For the second stage of our trip, we spent some time exploring New Hampshire’s natural wonders. For a relatively small state, New Hampshire has some amazing areas of lakes and mountains, and all within easy reach of Boston.
Driving along Route 93 from the capitol Concord, we arrived at the very beautiful Squam Lakes on a warm and sunny afternoon. Our accommodation for the night was the prettiest cabin you ever did see, complete with deck and rocking chairs, to sit and admire the lake. We overlooked Little Squam (yes there is also a Big Squam); beside a small area of lakeside beach, and a beautiful expanse of blue water, fringed by a forest of trees.
Apart from being the most relaxing place to spend a few days, the area is also home to the acclaimed Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. We spent an enjoyable and very informative afternoon touring the centre and I lost count of the times I said – ‘The grandkids would just love this place’. The centre has certainly taken on board the ‘make learning fun’ directive, and boasts an amazing array of displays and interactive exhibits. There are some indigenous animals and birds to see, but this is not a zoo, they are creatures that have been rescued and cannot be put back into the wild. There is also a network of woodland trails, attractive gardens and the centre operates informative boat trips on the lake.
We were lucky to take a late afternoon excursion out on the lake in a very speedy boat belonging to Cindy O’Leary. Cindy knows Little Squam Lake like the back of her hand and enjoys taking photographers out on the water to get that perfect wildlife shot. We searched for the elusive Loon and did eventually spot one at a distance. These large water birds can dive for minutes at a time, so you have to keep your eyes peeled.
Heading north, we were soon into the White Mountain National Forest and surrounded by some very dramatic scenery. Our base was the Mountain Club on Loon in Lincoln. This is a popular winter ski area, but also offers a selection of activities in the summer months. Zip lines, climbing wall and the Ariel Forest Adventure Park were not for us oldies, but a ride on the ski lift to the top of the mountain was definitely on the cards, with fabulous views, some easy trails and a cafe for a cup of tea.
Blessed with great weather, we also explored the peaks of Cannon Mountain, the famous gorge at Franconia Notch State Park, and of course, Mt. Washington. We loved Mt Washington so much we went to the top twice – once by road, which was quite a hairy experience and not for the faint-hearted. But the weather was perfect and the views from the top were over 100 miles in every direction. Our second trip was on the famous cog railway, a great experience, but sadly it was if we had gone into a different season. It was so foggy and wet (and cold) at the summit that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. All we could manage was to find our way to the visitor centre for a hot drink and wait until the next train down. There is a very interesting museum at the visitors centre, where you soon learn that Mt Washington is the proud holder of the title ‘Worst weather in the World’. So we were thankful we had the chance to see it on a clear day.
We drove even further north, close to the Canadian border, to an area known as The Great North Woods, eventually arriving at Pittsburgh and our Cabin at Lopstick. Yet more beautiful lakes, but this time even more remote and peaceful, and with no Wi-Fi or mobile signal we enjoyed 24 hours cut off from the world. The area is busy in winter with its extensive snowmobile routes and is also attracting ATV (all terrain vehicles) year round. Fishing for trout and salmon is very popular and there are plenty of hiking trails to follow.
Finally, to end our trip, we headed for New Hampshire’s small but delightful sea coast. At just 18 miles long, it starts at the Maine border in the city of Portsmouth and runs along to the Massachusetts border.
We stayed in Portsmouth and found it to be a vibrant city with an attractive waterfront and steeped in history. The city was at the forefront of the British settlement and a visit to Strawbery Banke Living Museum is a great way to appreciate life in the ‘Puddle Duck’ neighbourhood from 1695 onwards. The museum is in the centre of town and a delightful place to wander around, dipping in and out of the different houses, chatting to the costumed role players who cleverly take you back in time and admiring the pretty gardens.
Portsmouth is a foodies paradise and boasts more restaurants and eateries than most, and to take advantage of this fact an enterprising company, offers innovative tasting tours around town. It is a great way to spend a few hours, walking around the city, calling into different restaurants for tasters and making new friends along the way.
Or if your feet have taken a pounding, why not try a cycle tour instead? There are a number of itineraries to choose from, including a twice daily historic tour or an invigorating coastal tour.
Our last treat was an afternoon on the water on board the luxurious Stella di Mare. For just a few hours we were made to feel like the super rich as we were treated to bubbly and nibbles, some great company and a relaxing sail around the harbour.
A scenic drive along the coastline took us back to Boston and our flight home, with just time to enjoy a last lobster roll, while sitting on the beach soaking up some late summer sun.
To sum up our extensive trip, I would have no hesitation in recommending New Hampshire for a fly-drive holiday. Personally for me the highlights were the beautiful lakes and mountains with wonderful views and a real feeling of ‘getting away from it all’. Hopefully one day I shall be back.
With frequent flights and some very good fares, Boston makes an affordable gateway to New Hampshire. Check out Norwegian.com, the new airline flying from Gatwick.
Or our partners, American Sky, offer a selection fly-drive packages with varied itineraries.
For more information on New Hampshire, go to visitnh.gov.