When contemplating the most impressive natural features in the Northeast, you’ll be tempted to look up to the region’s famed mountain ranges or out along its miles upon miles of pristine coastline. But if you look inward, you’ll find a group of equally impressive features: lakes. The Northeast is home to several of the most prominent – and largest – lakes in the country.
Each of these bodies of water offer all the outdoor recreation you can fit into your schedule. Add in the cultural, historic and family-focused attractions found amongst quaint, waterfront towns and these lakes become the perfect vacation destinations.
Nestled amongst New York’s pristine Adirondack Mountains is picturesque Lake George, a popular vacation destination for nearly two centuries. Known as the “Queen of the American Lakes,” this 32-mile-long body of water boasts 109 miles of shoreline, comprised of beaches large and small. Those wanting a front-row seat to this natural wonder can book a cruise with the Lake George Steamboat Company or enjoy a self-guided exploration by renting a paddleboat, kayak or canoe. More of an adventure seeker? Try zipping around the water on a jet ski or get your heart pumping on a whitewater rafting expedition.
Off the water, Lake George provides the opportunity for a one-of-a-kind night under the stars. There are nearly 400 campsites located across the lake’s 44 state-owned islands. Speaking of dry land, history buffs will want to explore Lake George’s southern shoreline. The area is home to several historical sites that played important roles in the French and Indian War. Families with little ones, meanwhile, can spend a day at nearby attractions like Six Flags Great Escape and Hurricane Harbor, Lake George Expedition Park and the Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course.
New Hampshire is home to nearly 300 bodies of water. The largest of these is Lake Winnipesaukee, located in the central portion of the state, not far from the Maine border. Covering a mammoth 72 square miles, the lake offers ample space for just about every water activity under the sun, including boating, waterskiing, pontoon boat charters and standup paddleboarding.
Nature lovers will be hard-pressed to find a better setting than New Hampshire’s Lake Region. Lake Winnipesaukee is surrounded by several Hollywood-worthy bodies of water, including Squam Lake, where the Academy Award-winning movie “On Golden Pond” was filmed. All this natural beauty sits at the foot of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, home to 6,822-foot-tall Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast.
The surrounding towns of Laconia, Meredith and Wolfeboro have long been popular tourist destinations. In fact, Wolfeboro is considered the oldest summer resort town in America, with a history that dates back to 1759. Within these local neighborhoods, visitors will find top-notch restaurants, museums and family attractions. (Parents, make sure to put Laconia’s famous Funspot arcade on your itinerary.)
The serenity of this famous Massachusetts pond inspired Henry David Thoreau to pen his iconic book “Walden,” an ode to the simplicity of living in nature. Travelers will still find much of that same serenity a century-and-a-half later. Walden Pond feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of modern-day life, despite being just a 30-minute drive from Boston.
Don’t let the name fool you, this “pond” is more than 60 acres in size. Guests will find all the traditional recreational activities available at their fingertips. Back on land, a walking path encircling the pond allows visitors to explore the shoreline and surrounding forest on foot.
What separates Walden Pond from other popular lake destinations is its unique place in American and literary history. Walden Pond is located in Concord, site of the first Revolutionary War conflict. Guests can learn about the town’s historical importance with stops at local museums, parks and memorial sites. Decades after the war, several notable authors called Concord home. This included Thoreau’s friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose house is open to the public. Just north of the pond sits Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, where she wrote “Little Women.”
Forming a geographical border between northern New York and Vermont is scenic Lake Champlain. Stretching 120 miles long and covering 435 square miles, it is the sixth-largest lake in the country. The water, lined by Vermont’s Green Mountains, claims postcard-worthy views at every turn.
Those looking to try their hand at sailing, a popular Lake Champlain activity, can book a private instruction or rent a boat of on their own. When it comes to sporting, Lake Champlain is a fisher’s paradise. More than 90 different species of fish can be found swimming underneath the surface and the lake is considered to have some of the best bass fishing in the Northeast. Speaking of animals, bird watchers should bring their binoculars to spot the 300-plus types of birds that live on or near Lake Champlain.
Those wanting to cross the river can do so via one of three bridges (two on the south end, one on the north) or by hopping on any of the three ferry services that travel along the wider, central portions of the lake. Once on land, visitors can travel through the quaint, waterfront towns that line the lake. The most notable of which is Burlington, Vermont’s most-populous city. Here, guests will want to make sure to stop by the Church Street Marketplace, a lively, open-air mall filled with restaurants, bars, boutique retailers and live music.
What’s your favorite lake destination? Let us know what you love about it in the comments below!
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