Summer Escapes! The Great(est) Lakes

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

The Case for the Lakes

#1. THE TRAFFIC You, the jamoke driving to Cape Cod on an average day: Enjoy your crawl along Route 6 with some 52,000 other vehicles. You, the genius driving to Rangeley Lake in Maine: Wave amicably to Route 4’s 10,000 other enlightened motorists (and odd wayward moose).

#2. THE RELAXATION FACTOR Those foaming, crashing waves—the ocean is dressed to titillate in the most obvious way. There’s just something tacky in all that storming and carrying-on. Lakes, by contrast, play the coquette, gazing shyly from the woods, the birches around their fringes fluttering like eyelashes. Okay, I stole that last bit from Thoreau. But there’s a guy who knew his bodies of water, having spent the better part of two years beside one. “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature,” he wrote in Walden. “It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” Isn’t that the point? No one goes to the ocean to navel-gaze. The ocean inspires grand imaginings of sailing forth like Ulysses to explore the world and…blah, blah, blah. All well and good if it weren’t for the three kids and two bosses riding us hard in this one. Oceans jazz us up, agitate. Lakes relax us. Lakes are crossable. Lakes are about diving into ourselves. Looking out onto a surface as shiny and flat as mica, a can of Bud in one hand, we smooth our internal ripples. At least until the Bud kicks in.

#3. THE WATER TEMPS The sun is out of its depth when it comes to the Atlantic, ensuring that ocean temps barely nudge out of the 60s. (Goose bumps and bikinis: not a good look.) Our relatively shallow lakes soak up the rays like wanton sunbathers, heating into the upper 70s, even into the 80s.

#4. THE SWIMMING PARTNERS Oceans have flesh-eating sharks and jellyfish whose yicky, gelatinous bodies are churning with stinging venom. Lakes have turtles.

  • 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!!!