Summer fun on NH's lakes
You’re no fan of salty ocean waves and wonder why the heck anyone would want to sit on sand all day. The state’s pristine, salt-free lakes are for you and you're in luck – The Granite State could almost be called the Lake State since we have 273 of them in the Lakes Region alone and 1,300 ponds and lakes statewide. By the way, the largest of them all, Lake Winnipesaukee (69 square miles), is also a Guinness World Record holder. At LakeFest 2014, 396 canoes and kayaks were launched from Weirs Beach onto Lake Winnipesaukee in a span of 15 seconds, breaking the record for the largest number of canoes and kayaks launched simultaneously on a single body of water.
Take a scenic cruise of Lake Winnipesaukee on the 230-foot M/S Mount Washington.
The Seacoast isn't the only place with great beaches, resorts and state parks. Ellacoya State Park in Gilford on Lake Winnipesaukee has a 600-foot long sandy beach with views across the lake to the Sandwich and Ossipee mountains. The NASWA Resort has called Lake Winnipesaukee home since 1935 and continues to offer activities, dining and entertainment that are ideal for families. Pop over to Newfound Lake and enjoy the largest freshwater swimming beach in the New Hampshire State Park system at Wellington State Park in Bristol.
Weirs Beach, "where Lake Winnipesaukee begins," is one of the most well-known spots for lake fun where families have been spending their summers since the '50s. With a great beach, night life, family activities, a boardwalk, shopping, restaurants and more, there's always something going on. It's also the host of the famous Laconia Motorcycle Week happening this year from June 10-18, 2017.
On the lakes you can ply the waters on a variety of conveyances: Rent a paddleboard, canoe or kayak at Ekal Activities Center at Mill Falls in Meredith. Join the NH Boat Museum’s timeshare program in Wolfeboro Falls and sail a 24-ft. keel boat on Winnipesaukee, or ride the museum’s Millie B, a 28-foot, triple-cockpit, 1928 “woodie” replica. (Put Thursday, August 10 on your calendar — that’s the museum’s boathouse tour.)
For the granddaddy of boats, buy a ticket on the 230-foot M/S Mount Washington for a scenic daytime cruise or a sunset dinner-dance cruise. Throughout the summer there are various special events including tributes to our troops, Elvis and lobster. And, if Jimmy Buffett is your guy, don't miss the Parrot Head Party Cruise on July 14 and September 1.
Get out of the sun for a bit at Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough. Take in the killer lake view, then tour the Arts and Crafts-style mountaintop estate, go for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage and stop for a bite at the Carriage House Restaurant. We recommend that you check out the Antique & Classic Automobile Event on Saturday, July 8 and the fantastic Music Night Series that takes place on Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. from June 29 – August 24.
If the summertime traffic on I-93 looks daunting, turn west and head for the often-overlooked (fewer people, all the better) Lake Sunapee. At Sargents Marina in Georges Mills, you can rent pontoon boats (up to 24'), runabouts, inflatables and paddleboards to cruise the 8-mile-long lake.
If you want to leave the driving to others, travel south around the lake to Sunapee Harbor. There you can get aboard the MV Mt. Sunapee II for a narrated daytime cruise or the MV Kearsarge Restaurant Ship for an evening of cruising and fine dining. You can also visit the excellent Mount Sunapee State Park, the major recreation area in the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region that offers activities all year long. In the summer, the 4,085 acre lake at Mt. Sunapee State Park is an ideal spot for family and group outings. Boat rentals are available as well.
You can also visit the scene of "On Golden Pond," which was filmed at Squam Lake, and is located on the northern edge of the Lakes Region. Discover more about the lake and its wildlife with either the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness or the Loon Center in Moultonborough. Experience Sqaum offers a number of private boat excursions and tours including perhaps the ultimate Golden Pond tour with the writer himself, NH's own Ernest Thompson.
If you want to leave the Lakes Region and head north, then we suggest visiting the stunning Echo Lake State Park in Conway. In addition to swimming, walk the scenic trail that winds around the lake and provides great views of the 700-foot Cathedral Ledge which towers over the lake. Or, get a view of the lake from above via the mile-long auto road and hiking trails lead to the top of Cathedral Ledge.