Located on the quiet shores of Rye, the Seacoast Science Center (570 Ocean Blvd., Rye, 603/436-8043, www.seacoastsciencecenter.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat.–Mon and school vacation days only, Nov.–Mar., $5 adults, $2 children 3–12, free children under 3) emphasizes hands-on learning, with an indoor tide pool filled with crabs, starfish, and other sealife, as well as guided trips to explore the tidal pools in the surrounding coastline.
Maritime history exhibits also explore the laying of the transatlantic cable not far from here, and the disruption of this part of the coast during World War II, when government promptly evicted wealthy landowners to set up a network of bunkers and defenses to protect the coast from German U-Boats.
That property, known as Fort Dearborn, was closed after only 20 years, and sold to the state to create the 330-acre Odiorne State Park (Rte. 1A, Rye, 603/436-7406, www.nhstateparks.com/odiorne.html , year-round, $3, free children 12 and under), a truly special seaside preserve with a variety of environments.
On several miles of hiking and biking trails, you can pass through sand dunes, pebble beach, freshwater marsh, and rocky shoreline. Also be sure to visit the “sunken forest,” the fossil remnants of an underwater forest that is still visible at low tide.