Hidden along winding, forested roads, between country stores and covered bridges, hundreds of sparkling lakes transform eastern New Hampshire into one of the most pleasant and timeless summertime escapes. As the souvenir-shop signs attest: life is indeed better at the lake.

Located roughly an hour and a half from Boston, the Lakes Region is a drivable weekend experience for city dwellers fleeing the muggy summer heat — or worthy of weeks-long immersion for anyone hankering for a little lake therapy. With Winnipesaukee as the splashy centerpiece, surrounded by 272 of its smaller brethren, the area stretches from the spectacular White Mountains to Maine. In this guide, we will delve into these top lake destinations in New Hampshire, highlighting their unique features, recreational opportunities, and breathtaking landscapes.

5 Best Lakes in New Hampshire

Start each day with coffee accompanied by loons calling across the water. Toast marshmallows as the stars begin to twinkle at night. And throughout each languid vacation day, answer the water’s call at whatever speed suits you. Zoom, paddle, float, swim, hang onto a tow rope, cast a line, or simply sunbathe with a good book. Beyond the lakefront, be sure to soak in the flavors and history of New England’s quaint towns and undulating countryside. Foray to quintessential New Hampshire adventures (think granite-hued hikes, blueberry picking, or zip-lining), and be sure to taste locally crafted maple syrup, brew, or “chow-dah” along the way.

Lets dive into our list of the best lakes in New Hampshire!

Lake Winnipesaukee: The Crown Jewel

Mountain ranges and Lake Winnipesaukee in Weirs Beach, Laconia, New Hampshire.

Let’s start with the largest lake in the state first, as Lake Winnipesaukee is undoubtedly the crown jewel of New Hampshire’s lakes. Spanning an impressive 72 square miles, it’s the largest lake in the state and attracts visitors from near and far. With its crystal-clear waters and over 200 islands, Lake Winnipesaukee is a haven for boating, fishing, and swimming enthusiasts. Whether you’re seeking thrilling water sports or a leisurely boat tour, this majestic lake has it all.

Things to Do

From the arcade-bedecked boardwalk of Weirs Beach and Laconia’s Motorcycle Week to the upscale eateries in Wolfeboro and Tuftonboro’s antique shops, there’s a little something for all tastes. Eight charming towns circle the lake with a kaleidoscope of white clapboard colonials, marinas, galleries, umbrella-filled dining decks, souvenir shops, and clam shacks interspersed with farms, forests, and parkland. Settle into one of the villages, explore hundreds of islands via whichever kind of vessel you prefer, cruise the wide-open “Broads,” or venture beyond the lake. Of course, just staying put and relaxing on the lake is perfectly acceptable, too.

  • Whether you’re looking to unwind in a quiet cove or go full-throttle with power-boat-fueled fun, find that perfect home away from home with one of the many Lake Winnipesaukee rentals.
  • Although exploring the White Mountains is well worth the trek, lakeside Mt. Major — just a few miles north of Alton Bay — is one of several close-to-home peaks that delivers lovely views as well as a gentle three-mile hike, round trip.
  • History buffs can find plenty of attractions throughout the area, including Moultonborough’s Castle in the Clouds, a 1913 mansion with trails (for horseback riding or hiking), waterfalls, and, as the name implies, lofty views.
  • For alpine action, such as zip-lines and mountain coasters, check out nearby Gunstock Mountain Resort.

Squam Lake: A Serene Haven

Amazing view of Squam lake from West Rattlesnake Mountain, NH.

Tucked away amidst the picturesque White Mountains, Squam Lake exudes tranquility and natural beauty. Featured in the iconic movie “On Golden Pond,” Winnipesaukee’s northwestern neighbor remains a serene haven for those seeking solitude and rejuvenation. Explore the lake’s calm waters by kayak or paddleboard, and keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife, including loons and bald eagles. Don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning vistas that unfold at every turn!

Things to Do

For a leg stretch and a birds-eye view, take a two-mile round trip hike to Rattlesnake Mountain Trail or three-mile round trip route to Red Hill. More ambitious jaunts in the Squam Range, such as the Mount Percival/Morgan Loop, are within easy striking distance as well. Big (6,791 acres) and Little (408 acres) Squam Lakes are connected via a channel in Holderness, one of the area’s five settlements.

  • For stunning views, hikes, and waterfalls, take a day trip north to explore the White Mountains and summit the Northeast’s tallest peak, Mount Washington.
  • Discover your own “Golden Pond” moments at one of these Squam Lake rentals.

Lake Sunapee: A Hidden Gem

Lake Sunapee from Mount Sunapee as fall foliage is rising.

Nestled in the heart of the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee region, Lake Sunapee is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Its sparkling waters are surrounded by lush greenery and dotted with charming islands, creating a postcard-perfect setting. With ski-and-summer resort Mount Sunapee as a stunning backdrop, this 4,100-acre lake is rimmed with state parkland, sweet villages, and ample outdoorsy opportunity.

Seeking the perfect lake house to call yours for a weekend, a week, or beyond? Check out our Lake Sunapee Rentals page.

Things to Do

A smidge west of the official Lakes Region, Sunapee has four outposts along its 70-mile, cottage-lined shores: Sunapee Harbor, where you can stroll, board a cruise, launch your own craft, or sample local cuisine; Newbury, an ideal spot for afternoon ice cream and home to the Fells Estate and neighboring John Hay National Wildlife Refuge; New London, a classic New England town home to Colby-Sawyer College; and petite George Mills. To get oriented, cruise the 39-mile Sunapee Scenic Byway. For a little elevation, head east to hike Mt. Kearsarge. And for some Ivy League-steeped culture, take a 40-minute drive to Hanover, home of Dartmouth College.

  • Whether you’re just looking to unwind or seeking some thrills, the area has it all — from canopy zipline tours at Mt. Sunapee Resort to sandcastle-ready Mt. Sunapee State Park Beach.
  • Outdoor enthusiasts can indulge in a variety of activities, such as fishing, swimming, and hiking the scenic trails that meander along the lake’s shoreline.
  • For a truly unforgettable experience, take a scenic cruise and soak in the breathtaking vistas.

Newfound Lake: Nature’s Playground

Ladder on a dock in a lake in New Hampshire.

If you’re seeking a tranquil and family-friendly retreat, Newfound Lake is the perfect destination. Known for its pristine waters and sandy beaches, this picturesque, under-the-radar lake offers a plethora of recreational opportunities. Enjoy a leisurely swim, embark on a fishing adventure, or simply bask in the sun while admiring the awe-inspiring mountain backdrop. With its calm and clear waters, Newfound Lake is a nature lover’s playground.

Ready to settle into the lake life? Peruse these Newfound Lake rentals and vacation accommodations for the perfect getaway.

Things to Do

With 22 miles of shoreline, Newfound Lake is a haven for boating, fishing, and taking in the forested landscape. Rent a kayak and paddle along the undeveloped shoreline at New Hampshire Audubon’s Newfound Center. For a beach day, Wellington State Park has a sizable stretch of sand, picnic spots, and trails to explore.

  • Hikers may opt for a picturesque jaunt along the Elwell Trail to a couple of peaks: Little Sugarloaf or Big Sugarloaf.
  • For some boulder-sized fun, check out the Sculptured Rocks Natural Area, where the Cockermouth River creates a playground that’s ideal for cooling off while clambering.

Lake Winnisquam: Recreational Paradise

Scenic view of the lakes region of New Hampshire.

Winnisquam purportedly means “pleasant waters” in the native Abenaki language, and “pleasant” is an understatement. New Hampshire’s fourth largest lake sits just southwest of mammoth neighbor Winnipesaukee, sharing some of the area’s natural, quaint, and commercial attractions — and water, given that Winnisquam is fed via a Winnipesaukee outlet — while maintaining its own unique character.

Things to Do

Lake Winnisquam, located in Belknap County, is a recreational paradise for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Boasting excellent fishing conditions, water skiing opportunities, and ample space for kayaking and paddleboarding, this lake is a haven for water sports enthusiasts. With its sandy beaches and scenic picnic spots, Lake Winnisquam is also an ideal destination for a family day out. Pack your swimwear, sunscreen, and picnic basket, and get ready to make unforgettable memories.

Seeking a summer getaway? Lake Winnisquam rentals are the perfect way to experience these lakeside attractions.

  • Stroll the evergreen-scented trails of Ahern State Park or park a chair on Bartlett Beach.
  • For those who relish some time on the fairway, Lochmere Golf & Country Club sits near the lake’s southwestern shores in Tilton. And the whole family might get a kick out of mini golf at nearby Pirate’s Cove Golf Adventure.
  • Sure, you could score a deal or two on some brand names at the nearby outlet mall; but, to truly immerse oneself in lake life, it’s better to enter a fishing tourney and troll for trout and salmon in the well-stocked depths.

New Hampshire Lake Vacation FAQs

An aerial view of houses near Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to provide you with the answers you need to plan your visit:

Can I fish at these lakes in New Hampshire without a fishing license?

No, a fishing license is required to fish at these lake destinations in New Hampshire. The state’s Fish and Game Department issues licenses for both residents and non-residents. You can easily obtain a license online or at various authorized locations throughout the state.

Are there campgrounds and resorts near these lake destinations?

Yes, there are several campgrounds and plenty of New Hampshire lake resorts. These locations provide a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in nature and spend a night under the stars, or sit poolside with a cocktail! Some popular options include Ellacoya State Park near Lake Winnipesaukee and Wellington State Park near Newfound Lake, as well as the Naswa Resort and Margate Resort along Paugus Bay between Lake Winnipesaukee and Lake Winnisquam.

When is the best time to visit New Hampshire lakes?

The best time to visit lakes in NH are during the summer months, from June to August. The weather is warm and ideal for swimming, boating, and outdoor activities. However, if you prefer a quieter and more serene experience, consider visiting during the spring or fall when the foliage paints the landscape in vibrant colors.

Get Ready for a New Hampshire Lake Vacation

New Hampshire’s lake destinations offer a captivating blend of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you’re seeking thrilling water sports, serene solitude, or family-friendly fun, these lakes have something to offer everyone.