Summer Escapes! 2009: The Great(est) Lakes

Ritzy retreats! Honky-tonk thrills! Everything in between!

NEW HAMPSHIRE: LAKE WINNIPESAUKEE

THE ALL-IN-ONE

SUMMER-GETAWAY SNOBS TEND to roll their eyes at Winnipesaukee. (For an example, click here.) “So touristy!” they sniff, as though the 44,586-acre mammoth began and ended with Weirs Beach and its constant thrum of aggressively unpretentious activity. In fact, there’s a lot more to this sapphire-blue giant of New Hampshire’s famed Lakes Region. Its 240-mile shoreline cuts back into myriad inlets and coves, creating mini destinations that offer a variety of scenes and amenities. Feel like rubbing shoulders with world leaders? Head to Wolfeboro, on the eastern shore. Or rub shoulders with absolutely nobody on secluded Cow Island. Booming boardwalks and nature walks, campsite cooking and white-linen cuisine, tents and cottages and gracious resorts—Winnipesaukee’s big enough for it all. —Danielle Jacoby

MEREDITH
for epicurean delights
Meredith’s comely Main Street features traditional white clapboard buildings brightened by a bouquet of colorful boutiques and galleries. The real draw, though, is the town’s profusion of restaurants, as exemplified by swank Italian trattoria Abondante and summer-fare specialist Town Docks.

COW ISLAND
for no-frills r&r

Tucked into an eastern pocket of Winnipesaukee, Cow Island has zero cars and a limited number of rentals. The warble of a shore bird at dusk, the rustle of deer along the shoreline—for urban dwellers in need of respite, they’re the sounds of a great escape.

WEIRS BEACH
for nonstop action

Buzzing with penny arcades, miniature golf, go-carts, bowling, and bumper cars, Weirs Beach is the kind of place kids (and certain adults) go wild for. The honky-tonk atmosphere ratchets up during Laconia Motorcycle Week, which this year starts 6/13.

MELVIN VILLAGE
for unmatched scenery

A photographer’s dream, Melvin Village in Tuftonboro comprises winding back roads, historic homesteads, and views of the water and mountains that go from attractive to awe-inspiring as you climb the 80-foot-high Abenaki Tower.

WOLFEBORO
for old-school hobnobbing

We’re not saying the French are finicky, exactly, but having Nicolas Sarkozy opt to spend his summer in Wolfeboro two years ago certainly attests to the savoir-faire of this waterfront village, the oldest summer resort in America. Winsome B&Bs, gourmet eateries, and the long-running Great Waters Music Festival (beginning 7/10) lend the local scene ample verve.

ALTON BAY
for water-sports adventures

Amid Winnipesaukee’s 72 square miles of water, the placid surface of Alton Bay offers the best staging ground for sports: Sheltered from the lake’s broader, windier expanse, it’s practically custom-made for boating, tubing, water-skiing, and the like. Visiting families rest up for the next day’s activities in lakeside inns and rental cottages.

When in Winnipesaukee…

STAY

1. WOLFEBORO INN: 1812 gem boasting sweeping water views and a short stroll to town. Doubles start at $200; 90 N. Main St., Wolfeboro, 603-569-3016, wolfeboroinn.com.

2. TUC’ ME INN: Seven-room B&B outfitted with four-posters. Doubles start at $165; 118 N. Main St., Wolfeboro, 603-569-5702, tucmeinn.com.

3. BAY SIDE INN: Smack-dab on Alton Bay, with watercraft rentals to boot. Doubles start at $150; 86 Rte. 11D, Alton Bay, 603-875-5005, bayside-inn.com.

4. LAKE OPECHEE INN & SPA: Historic mill building transformed into a pamper-yourself getaway. Rooms starting at $199; 62 Doris Ray Ct., Lakeport, 603-524-0111, opecheeinn.com.

5. CHURCH LANDING AT MILL FALLS: 57-room lodge that blends rustic with refined. Doubles start at $259; 312 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 800-622-6455, millfalls.com.

6. PINE VIEW LODGE: Retro motel, recently renovated. Rooms start at $79; 427 Rte. 109, 603-544-3800, Melvin Village, newhampshirelodging.com.

EAT

7. GARWOODS: Reliably yummy pasta and seafood, with seating on the dock. 6 N. Main St., Wolfeboro, 603-569-7788, garwoodsrestaurant.com.

8. LYDIA’S CAFÉ: High-octane espresso and coffee alongside breakfast and lunch fare. 33 N. Main St., Wolfeboro, 603-569-3991.

9. WILLIAM TELL INN: Wiener schnitzel and sauerbraten from family recipes. 1602 Mount Major Hwy. (Rte. 11), Alton Bay, 603-293-8803, thewilliamtellinn.com.

10. SHIBLEY’S AT THE PIER: Amped-up lakeside dining (think seared ahi tuna with wasabi coleslaw). 42 Mount Major Hwy. (Rte. 11), Alton Bay, 603-875-3636, shibleysatthepier.com.

11. DONNA JEAN’S DINER: Friendly purveyor of hearty breakfasts. 1208 Weirs Blvd., Laconia, 603-366-5996.

12. ABONDANTE: Elegant Tuscan-style trattoria with its own bakery. 30 Main St., Meredith, 603-279-7177, abondantenh.com.

13. GIUSEPPE’S: Tasty pizza served amid old-school décor. Mill Falls Marketplace, Routes 3 and 25, Meredith, 603-279-3313, giuseppesnh.com.

14. TOWN DOCKS: Lobster, fried clams, and other summer faves. 289 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 603-279-3445, thecman.com.

PLAY

15. ANGLING ADVENTURES: Fishing excursions with all the gear plus a seasoned guide. 79 Middleton Rd., Wolfeboro, 603-569-6426, gadaboutgolder.com.

16. M/S MOUNT WASHINGTON: Scenic tours by day, dinner dances by night, aboard an iconic charter. 211 Lakeside Ave., Weirs Beach, Laconia, 603-366-5531, cruisenh.com.

17. COBBLE MOUNTAIN STABLES: Bucolic trail rides 15 minutes from the Weirs Beach bustle. 719 Cherry Valley Rd. (Rte. 11A), Gilford, 603-293-4341, cobblemountainstables.com.

18. KNIGHT’S POND CONSERVATION AREA: Hiker’s and picnicker’s paradise set on 300-plus woodland acres. Rines Road (off Rte. 28), Alton.

19. MOUNT MAJOR: Spectacular views that reward the steep climb to the summit. Trailhead off Route 11, Alton.

20. MEREDITH MARINA: Generous stock of boat rentals, including jet skis and bow-riders. 2 Bayshore Dr., Meredith, 603-279-7921, meredithmarina.com.

21. OAK HILL GOLF COURSE: Semiprivate nine-hole, par-34 course with unlimited-play deals. 159 Pease Rd., Meredith, 603-279-4438, oakhillgc.com.

22. CASTLE IN THE CLOUDS: 5,500-acre historic estate offering tours and live jazz performances at sunset. 455 Old Mountain Rd. (Rte. 171), Moultonborough, 603-476-5900, castleintheclouds.org.

  • 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. http://www.lakewinnipesaukee.net

  • 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. http://www.nneren.com/view2.php?id=2780484&ref=q&price=$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
    http://www.lakewinnipesaukee.net

  • Mary

    I hope Heaven is like Winnipesaukee!!!