Celia Thaxter's Garden Tours


Our 2023 tours have concluded for this season. Please check back in March 2024 for next season's tours.


Step back in time and experience the unique beauty of Celia Thaxter's Appledore Island! Experience the serenity of Celia Thaxter’s garden by the sea. Visit the Laighton family cemetery and learn their history with many of the islands in the Isles of Shoals. Hike the paths Celia herself wandered and explore the cultural history of the Appledore Hotel.

Although fire claimed Celia’s cottage, piazza, and garden in 1914 along with many of the original hotel buildings, the garden and piazza are reconstructed and maintained by Shoals Marine Laboratory. The garden sits just where it was during Celia's lifetime and the raised beds and flowers follow the plan laid out in her acclaimed book, An Island Garden. Some of Celia's original plants are still in the garden: the snowdrops, the hops vine, and day lilies. Six-foot tall hollyhocks spill down to the water's edge, and brilliant red poppies are planted each year so that the garden echoes the famous paintings of impressionist Childe Hassam.

Celia Thaxter's Garden Tour participants (33 per tour) will be transported to and from Appledore Island aboard the Research Vessel Gulf Challenger. Passengers should plan to meet the vessel at UNH's Judd Gregg Marine Research Complex adjacent to the U.S. Coast Guard Station in New Castle, NH.  As a part of this unique tour, you will enjoy a fully-catered lunch in Shoals Marine Laboratory's dining facilities at Kiggins Commons, offering expansive water views and an open deck should you wish to dine en plein air!

Important information: This tour involves a 45-minute boat trip aboard a research vessel and requires 2-3 miles of walking over a rugged island environment. Please read the below information carefully before purchasing tickets.


2023 Tours 

Tour #         Garden Tour Date         Day of the Week         Register
1 June 23 Friday Tour is FULL.
2 June 30 Friday Tour is FULL.
3 July 7 Friday Tour is FULL. 
4 July 14 Friday Tour is FULL.
5 July 16 Sunday Tour is FULL.
6 July 21 Friday Tour is FULL.
7 July 23 Sunday Tour is FULL.
8 July 28 Friday Closed
9 July 30 Sunday Tour is FULL.
10 August 4 Friday Your is FULL.

Price TBD for 2024 season

$per person (sorry, no group discounts available). All-inclusive package covers round-trip boat transportation, guided garden tours, and a gourmet catered lunch (includes beverages and dessert, served buffet style with vegetarian options available). FREE parking is available! You will receive trip confirmation details from SML after you register for a tour.

(603) 862-5346 mainland office, (603) 964-9011 island office (weekends)


  • Plan to arrive at the UNH Pier between 8:00-8:30am for check-in and orientation.
  • The trip will depart for Appledore Island promptly at 9:00am.
  • Trip participants return to the pier in New Castle by 3:30pm.

Departure Location

  • Cruises depart from UNH's Judd Gregg Marine Research Complex, which is next to the U.S. Coast Guard Station at Fort Point in New Castle, NH.
  • Follow this link for directions to the dock in New Castle, NH where you will be boarding UNH's R/V Gulf Challenger.
  • Parking at the dock is free but limited! If you are traveling in a group, please make every effort to carpool.

Required Release Forms

  • After you register for your tour, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to required waivers and forms. These must be completed for each traveler at least two weeks prior to your tour.
  • If you are unable to access these forms, please let us know.

Island Environment

Appledore Island is a rugged landscape with uneven, slightly steep and rocky paths. Access on/off the island is via a floating dock, a steep ramp, and a set of stairs. Participants must be in good physical condition and should be prepared to spend a majority of the day walking (approximately 2-3 miles). Toilet facilities are available at the dock in New Castle and on Appledore Island.

About the Vessel

Access to the vessel is via a steep floating ramp, and the slope of the ramp varies with the tide. Because the R/V Gulf Challenger is a working research vessel, it does not provide amenities commonly found on a regular passenger vessel. Participants should be prepared to stand for the duration of the trip to and from Appledore Island (~45 minutes one-way) and will have limited protection from sun, rain or sea spray. There is limited seating available in the vessel's cabin (below deck), and the cabin is only accessible via a steep set of stairs. Toilet facilities on the vessel, in addition to being small, are accessed via the steep set of stairs. Participants are encouraged to use the toilet facilities located at UNH's Judd Gregg Marine Research Complex prior to boarding the vessel.


Participants requiring special accommodations, such as the use of an American Sign Language interpreter or assistive listening device, should contact us at shoals.lab@unh.edu or 603-862-5346. A two-week notice for an interpreter is required. Due to the content of this tour, it is recommended that participants be 14 years or older.

Click here to view the gallery of our facilities and terrain. For your convenience, we have assembled a gallery of images showing the docks at UNH and SML, the deck and interior of the R/V Gulf Challenger, and the rocky Appledore landscape.

Please be advised that Garden Tours may be cancelled on short notice due to inclement weather or dangerous sea conditions. This decision could be made as late as the morning of the tour if conditions deteriorate. In the event of cancellation, a rain date tour or a full refund will be offered. Cancellation notices will be circulated via email and telephone. We make every effort to operate our tours as scheduled, but feel it is important to emphasize that Garden Tours are weather-dependent!

Those registered for a tour that is cancelled due to weather will be contacted about rain date options.

Should participants cancel their own reservation, refunds are as follows for cancellations received:

  • At least 30 days before departure = 100% refund
  • 29-15 days before departure =  50% refund
  • Less than 15 days before departure = 0% refund