Water comprises one-sixteenth of the state of New Hampshire, and much of it is in the central portion of the state known as the Lakes Region which contains 273 lakes and ponds in a variety of sizes from the mammoth Lake Winnipesaukee to small Duncan lake, with all sizes in between. The following describes just a few of the best lakes in New Hampshire.


Lake Winnipesaukee, the third largest lake in New England, is a sapphire-blue glacial giant with 274 habitable islands and a 240-mile shoreline containing many coves and inlets. The several lake communities can provide any kind of environment: beach activity and entertainment or a quiet nature walk; white-linen cuisine or campsite cooking; a small cottage or a gracious resort.

Meredith – Population 6,303

Meredith, situated on the western shore, is a place to relax and unwind with many walking paths along the lake. The old-fashioned downtown makes you feel that you’re back in the 40s or 50s. And, Meredith is not just about summer as the nearby White Mountain National Forest offers excellent skiing opportunities.

Wolfeboro – Population 2,838

Wolfeboro, on the eastern shore, claims to be the oldest summer resort in the US and has managed to retain that “get away from it all” ambiance. Wolfeboro is home to fine neighborhoods with large, old homes. A stroll down one of the eastern side streets will give you a view of the cool, calm lake surrounded by mountains. In the winter, more than forty miles of groomed ski trails offer scenic skiing.

SQUAM LAKE Lake Winnipesaukee’s Opposite

Squam Lake is composed of Little Squam and Big Squam. Big Squam, New Hampshire’s second largest lake, is famous as the lake on which the Fonda-Hepburn classic On Golden Pond was filmed. Click here to see scenes from the actual cabin used.

Only ten miles away from Lake Winnipesaukee; culturally, Squam Lake is more like a thousand. You won’t have to listen to noisy jet skis and speedboats as boating is low-impact. Squam’s rocky shallow shoreline is not suited to beach lovers, so most swimmers dive off boats or docks. Or, you can go hiking – the area around the lake has fifty miles of hiking trails. Evenings are spent listening to the clink of ice cubes in a gin and tonic and the calls of a loon.

Sandwich – Population 1,200 plus

Sandwich received its name from John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, the inventor of the versatile sandwich way of eating. Although Sandwich is one of the larger New Hampshire towns, its population density is less than fifteen residents per square mile.  With its classic New England setting of colorful forests, winding roads and rolling hills, it serves as the cultural hub of the Lakes Region.

OSSIPEE LAKE A fisherman’s delight

Ossipee Lake is a popular vacation site with housing developments (many with private beaches), condos, and cabins. It is also the location of the Ossipee Pine Barrens, a highly protected forest ecosystem that includes some rare butterfly and moth species.

The lake is classified as both a cold- and warm-water fishery. Species include brown bullhead, chain pickerel, lake trout, land-locked salmon, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, sunfish, white perch, and yellow perch. Nearby spring fed Duncan Lake is another great fishing spot.

Freedom and Ossipee

These two towns offer small community living at its best. Freedom (population 1,489), on the eastern side of the lake, is an historic rural town with plenty of open space and wonderful sunsets. Ossipee (population 4,345), on the western side, is where the snowmobile was invented.

NEWFOUND LAKE The most beautiful one?

Yes, Yankee Magazine gave it the title of the most beautiful lake in New Hampshire. Newfound Lake is a glacial lake fed by eight springs, and its water is touted as the most pristine in the state. The Newfound Lake Region Association diligently monitors the lake to keep milfoil at bay. The aptly named Paradise Point contains an Audubon preserve incorporating 3,500 feet of untouched shorefront. Four towns share the lake frontage – Alexandria, Bridgewater, Bristol and Hebron.

Bristol – Population 3,000

Early visitors compared the sand in this location to “Bristol sand,” the raw material used to manufacture fine china in Bristol, England. Bristol, the most developed town along the lake, has many condominiums and close-to-lakeside housing communities. Famous residents have included Thomas A. Watson, Alexander Graham Bell’s trusty assistant, and John Cheever, the novelist.


Looking to buy a vacation home? The Lakes Region of New Hampshire is a great option. Many lakefront properties have their own docks or mooring facilities, and some have private beach access. A vacation home on one of the lakes offers a home away from home in a setting of natural beauty.

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