When the last of the huge glacier sheets left New England 12,000-years ago what remained was a landscape of mountains, lakes, and off-shore Islands like nowhere else on Planet Earth. Though southern New England has the larger islands of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Block Island, the large lakes of the region are found in northern New England.
These are the lakes of vacations, second homes, and a source of existence for many local residents.
They include grand-sounding names such as: Winnipesaukee, Sunapee, Moosehead, and Champlain.
When most are asked to picture New England in their mind, they think of rocky coastlines and lighthouses and the cold nutrient-rich Atlantic. A few think of her mountains and spectacular hikes as the Appalachian chain winds across five of her six states and towards the wilderness of Maine. Even fewer conjure up the lakes of the region, yet for those few, there is no other place in the world they’d rather be heading.
Whether you seek a lake in the quiet wilderness reflecting a mountain peak, or one that offers a destination for the boating and water enthusiasts in your family, then New England has a lake for you.
New England has thousands of lakes and ponds – Maine alone has over 5,000 – but in this sampler I’ve concentrated on those that have remained consistent favorites and offer a range of facilities, accommodation and accessibility to vacation and weekend getaway seekers.
Moosehead Lake in Maine:
But lest you think this reduces Moosehead Lake’s claim to be one of the top lake destinations in New England, let me put your mind at ease.
This is a lake of mighty proportions and worth the trek to get there, especially if seeing a Moose is on your “to-do” list.
Visitors to the area in mid-May thru mid-June can partake in “Moosemania” the largest moose-watching festival in New England, and take one of the guided moose-watching tours offered.
Moosehead Lake is located in north-central Maine, and at a length of 40 miles and covering 74,890-acres offers the summer outdoor person in you, camping, hiking, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and as the season changes to fall – hunting. In winter the area becomes the domain of snowmobiles and skiers.
The closest place to a large town on the lake is Greenville, which swells to around 10,000 people in the summertime. In the town you’ll find supplies and lodging and restaurants.
Greenville, on the southern tip of the lake, is also the berth for S/S Katahdin, the last of the ships that work on Moosehead, and which now offers in-season cruises on the lake – especially popular in the fall. The town also houses the Moosehead Marine Museum.
The western shore of the lake offers wonderful scenic drives, campgrounds, and the town of Rockwood towards the north. At Rockwood you can find campgrounds and rustic cabins for rent, and a shuttle to the island peninsula where Mount Kineo and its sheer cliff face raises nearly 800-feet from the lake shore. There are hiking trails to the summit where the view over the lake is breathtaking.
On the eastern shore of Moosehead is Lily Bay State Park offering campgrounds, a swimming beach, protected canoeing in the bay, and walks thru firs and masses of wildflowers. More about Maine Vacation destinations >…
Rangeley Lakes in Maine:
At the risk of repeating myself over and over again – which by the way I’m not apologizing for – the Rangeley Lakes area offers yet another abundance of outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, biking, walking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and bird and wildflower viewing.
The difference with this west central region of Maine is that people that visit it definitely get emotionally attached. I’ve had fierce arguments with friends who go back time and time again to Rangeley about all the other Maine areas to visit they’re missing.
But secretly I can see their point. To them it has it all and they know it’s a trip they’ll never be disappointed they took.
So what is so magical about this area?
Well there’s Rangeley Lake itself, which has Hunter Cove Sanctuary, Wilhelm Reich Museum and Preserve, Rangeley State Park, and then there’s the hundreds of smaller lakes and ponds that’ll keep you amused as you let the rest of the world slip by.
But perhaps it’s because like so many of the New England North Wood areas the locals seem to have time to chat and share their playground with you. More about Maine Vacation destinations >…
Lake Winnipesaukee of New Hampshire:
Located in Central New Hampshire and at the foothills of the White Mountains the setting and scenery of the lake is majestic.
The lake has two distinct characters with the hub of activity reserved for the western shores and the less-traveled eastern side the perfect antidote for a quiet day away from it all.
Take the M/S Mount Washington cruise on the lake to get oriented and appreciate the expanse of this clean and popular vacation haven. The boat leaves from Meredith and Weirs Beach as it travels down to Alton. Also at Weirs Beach – the hub of entertainment and night life on the lake – is the Lake Winnipesaukee scenic train road that chugs out to pig bay and back.
On the eastern shore of the lake you’ll find the scenic town of Wolfeboro, and Lucknow Mansion near Moultonboro, also known as “The Castle in the Clouds” because of the magnificent view of the lake and White Mountains it affords from its location.
But Lake Winnipesaukee for all its surrounding pleasant distractions remains firmly a destination and magnet for powered boats and jet skis. More things to do around Lake Winnipesaukee >…
Lakes Region of New Hampshire:
A few stand out as “must see” while vacationing in the area. These are Squam Lake, Lake Sunapee and Newfound Lake.
Squam Lake is just north of Lake Winnipesaukee and offers sailboats, canoes and kayaks for rental and memorable Bass fishing.
For an outstanding view of the lake without a lot of effort take the short West Rattlesnake Mountain hike.
Newfound Lake is a deep and pristine lake, seven miles in length and about 21/2 miles across. If you’re ready to succumb to a serene and relaxing day then stop and purchase something to grill and some charcoal, and head out to Wellington State Park. You’ll find white sandy beaches and clear water. There are picnic tables, grilling areas and gorgeous views of Newfound Lake and the surrounding mountains.
Sunapee Lake covers an area of 4,090-acres making it one of the larger ones in the region, and is located west of route 93 closer to the Vermont border. The area is home to Dartmouth College, one of the Ivy League schools.
Sunapee Lake has organized boat tours, which can be taken from the town of Sunapee, and some of the best fishing in the area. In fact it’s known as an Angler’s paradise with Salmon, lake trout, smallmouth bass, pickerel, horned pout, all there for the taking with the right bait… and skill. More about the Lakes Region of New Hampshire >…
Lake Champlain and Islands of Vermont:
One day the world is going to discover Vermont’s Lake Champlain and its Islands and then it won’t be the Vermont secret it is at the moment. But for now only a chosen few – and you’re in that select few – know about it.
Located in the northwest corner of Vermont and sharing its body of water with New York State and the Canadian border this grand lake is considered by locals and enthusiasts to be the long lost cousin of the Great lakes – there was once a movement to get it recognized as the sixth Great Lake.
The lake was formed when a huge ice plug backed up the surrounding glacier melt water.
At 120 miles in length and 12 miles across it is an impressive body of fresh water.
The Lake Champlain Islands offer outdoor recreation, historic villages, cycling, a coral reef, and wonderful dining and lodging. The connected Islands are Alburg, Isle La Motte, North Hero, Grand Isle, and South Hero, and visitors to these islands are greeted with seven state parks with an abundance of camping, swimming, and fishing opportunities.
On the shore of Lake Champlain is Burlington, a small city but definitely the hub in this region. Burlington offers Lake Cruises around the Islands, a scenic train ride through the Champlain Valley, and the world-class aquarium and science center at ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain.
For the adventurous and diving certified the lake is considered to have the best collection of historic shipwrecks in North America, with eight preserved and accessible from the shores of Burlington. More about things to do around Lake Champlain and Islands >…
If you’re still planning your vacation for 2011 then don’t forget to check out our best 12 suggestions at New England Vacation Guide here.
Another New England post by one of our writers is being prepared right now so be sure to visit again or just subscribe to our RSS Feed here and get notified automatically of events and news.
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