fort with geese
Geoff Rand
Fort McClary overlooks Pepperrell Cove. Some type of fortification has stood here on Kittery Point since 1689.

The Piscataqua River is a force of Nature as imposing as anything on the coast from Pollock Rip to the Kennebec. The entrance is fifty feet deep and a half mile wide, so when the tide empties and fills Great Bay, eight miles inland, a tremendous volume of salt water flows past the rocky shorelines. And those shores are mostly steep and well defined -- not the dissipated marshes and rounded-over islands that characterize a majority of the significant harbors along the Massachusetts coast.

The line dividing Maine from New Hampshire runs down the middle of the river, with the town of Kittery on the right and the city of Portsmouth on the left. As you progress up the river, the scale of the man-made structures grows to match their surroundings. First come the granite walls of Fort Constitution, then the industrial buildings of the Portsmouth Naval Ship Yard. Two low lift bridges and the tall highway bridge span the river in quick succession, behind the historic urban landscape of Portsmouth.

If you want to stay along the vibrant Portsmouth waterfront, continue upriver right into town. Or if you'd prefer to spend the night in a cove that's less developed and predictably quieter, turn right for the Kittery shore instead.

more on Kittery. . .