The Lakes Region has the potential to be all things to all people. Rural villages, rustic summer colonies, elaborate ‘cottages’ and family-friendly motels dot the shores of its 273 lakes and ponds, popular spots for swimming, boating and fishing. At 72 square miles, Lake Winnipesaukee (‘Smiling Waters’) is the largest lake in New Hampshire. Drive around it on the scenic 97-mile Lakes Region Tour or explore it by boat. A popular option is the 230-foot Mount Washington, which offers cruises from Weirs Beach that will take you by hidden coves and around the many islands that dot these shimmering waters en route to various lakeside towns.
With a local croquet club and distinguished lakeside homes, the elegant village of Wolfeboro on Winnipesaukee’s eastern shore claims to be America’s oldest summer resort. Meredith is also a lovely town in a gorgeous spot between Lakes Winnipesaukee and Waukewan. Check into the historic Inns & Spa at Mill Falls there. Centred on a renovated textile mill and a former church, the waterside complex offers four lodging options, plus lots of interesting shops and small restaurants.
If Lake Winnipesaukee seems too bustling, consider quiet Squam Lake (you might recognise it from the film On Golden Pond). It’s a Yankee summer colony with an exclusive air, and if you haven’t inherited one of the homes on the privately owned lakefront, you can explore the lake by canoe, kayak or boat tour. Book a stay at one of the handful of lodgings with lake access.
The Manor on Golden Pond, a lakefront property with an English-style manor house built in the early 20th century, offers romantic rooms and cottages with fireplaces and dramatic views. The ‘dressy casual’ dining room is one of the best in the area and, in wintertime, the manor’s cosy nooks invite an afternoon of reading while sipping late-afternoon tea served on bone china.
The Lakes Region isn’t all scenery and serenity—any popular summer destination promises a boardwalk, ice-cream parlours and the chance to pick up a tattoo. Weirs Beach on the western shore of Winnipesaukee fills that role with a public beach, water slides, miniature golf, souvenir shops and one of the largest video arcades in the country.
Gentrified it’s not, which is precisely what keeps many families returning for its fun, Coney Island-like appeal. The nearby city of Laconia is famous for its rowdy nine-day motorcycle rally held every June since 1939. It draws more than 300,000 bikers and fans from all over the country.