Great Island Common: A hidden gem on New Castle ocean front
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
On beautiful fall days, when students are looking to relax in the warm sun, the typical destinations tend to be Hampton Beach or Rye Beach. While these two are no doubt on the list of the few scenic and oceanfront parks that New Hampshire has to offer, there is another park that could be just what you’re looking for, and maybe even more convenient.
The park’s name: Great Island Common. This park is located in the town of New Castle, an island settled right behind downtown Portsmouth. Becca Holt, a UNH student, said her favorite thing about the park is its location.
“Whenever it’s a nice day and I have a break from class, I am always looking for somewhere to go to enjoy the day,” Holt said. “Other beaches, like ones in the Hampton area, are too far from here for just a couple hours in the day.”
Holt said it only takes about 20 minutes for her to get to Great Island Common, and that it would take around 30 or 35 minutes for her to reach the beaches near Hampton.
“On a day where I have class until 1 p.m., I want to get out in the sun as soon as possible.,” Holt said. The park on New Castle Island is close and convenient.”
Location is just the beginning of a long list of perks this park has to offer. Brittany Groulx, a UNH student, said not only is the location great, but the pricing is affordable.
“At other beaches and parks, parking and/or admission can be around $10 or more. At Great Island Common, it is only $3 a person,” Groulx said. “That kind of low price is exactly what I’m looking for.”
Great Island Common is made up of around 32 acres of grass and is located right on the ocean, with a small beach.
Anne Peters, a Dover resident who frequents the park, said the beach in the park is the first spot she goes to all the time. According to Peters, the beach is long and clean, with two areas where tidepools form and children usually play.
“Why would anyone recommend Rye Beach over Great Island?” Peters said. “Rye has a busy roadway behind the beach. Great Island Common has a grassy field.”
Jamie Smith, a Portsmouth resident, said she also chooses Great Island Common over other parks.
“Great Island beats them all, in my opinion,” she said. “There is a huge grassy area for picnics and also a nice playground. I always venture over to the beach and walk along the jetties there. It’s a nice scenic view and a great spot for pictures. Plus, the beach is never crowded.”
As a matter of fact, the park is usually short of visitors.
“That is what’s so great about the place,” Smith said. “Sure, there will be families and people around, but Great Island Common is never really crowded.”
Colleen Harmen, a Portsmouth resident, agreed.
“I almost don’t want to tell anyone how great the park is because I’m afraid it will get more crowded with visitors,” Harmen said.
Harmen said she has met her fair share of Portsmouth residents and others like herself who have been around for years but only recently discovered the park.
“I think the reason most people don’t know about the park is because it’s sort of in an odd place,” Harmen said. “It’s kind of hidden on New Castle in a residential area, and there aren’t many signs around informing people about it.”
Park visitors such as Peters, Smith, Harmen and Holt all agree that just because no one knows about the park doesn’t mean it isn’t something worth knowing about.
“Quite the contrary,” Peters said. “The lack of popularity is one of the things that make this park better than the others. You always feel relaxed and have a nice quiet atmosphere, no matter when it is that you go. … And that is definitely not easily found in public places.”