The weather has been a bit sporadic this summer, to say the least. But feverish, sunny days have been popping up more frequently over the past few weeks, and luckily the NH state parks system has a plethora of beaches available for a quick dip (or scuba diving if that’s more your thing ;). The lakes region stretches across the middle of New Hampshire, boasting Lake Winnipesauke, ten state parks, three rail trails, and quite a few incredible views if you’re up for a short hike.
Ahern State Park
Ahern is tucked out of view from surrounding towns, Laconia and Meredith, and nestled against Lake Winnisquam. It is one of the smaller state parks, definitely down the road less traveled – literally, it is a bumpy drive down to the lakefront. But it is also apparent that this park is well-loved by those who have discovered it.
Ahern State Park includes a small strip of beach plus hiking and biking trails that branch off towards the north. The trails are dog friendly, and I saw one very ambitious border collie playing fetch, jumping off a small cliff into the water below. However, there was one momma duck who was evidently displeased with the ruckus, and she kept all seven of her babies out of reach.
After looping through the trails, I headed back towards my car and saw something I did not expect to see at 10 AM on a Tuesday. Scuba divers! Apparently, Ahern is a great spot to explore Lake Winnisquam underwater. There are freshwater snails, crabs, and possibly border collies if you get too close to shore.
Side Trip: Lockes Hill
Ellacoya State Park
This park is a little unassuming on your way in. However, once you drive past the RV park, park your car, and head into the woods, you might decide Ellacoya State Park is your new favorite Winnipesaukee beach.
There are birds and babies aplenty, seagulls and sandcastles, and even a lifeguard on duty. So, you’ve got your standard beach paraphernalia. But, what steals the show is Lake Winnipesaukee herself. The surrounding hills enclose you on this small beach, and with the smell of burgers to your left and bursts of laughter to your right—it feels like summer.
I have a hard time capturing the beauty of a beach with my camera. There is sand and water, and usually, that’s about it. But there were about 100 smiling faces on the beach, and I think this is the beauty of Ellacoya: looking around and seeing everyone around relishing in the summer sun—even the gulls…
If you are on the eastern side of Lake Winnipesaukee and looking for a quieter beach, try Wentworth State Park. It’s smaller, which can often be a good thing, and has most of the same amenities as Ellacoya and Wellington (and more trees).
Wellington State Park
Wellington boasts the largest freshwater beach of all the NH State Parks. I spent my afternoon walking around and interrupting people’s relaxation for a few minutes here and there. The consensus was that Wellington State Park is the best beach in the state, and if you stop by, you’ll see why.
The mountains are close, really close. The leafy cliff sides jut out above the beach to the left as you look out on Newfound Lake. Swimmers and canoers freckle the water, but most folks are content on the beach with their friends and family (or a good book).