Portsmouth: 11 miles N of Hampton; 10 miles NE of Exeter; 55 miles N of Boston; 54 miles S of Portland

Novice travelers are often surprised when they learn that New Hampshire isn't landlocked -- it actually has coastline. Granted, it isn't much of one (just 18 miles), but travelers quickly learn that it manages to pack a lot of variety (and real-estate value) into that little bit of space. The coast has honky-tonk beach towns, eye-popping mansions, vest-pocket state parks with swaths of warm sand, and a historic seaport city with a vibrant maritime history and culture. Ecologically speaking, there are dunes, lush hardwood forests, and a complex system of salt marshes that has prevented development from overtaking the region entirely.

A short drive inland, colonial-era historic towns and a slower way of life have so far resisted the inexorable creep of Boston's suburbs. While strip malls are belatedly appearing throughout the region (particularly along Rte. 1), the quiet downtowns are holding their own, several establishing themselves as fertile breeding grounds for small-scale entrepreneurs who've shunned the hectic life of bigger cities.