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Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve - an official New Hampshire Government website
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Visit Us

Great Bay Discovery Center
89 Depot Road, Greenland, NH

aerial shot overlooking Great Bay
Aerial photo showing the runways at Pease Tradeport.
Courtesy of Intrepid Aerial Photography

Residents and visitors are drawn to Great Bay for its aesthetic and recreational value. In 1993, the Great Bay Discovery Center (formerly known as Sandy Point) was constructed on the shores of Great Bay. Located in Greenland, NH, it serves as the education headquarters of the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Hugh Gregg Coastal Conservation Center is also located here.

To learn more about the facilities at the Great Bay Discovery Center campus please visit our Facilities web page. In addition to the facilities at the Discovery Center campus, a variety of opportunities for recreation on both land and water can be found within the Reserve.

With the exception of service dogs, pets are prohibited on the boardwalk and in the facilities.
Pets are permitted at the boat launch.

Directions

The Discovery Center is located on Depot Road in Greenland, New Hampshire.
From the North on I95 or the Spaulding Turnpike, take I95 exit 3B and turn left on Rte 33. Follow Rte 33 for 5 miles. Turn right on Sandy Point Road for about a quarter mile and turn right again on Depot Road. Follow Depot Road to the end.

From the North on 108, take a left on Squamscott Road after the bridge over the Squamscott River. Take another left at the lights onto Rte 33. Take the second left on Depot Road and follow to the end.

From the South on I95, take exit 2 (just before the Hampton tolls) and head West on Route 101 for 4.5 miles until you come to the exit for Rtes 33/108. Turn right at the bottom of the ramp. Follow Rte 33 for approximately 4 miles. Take the second left (Depot Road) after the Squamscott Road traffic lights. Follow Depot Road to the end.

From the West on 101, take the exit for Rtes 33/108 in Exeter, turning left at the bottom of the ramp. Follow Rte 33 for approximately 4 miles. Take the second left (Depot Road) after the Squamscott Road traffic lights. Follow Depot Road to the end.

Boat Access Sites

At high tide, Great Bay offers a wide expanse of open water, but low tide leaves as much as 2,000 feet of mud between the channel and the shoreline. Even shallow draft boats can be challenged in Great Bay as the tide changes from high to low. Before planning your excursion, you can check out the local tides.

There are several boat access points to Great Bay including Adams Point (mid to high tide only), Chapman's Landing (all tides), and Depot Road/Sandy Point at the Great Bay Discovery Center (car-top, high tide only). A complete list of boat access points is available pdf file.

Kayaking in one of the rivers
Kayaking on the Squamscott River.
Courtesy of Sheila Roberge

The Reserve also offers interpretive kayak trips and instruction during the summer months. Explore the hidden treasures of the Great Bay with one of our trained naturalists.

Wildlife Watching on the Bay

Great Bay encompasses nearly 25,000 acres of tidal waters and offers numerous viewing platforms, for wildlife and bird watching opportunities. Wildlife photographers and visitors may catch a glimpse of muskrat, white-tail deer, chipmunk, mink, otter, red fox or cottontail rabbit.

The estuary is also part of the North Atlantic flyway and 20 species of waterfowl, 27 species of shorebirds, and 13 species of wading birds use the bay as a wintering area or migratory stopover. Winter waterfowl counts at Great Bay average 5,000 birds annually, with black ducks being the most prominent species. Over eighty percent of all waterfowl that winter in New Hampshire's coastal areas are found in Great Bay. Home to several endangered and threatened bird species, the Bay supports a large winter population of bald eagles.

Some of the best viewing areas around the Bay are:

Adams Point
Located in Durham at the mouth of Great Bay, Adams Point is one of the best bird watching locations and is ideal for viewing bald eagles. Trails lead around the point and offer excellent views of the Bay. A universally accessible platform is located near the main parking area. Adams Point is also home to the University of New Hampshire's Jackson Estuarine Lab. (Adams Point map)

Sandy Point at the Great Bay Discovery Center
Located at the south end of Great Bay, Sandy Point offers mixed habitats and wide open views of the Bay. The site includes a 1,700 foot universally accessible boardwalk and is well known for spotting neotropical migrant birds as they pass through to their wintering or nesting areas. (Sandy Point at the Great Bay Discovery Center map)

Chapman's Landing
This site is easily accessible off Route 108 and provides excellent views of an expansive salt marsh. The site features a universally accessible platform with viewing scope and provides excellent views of an osprey nesting platform from the parking lot. (Chapman's Landing map)

The Cy and Bobbie Sweet Trail
Four miles long from Longmarsh Road in Durham to the Great Bay Estuary in Newmarket, the Sweet Trail leads hikers through a remarkable array of upland forests, freshwater wetlands, and tidal salt marsh. The trail was created by the Great Bay Resource Protection Partnership and opened in 2010. There are multiple wildlife viewing stations along the trail and three designated parking areas to choose from including one on Dame Road in Durham that is maintained by the Reserve.

This site is approximately halfway along the trail and includes several outdoor exhibits on the history of the area and a universally accessible wildlife viewing platform. More information is available about the Partnership and the Sweet Trail Guide including a map of the trail.

aerial shot overlooking Great Bay
Little Bay shoreline.
Courtesy of Eric Aldrich

Hiking Trails & Geocache Program

The Reserve offers many trails to explore the lands around Great Bay. Visitors can explore colonial homestead sites, enjoy a picnic lunch perched atop large granite boulders, or quietly watch waterfowl floating on the Bay. The Passport to Great Bay pdf file provides directions, information for navigating the landscape, exploration time, trail difficulty, as well as coordinates for the geocache program.

Information on other conservation lands around Great Bay is available on the Great Bay Partnership website.

Hunting & Fishing

Great Bay offers many hunting and fishing opportunities.

Finfish
Finfishing from boats, bridges, and the shore for striped bass, bluefish, eels, tomcod, shad, smelt, river herring, and flounder is popular with local anglers. Smelt fishing is accessible from bob-houses on Great and Little Bays. For more information about fishing regulations, see the NH Fish and Game Department website. As of January 1, 2011 a license is needed to fish in salt water.

Shellfish
Recreational shellfishing for soft-shell clams and oysters is an option for New Hampshire residents who purchase a license. Great Bay is primarily noted for its oysters. Clams are generally rare in Great Bay, most clamming occurs in the Seabrook/Hampton Estuary (access is best by boat). Please phone the NH Fish and Game Department Clam Hotline for important weekly closure information at (800) 43-CLAMS or check the Clam Flat Status page.

Hunting
Hunting is a popular activity in the Great Bay, especially for waterfowl. All of the lands managed by the Reserve are open to hunting unless otherwise posted. Details about hunting seasons can be obtained on the NH Fish and Game Department website. Detailed maps to hunt on other conservation lands around Great Bay are available on the Great Bay Partnership website.

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Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
New Hampshire Fish and Game Department