Portsmouth is especially attractive when seen from the water. A small fleet of tour boats ties up at Portsmouth, taking scenic tours of the Piscataqua River and the historic Isle of Shoals throughout the summer and fall.

The long-established Isles of Shoals Steamship Co.  (tel. 603/431-5500) sails from Barker Wharf on Market Street on a variety of tours aboard the 90-foot, three-deck MV Thomas Laighton (a modern replica of a late-19th-century steamship). Most popular are the excursions to the Isle of Shoals, where passengers can disembark and wander about Star Island, a dramatic, rocky landmass that’s part of an island cluster far out in the offshore swells. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Other popular trips include a sunset lighthouse cruise. Fares range from $18 to $39 per adult, depending on the length of the cruise; dinner cruises cost extra. Parking is an additional charge, as well.

Portsmouth Harbor Cruises (tel. 800/776-0915 or 603/436-8084) specializes in seasonal tours of the historic Piscataqua River aboard the Heritage, a 60-foot, 49-passenger cruise ship with plenty of open deck space. It leaves from the Ceres Street docks, beside the tugboats. Cruise past five old forts or enjoy the picturesque tidal estuary of inland Great Bay, a scenic trip upriver from Portsmouth. Trips run daily in summer, weekend only in spring and fall; reservations are suggested. Fares are $18 to $28 for adults, $16 to $25 for seniors, and $13 to $21 for children ages 2 to 12.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.