Hampton Beach Master Plan: State Park System

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F. State Park System

The New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) maintains the beaches, all the property on and to the east of Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A), and the Hampton Harbor State Marina. The following sections provide an overview of the existing conditions of the state park facilities in the study area.


State Facilities and Services

The state facilities in the Hampton Beach area include four distinct areas and destinations: Hampton Beach, North Beach, Hampton Beach State Park, and Hampton Harbor State Marina (see Table 6). All of them are managed by DRED. The state facilities listed below are described by their location from north to south along the waterfront (see Figure 12).

  • North Beach
  • Seashell Stage area and Hampton Beach
  • Hampton Beach State Park
  • Hampton Harbor State Marina

Most of the people that work at the Hampton Beach state facilities are employed during the high season, between June and September. There are four year-round and approximately 55 part-time employees. The largest percent of them are lifeguards.

North Beach

North Beach, located north of Great Boar’s Head, is a very popular beach, but not typically as crowded as Hampton Beach. Metered parking is available along the entire length of the Beach. One bathhouse, maintained by DRED, is located on the north side of North Beach. Although the beach is over 1.4 miles long, it has few dry sand areas at high tide. There are relatively few commercial businesses in the area, and fewer rental units than at Hampton Beach. Surfing is one of the more common activities at this beach.

Seashell Stage Area and Hampton Beach

Hampton Beach is extremely active and more popular than North Beach for several reasons. Hampton Beach is located across from many businesses such as restaurants, arcades, and hotels, motels, and rental properties. This beach is large, over 1.1 miles long, and has a significant amount of dry sand and capacity for thousands of beachgoers.

Figure 12. State and Town Facilities in the Hampton Beach Area

State and Town Facilities in the Hampton Beach Area

Table 6. Summary of State Facilites and Uses


Use / Comments

Hampton Beach State Park (RV)


Administration and concession buildings

Gift and concession stores for the beach users

Administration offices for the Hampton Beach area

Maintenance sheds

Large and small shed for all the Hampton Beach state parks


Bathhouse and restrooms for uses of the Beach


Shelter with picnic tables

RV sites, parking

Area on south side of park for RV campers


Hampton State Marina


Pier and docks

Docks provides short term docking

Pier allows access to charter vessels

Boat ramp (not in Report)

Wide boat ramp for single use

Office / toilet building

Office for fee collector and public toilets

Pump house

Pump house for fueling station

Fuel station

Provides fuel for boaters at the pier


Seashell Stage area/Hampton Beach


State park office

Office area for state park staff

Lifeguard tower

Main building that houses lifeguards and equipment

Chamber of Commerce building

Leased area by the Hampton Chamber of Commerce

Used to provide information and sell lottery tickets

Seashell Stage

Main entertainment area for Hampton Beach

Restrooms, men’s and women’s

One of two public bathroom facilities along Hampton Beach

Light / flag tower

Tall tower that provides lights for the Seashell Stage

Restrooms, Ross Avenue

One of two bathrooms facilities along Hampton Beach

Current plans to upgrade


North Beach



Bathhouse and restrooms for North Beach

Source: Building Inventory Report, NH DRED, June 26, 2000.


Hampton Beach is one of the region’s most popular beaches. It attracts visitors from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as well as other states. This beach and the adjacent boulevard are very crowded and busy during hot summer months and special events such as the Seafood Festival. Surfing, a very popular sport along the New Hampshire coast, is not allowed at Hampton Beach, but is allowed along sections of North Beach. During the off-season, significantly fewer people use the beaches and boulevards.

On a typical hot summer day, many families enjoy activities on the beach such as sun-bathing, surfing, volleyball, walking, and picnicking. The boulevard that runs the entire length of Hampton Beach is used by thousands of people to watch and come to be watched, as well as to walk, skateboard, roller blade, and ride bicycles. The Seashell Stage area, located at the center of Hampton Beach, is the most popular destination for beachgoers as this facility includes a performance stage, park office, and public bathrooms.

View of the Seashell Stage (right) and the State Park Office (left) along Ocean Boulevard
View of the Seashell Stage (right)
and the State Park Office (left) along Ocean Boulevard

Seashell Stage Area

The Seashell Stage area, located midway along Hampton Beach across from the Casino building, is comprised of a small complex of cinderblock buildings including the State Park offices, Hampton Beach Chamber of Commerce, restrooms, play area, a small flag/light tower, a lifeguard tower, and the Seashell Stage area with seating for about 700 people. The state provides access for disabled persons with parking spaces at various locations, ramps, special beach wheelchairs, and a beach ramp that extends to the high tide line.

There are regularly scheduled events on and near the Seashell Stage throughout the summer season including daily and weekly activities for children and families, nightly concerts, karaoke, talent shows, and fireworks. Annual events, such as the Children’s Festival, Seniors Weekend, and the Miss Hampton Beach Contest generally attract very large crowds, and extend into the shoulder season. The annual Seafood Festival and Sidewalk Sales event, usually held for three days the weekend after Labor Day, has attracted over 200,000 people in the past. For the past two years, the New Hampshire Special Olympics has held a "Penguin Plunge" during a winter day. Its attendance is dependent on the weather and has ranged from 500 to 2,000 people.

View of RV Campers along the Hampton River at the Hampton Beach State Park
View of RV Campers along the Hampton River
at the Hampton Beach State Park

Hampton Beach State Park

Hampton Beach State Park, located on the southeastern part of Hampton Beach, has a parking lot that can accommodate 400 to 700 cars, parking and hookups for 35 recreational vehicle campers, and a building complex that consists of a pavilion, bathhouse, several maintenance buildings, an administrative building, and a concession (see Figure 12). It costs $8/day to park for the beach on weekends, $5/day on weekdays, $5 to $11/day for RVs, and $35/day for campers that use designated spaces with sewer hookups.

This part of Hampton Beach is quieter and has a more natural setting than the main section of the Beach. Aside from the beach and rocks on the ocean side, many people use the breakwater for fishing and walking. Although several commercial businesses are located on the other side of Route 1A near the Hampton State Marina, they do not seem to influence uses at this beach area.

Hampton Harbor State Marina

The State Marina provides excellent access to Hampton River and surrounding water bodies including the Seabrook River and the Atlantic Ocean. It has a parking area for vehicles and trailers, a boat ramp, and several docks and piers. Several businesses, including whale and fishing charters, and a bait and tackle shop, lease space at this location. Parking fees for all users range from $4 to $8/day.

Three buildings are located at the State Marina:

  1. Tackle shop – leased as a fishing tackle business
  2. Entrance booth – used to collect parking fees
  3. Ticket booth – leased by Platypus duck boats business

A detailed description of this area begins on page 48 in the chapter titled Hampton Harbor and the Waterfront.


Management and Operations

The Division of Parks and Recreation of the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development is responsible for managing and operating Hampton Beach, North Beach, and Hampton Beach State Park and the Hampton Harbor State Marina. The New Hampshire State Park system, which consists of 74,741 acres, 45 state Parks, 14 natural areas/wayside areas, and 10 historic sites statewide is very unique in that it does not receive appropriations of general funds from the Legislature, unlike other state agencies in New Hampshire and other state park agencies across the country. Faced with a growing budget crisis in 1991, the Legislature passed Chapter 40:2, Laws of 1991 establishing a State Park Fund to provide an adequate level of service and maintenance in the State Park system. This Fund is capitalized by the revenues that the state park system generates. These revenues include park entrance fees, season passes, retail store sales, group reservations, shelter rental, parking meter revenue, parking fines, leases, and special use permits.

Through this legislation a non-lapsing State Park Fund was created into which all park revenue is deposited. Any surplus income in excess of budgeted expenses may be spent on any park project or program, including for operations, maintenance, and capital expenditures, with the approval of the legislative Fiscal Committee and the Governor and Executive Council. Since its inception, the State Park Fund has had positive net operating income for six out of ten years, which has permitted the completion of numerous projects including land acquisitions, major campground improvements and development, an expanded marketing program, new parking meters, equipment purchases, replacement vehicles, and the Ameri-corps Program.

The budget for the state parks has varied over the past few years. It essentially breaks even. Salaries make up approximately half of the expenses, while other expenses are for the operation of the various state areas including the Seashell Stage and the state marina. Most of the income is derived from parking meters, and other income sources include leased parking spaces and fines. A detailed budget is in Appendix II.



Figure 13. Summer Day Use Attendance at Hampton Beach State Park and Hampton Harbor State Marina, 1998 and 1999

Summer Day Use Attendance at Hampton Beach State Park and Hampton Harbor State Marina, 1998 and 1999
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