Summer Escapes! The Great(est) Lakes

Testing the waters across New England, we uncover nine beauties worth their salt—or lack thereof.

Vermont's Lake Willoughby, framed by the twin peaks of Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor. (Photograph by Bob O'Connor)

Vermont’s Lake Willoughby, framed by the twin peaks of Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor. (Photograph by Bob O’Connor)

The coast is fine, if you’re into jellyfish, lugging around your own shade, and paying peak-season superpremiums for overnights. But we’re thinking that this is the summer to bag the ocean in favor of New England’s other liquid attractions—namely, its lakes. Well, certain ones of them, anyway: For every shimmering pool, there’s a dozen mucky swamps with pesky phosphorous “issues.” (You’ll want the former.) So to very literally test the waters, we dispatched our reporters to search out the best inland destinations within driving distance of Boston. They came back with these nine freshwater gems, and, for each, an itinerary for the perfect stay. Lake neophytes, rest assured: You’ll never miss the salt.


Lake Waramaug: The Classic

Photograph by Bob O’Connor


Squam Lake: The Anti-Winnipesaukee

Lake Winnipesaukee: The All-in-One

Photograph by Bob O’Connor


Rangeley Lake: The Wild One

Damariscotta Lake: Maine Without the Pain

Photograph by Bob O'Connor

Photograph by Bob O’Connor


Long Pond: The Best of Both

Photograph by Bob O'Connor

Photograph by Bob O’Connor


Lake Willoughby: The Looker

Lake Champlain: The Big One

Silver Lake: Mayberry Redux

Photograph by Bob O'Connor

Photograph by Bob O’Connor

Plus: The Case for the Lakes

  • sue

    Rented a cabin there last year, and had a wonderful time. Breathtaking lake. Look at craigslist vermont for some great cottage rentals.

  • Stu

    The lake is breath taking and certainly should be at the top of any list to visit. NH, the country's best kept secret.

  • Karen

    A wonderful place to visit! Have stayed at the Newcastle Inn. The environs and view are amazing, and the hospitality is unmatched!

  • Anonymous

    Sad to see clean, cold Newfound Lake in NH not on the list.$129,900.00&t=&fcla=1

  • Enzo

    I don't think that Cow Island is secluded or quiet. The last time I went past that island in my glastron foreflite, we were hit by hot dog fragments from some camp which had an impromptu hot dog cannon aimed out over the lake. When we got closer to the island to try and see what was going on we came across a 20ft high bonfire with black smoke and about 40 men running around swearing and throwing bag of gasoline around wily nily. One skinny guy had NO CLOTHES on. That island is far from secluded and peaceful. Don't look for any R & R there. Just Stay Away!

  • Chris

    Man from Camp is trying to keep our little Island paradise a secret!!! ha ha ha

  • Anonymous

    The Hot Dogs on Cow Island are the best..not to mention the free entertainment! Will have to go back since we missed the skinny guy that had no clothes on….

  • Rob

    Diving around Cow Island is a real treat! Who knew there would be so much candy at the bottom of the Lake.

  • Chris

    It's the neighbors on Cow Island that make it such a horrible place to live. Such immature behavior! Makes me want to put my house on the market! Hot Dog Cannon NOT INCLUDED in the sale price!

  • Walt

    Cow Island is not the only island that is quiet and secluded. All its neighboring islands, Little Bear, Dow, Wortleberry, et al are places with sparse development density and nice people. Very few of the island cottages are rentals so if you find one, its a good place to be.

  • Rick

    there are plenty of places at or near Long Lake to get a great sandwich, not to mention downtown Plymouth

  • Don

    In operation for 14 years. The best portal to New England's best lake.

  • Paul

    A marvelous resource of information

  • Mary

    I hope Heaven is like Winnipesaukee!!!