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When the temperature rises, New Englanders flock to their region’s many lakes to cool off and beat the heat. Why not turn your visit into a longer stay by checking in at a lakeside inn, lodge, resort, or even your very own houseboat? Check out our picks for the best lakeside lodging in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire from Yankee’s annual “Best of New England” Editors’ Choice Awards — then head for the water!
It’s surprising that with a depth of 316 feet and a surface area of more than 45 square miles, Sebago Lake doesn’t have its own mythical sea monster. What it does have, though, are resident populations of landlocked salmon and lake trout, more than 100 miles of shoreline, and this 1,400-acre campground, now in its ninth decade, revered by the families who return year after year to the 250 wooded sites set back from the water. Hiking trails crisscross the surrounding woods, but most campers come to swim and bask in the piney surroundings.
The woodsy environs around mountain-ringed Webb Lake leave no doubt as to why Maine calls itself the Pine Tree State. The forest supplied the timber to build the inn and accompanying cabins as staff housing for a nearby summer boys’ camp. Now the log-and-shingle structures, pine-paneled rooms, and massive stone fireplaces bring the mountain-lake summer camp experience to all. Staffers provide trail maps for hiking Mount Blue and Tumbledown Mountain, where a technical rock climbing trail is one option for the ascent. There are no classes in weaving gimp lanyards anymore, but the inn does loan canoes and kayaks.
While it’s a little surprising that no cell service, no electricity, and no running water can figure into a heavenly getaway, these shorefront cabins in Baxter State Park deliver just that. Getting here requires either hiking 3-plus miles or flying in via floatplane, but it’s worth the effort. Guests lodge in individual cabins stocked with wood, ice, and drinking water, with outhouses nearby. Enjoy breakfast and dinner in the main lodge; box lunches allow for spending the day hiking, paddling, or wildlife-watching.
Set under towering pines on the shores of Sebago Lake, this 100-year-old resort turns the lakeside family vacation into a luxury experience, pampering guests with wood-burning fireplaces, stocked daily, and fancy linens in 35 well-appointed cottages and a main lodge. Choose from paddling, sailing, tennis, kids’ programs, and a slew of family-friendly activities, from island cookouts to waterskiing sessions. Meals and most activities are included.
A perfect example of Maine’s “serial architecture,” the multi-winged Rangeley Inn was built in pieces in the early 20th century to offer hospitality to the sporting crowd that came by rail. The trains no longer run, but the mountainous woodlands and lakes of western Maine remain as alluring as ever. Well-stocked Haley Pond—just outside the inn’s back door—is a fine spot to practice angling or paddle around for an hour in a loaner kayak. Want to explore the Rangeley Lake itself? Inn staffers are happy to point you to a neighboring cruise company offering scenic outings on one-of-a-kind restored wooden boats.
Attean has been welcoming guests to Birch Island, an oasis of hospitality in the wilderness, since the late 19th century. Guests stay in comfy cabins, enjoy meals in the main lodge, and spend their days swimming, paddling, hiking, and fishing.
Deep in the craggy Northeast Kingdom, scrub oak and native blueberry bushes hem in the edges of Brighton State Park’s Spectacle Pond. On the pond’s western shore, 54 tent sites, 23 lean-tos, and five rental cabins play host to overnight visitors. Seeking extra serenity or easy lakefront access? Hit the high-numbered sites in the park’s northern loop, where the peace and quiet are interrupted only by the loon’s trill.
This all-inclusive resort near the top of Lake Champlain offers water sports for bigger kids and adults, story time and age-appropriate play for toddlers, and everything needed to accommodate infants. And when you’re ready for a vacation from the kids? Book a staff sitter and mingle with other grownups on a relaxing champagne cruise.
Tucked along the north shore of forest-rimmed Lake Morey in the Connecticut River Valley, this resort has been home to the Vermont Open Golf Championship for more than 50 years. Amateurs also enjoy the challenges of the meticulously maintained 6,024-yard course, where a relatively level front gives way to a rolling back nine. Not a golfer? Choose from tennis, volleyball, an indoor pool, paddling on the lake, and a 5-mile hike or bike ride around the shore. More than half of the 130 rooms and suites offer lake views, and three cottages accommodate six to 14 guests.
Lake Willoughby is the deep blue jewel of Northeast Kingdom lakes, and Willoughvale is perched invitingly on its shores. Accommodations include 10 handsomely furnished inn rooms and suites, some with fireplace and Jacuzzi, along with four lakeside and four lake-view cottages. Guests can use the inn’s canoes, kayaks, and bikes, and the swimming beach features a water trampoline. Gil’s bar and grill (dinner only) overlooks the lake, and continental breakfast is included for guests.
The centerpiece of this grand estate turned nonprofit teaching farm is the Webb family’s 19th-century summer home, now a beautiful inn with 24 guest rooms and four cottages set amid manicured grounds and views of Lake Champlain. The farm’s own meat, produce, and award-winning cheeses are menu staples at the inn’s restaurant.
Set on 300 delightfully out-of-the-way acres overlooking Lake Memphremagog (the road dead-ends just ahead at the Canadian border) this 1800s farmhouse offers four spacious rooms (three with gas fireplaces); there’s also a private pond for swimming.
There’s no city on North Hero’s City Bay; in fact, there’s little more than this cozy lakeside inn, opened in 1891. But that’s plenty for us. Some of the 26 rooms, spread among four waterside buildings, have screened-in porches and/or fireplaces; most offer splendid lake and mountain vistas. The inn’s main dining room showcases produce grown on-site, and casual fare is offered in summer and on fall weekends at the bar and grill.
Family-owned for over 100 years, with a prime Champlain location, this place is as timeless as a resort can be. Families return year after year for summers filled with all kinds of on-site activities: biking, tennis, golfing, and water sports (ranging from paddleboarding to cruising in a vintage Chris-Craft). Plus, it’s pet-friendly — dogs even have their own swimming beach!
There’s never a dull moment at this century-old Squam Lake retreat, where the days brim with hiking, yoga, kayaking, nature walks, and other screen-free diversions. Participate as a family, or savor a little adult R&R by signing your kids up for age-appropriate activities, such as the Wee Campers play group for ages 3 through 6, island picnics for middle schoolers, and scavenger hunts and boat trips for teens. And leave the coolers and tents at home: The cabins, cottages, and lodges come equipped with bucolic charm and just about everything you and yours could need for a week (or weekend) in the woods.
Wolfeboro residents Peter and Patty Cooke spent two years lovingly rehabbing the c. 1813 Yellow House, a crumbling local landmark across from Brewster Academy, thus saving it from almost-certain demolition. Restored to its former glory and renamed the Pickering House Inn, this 10-room bed-and-breakfast now features heated bathroom floors, Frette robes, and rain showers, as well as the Barn, a rustic-chic event space.
For the record, Newton is not the official innkeeper, but the bouncing golden retriever’s enthusiastic welcome is certainly in line with the vibe at this beautifully restored 1784 boardinghouse. While owners Brian and Lynn Krautz can’t take credit for the outstanding lake and mountain views from the back-porch swing, they get full marks for homemade country breakfasts and complimentary coffee, wine, and beer. Located minutes from Lake Winnipesaukee, the Ballard House Inn offers six rooms and two suites, and easy access to hiking trails from the backyard.
A short walk from the town center, the historic Wolfeboro Inn (c. 1812) comes with its own private beach on Lake Winnipesaukee and a replica 19th-century paddleboat, the Winnipesaukee Belle, that offers seasonal daytime cruises. The inn’s pub, Wolfe’s Tavern, serves New England comfort food alongside upscale options, and has an extensive beer list (Mug Club members must sample 100 varieties … but just two per visit, please). Oh, and there are rooms, too — 44 of them, including suites with lake views.
Perfect, the way the afternoon sun strikes Isaac Van Horn’s 13-acre summer estate, on a hill overlooking Squam Lake. The manor basks in a golden — the same that shone in On Golden Pond, the 1981 Academy Award winner starring Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, filmed on Squam. Inside, polished wood gleams in the distinctly uncommon “common” areas: pub, library, sun-splashed dining room.
Get an eyeful of the majestic peak just beyond Pleasant Lake at this inn, which marked its 150th birthday in 2018. You almost can’t escape the view: Seven of the 10 rooms, the patio, and the refurbished Oak & Grain dining room all overlook the namesake lake. After a hearty breakfast, cross a country lane to access the private community beach, where kayaks, rowboats, and canoes promise adventure. Also on offer? Beach chairs—snag one, and you and a good book can eschew activity altogether until cocktail hour.
Nostalgia rises like mist off the edges of Lake Winnipesaukee where the water meets a quarter-mile of sandy beach and 17 quiet cottages. Five generations of Ameses have tended this idyllic spread since 1890. The lawn would be extravagant anywhere, but on this lake, it’s astounding. You scarcely need more than the inn, restaurant, dock, and mountain views, but just in case, there are movies, karaoke, and ping-pong.
The Great North Woods deserves equally great pit stops (that is to say, rugged and beautiful). The lakeside “cabins” at these two sporting camps pull out the stops when it comes to rustic chic: great views, grills, satellite TV. With professional guides on hand, you’re never far from moose, fly fishing, paddling, or hiking.
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated. Selections originally appeared in the annual Yankee Magazine Editors’ Choice “Best of New England.”
Which lakeside lodging destinations would you add to the list? Let us know!