Our lake and mountain view guide to good eating, sleeping, antiquing, crafting, shopping, schlepping, hiking, history and the many ways to access the sparkling water of one of New Hampshire’s best-kept secrets.Brunch Fest
Hey, you’re on vacation — why not sleep in and have a late breakfast?
There are lots of choices. Bradford Junction Restaurant and Bakery, 2370 State Route 114, Bradford, is the place to go if you like trains, big portions and 1973 prices. Breakfast including two eggs, toast, home fries and bacon is $2.85. You can eat a full pork chop dinner with mashed potatoes, vegetable and fresh baked rolls for— no kidding — $4.95. All this and a real caboose and model trains running the perimeter of the place. And don’t forget to talk to owner/cook Ed, the Bradford King of Practical Jokes and Good Humor.Cash only, please. For brunchfest with a view, we like The Anchorage Restaurant at Sunapee Harbor, 71 Main St., where you can eat the-best-ever corn fritters with real maple syrup or Redneck Yacht Club Meatloaf while looking out at boats moored in the harbor. Digby’s Steakhouse & Saloon, Rte. 103, Newbury, is not just for après ski. All year long they dish out great burgers and steak at lunchtime and at dinner. And there’s a game room for kids if you happen to be schlepping them along, too.
There is no shortage of go-to spots in the area when you’re feeling “snungry” — that is hungry for a snack. Snacks in the summer means ice cream, and we were knocked over by the view and the frozen moo at Brick Farm Ice Cream on Lear Hill Road in Unity, where the ice cream is for-real homemade and you can take a picture with an ersatz cow while killing that killer butter pecan or black cherry chip cone.
In Sunapee Harbor head to the Riverwalk and hit The Quack Shack. They serve soft and hard ice cream and fresh squeezed lemonade. If you like to construct your own ice cream sundae walk a few feet to 72 Main St. to the sundae bar at Marzelli’s Sweet Shoppe and Cafe, where they also offer homemade gelato, not to mention fudge, candy, hot and cold coffee drinks and pastries.
There’s nothing better than a float for that really special dining experience. No, not the libation with root beer and vanilla ice cream — the buffet dinner cruise offered on the MV Kearsarge at the town dock in Sunapee Harbor. The boat departs Sunapee Harbor at 6:30 p.m. and sails Tuesday through Sunday. Each trip is narrated by the captain and you can choose from two enclosed deck dining areas in which to enjoy your floating feast. Catered by the Appleseed Restaurant in Bradford, it includes roast beef, lasagna and a salad bar.
If you like your dinners on solid ground, check out Café Andre, Rte. 103, Sunapee. This fine dining venue features continental cuisine from Chef Andre, a kind of culinary legend in these parts, who prepares such dreamy dishes as sautéed shrimp and scallops Genovese in tomato basil cream sauce with white wine, garlic and mushrooms over pasta, or Tournedos Royale glazed with brie and topped with mushroom brandy horseradish cream. This is a hot spot, so call for reservations.If you’re a true romantic, the restaurant also puts up gourmet picnic dinners — $50 for two hungry lovers— as long as you call a day in advance. There’s no shortage of exquisite scenery to serve as backdrop for a spread of beef carpaccio or sliced chicken breast, shrimp, potato and pasta salads, fruits and relishes, fresh baked desserts, Parisian bread and sparkling water. A trip to La Meridiana, 6 Old Winslow Rd., Wilmot, is worth a trip to the Sunapee region in and of itself. It’s said to be one of New Hampshire children’s book author and local resident Tomie dePaola’s favorite restaurants and it’s easy to understand why — the Northern Italian cuisine is exquisitely prepared by Owner/chef Piero Canuto. Don’t skip dessert.
On That Note
Though the hills surrounding Sunapee aren’t exactly alive with the sound of music there are several waterside venues. The Anchorage at Sunapee Harbor will go down in rock and roll history as the club where rock’s “toxic twins” Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith first met. The restaurant/nightclub has music Thursday through Saturday nights with the emphasis on party bands. Recent acts include the Cryn Out Loud Gang, Roxanne and the Voodoo Rockers and Talkin’ Smack (formerly Junk in the Trunk).
If you want to channel your inner Victorian there are several outdoor venues eminently suitable for picnicking as well as listening. Concerts are conducted at the Ben Mere Bandstand on Sunapee Harbor on Wednesday nights; upcoming acts include The Squids and the Mary Maguire Band.The Newbury Harbor Bandstand has concerts on Thursday nights with the folk rockers Lunch at the Dump and the East Bay Jazz Ensemble coming up. The Flanders Stage at Sunapee Harbor has music on Saturday nights with the Fondtones and the Dr. Harp’s Blues Revue scheduled to perform.
Get in Gear
You don’t need to load a lot of equipment to have a lot of fun. If you didn’t bring a bike you can rent one at Outspokin’ Bicycle and Sports Shop, Route 103, Newbury. Up the creek without a paddle? You can rent one as well as a canoe or kayak at Sunapee Outfitters, also on Route 103 in Newbury. Lease a boat — you can get anything from a 24-foot paddle boat to a personal watercraft at Sargent’s Marine on Cooper Street in Sunapee.
For those of you who just can’t sit still on vacation, there are plenty of ways to dispel your nervous energy. You can play a round of golf at the Country Club of New Hampshire in Sutton, which has twice been selected as one of the top 75 public golf courses in the country by Golf Digest. Those who don’t want to ruin a good walk in the woods by whacking a golf ball around may take a hike on Mount Sunapee.
There’s a chairlift that’ll take you up the hill, but also several hiking trails, the most popular or which is the Andrew Brook Trail that begins at Mount Sunapee State Park and rises about three miles to the snack bar at the summit of the mountain. There’s plenty of good bicycling. The Lake Sunapee Loop is a challenging 23.5-mile circuit of the lake on Routes 103, 11 and 103A. And, of course, there is kayaking and canoeing on the lake. Sunapee Outfitters in Newbury conducts guided kayak group tours.
Native Americans summered on the banks of Lake Sunapee for thousands of years. The Victorians began visiting the area when the railroads and steamships made it accessible to urbanites in the 19th century. But the area didn’t really blossom until motorists arrived after the opening of I-89 in the mid-1960s. You can get a quick overview of the history at the Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum, The Caboose Museum and the Sunapee Historical Society Museum.The Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner contains artifacts and dioramas elucidating the art and crafts and lifestyles of the area’s original inhabitants. The Caboose Museum on Bell Cove on Route 103 in Newbury is a former car from the Concord Claremont Railroad that skirted the lake from the 1870s to the 1950s. It is filled with memorabilia. The Historical Society Museum at Sunapee Harbor has photographs and other artifacts from the area’s heyday as a steamship resort.
Rainy Days and Sundays
No need to get the rainy day blues when you can spend an evening at the “theatah” at the Barn Playhouse in New London. Founded in 1933, it is one of the country’s oldest summer stock theaters. This month the theater’s staff of emerging stars and seasoned pros will present Mel Brooks’ comedy “The Producers,” Cole Porter’s music confection “Anything Goes” and the evergreen music “The Fantasticks.” The company will also perform the ‘60s musical soap opera “Suds”on Mondays.
A visit to The Fells Historic Estate and Gardens, 456 Rte. 103A, Newbury, has served as a tonic ever since Abraham Lincoln’s personal secretary, John Hay, carved the estate out of the woods in the 19th century. Cavorting dogs, skeletal horses and other sculptural installations currently enhance the waterside estate that is crisscrossed with carriage roads and paths. The showcase rock garden draws horticulturists from throughout the country.
There’s no shortage of charming places to lay your head in the Lake Sunapee area. The Back Side Inn 1171 Brook Rd., Goshen, is really getting away from it all. This former hunting lodge is now a 10-room inn on acres of hiking trails. Inn guests and outside visitors can dine at the BYOB restaurant where a hearty Sunday brunch is served and Wednesday is an all-you-can-eat pasta buffet. If Victorian is more your style, you might want to check into the Candlelite Inn, 5 Greenhouse Lane, Bradford, an 1897 home with big porches, four guest rooms and two suites. Waking up means a three-course breakfast that includes dessert.Or consider the Rosewood Inn with 11 romantic rooms with canopied beds and fireplaces on a quiet back road in Bradford. And if your idea of a getaway includes at least a pedicure, the Mountain Edge Resort and Spa at Sunapee, 1380, Rte. 103, Newbury, has all manner of spa treatments from massage to sea algae body cocoons and a full hair salon. And there are rooms, of course — one and two-room luxury suites with fireplaces and leather furniture. Not surprisingly their motto is “Relax, Rejuvenate, Renew.”
You can’t visit a lake without getting your feet wet, can you? At Lake Sunapee State Park Beach you can soak away your cares and also soak up the scenery. The lake is unusually high, 1,100 feet above sea level, and the water is so clean it is still used as drinking water. The State Park has a sandy beach the length of three football fields. It has a shaded grassy area with picnic tables where you can escape from the sun, a snack bar and bath house. But the draw is the water, which is as clear as gin, and the gorgeous hills that hug the lake.
If you’d rather not get your feet wet but still want to take advantage of the magnificent views there are two excursion boats that ply the lake’s waters: The MV Mount Sunapee II and the MV Kearsarge. Mount Sunapee II conducts hour and a half tours twice daily narrated by the ship’s captain who points out sights of interest like The Fells, the country estate of Abraham Lincoln’s private secretary, John Hay; the home of Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler; and the gingerbread 19th-century cottages of the Sunapee Lake Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association at Blodgett’s Landing. The Kearsarge, a replica of a Victorian-era steamboat, seats about 75 at two-hour evening dinner cruises that include a roast beef buffet. Both vessels depart from scenic Sunapee Harbor.More adventurous rusticators should check out the Goshen Ocean, a sylvan pond that looks out on the back side of Mount Sunapee. The ocean, off Rte. 31, is actually Gunnison Lake, named after John W. Gunnison, a 19th-century explorer and mapmaker whose house is in town. A swimming hole operated without lifeguards, it harkens back to an earlier time where you made your own fun where you could find it. There are picnic tables and a three-mile trail that circles the lake. It’s not only a great spot for swimmers but also for canoeists, kayakers and birders. We spotted several bobolinks on a recent visit.
The Sunapee region is paradise for hand crafts and antique hunters.
Arm yourself with a little cash, a couple of cloth shopping bags and a magnifying glass for closer inspection and tally ho! The quest is on. New to the region is Mountain View Farm Antiques Rte. 103 in Newbury. This huge, antique farm house is filled with treasures from a number of dealers all arranged in artistic tableaux that look like classical paintings. Among the hidden treasures are vintage kitchenware, china and furniture including a charming striped settee with an intriguing tag reading, “We’re told this couch came out of Bette Davis’ Maine home.”
Prospect Hill Antiques, Prospect Hill Rd., Georges Mills, is situated in a gorgeous three-story antique horse barn with 12,000 square feet of antique furniture, pottery, antique reproductions and all manner of vintage and vintage reproduction items including clocks, baskets, signs and fireplace accessories.
You can buy fresh eggs along with your collectibles at Old Road Antiques, situated on a farm on 9 Old Sutton Rd., Bradford. From a collection of vintage Boy Scout manuals to primitive farm-themed oil paintings, this shop has that perpetual yardsale feeling. Owners Sarah and Geoffrey Hirsch are chatty and friendly as are their farm animals including the gorgeous Rhode Island and New Hampshire reds that produce those farm-fresh eggs.
For those in love with handmade objets d’art you can’t miss the 76th League of N.H. Craftsmen Annual Craftsmen’s Fair at the Mount Sunapee Resort, held this year from August 1-9. Tickets are $10 for adults at the gates or online and kids under 12 are free. Plan to spend a long time checking out the one-of-a-kind jewelry, furniture, artwork, fiber art and clothes in more than 200 booths in a verdant mountain setting.But there’s more than that: The fair also includes a sculpture garden, live performances by musicians, storytellers and acting troupes, exhibits and demonstrations. You can’t beat the fair for a stay- or day-cation.
If you like to produce your own crafts — especially rug hooking or anything else that deals with fine wool fabrics — don’t miss the Dorr Mill Store, Rte. 11/103, Guild. The actual mill that produced the fine wool has closed but the outlet store remains open where you can buy yards and yards of fine wool fabric, dye, rug patterns, kits, wool strips and accessories. Never hooked or braided a rug? The staff at Dorr Mill will be happy to show you how and let you give it a try right on the spot.
Deck Dock Home & Garden, Route 103B, Sunapee has it all — garden and home décor items, gifts, garden furniture and objects made by local artists. Check out the wide selection of birdhouses and feeders, “junkyard art” and weathervanes, not to mention folk art Lake Sunapee-o-bilia. All this in a beautiful old barn.
If you like to shop by town, we suggest an afternoon at Sunapee Harbor, perhaps before you cruise the lake on the MV Kearsarge or Mt. Sunapee, which leaves from the town dock. There are boutiques, gift shops, book stores and art galleries all within walking distance of each other and with a great view of the lake.
The Wild Goose Country Store, 77 Main St, Sunapee Harbor, is situated in the 1830 Flanders Homestead and carries the nostalgia theme over to the merchandise — penny candy, maple syrup, wooden toys and balsam sachets.
For homegrown gifts Best of New England just opened at 5 Garnet St. overlooking the harbor. It specializes in New England-made items like hand-carved wooden walking sticks, toys, baskets and jewelry.
For a good selection of Sunapee T-shirts and other souvenir items, Harborside Trading Company at 81 Main St. is worth a stop.
In the harbor’s Riverwalk section, there’s a grouping of small stores in a new complex called Pete’s Shed at 31 River Rd. including Tattered Pages, a whimsical children’s book and toy store owned by a school teacher, with dress-up hats and costumes, carefully chosen children’s literature and truly unusual toys. Also at Pete’s Shed is the new Crafter’s Co-op Market with wares from local crafters and artisans.
This article appears in the August 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine