Outdoors Information

Lake Winnipesaukee - The Smile of the Great Spirit

Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest and one of the deepest lakes in New Hampshire. Centered in the popular vacation area known as the Lakes Region it provides 4-season pleasure for millions every year.

The lake is surrounded by the foothills of New Hampshire's White Mountains, which provides stunning backdrops to this jewel of a New Hampshire lake, and magnificent views for those prepared to hike a few miles to the summit of surrounding peaks.

The lake is spring fed and clean, and many homes on the lake take their water supply directly without any filtering.

But the native people have known this lake and its beauty for 10,000 years. They gave Lake Winnipesaukee the Indian name meaning "Smile of the Great Spirit."

These days people still fish and canoe on the lake but it's shared with modern day jet skis and motorboats. But essentially Lake Winnipesaukee is an area to take your time exploring, and let the hours tick slowly by.

I've been visiting Lake Winnipesaukee for the last twenty years and I have these suggestions for enjoying your visit to the Lake.


For a 132-years a cruise boat has been traveling up and down the 72 square miles of the lake. The current boat - M/S MOUNT WASHINGTON has been operating since 1946. Due to the demand it was extended in 1982 by cutting the boat in half and placing a middle section.

Today with it's three decks and ample room there's no better way of getting oriented on the Lake. You can board the boat at Weirs Beach and take the 2 and hour cruise down to Alton Bay or up to the picturesque town of Meredith.

When you make the trip be prepared to do a lot of waving. The M/S Mount Washington is a popular and the most distinctive boat on the lake, and you'll find most boaters and people on the shorelines waving in recognition of this majestic large ship.


The Lake Winnipesaukee scenic train runs from Meredith to Weirs Beach to Lakeport and back. You can take a 1 hour or 2 hour ride. You'll get spectacular views of the lake and shoreline and Belknap Mountain.

This is a slow ride train as it travels the shoreline on Paugus Bay, and you'll get plenty of time to admire many of the stunning homes built on this stretch of the ride.

Snacks and ice cream are sold on the journey.


The Castle in the Clouds is a magnificent home built on a mountaintop in 1913 by industrialist Thomas Plant.

You can tour the castle and grounds where you'll find waterfalls and miles of trails to explore. During the fall foliage season it offers majestic views of the lake and surrounding area.

The Castle is near Moultonboro on the eastern side of the lake and you can get there by following Route 171 in Ossipee.


For these willing to be a little more adventurous Lake Winnipesaukee offers some great hiking tails. Many are moderate to difficult, but the Belknap Mountain hike in Gilford is easy and can be done by most people including small kids.

This is an enjoyable walk and you should allow 2 and hours round trip to appreciate the walk to its fullest. At the summit you'll be rewarded with a magnificent view of Lake Winnipesaukee, and if conditions are right you can sometimes spot Mount Washington in the distance.

Take Route 11A to Gilford and drive south through the village. Stay on this road as it climbs Belknap Mountain road. Eventually you'll see signs and a parking area on the left.

These are just a few activities you can do when visiting Lake Winnipesaukee.

For more information and details on Lake Winnipesaukee attraction and things to do visit the Lakes Region web site at www.lakesregion.org.

Cliff Calderwood is the owner and contributing writer of http://www.new-england-vacations-guide.com. You can read more about Lake Winnipesaukee and get a free travel report at his New England Vacation online Guide site.

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