Most people associate Hampton Harbor with Hampton Beach—3 miles of humanity-filled sand that has also become a Northeast surfing mecca in recent years. For transient boaters, Hampton Harbor provides a respite from the party while managing to be within easy walking distance of it. The harbor is also a great jumping-off spot for trips to Newburyport, the Isles of Shoals, Portsmouth, Kittery and other Maine ports.
The entrance to Hampton Harbor, at the southern end of Hampton Beach, can be challenging to navigate, especially when the current is roaring through the inlet. Resident boaters know to keep an eye out for rocks, especially the ledge (Inner Sunk Rocks) just north of the channel.
The approach is well marked, but be sure to stay inside the channel. At the west end of the inlet is the Underwood/Rte 1. Bridge—a bascule span with 18 feet of clearance at high tide. The bridge can be raised upon request.
Hampton Harbor is home to a fleet of commercial lobster and fishing boats. Many of them tie up along the state pier, which stands in stark contrast to the long row of waterfront condominiums in the background. The pier is also home to the only fuel dock in the harbor and a large state launch ramp.
A bit farther upriver is the Hampton River Marina, the only private marina in the harbor. The marina boasts 2 large docking areas and 144 slips with electric, water, pumpout, haulout, cable and WiFi. The marina welcomes transients, and has around 20 transient slips available in-season. Boaters can easily duck into the harbor for a night to catch a show at the Hampton Beach Casino or see some of the other area attractions.
Bustling, funky Ocean Boulevard is within walking or biking distance of the marina. Here you’ll find a summer cornucopia of food and fun, including stands selling fried-dough, ice-cream, cotton-candy, T-shirts and fake tattoos. Seeing the traffic that clogs the boulevard on most days, boaters will be glad they came by water.
For those wishing to escape the crowds, the the expansive (over 36,000 acres) marshes west, north and south of the harbor offer solitude and excellent wildlife viewing. Good fishing for stripers can also be had inside the harbor. Kayakers and boaters in shallow-draft skiffs and dinghies can venture far up the major tidal rivers to explore a world that hasn’t changed much since the first settlers arrived along this stretch of the New Hampshire coast in the 1600s.