Summer Escapes! The Great(est) Lakes
Testing the waters across New England, we uncover nine beauties worth their salt—or lack thereof.
LAKE WILLOUGHBY: The Looker
Breathtaking fjords! Bait-taking trout! Nature-loving nudists!
They can have their Genevas and Lucernes. For sheer mountain beauty, few locales can touch this glacier-carved gem on Vermont’s wild and woolly outer fringes. On Lake Willoughby’s eastern and western shores, the majestic (if unfortunately named) twin peaks of Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor barrel up like battleships on a collision course; between them, dramatic cliffs plummet to the fjords below, doubling as a launching pad for the lake’s peregrine falcons. The water is pristine enough for snorkelers to steal glimpses of the legendary, trophy-caliber trout, and for squeamish waders to keep tabs on creepy-crawlies. As remote as Willoughby is, the three-hour-plus drive makes it close enough to Boston for a weekend trip. That said, the best time to visit is midweek, when the area is virtually deserted, save for the occasional angler taking in the quietude from sandy North Beach and South Beach. Note: Nudists let it all hang out at the latter’s clothing-optional cove, as do college kids, who take turns on the beach’s rope swing. Those who prefer dives of the G-rated variety are advised to instead head to Devil’s Rock, halfway down the east bank. —Michael Blanding
DIMENSIONS 1,653 acres | DEEPEST POINT 308 feet | WATER QUALITY Pristine | AQUATIC LIFE Rainbow trout, lake trout, salmon, yellow perch, rainbow smelt | CRITTERS Black bears, deer, coyotes, bobcats, falcons, foxes, moose | OFF-LAKE ACTION Moderate mountaineering; pizza-partying in nearby Newport
PLAY: Hike the four-mile trail up Mount Pisgah for bird’s-eye views (trailhead off Route 5A, Westmore), or take to the water in a canoe or kayak from East Burke Sports ($20/half day, $30/day; Route 114, East Burke, 802-626-3215, eastburkesports.com).
EAT: Dining options around Westmore, the main drag, are decent but limited. We recommend making the 25-minute drive to Lago Trattoria for top-notch lakeside Italian (95 Main St., Newport, 802-334-8222, lagotrattoria.com), or the half-hour jaunt to creative casual eats at the high-energy River Garden Café (427 Main St., East Burke, 802-626-3514, rivergardencafe.com).
SLEEP: WilloughVale Inn is a laid-back B&B with gas fireplaces, Jacuzzis, and lake vistas (doubles start at $155; cottages start at $1,710 per week; 793 Rte. 5A, Westmore, 800-594-9102, willoughvale.com).