New Hampshire

Best of New Hampshire 2021 | The Outdoors Edition

Yankee editors pick the top New Hampshire attractions, dining, and lodging that highlight having fun in the New England outdoors.

By Yankee Editors

Apr 26 2021

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Offering a front-row seat to the Presidential Range, the Omni Mount Washington Resort is a favorite perch for leaf peepers.

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
TRAVEL NOTE:Before setting out to visit any of our Best of New England winners, please contact them or check online for updates on hours and operations this summer.
Omni Mount Washington Resort
Offering a front-row seat to the Presidential Range, the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods has our favorite hotel porch.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

Best New Hampshire Outdoor Attractions

DOG EXCURSION Urban Forestry Center, Portsmouth On the outskirts of a historic port city full of delights and surprises, maybe the most surprising of all is this 182-acre wilderness preserve, lush with forest and fields alongside a salt marsh, where leashed dogs can lope beside their owners on the walking trails. The land was once an 18th-century farm owned by Governor John Langdon of Revolutionary War fame, and you and Fido can explore historical markers as you amble through some of the prettiest land in southern New Hampshire. nh.gov/nhdfl/natural-heritage/state-owned-reservations/urban-forestry-center.htmDRIVE-IN THEATER Milford Drive-In, Milford The concessions alone will whet your appetite for a trip to this c. 1958 go-to: fried dough and cotton candy, hamburgers and hot dogs, and frappes in a dozen flavors. Once you’ve got an armload of treats, settle in for new-release double features on two big screens. Admission is $30 per carload for up to six people, so don’t forget to bring your friends. Also boosting the Milford Drive-In’s appeal are special-event screenings of non-Hollywood fare, such as concerts by Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton. milforddrivein.comFARM ANIMAL FUN The Friendly Farm, Dublin This cheery barnyard becomes something of an overly friendly farm when you have a bag of feed in hand, and giggling kids adore attracting throngs of bleating and baa-ing pals. It’s a tonic for the soul to free-range across green grassland, to picnic, and to pat bunnies and cradle chicks in your hands. There’s subtle learning in every animal interaction and sheer joy in being farmer for a day without having to clean the pigpen. friendlyfarm.comNATURE OUTING Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, Errol The jewel of this 25,650-acre refuge on the New Hampshire–Maine border is vast Umbagog Lake, whose serene waters invite wildlife lovers to paddle out into nature in hopes of spotting loons, osprey, herons, and—most famously—nesting pairs of bald eagles. For those inclined to stay on dry land, there’s a short handicapped-accessible trail to an observation platform that’s a prime perch for viewing moose, boreal birds, and waterfowl; the longer Roost Trail leads to cliff-top views that range across the refuge and Umbagog area. fws.gov/refuge/umbagogOUTDOOR FLEA MARKET Hollis Flea Market, Hollis By 8 a.m. on a summer Sunday, the action has already heated up at this southern New Hampshire staple, which can draw more than a thousand visitors a day. Founded in 1964 and run continuously ever since, the Hollis Flea Market hosts about 400 vendors spread across 20 acres, ensuring that there’s something for everyone. Beyond the wealth of flea market wares, there are appraisal services and refreshments, including beer and wine for shoppers ready to toast their epics finds. Sundays from mid-April to October. hollisflea.comOUTDOOR MUSEUM Andres Institute of Art, Brookline With names like Upheaval, Horse of Inspiration, and Growing with the Flow, the creations at New England’s largest sculpture park spark wonderment and conversation. Constructed on-site by artists from five continents during 21 annual two-week symposia, 100 large-scale works entwine with nature along 10 miles of trails that climb Big Bear Mountain. Pause to consider each, including a new Old Man of the Mountain, from your own unique perspective. andresinstitute.orgPUBLIC GOLF COURSE Country Club of New Hampshire, NorthSutton When golfers speak of “classic” golf courses, they might simply point to this lovely and unpretentious 90-year-old course set at the base of Mount Kearsarge. The 7,000-yard course spreads along undulating wooded terrain, with the flank of the mountain hovering nearby. The 18 holes (especially 8, 9, 16, and 17) will test the most skillful without being so daunting as to discourage those still growing into the sport. Year after year, the friendliness and helpfulness of staff draws raves. And for those who want to make a weekend of it, the abundance of lakeside lodging in the Sunapee region is a big plus. countryclubofnh.comPYO FRUIT FARM Riverview Farm, Plainfield Get your fruit fix and cut your own flowers, too, at one of the prettiest PYO farms we’ve ever seen. Fertile Connecticut River Valley soil produces vibrant crops, kicking off around mid-August with blueberries, which never taste better than when they’re fresh-plucked. Raspberries follow, then pumpkins and apples galore, from August’s early Paula Reds through the CrimsonCrisps and SnowSweets that ripen in October. riverviewnh.comZIPLINE Bretton Woods Canopy Tour, BrettonWoods Clean, crisp, health-giving air attracted the White Mountains’ first vacationers, and you can drink it in with gusto on this high-flying, three-hour adventure. Dual-cabled for safety, the course is composed of nine ziplines, three rappelling ropes, and two Indiana Jones–style sky bridges. Before long, you’ll be bantering with your trusty guides and feeling relaxed enough to appreciate the rarity of seeing the Presidential Range and the tip-tops of ancient hemlocks from this angle. brettonwoods.com

Best New Hampshire Outdoor Dining

CITY PATIO DINING Cotton, Manchester Sheltered by a vine-covered arbor, the sun-dappled courtyard patio at Cotton is the ideal spot for tucking into chef-owner Jeffrey Paige’s modern comfort fare, from crab cakes and fried chicken to a spectacular meatloaf. For drinks, the 12 signature martinis are justifiably beloved, but with more than 40 wines by the glass, you’re free to pursue any flights of fancy. cottonfood.comCRAFT BREWERY Stoneface Brewing Co., Newington When Pete Beauregard won first place for a home-brewed IPA in Boston in 2013, he knew he was onto something good. The following year, he would debut Stoneface Brewing on the outskirts of Portsmouth and begin turning out the best-selling Stoneface IPA. For a lighter beer, try Stoneface’s Berliner Weisse with hints of either blackberry or raspberry—or go for the special double-fruited version. stonefacebrewing.comFARM STAND Lull Farm, Hollis The flagship location of Lull Farm is open year-round and has something special in every season: vegetable starts and colorful annuals in spring, pick-your-own strawberries and abundant produce come summer, apple cider doughnuts and farm-raised turkeys in fall, and Christmas trees and homemade soups for winter. The farm store also sells farm-raised beef and chicken, pies from Lull Farm’s own bakery, and anything else you might need for a farm-fresh dinner. livefreeandfarm.comICE CREAM STAND Sanctuary Dairy Farm Ice Cream, Sunapee While the atmosphere at Sanctuary Dairy Farm lends itself to a day of outdoor family fun—with farm animals, trees for climbing, and yard games—the ice cream is the thing that’s not to be missed. And after all, it’s not every day you’re served scoops out of a converted sheep barn! Find hard ice cream, gelato, soft-serve, and sorbet in a range of flavors from standard to extravagant, but the one concoction that no self-respecting New Englander should miss is the maple ice cream flavored with real New Hampshire syrup and mixed with chunks of maple candy and homemade fudge. icecreamkidbeck.comLAKE-VIEW DINING Oak and Grain, NewLondon The Inn at Pleasant Lake’s namesake body of water provides the beautiful backdrop for delectable meals from its in-house restaurant. Chef Bryan Leary counts an on-site herb garden and maple stand among his culinary inspirations, and his menus give pride of place to local ingredients. Guests can opt for à la carte dining, tasting menus, or even chef-led cooking classes throughout the year. oakandgrain.comLOBSTER SHACK Rye Harbor Lobster Pound, Rye This diminutive shack is most notable for one signature flourish: seasoning its lobster meat with a touch of sherry. You’ll taste this unbeatable pairing in the hot-and-buttered lobster roll and the lobster bisque, and once you’ve had it, you may never go back to plain old buttered lobster again. Looking for a cold roll? They have that too, accented with celery and a hint of lemon, as well as a delicious clam chowder. facebook.com/ryeharborlobsterpoundMOUNTAIN-VIEW DINING Carriage House Restaurant, Moultonborough After making his fortune in the shoe business, Tom Plant built a country estate, called Lucknow, in the Ossipee Mountains at the turn of the 20th century. Today the remarkable property includes the castle-like mansion itself and surrounding gardens, which are open for tours from late May until late October, as well as an extensive network of hiking and ski trails. At the restaurant, the Carriage House, you can dine on a terrace overlooking the mountains and Lake Winnipesaukee. castleintheclouds.org/carriage-house-restaurantWINERY Hermit Woods Winery, Meredith If you haven’t yet fallen under the sway of fruit wines, prepare to be surprised and delighted by the offerings from Hermit Woods Winery. Here, they craft fruit wines of remarkable depth, such as a lush blueberry wine evocative of pinot noir, and an heirloom crabapple wine that’s a medium-dry sparkler. You can taste the wines at a guided, seated tasting (some with food pairings), or pop in for a more casual self-guided tasting and order from a menu of sandwiches and other nibbles at the in-house deli. hermitwoods.com

Best New Hampshire Lodging: The Outdoors Edition

FARM STAY Inn at East Hill Farm, Troy Kids willingly unplug at this hands-on farm with resort-style amenities including indoor and outdoor pools. There are always cows to milk, horses to ride, and grumbling chickens hiding the blue eggs you’ll want cooked your way for breakfast, yet each weekend offers new themed or seasonal activities that strengthen family ties or kindle passion for a hobby like cross-stitch or square dancing. Warm pre-dinner fritters and warmer hospitality welcome all guests “home.” east-hill-farm.comHOTEL ON THE BEACH Seaside Village Resort, North Hampton Four miles north of the hubbub of Hampton Beach, surrounded by multimillion-dollar oceanfront residences, this enduring property’s allure is all in its location. After all, do you really need fancy furnishings and froufrou linens when warm sand and invigorating seawater are right outside your door? New Hampshire’s lone hotel directly on the beach offers a mix of townhouses and other units, including some with kitchenettes for budget-friendly extended stays. seasidevillageresort.comHOTEL PORCH Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods Built on a palatial scale and on a parallel line with the Presidential Range, the Mount Washington is the rare survivor of the White Mountains’ grand hotel era. Its 903-foot-long wraparound veranda—the longest porch in New England—was quite the place to promenade in 1902. It remains an unparalleled perch for observing resort goings-on, unwinding with drinks, and binge-watching sun-glossed mountain views. omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods-mount-washingtonISLAND INN Oceanic Hotel, Star Island Day-trippers catch the ferry in Rye or Portsmouth to visit Star Island, the most prominent of the nine Isles of Shoals, and stroll and picnic on its 46 ocean-swept acres. But for a deeper experience, you can book a “personal retreat” or attend a themed conference at the Oceanic Hotel, one of the grand wooden hotels that graced the New England coast in years past. What it lacks in luxury (shared baths, simple but comfortable rooms), it more than makes up for with a porch that’s custom-built for relaxing, and a peacefulness that comes with seeing the sea with few distractions, sharing a historic island inn with others who are there for the exact same reason. starisland.org/info/accomodationsLAKESIDE CAMPGROUND White Lake State Park, Tamworth Twenty miles south of North Conway, glacially carved White Lake has been providing generation after generation of New Hampshire swimmers a place to cool off. The wise ones spend the night on the sandy shoreline to watch the sunset over the White Mountains. The 140 sites are located in a pitch pine forest a short walk to the beach. nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/white-lake-state-parkWHITE MOUNTAINS CAMPGROUND Lafayette Place Campground, Franconia Notch State Park, Franconia Book one of the 97 sites at Lafayette, evenly spaced in the woods and along a creek, and you’ll be at one of the finest starting points for outdoor recreation in the White Mountains. You can choose to swim in nearby Echo Lake, bike on trails to Cannon Mountain, or take some of the best-known hikes in New England to Lonesome Lake, Basin-Cascades, or the ridge walk atop Mount Lafayette. nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/franconia-notch-state-parkWILDERNESS LODGE AMC Highland Center Lodge in Crawford Notch, Bretton Woods Stay at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s flagship lodge, in one of the White Mountains’ most alluring spots, and you lay claim to the expert guidance and free-to-borrow gear you need if you and your family aren’t typically outdoorsy. Accommodations are varied and no-frills: You’re here to spend your time hiking, climbing, biking, paddling, and observing wildlife and waterfalls. Even after a hearty included dinner, you’ll want to venture out to peer at intensely sparkly stars. outdoors.org/lodging-camping/lodges/highland

See More: Best of New England 2021 | The Outdoors Edition