Panoramic view of Lake Winnipesaukee looking north from the summit of Mount Major. The entrance to Alton Bay lies at the right edge of the picture. The large island near the center-left is Rattlesnake Island, while the three islands in front of it (l-r) are Sleeper’s Island, Cub Island, and Treasure Island. The island to the left of Rattlesnake Island is Diamond Island. Wolfeboro Bay is visible at the far side of the lake near the center-right of the image.
There is a place for everyone on Lake Winnipesaukee to chart their own course for adventure and year-round fun. A quick 2-hour drive from Boston, Lake Winnipesaukee is truly a perfect getaway. As a popular summer destination, seasonal and permanent residents get to soak up the sun while sailing, kayaking, water-skiing, fishing, or simply lounging by the lake. Discover Lake Winnipesaukee from a high altitude while hiking West Rattlesnake Hill, Ossipee Mountain, or Belknap Range’s many trails. Lake Winnipesaukee’s many surrounding towns provide fine dining, local shops, and seasonal events. Even when the temperature drops, Lake Winnipesaukee provides the visitor with a variety of activities and winter sports. From hitting the slopes at Gunsmoke Mountain Resort to snowmobiling along the lakeshore, Lake Winnipesaukee is a four-season getaway.
By far the largest lake in the state, Lake Winnipesaukee covers an incredible 44,586 New Hampshire acres. The lake is the third largest lake in all of New England, trailing Lake Champlain and Moosehead Lake. Lake Winnipesaukee lures tourists and residents to its shores year-round. Five dams control the lake’s water levels as it flows downhill to meet the Merrimack River on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.
The lake is huge, and just driving around it is a 63-mile undertaking. As if to prove its size, 260 islands dot Lake Winnipesaukee’s surface, many of them actually inhabitable. Because of the sheer size of the lake and circuitous nature of driving its circumference, it is best to see the lake by boat. You can either take your own or rent one when you get here, but you are in for a treat when you head out into the Winnipesaukee waters.
Surprisingly to some, boating on Lake Winnipesaukee is truly a year-round activity. Summer brings power boaters who speed over wake, hair blowing in the breeze, pontoon boats out for an afternoon pleasure cruise, and canoeists and kayakers interested in testing their endurance as they explore each nook and cranny of a cove. Ice sailing prevails in winter, and you will find sailboats lined up for competitions or friendly contests in this interesting sport.
Cities and Towns
The communities that surround the lake, clockwise from the southernmost town, are:
- Alton, the largest town by area in the Lakes Region.
- Gilford, home to Gunstock Mountain Resort and Bank of NH at Pavilion at Meadowbrook, a popular New Hampshire concert venue.
- Laconia, the main commercial city on the lake. Included in Laconia is Weirs Beach, the largest public beach on Winnipesaukee. Every year Laconia is home to Bike Week, attracting tens of thousands of motorcyclists to the area.
- Meredith, a tourist haven on the northwestern reach of the lake.
- Center Harbor, a small town in Belknap County which serves as the winter home for the MS Mount Washington.
- Moutlonborough, with its Castle in the Clouds, an estate atop a small mountain.
- Tuftonboro, which contains the communities of Melvin Village and Mirror Lake.
- Wolfeboro, which bills itself as the “Oldest Summer Resort in America”.