NH’s Secret Lakes, Beaches and Swimming Holes

So maybe "secret" is a stretch, but if you're looking to escape the summer crowds, then here are our suggestions for beaches other than Hampton, swimming holes and serene lake spots.

Summer 2020 disclaimer: please remember that COVID-19 guidelines are constantly changing, so please do your due diligence and check websites and guidelines first. NH state beaches are now open to swimmers, walkers and sunbathers, but social distancing rules do apply. NH State Park information can be found here.

Hampton Beach and its bustling boardwalk will always hold a special place in our hearts, but sometimes you want to escape the noise along with the heat. Here are some of our favorite swimming spots, from lesser-known beaches to quasi-secret swimming holes.

Ocean Beach State Parks

Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye is one of our favorite beaches.

Did you know that there are actually five public beaches located along the seacoast? Not bad for such a short coastline. In addition to the ever-popular Hampton Beach, here are four others to visit before the summer is over.

Please note that parking options may have changed for summer 2020, so please do your research before visiting. State Park parking lots will be limited to 50 percent capacity this summer.

Jenness State Beach
2280 Ocean Blvd., Rye
Keep in mind that the parking lot is relatively small — there are just 67 spots, so get there early. This is a great family spot that’s ideal for swimming and picnicking. Normally, lifeguards are on duty daily until 4:45 p.m. through late August, and there are bathhouses available.

North Hampton Beach
Rte. 1A, North Hampton
There is a bathhouse here, but there are no lifeguards on duty.

North Beach
920 Ocean Blvd., Hampton
Lovely sandy beach and nice places to picnic. Lifeguards are on duty daily until 5:15 p.m. through mid-August. There is a bathhouse available.

Wallis Sands State Beach
1050 Ocean Blvd., Rye
Enjoy views of the Isles of Shoals, plentiful parking (advanced parking reservation is required for summer 2020), a shop with food and drinks, a large bathhouse with showers, a picnic area and daily lifeguarding until 5 p.m..


Lake State Parks

On weekends, it’s not unusual for many of the more popular lake beaches to reach capacity by midmorning. Here are a few quieter suggestions:

Echo Lake
68 Echo Lake Rd., Conway
Admission is $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; children ages 5 and under and New Hampshire residents age 65 and over are admitted free.
The 700-foot Cathedral Ledge towers over this pristine mountain lake. A truly lovely place to spend the day.

Forest Lake State Park
397 Forest Lake Rd., Dalton
Created in 1935, this is one of New Hampshire’s 10 original state parks. Enjoy the 200-foot sandy beach, picnicking, fishing and more.

Wadleigh State Park
78 Wadleigh State Park, Sutton
Admission is $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; children ages 5 and under and New Hampshire residents age 65 and over are admitted free.
Tall pines shade the picnic areas located on the shores of Kezar Lake.

Wentworth State Park
297 Governor Wentworth Hwy., Wolfeboro
Admission is $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; children ages 5 and under and New Hampshire residents age 65 and over are admitted free.
It spans 50 acres and is located on the shore of scenic Wentworth Lake.


Swimming Holes

Sawyer Rock in Bartlett is a quintessential swimming hole. Photo by Ian Paterson

Unlike most state parks, you’re on your own here. Please exercise caution when swimming, and never go alone! That said, here are some of our favorite “secret” spots:

Sawyer Rock
Located on Sawyer Brook, a half-mile on Rte. 302 past the Silver Springs Campground in Bartlett. Keep your eyes peeled for the parking area on the side of the road. Gorgeous, deep pool with a large rock for drying off in the sun.

Lonesome Lake
This beautiful 12-acre swimming spot is about 2,760 feet above Franconia Notch on the trail to Cannon Mountain. It’s well worth the three-mile, round-trip hike. The trailhead is located at the parking lot in the Lafayette Place Campground.

Emerald Pool
It’s is a little off the beaten path, but it’s an easy hike of about mile off Rte. 113 in Chatham on the Baldface Mountain Circle Trail, about 14 miles north of Fryeburg, Maine. It is a small pool formed where water rushes through a cleft in the rock.

Categories: Guide to Summer, Things to Do