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Canoeing on Pawtuckaway Lake in Nottingham, New Hampshire

New Hampshire

An Insider’s Guide to New Hampshire’s Lakes Region

By: Calvin Hennick

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  • States:
    New Hampshire

The Atlantic coastline isn’t the only watery attraction for visitors.

Although New Hampshire borders the Atlantic Ocean, the state’s coastline isn’t the only watery attraction for visitors. The Lakes Region — about 180 kilometers north of Boston, Massachusetts — boasts 273 lakes and ponds, and Lake Winnipesaukee alone offers more shoreline than the seacoast of any state in the Northeast.

Because of this, the Lakes Region is a traditional summer retreat for New Englanders, but the area has enough activities to keep travelers entertained year-round.

What to Do During Fall

New England is famous for the way its trees light up in autumn. For a few weeks between the end of September and the beginning of November, hillsides burst with fiery reds, rich oranges and blindingly bright yellows. Travelers, known locally as “leaf peepers,” visit the region chiefly hoping to get a glimpse of the foliage at its peak. Castle in the Clouds, a historic estate in Moultonborough, is a wonderful place to soak up the spectacular views, and go hiking and horseback riding.

Apple picking is a favorite fall activity in New England, especially on crisp, sunny days. A handful of orchards in the Lakes Region — including Surowiec Farm in Sanbornton — allow visitors to pick their own fruit. The McIntosh is one of the most popular varieties in New England.

The autumn weather makes the season a great time to get out into nature. The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness is a sort of hybrid between a zoo and a nature museum. The attraction features hiking trails as well as a forest trail that leads to exhibits providing peaks at bobcats, mountain lions, bald eagles and black bears.

Apple picking is popular in the Lakes Region during fall.

Apple picking is popular in the Lakes Region during fall.
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What to Do During Winter

Gunstock Mountain Resort, between Lake Winnipesaukee and Winnisquam Lake, offers 92 hectares of slopes to skiers and snowboarders, with a 430-meter vertical drop. While Wolfeboro may bill itself as “The Oldest Summer Resort in America,” the village also holds an annual Winter Carnival, complete with sleigh rides, fireworks, and a multi-course dinner served along a cross-country ski trail. The weeklong carnival also features a winter triathlon, ice fishing classes, and downhill ski and snowboard competitions. Other winter activities in the region include pond ice-skating and hockey tournaments, ice fishing and even automobile races on ice. 

Winter sports are popular in the Lakes Region, including snowboarding and skiing.

Winter sports are popular in the Lakes Region, including snowboarding and skiing.
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What to Do During Summer

Getting out on the water is a must during July and August, when average high temperatures hover above 27 degrees Celsius. For travelers uninterested in speedboats and water sports, the M/S Mount Washington (departing from Laconia) takes passengers on a leisurely cruise of Lake Winnipesaukee, treating them to views of the lake’s islands and grand vacation properties. Afterward, kids and grown-ups alike can skip across the street to play arcade games and grab an ice cream cone, or take a dip at Weirs Beach.

One way to get cool without getting wet is with a visit to Polar Caves Park in Rumney. The granite caves were formed 50,000 years ago by glacier movements, but their name comes from the cold breeze felt when the caves were discovered. While the temperature inside the caves hovers around 13 degrees Celsius, most visitors work up a sweat as they writhe in and out of the dark, narrow gaps. 

During summer the lakes are popular places for water sports, or just to cool off.

During summer the lakes are popular places for water sports, or just to cool off.
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Where to Stay in the Lakes Region

A mix of private rentals, stately hotels and roadside hideaways dot the lakeshore and surrounding towns. Church Landing at Mill Falls in Meredith, situated on a tiny bay of Lake Winnipesaukee, offers water views, luxurious suites, and its own spa and yoga studio. The property is a favorite for couples who want to get married by the water. The relaxing Squam Lake Inn in Holderness provides travelers with a cozy bed-and-breakfast experience, while the Inn on Newfound Lake in Bristol features charming rooms, manicured grounds and a picturesque setting.