Out and About: Star Island

I tend to be the planner in the family. I hold the calendar, organize the outings, research the "family adventure days" etc. My husband and kids usually go along for the ride, sometimes with eyes rolling, but this is the pattern and compromise we've created in our family. It works for the most part because usually we wind-up having a pretty good time. So when my husband came to me, asked for free dates and booked some boat tickets, I was intrigued. He wanted to go to Star Island. An acquaintance told me about this place a few years ago, and I had filed it in my mind, but never put it on my list. However my husband had been wanting to go for a long time (a friend of his spent summers there as a child), and organized the trip for us. I'm really glad he did, because it's a pretty special place and I highly recommend a visit.

We started the morning with a drive out to Portsmouth and then boarded the boat. (You can reserve tickets online.) The ride is about an hour, with a tour guide explaining all of the historical sites along the way. (Small tip - make sure to pack sea bands or Dramamine if boats aren't your thing.) It was really interesting! The grey building in the picture above is the old Naval prison. It's not up to code and prohibitively expensive to fix - think lots of steel paint and asbestos - but also a historical landmark and can't be torn down. So it just sits there, with rumored ghosts wandering the place. I'm fascinated by this type of thing.


To be clear, Star Island isn't fancy. We're not talking Nantucket-style with oat milk lattes and $100 sweaters. The island is very simple, with a small to-go grille and gift shop. No frills in the best way. You walk around, follow the trails, and slow down. There are clean bathrooms (for people like me who like to know about these things) and a sweet playground for the kiddos. You go there to set your mind at ease and take a break. It's super peaceful and relaxing.

Our biggest regret was not spending more time during our stay. We chose the one hour visit because "what is there to do there?" and "we might be bored." Big mistake. Bring a book, a picnic, good walking shoes and maybe some cards. On a warm day, you can even swim in the ocean. Opt for the three hour stay and take a break from the buzzing of the world. Then, when you get back to Portsmouth, treat yourself to some window shopping and a nice meal. It's a perfect day! Happy exploring!

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