Rye Harbor is a lovely, scenic spot—a classic New England port—but transient boaters should be aware that it offers no overnight facilities and no room to anchor. And now that local institution Saunders restaurant has been torn down to make room for luxury housing, there’s no longer even a place to dock-and-dine.
So, why should boaters even have Rye on their radar? Because Rye, offers a great launch ramp and ready access to many nearby destinations. Powerboaters can fuel up at the State Marina and tie up for short periods of time (as long as someone stays aboard), but the bottom line is that Rye is basically a trailerboating and paddling destination. Boaters can launch at the state ramp (adjacent to the pier) for $10 per day.
From there, it’s a short run to many coastal spots, including the Isles of Shoals, just 5.5 nautical miles east. Daytrippers can also make the easy run north to Portsmouth and Kittery (5-6 nautical miles) or south to Hampton Harbor (7 nautical miles). And of course, fishing out of Rye can also be very good, and you often don’t have to run far to find some action.
Kayakers can also launch at beautiful Odiorne Point State Park, about 2 miles north of the harbor. Be aware that the latter spot is best accessed on the upper stages of the tide; at low water there’s a lot of mud to contend with. Once in the water, there are miles of sheltered creeks and coves to explore. Portsmouth Kayak Adventures, a short drive from Odiorne Point, offers kayak rentals and group tours of the Rye area, including the harbor.
Odiorne Point State Park encompasses 330 acres of coastal land featuring hiking trails and picnic facilities. It’s also home to the Seacoast Science Center, which features numerous exhibits relating to New Hampshire’s coastal and marine environment. Hanging above the main lobby is the full skeleton of a humpback whale, while inside you can learn about the many animals, from urchins to seals, that live in the surrounding waters. There’s even a touch pool where kids can handle starfish and other marine critters. The Center also features exhibits on the recorded history of Odiorne Point, which dates back to 1623. That’s when English settlers first landed there, making it the first European settlement in New Hampshire. Odiorne Point also served as the home of Fort Dearborn from 1942 through 1961, and you can visit the remains of World War II-era U-boat spotting stations overlooking the ocean.
Between Odiorne Point and the Rye Harbor is Wallis Sands State Beach, where $15 will gain you admittance to the beach and a bathhouse with showers. The more intimate Jenness Beach is just south of Rye Harbor.