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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, 365 islands dot Lake Winnipesaukee's surface, 274 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.
Cruise boats are also available for tours of Lake Winnipesaukee, including scenic daytime cruises and evening dinner cruises. The historic 230-foot M/S Mount Washington offers daily cruises from Weirs Beach during summer, with stops at other ports (Wolfeboro, Meredith, Center Harbor and Alton Bay). The M/V Doris E is a smaller sister ship that cruises Meredith Bay and northern Lake Winnipesaukee. The U.S. mailboat, the Sophie C offers sightseeing cruises while delivering mail to Lake Winnie's islands.
If you're a swimmer, you'll enjoy the crystal clear Lake Winnipesaukee waters. Just cool enough to refresh you from some sunbathing, swimming in the lake is one of life's simple pleasures. Float on your back, watch the clouds, bring some goggles to observe fish, or test your skill by swimming for as long as you can. After you've worn yourself out, drag yourself out of the inviting waters and enjoy a lakeside picnic.
With a lake as large as Lake Winnipesaukee, you'd expect to find public beaches for a dip on a hot summer day, and visitors will not be disappointed. Public beaches are scattered around the lake's 240-mile shoreline. Weirs Beach, located on the western shoreline, is the most popular swimming area, complete with a boardwalk, playground and picnic area. Ellacoya State Park, also on the western shoreline, provides a long sandy swimming area and an RV park. The northern end of Lake Winnie provides swimming beaches at Melvin Village Wharf, Leavitt Park, 19 Mile Bay Beach, and 20 Mile Bay Beach. Brewster Beach and Carry Beach are located on the eastern shoreline near Wolfeboro. Rounding out the list is a swimming area at Alton Bay at the southeastern end of the lake.
New Hampshire's Lakes Region is well-known for its beautiful four season scenery. All the photos you've seen are accurate: you'll find covered bridges, church steeples, old red barns, and homes from previous centuries. The charm of New England unfolds with drives through scenic towns accented by mountain overlooks.
It isn't hyperbole to say that Lake Winnipesaukee's natural beauty is awe-inspiring. Incredibly, four castles exist near its shores: Kimball Castle, Roxmont Castle, Castle in the Clouds, and Graystone Castle. Their stunning architecture is accented by beautiul wrought iron and large verandas. Castle in the Clouds is open to the public.
Lake Winnipesaukee offers something for everyone year-round, and you and your family are sure to have an experience you won't soon forget.
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