Summer Escapes! The Great(est) Lakes

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


SQUAM LAKE: The Anti-Winnipesaukee

Low-impact boating! Old-money vibe! Great cinematography!

Better known as its film alter ego, Golden Pond, the real Squam is just as WASPy and nostalgically naturalist as the Fonda-Hepburn classic. In summer, New Hampshire’s second-largest lake is a blue-green ripple of forested islands and old-money estates discreetly tucked away from stretches of untrampled shoreline. Geographically, Squam sits 10 miles northwest of Winnipesaukee; culturally, it’s closer to a million. Noisy jet skis and oily-fumed cigarette speedboats are banned here, and the booze-‘n’-fireworks riffraff prefers the ecumenical trashiness of that other lake’s Weirs Beach. Boating is generally low-impact, with the rare mahogany Chris-Craft zipping along. Not for beach lovers, Squam’s shoreline is rocky and shallow, so most swimming is done off boats or docks. Nearby Holderness and Center Harbor are home to farm stands and a few small shops, but the lake’s main attractions are noncommercial: sunning, berry picking, trailing a hand through the water as someone else paddles. Evenings wind down to the call of a loon, the clink of ice cubes in a gin and tonic, and conversation against a radio turned low. Pack nothing fashionable. —Katherine Bowers

DIMENSIONS 6,765 acres | DEEPEST POINT 98 feet | WATER QUALITY Excellent. Unlike smaller lakes that turn warm and murky by July, Squam stays in the refreshing mid-70s through summer. | AQUATIC LIFE Chain pickerel, bass, lake trout, rainbow trout, salmon, yellow perch, white crappie | CRITTERS Blue herons, deer, moose, hawks, loons, several duck species, ospreys | OFF-LAKE ACTION Al fresco science lessons; On Golden Pond rubbernecking

Photograph by Bob O'Connor

Photograph by Bob O’Connor


PLAY: Eagle Cliff, a short but steep climb with a glorious vista payoff, is our pick of Squam’s 50 miles of hiking trails (trailhead off Bean Road, Sandwich). The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has animal exhibits, botanical gardens, and lake cruises ($9–$13; 23 Science Center Rd., Holderness, 603-968-7194, Instead of sweating the buoy lanes and treacherous reefs, charter a captained craft from Experience Squam for swimming, hitting fishing spots, or ogling On Golden Pond locations (starting at $115/hour; Walter’s Basin dock, Holderness, 603-968-3990,

EAT: Go gourmet at Abondante, a Tuscan-style trattoria near Winnipesaukee. The Mug, a family-friendly pub, serves superb thin-sliced roast beef (62 Daniel Webster Hwy., Center Harbor, 603-279-8596,

SLEEP: Rockywold-Deephaven Camps offers clay tennis courts, group activities, and communal meals; some families have been summering here for five generations (doubles start at $245; cottages start at $2,825 per week; 18 Bacon Rd., Holderness, 603-968-3313, For a charm-laden B&B, try Squam Lake Inn (doubles start at $160; Route 3 at Shepherd Hill Road, Holderness, 800-839-6205,

  • 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!!!