Driving Around Lake Winnipesaukee is an awesome way to see the various quaint villages as well as many beautiful views of the lake. Distance: 97 miles depending which roads you navigate. The trip around Lake Winnipesaukee is long and sometimes you may think you’ll never make it to the end of the adventure, but it is definitely a must do if you come to the Lakes Region. Break up your trip by stopping in village stores and scenic views. Don’t forget The Village Pizzeria’s in Alton and Mill Falls Market in Meridith, our personal favorites.
ALTON TO GILFORD
Photograph from Route 11. Alton, New Hampshire
Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest and most popular lake in New Hampshire and certainly one of the most scenic. Beginning in Alton, at the southern gateway to the Lakes Region, the route follows NH 11 north through Alton Bay up through Gilford. The Alton area became one of the earliest tourist destinations around the lake with the arrival of rail in the later half of the 19th century. This western side of the lake shows off exceptional views of the lake and Ossipee Range and offers many different recreational opportunities. Take a hike up to the summit of Mt. Major for wonderful sights of the Lake and surrounding mountain ranges or stop in at Ellacoya State Park for a picnic or a swim.
LACONIA TO MEREDITH
Laconia, known as the “City on the Lakes” Shop in many of the unique shops or dine in fine restaurants. Continue on to Weirs Beach, with its amusement parks, arcades, and shopping, is one of the most popular family resort areas in the state. This area of the Lakes Region Tour is always bustling with activity. A few miles to the north, view scenic gateways to Meredith’s traditional New England village with a panorama of Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains. Meredith is also a visitor hub and a crossroads for the Byway. Continue north towards Holderness for beautiful views of Squam Lake and the Rattlesnake Range or head east and continue the other half of the tour around Lake Winnipesaukee.
CENTER HARBOR TO MOULTONBOROUGH
Following the route clockwise, take Route 25 through Meredith and Center Harbor towards Moultonborough. Or for a less traveled route, take NH 25B from Meredith east to Center Harbor. This route winds through the hills north of Winnipesaukee and is a less traveled alternative to Route 25. Downtown Center Harbor, near the convergence of NH 25 and 25B, is a quaint town on the north edge of Winnipesaukee. This area has retained much of its charm and offers great views to the south. The eastern side of Winnipesaukee is not as developed as the western side, and as you continue through Moultonborough and onto The Lakes Region offers something for everyone including boating, hiking, fishing, shopping and much more. The Lakes Tour circles New Hampshire’s largest lake, Lake Winnipesaukee and offers tremendous views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. Tuftonboro, the landscape becomes more rural.
TUFTONBORO TO WOLFEBORO
Heading back around towards Alton you will pass the site of the Wentworth Estate and the Libby Museum. John Wentworth, the last royal governor of New Hampshire, envisioned four key routes necessary for the economic development of his province. One of these was to run from his summer estate in Wolfeboro to the new Dartmouth College in Hanover. Wentworth saw an east-west road as a necessity to prevent the loss of revenue from goods produced in New Hampshire’s Coos region (in the north) which traveled south to Connecticut (by river) given the absence of roads. The eastern leg, from Wolfeboro to the Pemigewasset River in Holderness, was cut out for horse travel in 1771-1773. This ancient route coincides closely with sections of the Lakes Region Tour. In fact, portions of it now in use in Wolfeboro, Center Harbor and Holderness are still named “College Road.”
A Little Further North
Ellsworth Hill Road ~ Campton
Off Route 3, Ellsworth Hill takes you to Stinson Lake. There is an incredible view of the White Mountains. The road eventually comes out in Rumney Village and connects with Route 25. This road is mostly unpaved and not maintained in winter.
Route 118 ~ Warren to North Woodstock
Begin at Redstone Missile on the Warren Common, then make a sharp right onto Route 118. This is a beautiful ride of 15 miles over the shoulder of Mt. Moosilauke.
Route 3-A ~ West Plymouth to Bristol
Take Route 3-A from Route 25. This road parallels the shore of Newfound Lake. There are beautiful lake and mountain vistas that make for a pleasurable viewing experience.
Route 49 ~ Campton to Waterville Valley
Follow this New Hampshire Scenic & Cultual Byway along the Mad River from Campton to Tripoli Road in Waterville Valley.
Route 25 ~ Plymouth to Warren
This route follows the Baker River. Along the way you will find some good fishing and picnic spots.
Route 25C ~ Wentworth to Orford
Along this route you will find stone walls, sugar houses, beautiful mountain vistas, and winding country roads. Enjoy!
Route 113 ~ Holderness to Sandwich
A New Hampshire Scenic Byway, this makes for a quaint scenic drive, with beautiful Squam Lake views along the way.
West Shore Road ~ Bristol
Off Route 3-A at the south end of Newfound Lake in Bristol. Drive around the “back” side of Newfound Lake. The road goes from Route 3-A in Bristol, loops around the lake, then returns to Route 3-A in Hebron.
Sandwich Notch Road ~ Waterville Valley to Sandwich Village
This road is off of Route 49, and is unpaved and open for Summer travel only. An excellent place to view moose and other wildlife, this road ends on Route 175.
The Road to the Sky” ~ Mt. Washington Auto Road
This route will take you to the summit of Mount Washington. You will see different beautiful scenic vistas around every bend. Take your own vehicle, or make a reservation aboard one of the guided Auto Road van tours.
Other Scenic Routes in the Lakes Region
Rt. 109, Center Sandwich to Wolfeboro Rt. 140, Alton to Belmont Rt. 113, Holderness to South Tamworth and Silver Lake Rt. 3A and Newfound Lake Road, Bristol, Hebron and Bridgewater Rt. 11, Alton Bay to Glendale From Rt. 125, Milton to Rt. 109 in Sanbornville and Wakefield