Summer Escapes! The Great(est) Lakes

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



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

Photograph by Bob O'Connor

Photograph by Bob O’Connor


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,

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,, or the half-hour jaunt to creative casual eats at the high-energy River Garden Café (427 Main St., East Burke, 802-626-3514,

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,

  • 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!!!