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
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, nhnature.org). 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, experiencesquam.com).
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, themugrestaurant.com).
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, rdcsquam.com). For a charm-laden B&B, try Squam Lake Inn (doubles start at $160; Route 3 at Shepherd Hill Road, Holderness, 800-839-6205, squamlakeinn.com).