8 Best Places to Visit while Vacationing in New Hampshire

New Hampshire and its amazing scenery are the inspiration for many of my wildlife scenes. Since my new collection of Travel Tote Bags is about to launch, I thought I would share some of the places I would recommend visiting while in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire may be small, but it is definitely packed with vast wilderness expanses, dramatic snow-capped peaks, breathtaking rivers, lakes, & beaches, as well as sleepy old-fashioned towns with nostalgic centuries-old vibes.

So whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, enjoy mountains, beaches, or lakes, or are just looking for some amazing destinations to visit, New Hampshire has something for everyone.

1. Mount Washington

 

For wanderers who don’t know the first thing about what to do in New Hampshire, there’s no better way to kick-start the trip than to conquer its highest peak.

With its impressive elevation, this mountain will mesmerize you with awe-inspiring views of the area.

Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States and is best known for its extreme weather. It is known for its subzero winter temperatures and high winds. The highest wind speed ever recorded was here at 231 mph!

The summit of Mount Washington is covered by fog an average of 300 days each year. But on one of those rare clear days, you have views of five states and Canada. 

There are two ways to get to the top of this mountain unless you want to hike, the Auto Road and the Cog Railway.  They each climb the mountain from different starting points.  The Bretton Woods Resort is located near the Cog Railway.

The Mount Washington Auto Road extends from New Hampshire Route 16 in Pinkham Notch to the summit of Mount Washington in the White Mountains.   The views as you travel up and at the top are breathtaking.  There is a weather observatory at the top to learn about the extreme weather conditions on the mountain.

Another way to travel up Mount Washington is by taking a ride on the Cog Railway, but this is not for the faint of heart.  It is the first-in-the-world mountain-climbing cog railway and has been making its dramatic 3-hour round trip to the summit at 6288′ for over 150 years.

2. Flume Gorge, Lincoln

The Flume Gorge is one of the top places to see in New Hampshire that can satisfy anyone’s nature trip cravings.

Not only is it a spectacular sight, but it’s also encircled by waterfalls and rock formations.  It has enchanting man-made touches too, like bridges and wooden boardwalks.

After watching the introductory video at the Visitor’s Center, embark on the beautiful two-mile nature walk that features the breathtaking mountain vistas, a pool, awesome waterfalls, and covered bridges.  It is a good workout and is not for everyone, but it is well worth it in the end if you can manage it.

3. Castle in the Clouds — Moultonborough

Castle in the Clouds is a 16-room mansion located on a 5,294-acre mountaintop estate in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, and overlooks Lake Winnipesaukee.  It was built as a retirement home in 1914 by Thomas and Olive Plant.

The Castle blends perfectly with nature and is a tastefully crafted architectural wonder.

In addition to its majestic sights and views, the estate has a bundle of intriguing surprises, including a waterfall.

Castle in the Clouds holds a special place in my heart because my parents purchased a small cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee when I was 6 that looked up at the castle.

This is where my love of New Hampshire began.

4. Strawbery Banke — Portsmouth

If you’re a history buff, Strawbery Bank is the place to visit.  Situated in the historic South End district of Portsmouth, this outdoor museum highlights more than 250 years of American history.

Through its colonial buildings and costumed actors, this outdoor museum beautifully tells the story of Portsmouth’s first English settlers.  Tour the 38 structures and homes that were built between 1695 and 1820, and don’t forget to visit the charming 1860 Victorian Goodwin Mansion.

5. Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum — Warner

The Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum is a hidden gem and a must-see destination for those interested in history and culture. 

The exhibits inside the Museum allow visitors to travel through time and space – displaying artifacts and presenting information on prehistoric to contemporary Native Americans from every corner of the North American continent. MKIM is always adding to and changing exhibits. This, along with workshops, lectures, and special events, gives visitors a reason to return often.

Take a guided tour (recommended) or tour on your own.

 

When you’re finished inside walk the 1/4 mile Medicine Woods trail.  The Medicine Woods provides an opportunity to learn about the natural environment and some of the ways Natives historically used plants for food, medicine, dye, shelter, and tools.

Come visit on the second weekend in July for the Annual Powow and get a first-hand look at the culture today. Games, food, and fun for the whole family.  I highly recommend adding it to your calendar.

6. Kancamagus Highway and White Mountain National Forest

One of the most popular attractions in the whole of New Hampshire is a ride down the Kancamagus Highway. Located in the White Mountain National Forest it is an absolute delight to visit, with some simply stupendous scenery for you to enjoy. View several spectacular mountain ranges, such as the Presidential Range and Sandwich Range, as you wind through the never-ending forest.  There are loads of majestic peaks, as well as a variety of unique fauna and flora to see.

Hidden away among the dense foliage are moose, black bears, bald eagles, and many other species. Camping overnight in the national forest is a great way to immerse yourself in the magnificent nature around you.

The Appalachian Trail winds its way through the mountains and forests, there is a multitude of other great trails and paths for you to explore.  The best time to visit is during the fall when all the foliage transforms into a magical array of yellows, reds, and oranges. It is a spectacular sight.

7. Lake Winnipesaukee

 Lake Winnipesaukee is the sixth-largest lake in the U.S. Its rugged coastline is lined by wonderful forests, with scenic bays and charming towns dotted here and there. A very popular tourist destination, Lake Winnipesaukee has a wealth of great water sports for visitors to enjoy. Swimming in the lake or going sailing around its many, many islands are favorite pastimes among both locals and tourists.

Simply relax on one of the lake’s many beaches, tour the lake on the Mount Washington,  or go on a peaceful hike along its scenic shore to take in the astounding views. 

 

The arrow on this photo shows the location of the cottage my parents bought on Lake Winnipesaukee in 1964.  This is where my love of loons and my appreciation of the vast beauty that New Hampshire offers began.  Castle in the Clouds was located in the Ossipee Mountains across the lake from us.

8. Polar Caves – Rumney

Glaciers, which once covered the White Mountains in a mile-thick layer of ice, formed Polar Caves by scraping huge chunks of rock ledge off the mountainside as they melted and slid southward. These boulders and granite slabs fell into a tumble at the base of a towering cliff, creating caves and passages underneath and between them. Some of the spaces are so deep that ice remains there into the summer.

At the foot of the caves is the Rock Garden, a series of trails among huge rocks strewn on the forest floor, easier to navigate than the steeper trails among the caves. Wooden stairs and walkways lead up to dimly lit passages and caverns to explore; some, like the Bear’s Den are challenging, with tight spaces between surfaces. Signs tell stories of Native Americans, escaping slaves, smugglers, and others who used these caves.

Polar Caves Park is more than the caves, and there is enough so a family could spend hours here, watching and feeding a huge flock of ducks and geese that roam free and swim in a large woodland pond. An illustrated sign helps kids identify the variety of birds, and fallow deer that will eat from their hands.