Market Street, Portsmouth
Market Street, Portsmouth

By Jayne Glennon

A vibrant historic seaport, Portsmouth thrives on tourism. Restaurants, shops, museums and parks crowd this city whose population is around 21,000 -- barely half the population of Billerica. The new Memorial Bridge connecting Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine, was my first target then the Portsmouth Harbour Trail.

Memorial Bridge
Memorial Bridge

Late on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, Congress Street shops were open and busy. A horse drawn carriage briefly blocked my view of a juggler in front of the old North Church in Market Square while music from a live country band played somewhere in the background. I rounded Bow Street to the Memorial Bridge. A refitted bronze plaque stands above the entryway of the new bridge looking refreshed after 90 years of service on the old truss lift bridge. The new bridge allows two-way traffic with sidewalks and overlook areas for pedestrians on both sides. Looking up the river to the west I could see the Route 1 bypass lift bridge and the huge Piscataqua River Bridge. Mountains of white road salt stood next to piles of scrap metal riverside, but no ships were docked.


To the east, giant cranes rose out of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Water rushed beneath the bridge toward the Atlantic as I headed north crossing Badger's Island and then a second nameless (to my knowledge) bridge into Kittery, Maine. This route over the two bridges appeared popular with walkers, runners and sightseers. I was back at the Portsmouth end when a tall masted boat, headed upriver, approached the bridge. The lift gates dropped, stopping traffic, while the middle section of the bridge elevated smoothly.
The bridge keeper shooed all the foot traffic off the moving section.

Leaving the bridge, I turned left on 1B and walked through flower gardens at beautiful Prescott Park. Across the street from Prescott Park, Strawberry Bank, an outdoor history museum was busy with tourists taking in the earliest settlement in Portsmouth. Walking to Mechanic Street trying to follow the South End portion of my hand drawn Harbour Trail map, I got a little lost in these old harbor streets. The seaport homes in this section of town were tucked in side by side. Who needed driveways in 1800s? or front yards? After wandering for a bit I found and followed Pleasant Street back to Market Square. Portsmouth is a multifaceted gem city and an entertaining place to walk.

  • Date: July 13, 2014
  • Distance: 3.15 miles
  • Weather: cloudy, impending rain
  • Fee: none
  • Pets: ?
  • What I liked about this route: sidewalks crossing bridge and just about everywhere I went; views, salt air, ocean, seaport, history, flowers in Prescott Park, old architecture, restaurants, shops, cheap parking ($1 per hour in Market Square garage)
  • What I didn't like about this walk: Couldn't read the trail map available online. Best to pick one up in Portsmouth.