The beach, whether rocky or sandy, has always been a big draw for us as a family. Both my wife and I grew up in close proximity to beaches in Maine and Florida. The beach was almost a weekly occurrence when we lived in Hawaii and a frequent destination for sea glass and fish n’ chips in England. Because of this, our girls have developed a keen interest in the ocean and the things living in it. While vacationing this summer in Maine, my daughters were eager to explore the rocky coastline of New England. One of the best places to do so is Rye, New Hampshire’s Seacoast Science Center located in Odiorne Point State Park.
Almost the entire Science Center is hands on and very approachable to young learners. Visitors are immediately greeted by the skeleton of a humpback whale and the center’s exhibit on whales and seals that are native to the Gulf of Maine. From there, children can explore a number tanks housing fish and other invertebrates (to include a blue lobster!). Touch tanks provide supervised opportunities to handle starfish, hermit crabs and sea urchins. Other elements of the Center allow children to pilot an ROV, learn the history of fishing in the area and the importance of maintaining the ecology of the Gulf. Docents at the Center also lead several tours or visitor programs throughout the day, so check their website before you go!
If you do decide to spend the entire day at the Park, you can divide the rest of your day up by exploring the various casemates of Fort Dearborn or listening to the squelch of seaweed among the tide pools. Additional park facilities include picnic grounds, a well maintained bathroom and a playground.
- Tide Pools: For nature lovers who want to bypass the Seacoast Science Center, you can head straight to the shore to creature spot amongst the tide pools. Although there are pools along the entirety of coast, the best are near the bay housing the sunken forest. Just a warning, but tide pools can be slippery and caution should be exercised.
- Fort Dearborn: The park is littered with World War II era fortifications built after land was ceded to the U.S. government in 1942. The two most significant sites are Battery Seaman, which featured two sixteen-inch guns and Battery 204, which featured two six-inch M1 guns. A fire control station in barbette is found between the two six-inch gun mounts. A line of four 155mm gun mount overlook the drowned forest off Odiorne Point.
- Nature Trails: Several well maintained footpaths are located throughout the park that will take hikers through salt and freshwater ponds, the rocky shore and forests.
Know Before You Go: Hours (see below) vary throughout the year. During the late fall, winter and early spring months, the park is open, but unstaffed. Please use caution when talking around the tide pools as the seaweed is very slippery.
Location: The Seacoast Science Center is located inside Odiorne Point State Park, 570 Ocean Blvd. in Rye, NH.
Hours: Odiorne Point State Park is open for the summer season from 28 May to 5 September daily (subject to change) between 8AM and 6PM. Between 7 and 22 May, then 9 September and 10 October the park is open on the weekends. The remainder of the year, the park is open, but unstaffed. The Seacoast Science Center is open daily from 10AM to 5PM from mid-February to October. Winter house are Saturday to Monday (November to mid-February) from 10AM to 5PM and by appointment every other day.
Admission: This is the kicker, to get to the Seacoast Science Center, visitors must first pay admission at the Odiorne Point State Park gatehouse. To get in the park, admission is $4 per adult and $2 per child between ages 6 and 11. Admission to the Science Center is then $10 for adults and $5 for children between 3 and 12. Seniors and active duty military are $8.