New Hampshire lake

Lakes, Mountains, Whales and Forests – Visiting New Hampshire

After experiencing city life in Boston, we picked up our rental car and headed to New Hampshire, a thick forested state speckled with sparkling lakes and jagged mountains. As we turned off the interstate through woodland roads, a country channel spluttered to life on the radio and we passed a “Guns, Ammo and Knives” store. We shared the roads with trucks carrying timber, 4x4s and the occasional noisy big motorcycles, all bearing the New Hampshire state motto on their registration plates: “Live Free or Die.”

The beautiful New Hampshire views

*Update: you can read our complete 2016 New England Fall Foliage Guide here. This includes tips on where and when to see the best foliage, what to eat, which festivals to visit, how much our fall trip to New England cost and our favourite destinations in New England.*

The Lakes of New Hampshire

We stayed with Wendy, a fantastic Airbnb host who lives in a secluded, blue-wooden house in the forest, near the tiny town of Effingham. When we arrived Wendy was sorting her wood pile and preparing a camp fire for the evening; she recommended that we spend the rest of the afternoon in nearby Wolfeboro, which sits on the edge of the largest lake in the state, Winnipesaukee.

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Wolfeboro was everything I’d been longing for in a New England town, with its white-picket, pastel houses and smattering of independent shops selling toys, penny candy, clothes and souvenirs; the book store had a sign in the window advertising the weekly book club. Ice cream parlours and restaurants lined the lakeside and we wandered along snapping pictures as families out to enjoy the last of the summery weather lazed in their boats or rowed along in kayaks.

Us Enjoying Ice cream in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

Cute independent stores in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

We were never far from a lake in New Hampshire; another tip-off from Wendy sent us to Squam Lake, where the 80’s film “On Golden Pond”, starring Henry Fonda was set. We hiked through woods up the shady Bridal Trail, emerging to an incredible view overlooking the lake with hazy mountains in the distance.

Us overlooking Squam Lake, New Hmpshire

New Hampshire lake

That afternoon, with some difficulty, we strapped Wendy’s two-seater kayak to the roof of our car and headed to Crystal Lake, a small, still pond. As the afternoon sun started to fade we slid off into the water and paddled, alone, into the middle of the lake, marvelling at the perfect tree reflections on the water’s surface as bugs buzzed around us and ducks floated by.

The view from Crystal Lake, New Hampshire

kayaking on Crystal Lake, New Hampshire

The White Mountains

The main attraction in New Hampshire is the White Mountains, which cover around a quarter of the state and are part of the Appalachian mountain range. You could spend months exploring the region, which is popular for hiking and in the winter, skiing. With limited time, we chose to drive the most scenic section of the White Mountain road loop, the Kancamagus Highway.

View from the Kancamagus Highway

I love the fact that there are real park rangers in America who wear green and khaki uniforms and reside in log cabin-like buildings, waiting with a stack of maps to give you useful information about where to visit. Following a ranger’s advice, we set our odometer to zero and set off along the famous stretch of road, stopping at designated spots along the way; an old covered bridge from the days when horse-drawn carts used to traverse the mountain roads, a waterfall, lake and stretch of rocky river.

Covered Bridge, off the Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Although summer is stubbornly refusing to retreat at the moment, we still saw hints of autumn in sparks of red, orange and yellow leaves in the tall trees which line the highway and carpet the entire state. Everywhere we looked the White Mountains surrounded us, huge tree-covered mounds stretching up towards the sky and we passed through tiny, touristy ski towns like Lincoln and Woodstock.

Picturesque New Hampshire

Although we didn’t attempt any mountain hiking ourselves, we did venture up the steep auto road to the top of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast of America. The drive up there was reminiscent of hair-raising bus journeys we took in the Philippines and Laos; all windy corners and sharp turns with steep unforgiving drops and no guard rails.

Looking down the Mt Washington Autoroad

The summit of Mount Washington sits at 6,289 feet and is home to the worst weather ever recorded, with winds reaching up to 231MPH. It was definitely the windiest place I’ve ever been and the air was viciously Arctic, even in the warm sunshine. The views from the top of Mount Washington were more than worth the pummelling wind and hairy drive though; we were lucky to visit on a clear day and we could see for miles around.

At the summit of Mt Washington

Amazing views from Mt Washington, New Hampshire

Whale Watching in Gloucester

One of our days in New Hampshire was actually spent in Gloucester, Massachusetts, on a pre-booked whale watching trip. Setting sail from the industrial harbour town we zipped our coats against the cold; our trip happened to fall on the one bad day of weather we’ve experienced so far and the leaden sky gave way to occasional icy showers as we sped off into the ocean.

Humpback Whales at Geoffrey's Ledge

After an hour or so of exhilarating, rocky sailing that had some people throwing up their lunch, the Captain stopped at Geoffrey’s Ledge, a well-known feeding ground for whales. As we all shivered and grasped the handrails as the boat rocked violently from side-to-side, the black arcs of three Humpback Whales rose out of the sea, snorts of hot air blasted from their blow holes and we all watched in awe as the whales flipped up their tails to reveal unique white markings before diving down into the depths below.

Rocky River, New Hampshire

Sunset over the farm, New Hampshire

We were extremely lucky to see another two humpbacks as well as a couple of Minke Whales and a Fin Whale – the second largest animal in the world after the Blue Whale. On the way back to Gloucester a pod of around 50 Atlantic White-Sided dolphins chased alongside us, playing in the boat’s wake and leaping through the waves. We couldn’t have asked for a more incredible end to the day.

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All too quickly, our time in New Hampshire is up and we’re off to explore Connecticut, home of prestigious Yale and beautiful seaside towns.

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14 Comments
  • Louisa klimentos
    Posted at 12:17h, 19 September Reply

    Beautiful scenery and it reminds me of the Snowy Mountains in NSW except in the US the trees are conifers .I wish I was there rather than dealing with all my problems I am glad you are having a great time love Louisa

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:15h, 19 September Reply

      Hi Louisa, it is beautiful here. Hope life isn’t treating you too badly, take care.

      • Louisa Klimentos
        Posted at 02:36h, 20 September Reply

        Thanks heaps Amy ,I am travelling with you through your travel blog and i am with you and Andrew in spirit.When i rewad your travel blog i feel i am in another world.best wishes.hope to see you return to New Zealand and Oz .Keep enjoying the US,love always Louiss

        • Amy
          Posted at 01:50h, 21 September Reply

          That’s lovely Louisa, best wishes to you too and I hope we will return to NZ and Oz one day 🙂

  • Patti
    Posted at 04:34h, 21 September Reply

    Beautiful pics and don’t worry, the weather is starting to cool, the leaves are changing and in a few weeks you won’t believe the abundance of glorious color that will surround you. The states that encompass the north east are the part of the country we have yet to visit and your pictures are reminding me that we need to hit the road! We’ve driven 4 major road trips across country, but the north east was always so far while we were living on the west coast. Now that we’ve planted ourselves in Maryland, we’re good to go! Enjoy!

    • Amy
      Posted at 23:06h, 21 September Reply

      Yep, just today actually we can really feel a nip in the air – autumn is finally coming! Now you’re in Maryland you have the perfect chance to explore the north east, we love it so far 🙂

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 16:29h, 28 September Reply

    I am so envious of your successful whale watching boat tour, these gentle giants are amazing. We have just returned from a trip to Iceland and we tried to see the whales up in the North, but no luck, I guess they have left Iceland for warmer shores now. How amazing the view from Mount Washington. Sounds like you found a great base to explore from and Wendy’s tips turned out to be very good. The kayaking trip looked so calm and relaxing, I hope you got Andrew do most of the paddling?

    • Amy
      Posted at 02:21h, 29 September Reply

      We were very lucky to see so many whales; sorry to hear your trip wasn’t successful but I look forward to reading about your adventures in Iceland! Yes, Andrew did do most of the paddling while I snapped pictures and relaxed 🙂

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