Lake Sunapee NH Guide
A pretty lake with a beach, a state park and a winter ski area.
Lake Sunapee from Georges Mills, New Hampshire.
Lake Sunapee from Georges Mills, New Hampshire.
About Lake Sunapee
Lake Sunapee, south of Interstate 89 between Concord and Lebanon (map), is a pleasant regional vacation spot in southwestern New Hampshire, 28 miles (45 km) southeast of Hanover, which is home to Dartmouth College.
Summer visitors to the Sunapee region are a mixture of families who own or rent summer cottages and who return every year, and occasional tourists looking for a less hectic vacation away from the crowds and traffic of New England's seaside resorts on Cape Cod, the Maine coast and New Hampshire seacoast.
Fed mostly by underground springs running from the surrounding hills, the water in Lake Sunapee is exceptionally pure and transparent. Mount Sunapee State Beach and Newbury Harbor Town Beach, both at the southern tip of the lake in Newbury (map), are the most popular for swimming. Boating, canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing on the clear water are also popular.
Lake Sunapee Towns
Just over eight miles (13 km) long and half a mile to 2.5 miles (0.8 to 4 km) wide, Sunapee is a glacial lake with 70 miles (113 km) of shoreline and four settlements: Sunapee Harbor, the tourist center; Newbury, a smaller tourist spot; New London, the commercial and administrative center; and tiny Georges Mills with its marina at the northern tip of the lake.
This is where you board Sunapee Cruises's m/v Mount Sunapee and m/v Kearsarge, lake boats that go on cruises around this beautiful lake daily in summer.
Hotels, inns, B&Bs, restaurants, ice cream shops and the Wild Goose Country Store provide for travelers' needs.
The former Flanders-Osborne Stable in the center is now the Sunapee Historical Society's Flanders-Osborne Museum worth a look.
On Wednesday evenings in summer, free concerts are presented by the Town of Sunapee at the BenMere Bandstand on the hill at the town center.
Sunapee Harbor is also where the pure waters of Lake Sunapee flow out along the Sugar River. The short but pretty Sunapee River Walk takes you along the river from the lakeshore to the splash dam and reflecting pool, where you can cross the picturesque covered footbridge.
Covered footbridge over the Sugar River,
Sunapee Harbor, New Hampshire.
The tiny town of Newbury, 6.4 miles (10 km) southeast of Sunapee Harbor, New Hampshire, is a tourist mecca in summer for several good reasons:
—It's the closest town to Mount Sunapee State Park & Beach.
—It has its own Newbury Harbor Town Beach that's great for kids (and not bad for adults).
—It has restaurants and ice cream shops.
Newbury was once a very busy town indeed. In the 19th and early 20th century, up to 10 trains a day arrived here from the cities bringing vacationers who would then proceed to their lakeshore hotels by steam launch.
The Fells Estate
In 1891, diplomat and statesman John Milton Hay (1838-1905), private secretary to President Abraham Lincoln, then Secretary of State for presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, built a 22-room Colonial Revival summer home on a large forested estate by the shores of northeast of Newbury.
The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens, now open to the public, offers house tours, formal and informal gardens and nature trails on 84 acres. The property adjoins the John Hay National Wildlife Refuge, an additional 80 acres established as a reservation for wildlife and migratory birds. More...
A bright red caboose just northwest of the town center by the Tourist Information kiosk commemorates Newbury's railroad terminus era.
New London, 35 miles (56 km) northwest of Concord, New Hampshire (map), is the Lake Sunapee region's largest town, with a full population of 4,400, only some of whom live in the town center.
It's a classic New England town with white steepled churches, solid brick Town Hall, bandstand in the park, and public library.
It's also where you'll find the region's shopping center, shops and stores, restaurants and services.
New London is also the seat of Colby-Sawyer College, a liberal arts and sciences baccalaureate institution founded in 1837 and currently enrolling 1,415 undergraduates. (Colby College in Waterville, Maine, is a separate, unrelated institution.)
The non-profit New London Barn Playhouse is New Hampshire's oldest continuously-operating summer stock theater, having been founded in 1933. Every summer it pursues its mission of "producing vibrant theater created by emerging artists, in collaboration with accomplished professionals." It's one of those "little theaters" in which some of the young actors you see today will be the stars of tomorrow. More...
In the summer, Sunapee hosts very well-attended crafts markets on NH Route 103B at the blinking light (between Sunapee Harbor and Sunapee Lower Village). Both buyers and sellers flock to the intersection's roadsides, and everything from craftwork through antiques to junk is available.
Mount Sunapee State Park has hiking and interpretive trails, and a Family Adventure Park featuring canopy ziplines, an mountain bike course, aerial challenge course through the treetops, disc golf and miniature golf, and a quad chairlift ride to the South Peak of Mount Sunapee (2743 feet/836 meters).
Mount Sunapee, the mountain itself, is organized as Mount Sunapee Resort, with skiing in winter. At the summit there are walking trails (not difficult) to an overlook and to a glacial tarn named Lake Solitude.
The drive all the way around Lake Sunapee is only 25 miles (40 km), so you can lodge anywhere near the lake and enjoy all of its pleasures with a short ride. Indeed, you could even stay in Lebanon or Hanover NH or Woodstock VT.
I've made some specific lodging recommendations below, but you might also find it helpful to consult this Hotel Map with Prices.
New London NH
The 4-star, 10-room Inn at Pleasant Lake in New London NH offers the true New England inn experience in one of the Sunapee region's prettiest towns. Rooms are varied in their amenities, but all guests enjoy the sun terrace with mountain views, the lounge, the restaurant, and the shores of Pleasant Lake. More...
Three hotels are right on the access road to Mount Sunapee State Beach just northwest of Newbury. If you want lots of beach time, these are the places for you.
The 4-star, 47-suite Mountain Edge Resort & Spa, just a short walk from Mount Sunapee State Beach in Newbury, offers a kitchenette and living room with fireplace and sofa bed, a balcony or patio in each suite. Restaurant, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, jacuzzis, fitness center and game room are here, as is the Mountain Spirits Tavern restaurant. More...
Very near the Mountain Edge Resort is the 2-star, 55-room Sunapee Lake Lodge, with lower rates but lots of services: microwave oven, refrigerator and coffee-maker in each room, along with free Wifi and TV. An indoor pool entertains if you don't want to make the short walk to the beach. Nonni's Restaurant serves Italian cuisine and American cocktails. More...
The 1-star, 12-room Lake Inn at Mt Sunapee, is a small motel and the nearest lodging to Mount Sunapee State Beach in Newbury. Rooms are equipped with microwave oven, refrigerator, free Wifi, TV, VCR, large picture windows and screened porch or patio—all in all, an indisputable bargain. More...
There is no train or bus service to the towns of the Lake Sunapee region, so car is the best means of transportation. By car, follow I-89 to NH Route 11 south (map).
Distances from Sunapee Harbor
Boston MA: 104 miles (167 km) SE
Concord NH: 40 miles (65 km) SE
Lebanon NH: 25 miles (40 km) NW