While the pristine lake invited all manner of water sports, and the forested hills were superb for hiking, the charm of the Squam Lake area went beyond nature tourism. The villages that dot the nearby country roads, once agricultural communities and lumber camps, trace their roots back to the mid-18 th century. They too retained the relaxed pace and understated charm of a bygone era, even as they welcomed tourists in ancient homes meticulously restored into country inns and centuries-old barns turned art galleries. The area has maintained its rich tradition of crafts. As early as 1926, a local woman, Mary Hill Coolidge, pioneered the Sandwich Home Industries to encourage and preserve early crafts and provide an outlet for them. Over the decades, Sandwich and its surroundings have become a thriving colony for artists and craftsmen, imparting a new vitality to this sleepy rural area. This rich creative atmosphere has also spurred the rise of several imaginative chef-owned restaurants where talented chefs using local products work their own artistry in the kitchen.
Yet, for all its natural, historic and artistic assets and its easy access from many of New England’s urban centers, I found the Squam Lake area remarkably uncrowded. Whether kayaking to the tiny islands sprinkled around the lake or driving along meandering country roads bordered with wild flowers, I found myself rejoicing at having discovered such a well-kept secret. I thoroughly enjoyed my days in the cool serenity of Golden Pond. I intend to revisit it as the changing seasons give the area a whole new appeal; starting with autumn, the famed New England foliage season, when the changing leaves paint the hills in vibrant shades of copper and gold. And next time, I may even let friends in on the secret.
Currency U.S. Dollar
Electrical Current 120 Volt
How To Get There Most major U.S. and several international carriers provided daily scheduled flights to the nearby Boston Logan International Airport and Montreal Trudeau Airport. A few U.S. regional carriers including Continental Express, Delta Connection, Southwest Airlines and United Express as well as Air Canada also served Manchester Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, a one-hour drive south of Squam Lake.
Location In the southern foothills of the White Mountains in mid-state New Hampshire, a two-hour drive from Boston, Massachusetts and a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Montreal, Canada.
Technology High-speed Internet connectivity was widely available. Mobile phone reception was erratic throughout the area. I quickly identified spots where I could reliably expect a connection and made sure to include at least one of them in every itinerary.
Time GMT/UTC minus five hours (e.g. United States Eastern Time)
Transportation Although distances were relatively short to reach the many attractions and tiny villages near the lake, a car was necessary.
Surroundings Gallery Located in a beautifully restored, light-filled barn in the center of town, this inviting gallery showcased original fine art and folk art works in a variety of media from locally connected artists. Surroundings also carried a number of delightful illustrations by David McPhail, a children’s books author and illustrator.
Meanwhile in a 19 th century barn at the edge of town, the Patricia Ladd Garega Gallery focused on contemporary art in varied medias by established and emerging artists.
Tourism Highlights The area offered a satisfying balance of outdoor activities and art and crafts shopping opportunities to satisfy the most eclectic requirements. My personal highlights included:
Keepsake Quilting This quilter’s paradise was a 15-minute drive east of Holderness in Center Harbor. It was said to be the largest quilt shop in the country, and was arguably one of the better known (it has been mentioned to me by friends from as far a the British Isles). Although not an aficionada of needlecrafts myself, I enjoyed browsing through its endless aisles filled with a rainbow of cotton fabrics. The shop also displayed a number of finished quilts in many sizes, available for purchase.
Sandwich Historical Society This tiny museum housed in a well-preserved early 19 th century local home and barn was furnished with authentic artifacts that gave a comprehensive image of local rural life. The museum also had an extensive collection of period tools, documents, paintings and photographs.
Sandwich Home Industries A founding member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, the shop has occupied the same cottage in the center town since 1934. It offered a rich (and tempting) array of juried pottery, textiles, basket wares, glass, woodcrafts, jewelry, leather, prints photographs and mixed media.
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center This vast hillside facility on the outskirts of Holderness focused on New Hampshire’s natural world through live animal exhibits, natural science programs and several hiking itineraries. The center was especially popular with families and children groups. I enjoyed following the well marked and little frequented hiking trails where rest benches had been thoughtfully located in secluded areas that offered panoramic views of the While Mountains.
Reviewers Article and photographs by Josette King
Would You Visit Again? Yes