There are quite a few islands at the mouth of the Piscataqua River as it meets the Atlantic Ocean, and two are readily accessible from downtown Portsmouth. This is an excursion that includes a picnic if you’re so inclined – there are few places that are so inviting for noshing outdoors than Four Tree Island.
Begin your tour by packing your picnic and heading over the Peirce Island Bridge to, you guessed it, Peirce Island. If you drove, park at the Four Tree Island Parking Lot (this is on Peirce Island),
Take a stroll around the trails on the island- be sure to check out the pool and head out on the rougher (though fairly flat) trails to the overlooks.
By this time, you’ll be ready for the refreshments you brought. So head back to the car to collect them and walk across the causeway to Four Point Island and relax at one of the covered picnic tables.
Purchased by the City in 1923, the 27-acre Peirce Island, accessed via the Peirce Island Bridge, is the former site of Fort Washington, which played a role in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. In the 1800s, it sported a shipyard, building such vessels as the famed clipper ships. During World War II it served as a recreation center for coastal artillery troops.
With such a military history, it may seem incongruous that it now hosts a wastewater treatment plant. But that sits at the far end and does little to detract from the wide range of amenities, including a boat launch, walking trails, fishing pier, picnic areas, playgrounds, a sand volleyball court, and one mammoth outdoor public pool.
About that pool. Constructed in 1937, with renovations and closures at various points, the pool is one of the largest in New England at 300 ft. long and 90 ft. wide. It’s a great place to wile away a hot summer afternoon.
The picturesque island, with unique views of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the Piscataqua River, offers a pleasant excursion away from the more crowded Prescott Park.
Four Tree Island
Four Tree Island is the place to go in Portsmouth for a quiet picnic alongside amazing views of the Piscataqua River, Portsmouth Harbor, the Naval Shipyard and the nearby Memorial Bridge. Part of Prescott Park, the island offers grills and restrooms along with (covered!) picnic tables, and is accessible via a foot traffic causeway from Peirce Island.
Having been known also as Five Tree, Three Tree and One-Tree Island, you might want to make a count and cast your vote. But more interesting than its many names is its former occupant, “Four Tree Island Museum and Emporium”, a brothel and dance hall servicing sailors looking for entertainment and just a bit more. It is said that the ferry carrying eager men across the river charged 50 cents to carry them over, but $5 to carry them back.
This illustrious institution is long gone, but the island remains a destination for less tawdry purposes. Be sure to take a stroll over to admire the “My Mother the Wind” sculpture at the point.