Anonymous storytime!

I was recently hanging with a buddy (remaining anonymous) who is not from the Seacoast. Before arriving at my house, he was taking pictures of birds in Rye, New Hampshire.

Although he did not find many unique birds that day, he did find some unique rocks. My friend told me that he took home about a dozen pie-sized rocks. He planned to use them as a border around his small garden.

I was blown away, and said to him, "I'm pretty sure that is illegal."

He told me I was out of my mind. Was I? Can you take rocks from beaches in New England?

Like most answers, unfortunately, it is not black and white. However, there is a consensus.

Across Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, the general rule seems to be that it's "against the rules." Note how I did not say "illegal."

There are certain beaches where taking rocks away is clearly defined as against the law. However, the language used throughout the three states varies.

For example, in Massachusetts, the general law, Part I, Title XIV, Section 30, states that removing any gravel, sand, rock, etc., can be punishable by a fine between $20 and $200.

The law has another piece to it, though. It is only punishable if the coastal zone department deems it harmful to the beach, according to a Mass Gov article. It also specifies that a warning is to be issued first.

Getty Images
Getty Images

In Maine, I struggled to find clarity on the punishment. But in Massachusetts, no rocks can be removed from the shoreline. The Maine.Gov website specifies that rocks in the water must not be moved to the shoreline either.

Again, no punishment was clearly labeled, but taking rocks from Maine beaches is certainly against the rules. And for what it is worth, it is more "frowned upon" or "illegal" on private beaches.

On New Hampshire beaches, it is (once again) similar yet different. New Hampshire laws clearly state that taking rocks in Rye and Hampton is illegal. According to a WMUR article, the police specify that taking rocks from the seawall could cause damage to the buildings and roadways.

So are you going to be locked away? No. Will you get a slap on the wrist? For sure. Could you get a fine? You betcha.

I'm sure no police officer will be knocking at your door if your six-year-old took a handful of pebbles from any New England beach. To be safe, just leave the rocks wherever the ocean chooses to put them.

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