Portsmouth : New hampshire


What It Is Like to Retire in Portsmouth

Portsmouth is a small and very old town of 21,956 (2020 census), in eastern New Hampshire, right on the Maine border.  Portsmouth has a tremendous amount going for it as a retirement town. There is a charming old downtown with lots of great shops and restaurants, cobblestone streets, historic seaport, plenty of water to live near, and a relatively mild climate thanks to its presence on the coast.  It was named as one of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Because Portsmouth was so important as a seaport and shipbuilding center, its early days were as a very wealthy town. The beautiful homes and buildings constructed during that era represent the colonial, georgian, and federal styles - many of the surviving mansions are now open to the public.  After many tragic 19th century fires, a building code went in requiring brick and slate construction in the downtown district.

Shipbuilding is still important across the Piscataqua River at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.  Durham, home to the University of New Hampshire, is another lovely town about 15 minutes inland.


Where to Retire in Portsmouth and Home Prices

Real estate is expensive in Portsmouth, reflecting how desirable the area is. Average prices have been bouncing around. In mid-2022, the median home value was $653,365, up over 15% during the past year, according to Zillow.com.


What Is Special about Portsmouth

Historic seaport and beautiful town with rich heritage. Stock of colonial and early American homes in federal, Georgian, and colonial styles.  Great shops, museums, and old mansions to tour - Portsmouth is a big tourist town.  Strawberry Banke, Market Square, Portsmouth Lighthouse, the Music Hall, USS Albacore Museum (test submarine). Portsmouth has a very active literary scene with many famous authors nearby, plus the RiverRun Indie Bookstore.

What Is Not Special about Portsmouth

The downtown can get pretty crowded in the height of the tourist season.

Who Will Like Retirement in Portsmouth

Portsmouth attracts people who like historic towns that have a lot of charm. Folks who like living near the water will also like it.

Local Economy Is Driven by

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, tourism, health care, nearby presence of UNH, and many hi-tech companies all contribute to the economy.

Climate and Physical Environment

Portsmouth is located near the mouth of the Piscataqua River as it enters the Atlantic Ocean on the Maine border. To the west is an enormous bay, the Great Bay.

Restaurants & Cultural Scene

The Historical Society is very active, as is the Athenaeum, the Music Hall, has a popular author series that attracts big names, and many old house museums like the John Paul Jones House. The RiverRun Bookstore. Here is what writer Dan Brown said about Portsmouth: "Thanks to places like the Music Hall, Phillips Exeter Academy, and our great indie bookstores, the Seacoast literary scene thrives in ways usually seen only in the largest cities. As a writer, I'm grateful every day for the luxury of accessing world-class cultural events without sacrificing a tranquil writing environment."


The crime rate in Portsmouth is about half the national average.


Medical Facilities

Portsmouth Regional Hospital


I 95 runs through Portsmouth. Airports in Portland (ME) and Boston are about an hour away. There is an AMTRAK bus stop in Durham

Valuable Links

Portsmouth Wikipedia entry
New Hampshire retirement guide

What people are saying about Portsmouth

Portsmouth/Seacoast of NH
We live in this area now and are looking to relocate to Florida. While this is a lovely area in many ways, the climate is not "relatively mild." The winters here are not as bad as say, Maine's, but they are New England winters, cold, snow etc. Many retirees in this area flee to warmer climes to escape winters. Portsmouth is nice if you want to live right downtown, but it is expensive, and touristy in summer. The NH coastline is only about 20 miles long and the water stays cold until mid-to-late summer. The shops and restaurants along the beach are trashy and touristy, and attract the 25-and-under crowd. We find that there is not a lot to do here, at least not a lot that interests us. We are not skiers, kayakers, hunters or fisherman. Unless you live in downtown Portsmouth, you have to drive to everything. New Englanders (and we are both native New Englanders) tend to be staid and reserved; we've lived in a community for 6 years and still do not know many of our neighbors. (I know I'll get criticized for that generalization, but in my experience of living in New England for over 20 years, it is true). The seacoast area is safe, relatively little crime though the drug business,and associated crimes, has come to NH, as evidenced by the recent murder of a small town police chief trying to serve a search warrant on a suspected drug dealer.
Posted by Edwina on May 12, 2012

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