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Photo: Charles Tarbell

When visiting the Portsmouth NH/Kittery, Maine area and the powerful Piscataqua River that separates the two states, one is struck by the diversity of the area. New Castle on the NH side is very quaint and historic and features the impressive Wentworth-by-the-Sea Resort and Marina.  Directly across the river is the equally quaint town of Kittery, Maine, which has a quality yacht yard as well as the imposing Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that refits nuclear submarines. Just up river is Portsmouth, NH, which accommodates ocean-going ships, a cosmopolitan downtown and rich historic sites such as Strawbery Banke. The region celebrated the 400th anniversary of the settlement in 1623 last year.

Approach & Cautions

Photo: Whaleback Light, Walter Gaddis, Flickr

Coming from the south, between Gunboat Shoal bell buoy 1 and Kitts Rock 2KR whistle you will start to focus your approach to the harbor. The arch of the Piscataqua River Bridge (I-95), the lift towers of the Sarah Long (Rt. 1-Bypass) and Memorial (Rt. 1) bridges and the cranes of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard will be slightly left. Whaleback Lighthouse Fl (2) 10 s and R “2” are left to starboard.  Can “3” and a daymark on Stielman Rocks off New Castle beach are left to port. Inside C “3” is a yellow warning buoy and a University of New Hampshire experimental fish pen just under the watch tower of the USCG Portsmouth Harbor Station. Fort Point Lighthouse G is left to port.

From the north, Boon Island Lighthouse is the prominent offshore light. Inshore from this lighthouse, beware of the various marked rocks such as York Ledge, Murray’s Rock, Stone’s Rock and, closer to Portsmouth Harbor, The East (unmarked) and West Sisters and Kitt’s Rock (2KR) off Whaleback Lighthouse.

There are channel markers on the Kittery Point shore to center approaching ships in the middle of the channel.

Whaleback light

Little Harbor: The harbor to the west of New Castle, northwest of Whaleback Lighthouse is protected by two offset breakwaters, the easterly breakwater being the outermost. Approaching, observe the can (1) and the nun (2) outside the breakwaters. There is a slight jog to the right and then left through the two breakwaters and then a narrow channel through the mooring field to the Safe Harbor Wentworth Marina. A sailboat should not go inland as the bridge (Rt. 1 Bypass) requires a four-hour window after a call to the State of New Hampshire Department of Transportation for a lift crew to arrive. There is not much inside that bridge of interest to a sailing vessel.

chart of Piscataqua River mouth

Click the chart to open Navionics

Not to be used for Navigation .

Docking, Anchorages, or Moorings

The most popular anchorage is just west of the mooring field at Pepperrell Cove, between Nun “4” and the western shore.

Moorings: As in most busy harbors, moorings may be in limited supply.

Call the Kittery Harbormaster (207) 451-0829, VHF Ch. 9 & 68, for Pepperell Cove mooring availability.

The Division of Ports and Harbors (603) 436-8500, regulates the moorings but doesn’t manage the moorings. One of their Harbormasters might be a place to start, (603) 231-6100 (Little Harbor) or (603) 944-0569 (Portsmouth).

The Yacht Clubs may have a limited number of guest moorings.

Portsmouth Y.C.: (603) 436-9877, Ch. 78. Moorings, reserved on Dockwa, are $50 and include launch service.

Kittery Point Y.C.: Ch. 68  (staffing and launch service is currently limited to race evenings–Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and weekends.)

Safe Harbor Kittery Point may have a few moorings in the Back Channel between Seavey Island (PNSY) and the Kittery shore. [email protected] (207) 439-9582. They can do repairs, rigging, painting, etc.

Piscataqua Marina 4 Island Ave., Kittery, offers transient slips and is about 1/2 mile from meat and produce markets, a restaurant, and a bakery. Dockmaster David can be reached at [email protected], (207) 439-1661, or Ch. 9 or 13.

In Little Harbor, New Castle, NH, the Safe Harbor Wentworth by the Sea (603) 433-5050, Ch. 71, offers transient slips and there’s a restaurant next door.


Kittery Harbor Master 9 & 68 Kittery Point YC 68 Piscataqua Marina 9 & 13 Portsmouth Yacht Club 78 Safe Harbor Kittery Point 71 Safe Harbor Wentworth 71


Portsmouth Yacht Club Safe Harbor Wentworth


Piscataqua Marina Portsmouth Yacht Club Safe Harbor Kittery Point Safe Harbor Wentworth


Piscataqua 30-100 amp Safe Harbor Kittery Point Safe Harbor Wentworth


Piscataqua Marina Portsmouth Yacht Club Safe Harbor Kittery Point Safe Harbor Wentworth


Piscataqua Marina Safe Harbor Wentworth


Piscataqua Marina Safe Harbor Kittery Point Safe Harbor Wentworth


Piscataqua Marina Safe Harbor Kittery Point Safe Harbor Wentworth


Safe Harbor Kittery Point Island Marine Service



Getting Ashore

Photo: Charlie Tarbell

There are no public dinghy docks on the New Hampshire side, but Pepperell Cove in Kittery Point, Maine, has a public dock. Portsmouth Y.C. launch is available for $5 per person per ride (or included in the cost of their moorings).

Portsmouth Yacht Club docks on a cloudy day
sign board listing Pepperell Cove businesses

Photo: Charlie Tarbell


Pepperell Cove, Kittery Point, ME has a small store with some provisions just up from the Town Dock. For more extensive provisions, two Market Baskets, a Hannaford offering delivery, a Whole Foods, and a Trader Joe’s would best be reached by friend, taxi or Uber.  Also best reached by taxi, there are a Home Depot and a Lowes in the area, a West Marine (Rt. 1, NH), a Hamilton Marine (Rt. 1 BP, ME), Kittery Trading Post (Rt. 1, ME), and New England Marine (Rt. 16 N, NH).

Plate of raw oysters

Photo: Courtesy of Salt Restaurant

Dine Out

The Great Island Eatery at Wentworth Marina is open 11:00 to 8:00, Wednesday through Sunday.
The Wentworth Hotel has some fine dining options including the Salt, (603) 373-6566. There is no dinghy tie up.
In Pepperrell Cove, Kittery Point, ME, just up from the Town Dock, is a small complex of options including the Bistro 1828, The Ski Club and Frisbee’s Wharf.
There are numerous other dining options in the Kittery/Portsmouth area within reach of an easy taxi ride.

looking up past large granite blocks to Ft. McClary

Photo: Courtesy of Fort McClary State Historic Site


Wood Island Lifesaving Station, Kittery Point, ME, is newly restored and well worth a look.

New Castle village is quaint, and there’s a self-guided tour of the island.

Fort Foster, Gerrish Island, ME, just inside Wood Island, has a beach landing at the town park and is dog friendly.

Odiorne Point State Park, Rye, NH just inside the west breakwater in Little Harbor is another beach landing and has nice hiking trails. With all marine landings, be mindful of the tides!

Fort McClary State Historic Site, Pepperrell Rd., (Rt. 103), Kittery Point, ME,  (207) 439-2845, has some limited trails and great views of the harbor.

Colonial houses with fall foliage

Photo: Strawbery Banke with fall foliage by Eric Gendron, Flickr

Other Things To Do

The area is filled with things to do suiting almost any interest, however most would require a taxi ride as dinghy tie-up space is quite limited or nonexistent.

The Kittery Art Association, 2 Walker St., Kittery, and the NH Art Association, 136 State St., Portsmouth, show a variety of artwork.

The New Castle Historical Society, 120 Main St., New Castle, is open Wednesday afternoons and holds monthly presentations. On Sundays, there are concerts at the church gazebo in the village.

The Kittery Historic and Naval Museum, a short taxi ride, is fascinating.

The Discover Portsmouth Center is a great place to start to explore Portsmouth. There are the famous historical houses of the Strawbery Banke Museum, and there are the independent houses: John Paul Jones House,43 Middle St.; Wentworth–Coolidge Mansion, 375 Little Harbor Rd., a colonial governor’s house; Wentworth-Gardner House, 50 Mechanic St.; Warner House,150 Daniel St.; and the Moffitt-Ladd House, 154 Market St., and several more.

The Albacore Museum offers a real submarine for tours. The USS Albacore is a research submarine, designed by the U.S. Navy to test experimental features used in modern submarines.


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