the Liberty Bell, there are notable smaller towns with historical importance and fewer crowds.

Less than 2 hours from Boston is Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This small coastal town predates the American Revolution by around 150 years. Its first settlers hailed from England and aimed to create a port city for ships and trade. The city has witnessed historic events in its 400 years. It shares not only the stories behind these events, but also stories from other important aspects that make up the town's past and present. Portsmouth remains a significant port city, even in the 21st century. The town has museums and tours by land and by sea to experience all of what it has to offer.

Take walking tours to see multiple historic sites in one trip

Portsmouth is quick to acknowledge the fact that it occupies land of the indigenous Abenaki people. Archeologists have found remnants of the Abenaki's 12,000-year history in the area that occurred before the arrival of English colonists in 1623. These colonists built homes near the ocean and Piscataqua River, soon naming it Strawberry Banke. In the 1960s, some of these centuries old buildings became a part of the Strawberry Banke Museum. This large outdoor museum incorporates the history of the former Strawberry Banke neighborhood and the indigenous history as well. The houses through which visitors can walk vary in origin from the late 1600s to the early 1800s. 

A convenient way to see multiple historical sites with the help of a guide is to take the Portsmouth Harbour Trail walking tour. Register on Portsmouth's website, but note that tours only run from mid May through mid October. Another walking tour called "Lives Bound Together: The Washingtons & Ona Marie Judge in NH" details the struggles of Ona Judge, who was enslaved by the family of President George Washington. Judge escaped to Portsmouth during Washington's presidency in 1796. Register and check on tour dates through the Black Heritage Trail NH website.

Take a sailboat tour on the Piscataqua River

Combine history with nature on a boat cruise to the Isles of Shoals. They were once owned by Captain John Smith, who was famously captured by Powhatan Native Americans. Tribe member Pocahontas allegedly advocated against executing him, and the Powhatans released him soon after. The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company takes visitors to Star Island with tour guides who reveal the history and pirate legends of these rocky islands. While on board, try to spot tuna, harbor seals, and birds.

For more nature, head to Prescott Park just around the corner from the Strawberry Banke Museum. Prescott Park is 10 acres of gardens, walkways, and views of the Piscataqua River that flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Within the park is the Sheafe Warehouse Museum, which explores the 400 years of interactions between Portsmouth settlers, the Piscataqua River, and the Great Bay Estuary further inland from Portsmouth. The Gundalow Company operates the museum as well as private and public sailing excursions.