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Autumn Adventures on the Seacoast

The Scoop on Leaf Peeping, Great Eats and Hidden Gems Too

Thank you to our contributor, Julia Harpe.
There’s nothing quite like fall in New Hampshire. The porches full of pumpkins, apple cider donuts, roaring fires in the fireplaces ... I experienced all this on my recent autumn trip to the Seacoast Region of my beautiful state. While the Powder Keg Beer & Chili Festival in downtown Exeter was the main event, I took a couple days around it to see more of the area and do some proper leaf peeping.

Woman walking up a pathway in front of a red barn

Day One

  • Stratham Hill Park Fire Tower, Stratham

  • Great Bay National Estuarine Reserve, Greenland

  • Exeter Farmers’ Market, Exeter

  • Three Chimneys Inn, Durham

  • Hop + Grind Restaurant, Durham

Day one was full of adventure, beautiful fall scenery and delicious food. I climbed the fire tower at Stratham Hill Park, 77 steps in all, and witnessed unbeatable fall foliage views from the top. Just across the road from the park is the Great Bay National Estuarine Reserve — a fantastic discovery center with a boardwalk along the water, and the perfect place for a peaceful stroll and some birdwatching.
The Exeter Farmers’ Market was very impressive. There were many different vendors, from Indian food to Lebanese food to a Russian baker who made delicious bread! I sampled New Hampshire maple syrup, and took home some cider doughnuts.
I stayed the night in Durham at the Three Chimneys Inn and ffrost Sawyer Tavern — a cozy, old inn built in 1649. My room was in the historic barn, on the third floor, and I felt as though I was up in the trees; it was the perfect blend of rusticity and elegance. Downtown, I ate dinner at Hop + Grind, a unique burger joint with artisan burgers and fries.

Woman climbing up a fire tower

Day Two

  • The Angry Donut, Stratham

  • Scamman Farm Corn Maze, Stratham

  • Emery’s Lane Antiques, Stratham

  • Water Street Bookstore, Exeter

  • La Cascade du Chocolat, Exeter

  • The Inn by the Bandstand, Exeter

  • Joinery Restaurant, Newmarket

The Angry Donut is the perfect morning coffee spot. Their brioche donuts have delightful flavor combinations, from their state fair donut — which is coated with cinnamon and sugar and topped with caramel corn — to their popular pumpkin spice donut.
I stopped by Scamman Farm for a little adventure in their famous corn maze, which is 2.5 miles of maze trail weaved through 7 to 8 acres of corn. It took me over an hour to complete the maze, and I couldn’t have loved it more.
My next stop was Exeter, for a night at the Inn by the Bandstand. Built in 1809, the historic inn sits across from the town hall and is in the middle of all the action. The downtown area boasts quaint bookstores, cafés, chocolate shops, historic homes, antique stores and the beautiful Phillips Exeter Academy campus.

Corn mazehistorical house

Day Three

  • Powder Keg Beer & Chili Festival, Exeter*

  • Memories Ice Cream, Kingston

Every year, downtown Exeter hosts the Powder Keg Beer & Chili Festival*, which is held along the river, across from the historic powder house. Local brewers and chili makers come from all over the state to set up tents and pass out their delicious samples to the thousands of people who attend the event. With lawn games, live music, oven fired pizza, ice cream and more, the chili festival is a fantastic event for everyone. Large pots of chili steamed and bubbled away behind the tents in the crisp air — it was sheer fall perfection.
I ended the trip with a good, New England-sized scoop of red raspberry chip and chocolate peanut butter twist ice cream at Memories Ice Cream in Kingston.

people congregating outsideup close image of a hand holding a cup of salsa with a chip in it

Fall is my favorite time of year, and I love living in a state that celebrates this season to the fullest. It was a wonderful autumn trip!
*Due to COVID-19 the Annual Powder Keg Beer and Chili Festival is not being held this year. Mark your calendar for next year’s event: October 2, 2021.

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