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Planning a trip to New Hampshire’s largest lake? You’re in luck — there are plenty of fun things to do in Lake Winnipesaukee NH!
Lake Winnipesaukee is New Hampshire’s summertime playground, where travelers come to enjoy lake life at its most blissful. It’s a phenomenally family-friendly destination, but also works well as a trip for just adults.
Many of the top things to do in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, are about enjoying the lake in the summer. There are lake cruises, jet-ski rentals, and plenty of beaches to relax on. But you’ll also find plenty of museums, breweries, wineries, and shops to enjoy.
We at New Hampshire Way are huge fans of Lake Winnipesaukee, and not just in the gorgeous summer months!
This post was last updated in May 2023.
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Travel to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
Located at in the heart of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, between Manchester and the White Mountains, Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire and the third-largest lake in New England. The lake is 69 square miles altogether — 21 miles long and one to nine miles wide. It’s home to more than 250 islands and has 200 miles of shoreline.
In short, this lake is massive. The eight small towns surrounding Lake Winnipesaukee include Meredith, Center Harbor, Moultonborough, Tuftonboro, Wolfeboro, Alton, Gilford, and Laconia. Additionally, there are some inhabited islands, like Bear Island and Governors Island.
Our top recommendations for Lake Winnipesaukee towns to base in are Meredith, Weirs Beach (part of Laconia), and Wolfeboro.
We think that Weirs Beach is best for families, with tons of kid-friendly activities like arcades and go-kart tracks.
Meredith is more adult-oriented, with wine tasting, upscale restaurants, and gorgeous views of Meredith Bay.
Wolfeboro proudly calls itself “America’s oldest summer resort,” and while it’s not quite as polished as Meredith, it has a nice downtown area worth exploring.
Be sure to check out our guide to the best Lake Winnipesaukee hotels and B&Bs.
We recommend spending at least three days on Lake Winnipesaukee to explore the different towns and attractions. This is a big lake!
You need a car to get to Lake Winnipesaukee, and it’s about a one-hour drive from Manchester Airport or a two-hour drive from Boston or Portland, Maine.
Things to Do in Lake Winnipesaukee
Whether you want a relaxing boat ride or the adrenaline rush of driving a jet-ski, want to peruse local handicrafts or dive into history, whether you want to spend the afternoon wine-tasting or enjoying an ice cream, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Lake Winnipesaukee.
Let’s run down some of our favorites!
Take a Mailboat Cruise on the M/V Sophie C
Lake Winnipesaukee is home to a truly unique lake cruise: the M / V Sophie C, an actual working mailboat and the oldest floating post office in the United States. The boat travels from Weirs Beach to the islands of Lake Winnipesaukee, delivering mail to their residents. And passengers can join for the ride!
On a cruise, you’ll visit a handful of islands and drop off and pick up the mail. Passengers can also fill out postcards, write letters, and mail them with a collectible stamp during the cruise.
We think this cruise is one of the most special activities in New Hampshire, and can’t recommend it highly enough.
The mailboat cruise costs $45 a person and lasts two hours. It only runs during the summer months.
There are other cruises through Mount Washington Cruises if the mailboat cruise is unavailable. You can take a scenic 2-hour tour on the M / S Mount Washington for $45 a person, a 2.5-hour brunch tour for $65 a person, a 2-hour dinner cruise for $65 a person, and a 2-hour cocktail cruise for $45 a person.
Rent a Boat or Jet Ski and Cruise Around
Lake Winnipesaukee is all about boating, and there are tons of places to rent a boat and cruise around Lake Winnipesaukee. We have put together a collection of the best boat rental locations in Lake Winnipesaukee here.
Laconia’s boat rental locations include Irwin Marine, North Water Marine, and Winnisquam Marine. In Gilford, there is Fay’s Boatyard, Wolfeboro is home to Goodhue Boat Company, and Alton Bay has Lakeside Boat Rentals. Located in Meredith is Melvin Village Marina. Finally, in Moultonborough, there is Trexler’s Marina.
Boating or jet skiing is one of the most fun activities on Lake Winnipesaukee, especially if you want an adrenaline rush!
Read More: 15 Best Boat Rentals on Lake Winnipesaukee
Visit the Wright Museum of World War II
Many World War II museums focus on the military angle of the war. But what we love about the Wright Museum of World War II in Wolfeboro is its focus on culture. World War II was a seismic event in American life, and that’s what this museum explores.
The museum displays a collection of over 14,000 WWII items from 1939 to 1945, like magazine covers, advertisements, and clothing of the era. There are also educational programs and several special exhibitions related to the role Americans played during a crucial part of history.
Tickets to the museum cost $14 for adults and $8 for students ages 5 to 17. The museum is free for those under 5. Despite being an indoor activity, it’s only open during the high season.
Visit Castle in the Clouds
Castle in the Clouds is a 1913 mountaintop mansion in Moultonborough, and one of Lake Winnipesaukee’s most popular attractions. It’s a great example of Arts and Crafts architecture in New England and has an aesthetic of living in harmony with nature. The mansion has 16 rooms and modern amenities for its time. It’s a beautiful house with gorgeous views of Lake Winnipesaukee from above.
And it’s way more than just a historic home to visit. There are over 5,000 acres of land with stunning views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the Ossipee Mountains, miles of hiking, and even an on-site restaurant. The estate also hosts weddings and other private events.
Self-guided tours of the mansion cost $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 5 to 17. Visitors can tour the first and second floors of the mansion.
Guided tours of the basement cost $30 per person and include self-guided tours of floors 1 and 2. The basement tour shows guests where the servants lived who ran the mansion, and they had the most interesting stories of all.
Enjoy the Kitsch of Weirs Beach
Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee, a neighborhood within the town of Laconia, almost resembles a mini amusement park. It has a large boardwalk and attractions like go-karts, water sports, ice cream shops, scenic cruises, a legendary drive-in-movie theater, and an arcade, but the list goes on. It’s very kitschy, and we recommend leaning into it!
We think Weirs Beach is a perfect family-friendly destination on Lake Winnipesaukee with all the games and adventures.
As for the beach itself, we think Weirs Beach is one of the nicest beaches on Lake Winnipesaukee, with a lovely golden stretch of sand equipped with bathrooms, changing rooms, and picnic areas.
Read More: Our Ultimate Guide to Weirs Beach, NH
See a Drive-In Movie at the Weirs Drive-In
The Weirs Drive-In is one of the most iconic spots on Lake Winnipesaukee, showing drive-in movies to locals and visitors since 1949! This theater is open during the spring and summer months, features four screens, and serves snacks.
While New Hampshire has several drive-in movie theaters, the Weirs Drive-In is the largest.
The Weirs Drive-In costs $20 per car for up to 2 people and $10 for any additional people. Children under 4 are free.
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
If you want to bring your kids somewhere that is fun but also educational, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is a wonderful place to visit. Then again, we love this place as adults, too! It’s located in Holderness, about a 15-minute drive from Meredith.
Visitors can walk the three-quarters of a mile live animal exhibit walking trail through meadows, forests, and along marsh boardwalks. Keep your eyes out for the otters and raptors!
Visitors can also go on a Squam Lake cruise, a 90-minute ride on covered pontoon boats. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center also has a large garden that is free to the public.
Tickets to the science center to walk the live animal trail costs $22 for adults and seniors and $18 for youth ages 3 to 15. The lake cruise costs $26 for adults and seniors and $22 for youth ages 3 to 15.
Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad
New Hampshire has no shortage of scenic rail journeys, and we especially love the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad. The old-fashioned train departs from Meredith and stops in Weirs Beach before continuing to ride. It’s a great way to see Lake Winnipesaukee and Paugus Bay.
From Meredith, the old-fashioned train rides along the water are two hours, and from Weirs Beach, the ride is one hour. The round-trip ride offers panoramic views of the lake.
If you’re visiting Lake Winnipesaukee during the fall, this rail journey is one of the best ways to enjoy the fall foliage on the lake.
If departing from Meredith Station for the two-hour ride, tickets cost $22 for adults and $17 for children ages 4 to 17. The one-hour ride from Weirs Beach costs $20 for adults and $14 for children ages 4 to 17.
Shop at the League of NH Craftsmen
The League of NH Craftsmen is one of the oldest craft organizations in the United States. The nonprofit promotes handmade crafts made by artists throughout New Hampshire. And these stores and galleries are located throughout New Hampshire, the perfect place to find a New Hampshire souvenir.
Some of the works by artists include pottery, jewelry, metalwork, woven pieces, and so much more. The Meredith Fine Craft Art Gallery has been open for more than 60 years selling fine arts on Lake Winnipesaukee.
The shop also holds craft demonstrations and classes to help educate visitors. After all, art is for everyone.
Visit Lake Winnipesaukee’s Breweries
We are huge fans of New Hampshire’s vibrant, creative brewery scene! There are several breweries in the Lake Winnipesaukee area worth checking out.
Lone Wolfe Brewery is in Wolfeboro. Along with good beer, the brewery has an outdoor beer garden, indoor seating, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays. There is a generous menu with appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and a great craft beer selection.
Located in Meredith, Twin Barns Brewery is located just off Lake Winnipesaukee in an antique barn from the 1850s. Twin Barns serves appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, and other meals along with a list of beers on tap, including porters, ales, IPAs, sours, pilsners, and lagers.
In Bristol, about a 20-minute drive from Meredith, Woodman’s Brewery is a small family-operated business where you’ll feel welcome. Beers include pale ales, IPAs, and other craft beers, and there’s a fireplace and board games for chillier days.
Shacketts Brewing Company is right in downtown Bristol and a huge favorite of Lakes Region locals. The four main beers here are two ales, a west coast IPA, and a stout.
White Mountain Brewing is in Ashland, another 20-minute drive from Meredith, and has a variety of craft beers including ales, lagers, porters, IPAS, and other great options. There are is also a food menu with quesadillas, burritos, wings, tacos, and more.
Whatever you do, if you’re visiting Lake Winnipesaukee’s breweries, make sure you have a designated driver.
Read More: The Best New Hampshire Breweries
Gunstock Mountain Resort
Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford is a year-round outdoor recreational center. It has plenty of outdoor adventure for the whole family.
In the summer, Gunstock is an adventure park. You can go zip-lining, compete in the aerial obstacle course with more than 90 different challenges, take a ride on a mountain roller coaster, and ride the chairlift for scenic views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the surrounding area.
In the winter, Gunstock Mountain Resort is one of the best NH ski resorts in the Lakes Region, offering quality skiing for skiers of all abilities, including kids and families. The frozen views of Lake Winnipesaukee are extraordinary!
Guests can also go snow tubing and there are multiple snow slides to race down the mountain. And if you’re looking to learn, the mountain also offers ski lessons and there are great beginner slopes for those who are just getting started.
The amenities at Gunstock are great, too. There is a cafe, restaurant, and plenty of lodging. The chair lifts are central to the indoor facilities, so you can easily go in and out. No matter what time of year it is, Gunstock is one of the best ways to enjoy your time on Lake Winnipesaukee.
Read More: The Best New Hampshire Ski Resorts
Cotton Valley Rail Trail
We love a good rail trail here in New England, and a nice one is right by Lake Winnipesaukee. Starting in Wolfeboro and ending in Wakefield, the Cotton Valley Rail Trail is a nice, flat 12-mile trail. It’s great for walking and biking, and there are even intact rails for rail car clubs.
The trail is scenic, especially along the causeway of Lake Wentworth and Crescent Lake.
If you’re in the area and want to escape and enjoy a bit of nature, spend some time taking in the fresh air along this trail. It’s definitely one of the best active things to do in Lake Winnipesaukee NH.
Visit the Old Country Store in Moultonborough
The Old Country Store in Moultonborough is one of the oldest continuously operated stores in the United States, having been in business since 1781. In addition to selling goods to the community, it’s served as a hub for town meetings, a library, and a post office.
Today, the iconic yellow building serves as a vintage shopping experience for travelers in the area. You can find locally made goods, antiques, and unusual souvenirs. They even have penny candy (not quite a penny a piece anymore, but still quite reasonable prices).
The Old Country Store is around the corner from Castle in the Clouds and makes a nice stop for after your visit.
Hike Near Lake Winnipesaukee
The Lakes Region might not be as famous for hiking as the White Mountains, but there are so many gorgeous hikes here! With several mountains to choose from in the Lake Winnipesaukee area, nearly all of them offer stunning views of the surrounding lakes from above.
West Rattlesnake Mountain is a small mountain with views of Squam Lake. There are 12 great hiking trails, including Old Bridle Path, a 3.7-mile out and back hike with great lake views.
Mount Major is located in the town of Alton and has several excellent hiking trails. The Mount Major Trail, the Brook Trail, and Boulder Loop all lead to the mountain’s summit with excellent views of the lake from the top.
Mount Morgan has a more challenging trail better suited for more experienced hikers, and pays off with views of Squam Lake and Mount Major. The Mount Morgan trial is 3.9 miles in length and is near the town of Holderness.
Mount Percival is an almost 5-mile trail near the town of Holderness. The last part of the trail is mostly rocks and ledges, making it a challenging final portion to a trail that seemed moderate at first. If you’re an experienced hiker, put Mount Percival on your list.
New Hampshire Boat Museum in Wolfeboro
The New Hampshire Boat Museum in Wolfeboro may have been founded with boat fans in mind, but there’s something for everyone here. Visitors can explore boats, boating motors, and other parts on display in the museum. There are also hands-on activities for guests to enjoy.
The museum also hosts programs including boat-building classes, community sailing youth programs, model yacht kit-building classes, and lake discovery days. The museum also hosts the Alton Bay Boat Show in August.
Overall, the museum’s goal is to promote an appreciation for boat heritage and its role on New Hampshire’s lakes. Tickets to the museum cost $10 for adults and $6 for students ages 12 to 17.
If you find yourself in the Lake Winnipesaukee area on a rainy day, Funsport Arcade in Laconia is the perfect place to visit. The entertainment center holds the Guinness record for the largest arcade in the world!
In addition to that, Funspot hosts the American Classic Arcade Museum, featuring an enormous collection of arcade games from the 1970s and 1980s. Sure, they have Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, but they’re got a lot of unique niche games, too.
In addition to more than 600 arcade games (300 of them retro), Funspot offers bowling, cash bingo, and indoor mini-golf. A tavern and restaurant and on-site, and it’s a popular spot for birthday parties.
Funspot is known for being the rainy day activity on Lake Winnipesaukee, so be sure to get there early if thunderclouds are looming.
Relax on a Beach
There are several excellent beaches for relaxing along Lake Winnipesaukee. Two of our favorite spots are Weirs Beach, Allen Albee Beach, Ellacoya State Park’s beach, Bartlett Beach, and far more.
Warm days on Lake Winnipesaukee call for basking in the sun and swimming in the water!
We’re especially big fans of Weirs Beach itself, located in the town of Laconia. This popular beach features a long, sandy beach along the lake, elegant Victorian homes right across the street. It’s an excellent place for relaxing and swimming, and the water is calm enough for young kids.
Read More: Best Beaches in New Hampshire
If you like visiting local independent bookstores, be sure to check out Innisfree Bookstore in the Mills Falls Marketplace in Meredith. This charming, Irish-themed bookstore sells popular books, bestsellers, and has a nice collection of New Hampshire- and New England-themed books.
Like most bookstores today, they do far more than just books, featuring games, puzzles, gifts, and unique New Hampshire souvenirs.
Innisfree Bookstore has been serving locals since 1992, and it’s a great place to grab a new book to read out by Lake Winnipesaukee, or to shop around on a rainy day. Don’t miss the rest of the shops in the Mills Falls Marketplace!
Go Wine Tasting
Does New Hampshire make wine? Of course New Hampshire makes wine! And you can go wine tasting just a stone’s throw from Lake Winnipesaukee.. Our favorite place to visit is Hermit Woods Winery.
Hermit Woods Winery is in Meredith, and they’re also a popular deli with sandwiches, salads, charcuterie boards, and other light food. Wine comes by flight and glass. They also serve local craft beers and offer both indoor and outdoor seating.
2023 Update: A previous version of this post also recommended Winnipesaukee Winery, which has since closed.
Eat at a Retro Diner
Do you like your diners shiny and retro, looking like they’ve time traveled from the 1950s? You’ll love New Hampshire, because we have plenty of them! Two of them in the Lake Winnipesaukee area are Route 104 Diner and Tilt’N Diner.
Route 104 Diner is in New Hampton, New Hampshire, and part of the family of Common Man restaurants. The diner will bring you back in time to the 50s to enjoy an all-day breakfast and all the comfort food you can eat.
The Tilt’N Diner in Tilton, NH, is also part of the Common Man group of restaurants. The 50s-style diner plays upbeat music and serves all-day breakfast and popular comfort foods and is very popular with Lakes Region locals.
Where to Stay in Lake Winnipesaukee
Whether you’re looking for luxury, B&B, mid-range, or budget accommodation, we have you covered with the best places to stay in Lake Winnipesaukee.
Best Luxury Hotel in Lake Winnipesaukee: The Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness — Technically Holderness is not quite on Lake Winnipesaukee, but this luxury property is truly spectacular. Rooms with fireplaces, balconies with spectacular views, plush robes, one of the best restaurants in the region. This is New Hampshire luxury at its best.
Best B&B in Lake Winnipesaukee: Center Harbor Sutton House B&B in Center Harbor — Right in the heart of charming Center Harbor, this B&B has cozy rooms whose beds feature quilts handmade by the owner.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Lake Winnipesaukee: Windrifter Resort in Wolfeboro — If you want value for money, you’ll love this property. Just a short drive from downtown Wolfeboro, this large property has well-equipped rooms with full kitchens, a pool, a tennis court, and a fitness area.
Best Budget Hotel in Lake Winnipesaukee: Half Moon Motel & Cottages in Weirs Beach — Here you’ll find clean, comfortable rooms and cabins, with a swimming pool, right in the heart of family-friendly Weirs Beach and all its amenities.
How Much Time to Spend in Lake Winnipesaukee
Is one day enough for Lake Winnipesaukee? Well, you can make that day a GREAT day, but we don’t think a single day is quite enough. Don’t bite off more than you can chew — Meredith and Weirs Beach pair well together for a day trip, as do Wolfeboro and Moultonborough, but you can’t do every town in a single day.
But three days or so will give you enough time to enjoy the best Lake Winnipesaukee attractions and explore the different towns.
And if you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, a weeklong stay, two-week stay, or even monthlong stay would be wonderful. You’ll almost be a local!
How to Get to Lake Winnipesaukee
Lake Winnipesaukee is an enormous lake, and so much depends on the city where you’re staying. If you’re coming from the Boston area, Laconia is much closer than Moultonborough; if you’re coming from Franconia, Meredith is much closer than Wolfeboro.
Overall, Lake Winnipesaukee is very much a driving destination, and you’ll need a car both to get here and to get around.
Laconia is about a one-hour drive from Manchester, NH’s airport and about a two-hour drive from either Boston or Portland, Maine.
Some bus lines will get you as far as Tilton, but you’ll still need to catch a ride to the lake.
Best Time to Visit Lake Winnipesaukee
The best time to visit Lake Winnipesaukee is absolutely in the summer months, from June through August. This is when the lake is busiest and at its most expensive, but when else can you swim, relax on the beach, and go boating underneath the bright sunshine?
The busiest time of year is mid-June, when bikers from around the country descend on the lake for Laconia Motorcycle Week. This can be a super fun time to visit the lake, but know that it will be very crowded with lots of motorcycles roaring.
Fall can be another wonderful time to visit Lake Winnipesaukee, with beautiful fall foliage surrounding the lake. And we enjoy visiting Lake Winnipesaukee in mid-September, a warm yet uncrowded time as most kids are back in school.
Winter is a very different trip, but hey, there’s a reason why we put Lake Winnipesaukee on the list of our favorite New Hampshire winter getaways! Lake Winnipesaukee is an ice fishing mecca, with competitions taking place in February. This can be a great time to enjoy bargain-basement accommodation rates — with a side of ice skating. There is also a sled dog race held in February.
If you’re looking to book a summer trip to Lake Winnipesaukee, we recommend booking your accommodation as early as possible. This is the kind of place that people return to every year, often the same accommodation every year, so the good stuff goes quite fast.
Is Lake Winnipesaukee Worth It?
Lake Winnipesaukee is most definitely worth it. Once you get here, you’ll realize why so many people travel here year after year. There is magic in this lake.
Come enjoy your time on Lake Winnipesaukee, and soon you’ll be hooked on this New Hampshire summertime playground.
More on Lake Winnipesaukee:
- Best Lake Winnipesaukee Hotels & B&Bs
- The Ultimate Guide to Weirs Beach
- Best Boat Rentals on Lake Winnipesaukee
- 11 Best Restaurants in Wolfeboro, NH
- 15 Fun Things To Do In Meredith
More Summer Fun in New Hampshire:
- 13 Best Beaches in New Hampshire
- 7 Outdoor and Inner Water Parks in New Hampshire
- Hiking the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire
Best of New Hampshire:
- 50+ Best Things to Do in New Hampshire
- New Hampshire’s Best Breweries
- 26 Fun Things to Do in North Conway
- New Hampshire Fall Foliage: When and Where To Go
- 30 Unforgettable Things To Do In The White Mountains, NH
Have you been to Lake Winnipesaukee? What do you recommend?