Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Best Places to Retire in New Hampshire


Portsmouth (population about 22,000) is located along the Atlantic coastline at the border of southern Maine, and 50 miles north of Boston. It is in Rockingham County where the population is approximately 300,000. http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/

The city was settled in 1623 as “Strawbery Banke” and incorporated as a town in 1631. It takes its name from Portsmouth, England. The city gained importance as a major port and shipbuilder as early as 1800, and its strong connection to the sea continues. Portsmouth has a large, deep-water harbor that accommodates national and international shipping, as well as commercial fishing vessels. Just across the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Me., is a major overhaul and refueling facility used by the submarine fleet. There are cruise businesses that offer tours of the bay, inland and Isles of Shoals cruises, dining cruises, whale watching trips, fall foliage tours, and more. When there are special events, large tall ships, foreign, or U.S. military vessels may visit.

York, Maine, or “The Yorks”, as it is known locally, is a popular summer destination a short distance north of the city. The community of about 12,000 consists of four areas – York Harbor, York Beach, York Village, and Cape Neddick. Combined, they cover 56 miles of rugged coastline. They represent the best of small-town New England life. http://www.yorkmaine.org/

Kittery, Maine, which is on the opposite bank of the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, is the oldest community in all of Maine. Its history, much like that of Portsmouth, dates to the early 1600s and has revolved around shipbuilding, fishing and other marine related pursuits. It features many inlets, beaches and bays that contribute to its charm. http://www.kittery.org/

New Castle is located at the entrance to the harbor, east of the city. It is both an island and the name of its residential community. It is the state’s smallest town, consisting of less than a square mile. Its major recreation feature is The Great Island Common, a 31-acre ocean-side park with beach and picnic facilities. There are also several yacht clubs on the island that are used by both residents and visitors. http://www.newcastlemaine.us/

Rye is an historic fishing village, located along the coast, just south of Portsmouth. It too dates to the early 1600s. The community encompasses eight of the state’s 18 miles of coastline, and three of the Isles of Shoals — Star and White Islands, Lighthouse, and Lunging Island, which is six miles offshore. Continuing south along the coast, are the communities of Hampton, Hampton Falls, Hampton Beach, and Seabrook. All are considered part of the greater Portsmouth area. http://www.town.rye.nh.us/

Greenland, located southwest of the city on the eastern side of Great Bay, is a picturesque, historic residential community with many 18th century homes and colonial farmhouses. http://www.greenland-nh.com/

Newington lies west of the city and is bordered by Little Bay and the Piscataqua River. It features easy shopping and good dining. http://www.newington.nh.us/

Eliot, Maine is located northeast of the city, along the northern banks of the Piscataqua River. It is a community of about 6,000, within minutes of Portsmouth. http://www.eliotmaine.org/

Portsmouth has many assets that include its cultural amenities and civic activities, and historic “mainstreet” charm. There is good shopping with many boutiques, craft shops, galleries and clothing stores, and over 50 restaurants downtown that offer a choice for everyone. A number of restaurants feature the freshest catch of the day from local waters. There are dozens of interesting scenic and historic places to explore up and down the coast, and there are excellent recreational opportunities, including inland and offshore fishing and water sports, hiking, biking, skiing and much more. The coastal region has many talented artists and craftsmen and you can see their works throughout the area. It has a very low crime rate.

The Portsmouth area offers many activities and at the same time is but a short trip into Boston to hear the Pops, or see a Red Sox game. Portland, Maine is a short drive north. Portsmouth was cited in 2005 by Money Magazine as “the fifth best place to live in the U.S.”

Arts & Culture

Seacoast Repertory Theatre is a professional theatre and school for the performing arts. It’s home, the Bow Street Theatre in Portsmouth, was originally constructed in 1892 as a storage building for beer and grain. The theater has frequently been cited as the “Best Year Round Theatre.” http://www.seacoastrep.org/

The Music Hall is a beautiful 900-seat opera house that first opened its doors in 1878 near Market Square. In its early history, it was lighted by a gas-lit chandelier with 150 gas jets. In the early 1900s it hosted performances by George M. Cohan, Al Jolson, and many others. The theater closed its doors in the mid-20s and didn’t re-open until 1945, when it became The Civic Theatre. It prospered until 1971 but was closed once again. In 1987, it was revived under its current name and has become Portsmouth’s premier venue for live entertainment and film. http://www.themusichall.org/

The New Hampshire Theatre Project is a resident company at the West End Studio Theater in Portsmouth. It offers a professional series that includes classics and also showcases original works. The theater is an intimate, 50-seat black box theater. http://www.nhtheatreproject.org/

Player’s Ring Theatre in Portsmouth is located in a 19th century building which features a black-box theater with seating for 75 persons. Since its creation in 1992, over 30 local production companies have presented plays. http://www.playersring.org/

Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra welcomes members of all ages from the surrounding area and performs several concerts throughout the year. http://www.portsmouthsymphony.org/

Pontine Movement Theatre offers all original works created by the artists, and features expression through movement as a primary dramatic vehicle. http://www.pontine.org/

Garrison Players is a local community theater group that has been performing since the 1950s. http://www.garrisonplayers.org/

Portsmouth Men’s Chorus —

Yankee Clipper Barbershop Chorus — http://www.yankeeclipperchorus.org/

Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival is held annually near the downtown waterfront at the end of June. http://www.jazzandtap.com/ppdf/index.shtml

Prescott Park Arts Festival has been presented for more than 30 years to an estimated over 3 million people. It is located on 3.5 acres in downtown Portsmouth. The festival features music, art, theater and dance. http://www.artfest.org/

Seacoast Science Center in Rye is located on 136 acres where you can explore coastal habitats. The Center offers year-round programs including naturalist guided or unguided tours. http://www.seacentr.org/

The Portsmouth Athenaeum is both a museum and a membership library. Its primary mission is to collect and preserve materials relevant to the history of Portsmouth and the Piscataqua region. http://www.portsmouthathenaeum.org/

Portsmouth Historical Society maintains the John Paul Jones House Museum and conducts activities and programs that increase public understanding and enthusiasm for local history. http://www.portsmouthhistory.org/

Strawberry Banke Museum (named after the first settlement on the site of present-day downtown Portsmouth) conducts educational programs and cares for the museum’s collections http://www.strawberybanke.org/

The Children’s Museum of Portsmouth — http://www.childrens-museum.org/
Other active local arts groups include Seacoast Guitar Society, http://www.seacoastguitar.org/pastevents.html. Both are dedicated to preserving and fostering their particular art form.

The Art Gallery at the University of New Hampshire in Durham (16 miles) is the premier art museum of the region. It offers exhibitions, music lectures, poetry readings and receptions. Its permanent collection includes over 1,500 historical and modern works. http://www.unh.edu/art-gallery/

The University of New Hampshire Department of Theatre & Dance produces five or six shows in its annual main stage season at its Johnson Theatre and Hennessy Theatre. http://www.unh.edu/theatre-dance/

Alabaster Blue is a UNH Co-ed A Cappella Group that performs both on campus and in the region. http://www.unhalabasterblue.com/

Whittenmore Center at the University of New Hampshire is a major venue for college sports, special events, shows, and entertainers. http://www.whittemorecenter.com/

University of New Hampshire Library — http://www.library.unh.edu/


The city’s recreation department manages many programs for both youth and adults. Its facilities include both indoor and outdoor pools, a boat launch, Spinnaker Point and Greenleaf Recreation Centers, and The Connie Bean Community Center, which is primarily a youth center. http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/recreation/programs.htm

There are many recreation sites in the area. These include historic Fort Constitution, New Castle, (a National Historic Landmark); Four Tree Island, which offers picnic areas and fishing, and Fort Stark in New Castle, with ocean views; Great Island Common, also in New Castle, with a beach and picnic facilities; Hampton State Beach offers two beach locations, with swimming, picnic sites, an amphitheater and band shell. Other beach locations include North Beach in Hampton,and Jenness Beach in Rye. The nearby coast of Maine offers many sites, all within a reasonable driving distance.

There are more than 15 golf courses within easy driving distance. http://www.golflink.com/golf-courses/city.aspx?dest=Portsmouth+nh

The University of New Hampshire offers the opportunity to see intercollegiate games in all the major sports, except baseball. Both men’s and women’s teams compete in 10 or more sports. http://www.unhwildcats.com/home.shtml

Nearby ski areas (within 60 miles) include the following:

Blue Hills, Canton, MA — http://www.ski-bluehills.com/
Bradford, Haverhill, MA — http://www.skibradford.com/
Gunstock, Gilford, NH — http://www.gunstock.com/
King Pine, East Madison, NH — http://www.kingpine.com/
McIntyre, Manchester, NH — http://www.mcintyreskiarea.com/
Nashoba Valley, Westford, MA — http://www.skinashoba.com/
Pats Peak, Henniker, NH — http://www.patspeak.com/winter_fun.htm
Ragged Mountain, Danbury, NH — http://www.ragged-mt.com/
Tenny Mountain, Plymouth, NH — http://www.tenneymtn.com/
Wachusett Mountain, Princeton, MA — http://www.wachusett.com/
Ski Ward, Shrewsbury, MA — http://www.skiward.com/


University of New Hampshire in Durham (about 12 miles) is a part of the University System of the State of New Hampshire. It is a liberal arts college that dates to 1866. UNH offers over 2,000 courses in more than 100 majors. Student enrollment is nearly 12,000 undergraduates and about 3,000 graduate and professional students. http://www.unh.edu/

Franklin Pierce College of New Hampshire in Newington is one of six satellite locations where on-line courses are offered. The main campus location is in Rindge, NH. (Rindge is 100 miles from Portsmouth.) http://www.franklinpierce.edu/

Hesser College in Portsmouth offers 25 certificate, diploma, associate or bachelor degree options. http://www.hesser.edu/

College For Life Long Learning, Newington (603-334-6060).

Senior Programs

Portsmouth Recreation Department sponsors a host of adult day trips. These include travel to the Maine Outlets, North Conway, Historic Cape Ann at Rockport, Fanueil Hall and Quincy Marketplace in Boston, and shopping trips to New York City, Portland, Me., and Old Port. http://www.cityofportsmouth.com/recreation/programs.htm


Portsmouth Regional Hospital is a regional acute care hospital licensed for 143 beds. http://www.portsmouthhospital.com/


Portsmouth International Airport at Pease (former Pease Air Force Base) is operated by the state and offers scheduled passenger service. http://www.peasedev.org/pease/airport.asp

Manchester Airport – http://www.flymanchester.com/

Boston’s Logan International Airport is about 50 miles from Portsmouth. http://www.massport.com/logan/default.aspx

Portland International Jetport is located 60 miles north in Portland, Me. http://www.portlandjetport.org/


The average temperatures for January are a high of 34 degrees and low of 15 degrees. The averages for July, which is the warmest month, are a high of 83 and a low of 59 degrees. The average precipitation for January is 4.2 inches, and for July, 3.4 inches. http://www.wunderground.com/US/NH/Portsmouth.html


Portsmouth Herald — http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/index.htm

Property Taxes


State Taxes


Chamber of Commerce


State Aging Agency



Rye, NH – 4.8 miles
York, ME – 11 miles
Durham, NH – 12 miles
Manchester, NH – 44 miles
Portland, ME – 51 miles
Boston, MA – 54 miles
Nashua, NH – 55 miles
New York City – 265 miles

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