New Hampshire

Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee Towns | Eat, Stay & Play

There are so many great things to do around iconic Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Here are some of our top picks to get you started.

By Cathryn McCann

Aug 03 2022


Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee | Mount Major

Photo Credit : Robbie Shade
Lake Winnipesaukee is not only New Hampshire’s largest lake but also the dramatic centerpiece of the state’s famous Lakes Region. With the southernmost stretch of the White Mountains serving as a stunning backdrop, Winnipesaukee and its eight inviting towns have long been a popular year-round destination for visitors from all over the world. This glacial lake’s 72-square-mile sprawl encompasses 264 islands and several large bays and small inlets, plus a wide-open area of water known as the Broads. It’s the ideal setting for boating and outdoor recreation in the spring and summer, leaf-peeping in the fall, and ice fishing and snowmobiling in the winter. Plus, the surrounding communities are filled with plenty of fun things to do, great places to eat, and cozy places to stay. Whether you’re a newcomer planning your first visit or a return visitor looking for some new favorite spots, here are our picks for each of the towns on lovely Lake Winnipesaukee.

Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee Towns

Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
The view from Mount Major | Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Photo Credit : Robbie Shade


The largest of the surrounding Lakes Region towns; includes Alton Bay, a longtime resort destination.

Mount Major | Play

This 1,785-foot summit can be reached via a 1.5-mile hike that suits both novice and experienced hikers and rewards them with some of the best views in the Lakes Region.

Pop’s Clam Shell | Eat

Bring your appetite if you dine at Pop’s, because this clam shack and restaurant has a generous approach to portion sizing. Look for seafood of all kinds (including lobster rolls), plus hearty subs and sandwiches.

Bay Side Inn | Stay

Given its location right on the lakeshore, the Bay Side Inn offers its guests immediate water access. Choose from 18 rooms and five two-bedroom efficiency suites, and be sure to set aside some time for lounging on the sun deck. SEE MORE: Lakes Region Foliage Drive | Directions and Things to Do
Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Gunstock Mountain Resort | Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Gunstock Mountain Resort


A ski town in the winter and a popular concert destination in the summer.

Gunstock Mountain Resort | Play

Gunstock lets you soak up the views all year round, whether you’re cruising down snowy slopes in winter or zip-lining past the treetops in summer. Other diversions here: off-road Segway tours, a mountain roller coaster, and an “aerial adventure” course.

Lyons’ Den Restaurant and Tavern | Eat

Run by the namesake Lyons family, this is the place to go for steak, chicken, and seafood classics. Pull up a seat at the bar or at a table in the cozy fireside dining room, and linger over a cocktail or decadent dessert.

Ames Farm Inn | Stay

Situated on 135 acres and boasting a quarter-mile stretch of sandy beach, Ames Farm Inn offers lakeside cottages, apartments, and rooms, plus on-site dining, a swimming area, and docks. Named a 2016 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Lakefront Cabins.” SEE MORE: Guide to New Hampshire Ski Resorts
Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Mount Washington Cruises | Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker


A city known for its popular public recreation hub, Weirs Beach, and its summertime Bike Week, a favorite annual event for thousands of motorcyclists.

Mount Washington Cruises | Play

There’s no better way to see Lake Winnipesaukee than by boat. The M/S Mount Washington departs from Weirs Beach daily in summer and offers a grand tour of the lake, stopping at five ports along the way. Try a scenic cruise, a sunset dinner dance cruise, or Sunday champagne brunch cruise. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Lake Cruise.”

Local Eatery | Eat

This place takes its name seriously. Chef Kevin Halligan, a Laconia native, utilizes as much local organic produce and naturally raised meat and poultry as possible — and even the drink menu has locally sourced options. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Farm-to-Table Dining.”

The Naswa Resort | Stay

“Fun” and “family-friendly” are the words for this collection of cabins painted in bright colors, plus a full inn, all right on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. The resort has its own sandy beach, a bar and bistro, docks, and kayaks and paddleboards that are available for guests to use. SEE MORE: Scenes from the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival in Laconia
Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
The Ballard House Inn | Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Photo Credit : Courtesy of the Ballard House Inn


A picturesque village that’s home to the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, which follows the old Boston, Concord, and Montreal Railroad route from the 1800s.

Interlakes Summer Theatre | Play

In addition to offering endless outdoor recreation opportunities, the Lakes Region is also an arts and theater destination. Thanks to Meredith’s Interlakes Summer Theatre, culture fans can enjoy a variety of professional productions, which in the past have included Cats, Footloose, and West Side Story.

Camp | Eat

From its location across the street from Lake Winnipesaukee to its tin roof, fieldstone fireplace, pine tables, and signature comfort food, this eatery transports diners back to their summer-camp days. It even serves an upscale version of s’mores for dessert. Named a 2014 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Comfort Food.”

Ballard House Inn | Stay

The c. 1784 Ballard House has an irresistible location, with 10 acres of meadows and surrounding forest threaded with hiking trails. The inn has preserved its historical charm while adding all the modern amenities. Plus, it’s just minutes from Lake Winnipesaukee. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Historic B&B.” SEE MORE: New England Summer Playhouses & Theaters
Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Center Harbor Inn | Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Photo Credit : Justin Cutillo, Steele Hill Resorts

Center Harbor

A small town situated between Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake; includes 225 acres of conserved woods and the Proctor Wildlife Sanctuary, 47 acres of woodlands owned by the Audubon Society.

Wild Meadow Paddlesports | Play

If you’re looking to get out on the water, Wild Meadow Paddlesports has been providing paddlesport and boating rentals, sales, and activities for more than 20 years. Take a tour of the bay by kayak with a guide, give standup paddleboard yoga a shot, or go off on your own adventure in the watercraft of your choice.

Canoe | Eat

With five dining areas, open-air seating on the porch, scenic lake views, and a complimentary shuttle service from the town docks, Canoe is a popular option for hungry Lakes Region visitors. Expect a full range of American and globally influenced entrées, including lobster mac and cheese, steaks, and pan-seared salmon. Tip: Lunch may be your best bet if you’re looking to avoid the summer crowds.

Center Harbor Inn | Stay

At this recently renovated beach hotel, you’ll find all the amenities: fitness center, sauna, four-season hot tub, grills, fire pit, and paddleboard and kayak rentals, plus dock slips or moorings if you’re traveling by boat. Plus, many of the rooms have a deck that overlooks the lake or mountains. SEE MORE: Little-Known Squam Range Traverse Is One of the Best Hikes in NH
Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Castle in the Clouds | Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Photo Credit : Cathryn McCann


Another town nestled between Winnipesaukee and Squam Lakes; known for the mountainside mansion Castle in the Clouds and the historic Old Country Store and Museum.

Castle in the Clouds | Play

For one of the best views of the Lakes Region, head to Castle in the Clouds, a grand old mansion (c. 1913) perched on a mountainside in the Ossipee Range. Learn about its history, stroll through the gardens, grab a bite at the Carriage House Restaurant, or go for a horseback ride or hike. Named a 2014 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Castle.”

The Village Kitchen | Eat

Good old-fashioned home cooking is what makes this eatery a favorite among locals. Start your day off with a perfectly cooked breakfast of eggs and pancakes, or wind things down in the evening with a burger, tuna melt, meatloaf dinner, or other comfort food classics.

Long Island Bridge Campground | Stay

You can camp within a stone’s throw of the Winnipesaukee shoreline at this family-friendly site, which is suitable for RVs and trailers as well as popups and tents. There’s a private sandy beach, a playground, and a dock for campers to enjoy. SEE MORE: Castle in the Clouds | On Top of the World in New Hampshire
Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Shaw Trail | Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Photo Credit : Cathryn McCann


A rural town with lovely fields, back roads, and views of the Ossipee Mountains; has a popular vacation village on Melvin Bay featuring antiques shopping and waterside lodging.

Mount Shaw | Play

Mount Shaw in Tuftonboro (and Moultonborough) beckons hikers looking to escape the heavy traffic at some of the more popular mountains in the Lakes Region. The 2,990-foot mountain in the Ossipee Range is on the “52 with a view” list, and hikers can summit two additional peaks along the way.

Pine Cone Café | Eat

This spot is the definition of cozy casual dining, thanks to its wood decor, fireplace, full lineup of pizzas and other comfort foods, and great cocktails and draft beers.

Sunset Lodges | Stay

Vintage lakeside accommodations surrounded by nature are what you’ll find at Sunset Lodges, located on quiet Basin Bay. It offers seven fully furnished cabins, waterfront and boat slip access, communal canoes and rowboats, and indoor and outdoor recreation areas and equipment. SEE MORE: New Hampshire Lakes Region in Autumn | Photographs
Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Wolfeboro Bay | Guide to Lake Winnipesaukee
Photo Credit : Annie Graves


A town known as “the oldest summer resort in America”; its bustling main village (Wolfeboro Falls) and prime location on Wolfeboro Bay have even made it a place for the occasional celebrity sighting.

Beaches | Play

When it comes to a lake as big as Winnipesaukee, sometimes it’s tough to know where to go simply to enjoy the water. Although Weirs Beach is a popular option, Wolfeboro has some quieter spots for a dip. Carry Beach and Albee Beach are more on the secluded side, while Brewster Beach is larger, a bit busier, and a great place for a picnic.

Garwoods Restaurant | Eat

For dinner and drinks overlooking Wolfeboro Bay, Garwoods is the go-to. Its menu features a full range of seafood options — clam chowder, fish and chips, and crab cakes, to name a few — but it goes well beyond fish and shellfish to include such things as pasta, chicken, steak, burgers, and salads, too. Named a 2011 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Waterside Dining.”

The Wolfeboro Inn | Stay

This full-service historic hotel offers classic rooms and suites with amenities like free Wi-Fi (and homemade fudge!). It provides access to a private beach (four public ones are also nearby), and its location on North Main Street is handy for shopping and dining. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Lakeside Inn.” SEE MORE: Wolfeboro, New Hampshire | Could You Live Here? Where are your favorite spots around Lake Winnipesaukee? Let us know! Note: We visited Lake Winnipesaukee for a ride aboard the Sophie C (the oldest floating post office in the United States) in a season 2 episode of Weekends with Yankee, our public television show in collaboration with WGBH. Check the Weekends with Yankee site to learn more about the series, plus when and where to catch episodes. This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated. 

SEE MORE: Lake Winnipesaukee Hotels & Inns | Yankee Editors’ PicksFavorite Lake Winnipesaukee Cabin RentalsNew England Cruises | Fall Foliage from the Water