My primary motivation for moving back to the Lakes Region was so that my son would have the same amazing summers that I had growing up. As a child, I was literally at the beach every day for several hours, if not the entire day. My mom would pack up the cooler, pack up all three or five or however many children were at our house that day and cart us all to Crystal Lake Park in Gilmanton and we were in HEAVEN. Until I spent my first summer in Washington, DC after college, I didn’t realize just how unusual (and AWESOME) my childhood summers were. Even though my family was totally blue collar so we couldn’t afford a waterfront home or a boat, that didn’t stop us from spending our summers at the lake.
Unfortunately, lots of towns here now restrict access to their beaches and you have to have a town sticker to get into many of the beaches. This was not the case when I was a kid and I think it sends the wrong message, but I’ll leave that rant for another day! Here is a list of my favorite public beaches in the Lakes Region.
- Wolfeboro Town Beaches – now here is a town that’s got it right. ALL of their beaches are free and open to the general public and they are lovely. Albee Beach is great because you can make a day of it by parking your car at the beach parking lot, taking a bike ride on the Cotton Valley Rail Trail and spending the rest of the day swimming and lounging on the beach. The thing that is nice about Wolfeboro is that with three beaches and other parks with water access, you have a lot of options, so if the first one you choose is too crowded for your taste, just move on to another.
- Ellacoya State Park (Gilford) – This is a wonderful beach on Lake Winnipesaukee, especially for large groups with children. The beach is quite long and the swimming area is huge so even on the most crowded days of the summer it’s still really enjoyable. We were there Fourth of July weekend and it was mobbed, but once we wandered into the park and found our spot under the beautiful shade trees, it didn’t seem crowded at all. The swimming area is shallow for quite a ways out so it’s great for little kids. Bring a hibachi and a hammock and stay all day! $5 per adult. Kids 6 and under are free. Kids 6 – 11 years old are $2.
- Opechee Park (Laconia) – There are two swimming areas at Ophechee Park. One is the sandy beach in Opechee Cove that is great for little kids. The other is a shady spot out on Opechee Point where the water is a bit choppier, but the water is also colder out there so on a really hot day, you want to go out on the Point. The park also has a great playground, tons of shaded picnic tables, and a nice restroom facility.
- Ahern State Park (Laconia) – If you’re ok with roughing it a little bit, this lesser known state park in Laconia is fun to explore. Lots of quiet walking trails on 3,500 feet of shoreline on Lake Winnisquam with a small beach. Only has a “pit toilet,” aka outhouse FYI. Chances are, you’ll have it mostly to yourself though!