Widely known as the filming location for On Golden Pond, Squam Lake is a quieter summertime destination in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire that sits just south of the White Mountains and northwest of Lake Winnipesaukee. Squam Lake serves as a nesting site for loons, bald eagles, and great blue herons; it’s also home to a plethora of fish species, including trout, salmon, bass, pickerel, and perch. Dotted with about 30 islands and several unnamed islets, it drains via a channel into Little Squam Lake. There’s a sense of natural serenity here — but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. Squam is surrounded by four lively Lakes Region towns, ensuring that visitors will find plenty of things to do, places to stay, and eateries to check out. Here are some of our favorites.
Visiting the lake with no access to a boat? No problem. The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center offers 90-minute lake tours during which you can learn more about Squam’s crystal-clear water, rocky shores, historic homes, wildlife, and many islands.
While the crowds are drawn north to the 4,000-foot summits of the White Mountains, this hike along the Crawford-Ridgepole Trail offers a challenging 13-mile day hike that includes seven summits and delivers some of the best views of the beautiful Lakes Region. Looking for something a little shorter? The Mount Percival/Morgan Loop Trail is a very popular five-mile loop hike with great lookouts. Even easier is the 1.7-mile out-and-back trail at West Rattlesnake Mountain in Holderness, which boasts panoramic lake views (but it is heavily trafficked and has limited parking, so plan accordingly).
Squam Lakes Association, the nonprofit organization that is largely to thank for the lake’s conserved natural beauty and watershed health, has a fleet of kayaks and canoes available for rent at its resource center off Route 3 in Holderness. The trained staff will help you with the equipment and, if needed, teach you basic boating skills. The association also offers summer programs that range from sailing to hiking to fly fishing.
If you’re going to enjoy a cold one while visiting Squam Lake, it’s only appropriate that it be from Squam Brewing. Opened in 2010, this three-barrel nanobrewery based in a quintessential New England barn in Holderness creates beers that are sold throughout the Lakes Region; you can also tour the brewery by appointment.
Support the local creative community and pick up a unique item to remember your Squam Lake visit at the same time. Squam Lakes Artisans on Main Street in Center Harbor is the place to go for photography, paintings, jewelry, pottery, greeting cards, paper art, glass works, sculptures, and fiber art.
Located at the award-winning Squam Lake Inn, this eatery is a great choice on a summer night thanks to its outdoor dining veranda, which is filled with cushy seating and twinkling string lights. Or choose to sit inside, which is equally comfortable and offers easy access to the bar and its signature craft cocktails. Entrées feature fresh, local ingredients, including herbs from the on-site garden.
At Squam Lake Marketplace you can stock up on local produce, meats, cheeses, eggs, and a curated selection of wine and beer for your lake stay — or just stop in for a freshly baked pastry and coffee. And don’t miss out on the signature ice cream sandwiches, starring locally made ice cream and house-made cookies.
For casual summer dining (think burgers, lobster rolls) right across from the lake, head to Squam Lakeside Farm. It has a full menu of classic American food plus lots of cool summer treats: ice cream cones, sundaes, soft-serve, and even frappes, freezes, and floats.
Located right on Little Squam Lake, Walter’s Basin has water views and a full selection of lunch and dinner eats, including a hearty New England seafood dinner, fish fry, rib-eye steak, and lobster mac and cheese.
At this Center Sandwich restaurant located in a former 1849 inn, you can enjoy a tasty meal in a rustic, historical setting. The Corner House Inn is also a favorite destination for evening entertainment, as it hosts everything from pub music to storytelling dinners.
This Holderness bed-and-breakfast stands out with its lush gardens, laid-back porch, and popular on-site restaurant. Each of the nine guest rooms in this 1895 farmhouse has been recently redecorated and offers a private bath and modern amenities.
This colonial home turned country inn is located just minutes from Squam Lake amid tranquil woodlands. Enjoy lawn games, hammocks, kayak and paddleboard rentals, and nearby hiking trails. Each of the eight rooms features a private bath and sitting area, and breakfast is cooked to order.
All the units here — rooms, suites, and cottages — are 40 feet or less from the water’s edge, meaning guests have a beautiful view to enjoy from their private screened porch. Amenities include charcoal grills, a private sandy beach and a swim raft, and free use of kayaks, paddleboards, and rowboats.
Sweeping lake views and luxury details define this 1904 English manor set on just a bit more than a dozen pristine acres. There are 24 rooms and suites to choose from (among them a private cottage), and many are outfitted with fireplaces and/or Jacuzzis and private decks. On-site dining options abound, and there’s a spa for those needing an extra dose of relaxation.
The Squam Lakes Association maintains three camping areas on Squam Lake, two of which are actually on islands (meaning campers have to paddle themselves over). Moon Island has two campsites with tent platforms and one without. Bowman Island has three campsites with tent platforms and one without, plus a rustic rental cabin for up to eight people. In Chamberlain Reynolds Memorial Forest, located in Center Harbor, the association has three campsites with tent platforms and two without.
Have you ever been to Squam Lake? Tell us about it!
This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated.