Southern New Hampshire  is comprised of several distinct regions, and traveling between them isn’t always easy. You’re best off concentrating on one part of the area depending on your interests. The delightful city of Portsmouth  has more than enough attractions to occupy a serious history buff for several days, including the preserved urban colonial neighborhood of Strawbery Banke  and a boat-trip to the beguiling Isles of Shoals . In the summertime, no trip to the area is complete with out taking in the cocoa butter and fried dough of Hampton Beach , one of New England’s most popular family destinations.
The Merrimack Valley , by contrast, is gritty and industrial, cut through by I-93 on its way northward. For those willing to take the time, however, the valley holds several first-rate cultural attractions that will well reward a day or three spent in the region. Among them are Robert Frost’s former homestead of Frost Farm , probably the best site dedicated to the poet in New England; the New England–centric collections at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester ; and the fascinating former religious retreat of Canterbury Shaker Village outside Concord .
If it’s the outdoors you are looking for, however, head to the southwest corner of the state, where Mount Monadnock  beckons with what may be the world’s most perfect day hike. Base yourself at the mountain, but linger in the area for another day or two to drive around the rural environs of Hillsborough  and Peterborough , New Hampshire’s most charming region for its many covered bridges and small-town artisans.