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a store in Portsmouth, nh

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Portsmouth Is the Perfect Summer Escape From Boston

Prop stylist Liz Wible shares her favorite things to do on New Hampshire’s sea coast.

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Welcome to Summer Getaways: Your guide to the best day trips outside eight major US cities — and where to shop when you get there. For each starting point, we’ve enlisted the help of a local to tell us where they go when they want to get out of town.

Your guide for getting out of Boston is Liz Wible (@lizandlavender), a prop stylist and independent soap maker with a knack for pretty food ‘grams. Her destination: Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The Portsmouth Harbor, which overlooks Kittery, Maine.
Photo: Erin Little for Racked

I'm originally from Concord, New Hampshire, but I went to the University of New Hampshire for my undergrad, which is about a 15-minute drive to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. There's not really a lot to do over at UNH, so most of the time if you wanted to go out to a bar, go shopping, or go to a great restaurant, Portsmouth was the closest city. It's right on the sea coast, and it's super, super charming and pretty —historic New England buildings, brick walkways, all of that.

Now that I live in Boston, I visit about once a month, usually on a weekend for a day trip with my boyfriend. He also went to University of New Hampshire, so we each have a lot of memories there.

Products for sale at JaneGee.

The first place I stop by when I’m in town is JaneGee, which is this little well-being company in town that sells soaps and skincare, things like that. I actually make soap myself — I have a little freelance company called Wild Lather — and Jane, the owner of the store, was one of the people that inspired me to start my own company. JaneGee’s soaps all made with really clean ingredients (no pun intended) and have unique scents, so her shop just smells so amazing. I love going there and picking up a bar as well as her Clear Skin Oil, which I use that every morning and night on my skin instead of a lotion — it's really, really, really good.

Then there’s Gus & Ruby Letterpress, which is one of the most beautiful, Instagrammable storefronts ever. It's among a bunch of brick buildings, but the outside of it's painted blue. They have a lot of beautiful stuff in there (they carry a lot of well-known New England based brands, like Elizabeth Benotti Ceramics), but they're mostly known for their letterpress cards (so think wedding and party invitations). They have cards from makers across the state in there, and then they have a back room where you can go get customized invitations made. The shop is always really well decorated, and it’s fun to see what they have going on in there. Plus, I know it’s run by two women from the area that are super creative.

Cards for sale at Ruby & Gus Letterpress.

Folk is another great store. Compared to Gus & Ruby it has a lot less going on vibe-wise, but it’s super curated with items made by small businesses and artists from around the New England area. The store is technically in Kittery, Maine's tiny downtown, but if you’re in Portsmouth, Kittery is a quick five-minute drive over the bridge into Maine. Folk has women’s clothing, a couple of soaps and skincare items, and a lot of jewelry. They also have some knick-knacks and books in there as well. It’s definitely more of a neutral tone when you walk in. I would say it’s actually really similar to the aesthetic of my personal Instagram, which might be one of the reasons I like it so much. It’s really pretty to photograph.

Folk in Kittery, Maine
Folk in Kittery, Maine.

Another place I always stop is the White Heron Cafe! I found out about this place at the farmer’s market. They have a booth there with teas and their coffee that they brew, and then recently — maybe, like, two or three years ago — they opened their storefront and cafe. It's a really beautiful bright white, clean space with really great food; their BLTs and focaccia are amazing. And of course they have a huge tea selection and great coffee.

Shoes on display at Folk; White Heron in Portsmouth.

The farmers’ market is every Saturday in the summer, and then they switch to a winter market in Dover, New Hampshire. It’s a close neighboring town, and it takes place in a greenhouse, which is also really fun.

I never leave a day trip to Portsmouth without a drive down New Hampshire's seacoast. There are a lot of mansions and beautiful homes in Rye, it's really great to take photos. Then there are of course a lot of beaches: Some public, and then a few smaller private beaches that not a lot of tourists know about. There are actually several little surf coves that you wouldn't think to find in New Hampshire, but there's a really prominent surfing community out there. I don't surf, but I love to watch them. My dad is a surfer, so that's always been a fun memory for me. From the surf shops and lobster rolls to the stretches of quiet coastline to the boardwalk on Hampton Beach, it’s really just so fun to explore. —as told to Tanisha Pina

Hampton Beach, a short drive down the coast towards Massachusetts.


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