8 Cute Small Towns in New Hampshire to Visit in 2024

Few other states that make up New England truly embody the British Isles like New Hampshire. Dozens of New Hampshire towns are closely named after real locations in England, including Portsmouth, Exeter, Hanover, and many more. While some of these towns rebelled against the British Empire during the American Revolution, they’ve since evolved into some of the cutest small towns in New Hampshire to explore in 2024. You’ll be amazed by Peterborough’s contributions to several nation-defining wars. You’ll be charmed by Amherst’s bucolic landscapes and scenery. You might even be literally swept off your feet by the strong winds blowing in from North Conway. Either way, the cutest small towns in New Hampshire in 2024 are not to be missed.

Portsmouth

View of Market Square, the main economic and commercial center of the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire
View of Market Square, the main economic and commercial center of the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, via quiggyt4 / Shutterstock.com

About an hour north of Boston, Massachusetts, lies the charming city of Portsmouth at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. While the Piscataqua River is a convenient route for ferries and tugboats to and from the Atlantic Ocean, it also marks the state borders of New Hampshire and Maine. Visitors from both states and more can enjoy Portsmouth’s well-preserved 17th- and 18th-century homes. The homes at the Strawbery Banke Museum are great places to immerse yourself in a time when Portsmouth was New Hampshire’s first capital, and where costumed staff members display traditional crafts from the state’s second-oldest settlement, which dates back to 1623.

The USS Albacore Museum, on the other hand, features a decommissioned Albacore submarine for those curious about the inner workings of an underwater vehicle. Other historic sites include Fort Stark State Historic Site, a crucial fort during the American Revolution and Civil War, and St. John’s Church with its 1708 pipe organ. For more modern amenities, stroll through the green and floral paradise of Prescott Park. You can also enjoy the ocean breeze at Odiorne Point State Park, which is also home to the Seacoast Science Center for marine biology enthusiasts. There are dozens of other historic and natural charms to enjoy in Portsmouth, including the pristine accommodations you can afford, such as Wentworth by the Sea, Martin Hill Inn, or Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside.

Hanover

Main Street in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Main Street in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Nestled along the banks of the Connecticut River, which forms the border between New Hampshire and Vermont, lies the unassuming town of Hanover. Home to the prestigious Dartmouth College, an Ivy League school first founded in 1769, Hanover has served as a place of enlightenment and inspiration for countless individuals, both locals and visitors. Dartmouth College’s Baker Library on campus features the frescoes of José Clemente Orozco, a renowned artist from Mexico. Additionally, the Montshire Museum of Science across the Connecticut River offers a number of interactive exhibits, an aquarium, and a few science parks for those eager to unravel more of the mysteries of the universe. Some of you may be more interested in touring the homely estate of a sculptor named Augustus Saint-Gaudens or checking out engineering marvels like the Wilder Dam or Boston Lot Lake. Whichever destination you visit first, you should at least take a break at the Hanover Inn Dartmouth or Six South St. Hotel.

Sugar Hill

Aerial view of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.
Aerial view of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.

About 55 minutes from Hanover, the beautiful town of Sugar Hill will have you ecstatic and eager to see more. One of the smallest towns in New Hampshire, with a population of less than 650 people, Sugar Hill is named for the many large sugar maple forests in the immediate area. It is a pleasant and relaxing settlement for those seeking peace and quiet in the countryside, with fantastic views of the Presidential, Franconia, Kinsman and Dalton Ranges in the great White Mountains. June is a particularly good time to visit Sugar Hill, as the fields and hills bloom with pink and purple lupine flowers. Enjoy delicious homemade pancakes at Polly’s Pancake Parlor or cheese at Harmen’s Cheese Store. Be sure to get a much-needed night’s sleep at The Sunset Hill House, Franconia Inn, Lovett’s Inn & Restaurant or Sugar Hill Inn.

Exeter

Odd Fellows Hall at 115 Water Street in the historic city center of Exeter, New Hampshire.
Odd Fellows Hall at 115 Water Street in the historic city center of Exeter, New Hampshire. Editorial: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com.

Situated on the Squamscott and Exeter Rivers, Exeter was a patriot stronghold for American soldiers during the American Revolutionary War. Before that, from 1675 to 1725 when a group of religious exiles from the Massachusetts Bay Colony first founded the city, Exeter suffered several heavy raids by Native Americans. Eventually, it stabilized into a thriving community with several historic buildings, such as the Gilman Garrison House (ca. 1690), the Congregational Church (1798), and the Ladd-Gilman House (ca. 1721). The latter, in particular, can be found in the American Independence Museum, which also chronicles the history of the years following the first Independence Day. You can always enjoy a brisk walk and hike through the Henderson-Swasey Town Forest. Less than 20 minutes from Portsmouth, you can entrust your belongings to the illustrious Exeter Inn or Inn by the Bandstand.

Amherst

Salzburg Square in Amherst, New Hampshire
Salzburg Square in Amherst, New Hampshire. Image: NNECAPA PhotoL Library via Flickr.com.

About 23 miles from Peterborough, travelers will fall in love with the casual and simplistic charms of Amherst. Nestled in the Merrimack Valley and the eastern edge of the Monadnock region, Amherst is a utopian destination for those who want to experience the rural side of America. Biologists and other animal lovers can find all sorts of unique creatures at the Ponemah Bog Wildlife Sanctuary. The Minot J. Ross Memorial Bird Sanctuary is also a great place for birdwatchers and other bird lovers. Hikers, hikers, and campers can find adventures at the Hodgman State Forest and the Joe English Reservation. Meanwhile, Baboosic Lake is open to those interested in swimming, boating, and fishing. There are many more secrets and opportunities to discover in Amherst, so consider choosing this remote town as a charming getaway from your big city troubles.

Peterborough

A historic diner housed in a 1950s dining car in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
A historic dining car dining experience from 1950 in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Image: John Phelan via Wikimedia Commons.

Peterborough is a beloved city filled with deep historical ties to past American conflicts. During the French and Indian War, Peterborough’s early settlers fought for the English king’s army, despite their initial distrust of the Old World government. Then, willing citizens fought in the American Revolution in 1775 at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Many of these revolutionary heroes are now buried in Peterborough’s Old Street Road Cemetery, including Lexington drummer William Diamond.

Peterborough proved its heroism again in the War of 1812, when its native son James Miller (1776-1858) became the hero of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1814 for defending a crucial site that would one day become Miller State Park, New Hampshire’s oldest state park. Indeed, Miller was such a hero that American author Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in his introduction to The Scarlett Letterdescribed Miller as “New England’s most decorated soldier.” There are a number of other attractions to explore in Peterborough, including Monadnock State Park and the MacDowell Colony (now known simply as ‘MacDowell’), the largest artists’ colony in America since 1907. And if you’re looking for lodging, look no further than the Riverhouse.

Meredith

Hermit Woods Winery and Deli at 72 Main Street in historic downtown Meredith, New Hampshire
Hermit Woods Winery and Deli at 72 Main Street in historic downtown Meredith, New Hampshire. Editorial: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com.

When it comes to relaxation and respite, Meredith offers countless opportunities for those seeking the laid-back luxury of rural New Hampshire. You can feel as if you’re at sea as you stroll along Lake Winnipesaukee’s many shorelines. These beautiful shorelines include Lovejoy Sands, which serve as a launching pad to the sublime Bear Islands, home to some of New Hampshire’s most beautiful wildlife and one of Lake Winnipesaukee’s many lush islands. You can also see more of New Hampshire’s wilderness at the Hamlin-Eames-Smyth Recreation and Conservation Area. Additional swimming, fishing, and kayaking opportunities can be found at the much smaller Lake Winnisquam, Lake Waukewan, and Squam Lake. You won’t have to worry about where to stay on those chilly nights, as welcoming accommodations like The Oliver Lodge, The Nutmeg Inn, and Mill Falls at the Lake will keep you safe and sound in Meredith.

North Conway

Downtown North Conway, New Hampshire.
Downtown North Conway, New Hampshire. Photo credits Theresa Lauria via Shutterstock

Nestled in the White Mountains and near the Maine-New Hampshire state line, North Conway is the first step to the sublime peaks of Mount Washington. Just 50 miles from Sugar Hill, visitors can enjoy North Conway’s many ski resorts, including the snowy adventures of Cranmore Mountain Resort and the roller coaster rides of Attitash Mountain Resort. Roam the thick undergrowth of Merriman State Forest and gaze at the enticing waterfalls of Diana’s Baths. Find a swimming hole along the Saco River or bargain for great deals at one of the 100 large outlet stores in Settlers Green.

Visitors can get a great view of North Conway and the surrounding area from the Cathedral Ledge Lookout. And if you want to learn more about the extreme weather and high winds around Mount Washington and in the White Mountains, the Mount Washington Observatory Offices provide reliable forecasts. So put North Conway on your list of places to visit in New Hampshire and consider The Colonial Motel, North Conway Grand Hotel, and School House Inn as options for your temporary lodging in the mountain town.

Finally

Skiing in the mountains? Check. Vibrant lakes and verdant forests? Check. And a deep historical association with various wars and conflicts that shaped the United States? Absolutely. New Hampshire’s most adorable small towns meet these criteria for a fulfilling destination and more. Just be careful when traversing the White Mountains and Mount Washington, especially in case the swift winds that blow into the town of North Conway are too much. Have fun exploring Portsmouth for its seaside amenities and New England culture. Kayak through lakes like Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith to see some of the state’s flora and fauna. But most of all, don’t forget to make some great memories and experiences on your merry New Hampshire trip in 2024.