It’s Fall-iage season
in the lakes region
By Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer / Fiddlehead Contributing Editors
Now that the summer visitors have mostly departed, it’s a perfect time for Lake Winnipesaukee locavores to take a staycation, become tourists for a day or two in their own backyard and enjoy all the advantages of autumn lakeside life, like leaf peeping and so much more – let’s call it fall-iage season.
Meredith is a great place to start. Traffic has died down, so check in to one of the Inns at Mills Falls. There are four – count ‘em four: the original Inn at Mills Falls, built around an old mill; Chase House, overlooking the down docks; the waterfront Inn at Bay Point; and Adirondack-style Church Landing.
There are plenty of options for dining. There is the Waterfall Café at the Inn at Mill Falls; Camp, a rustic-camp-styled restaurant at Chase Inn; Lago, an Italian restaurant at the Bay Point; and the Lakehouse at Church Landing.
We’ve all seen the crowds at Hart’s Turkey Farm all summer, so why not drop in for a turkey and all the fixings and check out the awesome collection of gobbler-themed china and other “turkey-o-bilia” at your own pace without waiting on long lines with folks who are seeing it all for the first time?
Or perhaps you like your meals diner-style. We’ve got to tell you, we love George’s Diner, the folksy eatery where the locals congregate - and tripe is still on the menu - and Giuseppe’s pizza is worth the trip with its live music.
We’ve all watched the M/V Mount Washington churning around the lake all summer with happy tourists. But you couldn’t find a better way to spend an afternoon as a local, snapping foliage shots from the deck. Wear a warm sweater and take a Kate Winslet/Leo DiCaprio selfie on the bow front of the wheelhouse.
The M/V Mount Washington cruises into the brightly colored bay
Photo by Ingunn Gardner of the Mount Washington.
A great local get-ahead-of-the-holiday-shopping hack is the gift shop at the 111-year-old Kellerhaus. Without the summer crowds, there will be plenty of time to browse the handmade chocolates and candy, cunning clothes and accessories and unusual toys for the kiddies including Annalee Kellerhaus dolls.
Shopping has other rewards. Don’t leave without a dip at the famous Kellerhaus ice cream smorgasbord. The in-house homemade ice cream using locally sourced ingredients is laid out in a buffet-style with toppings ranging from fruit to marshmallow cream, all adorned with a tiny American flag. And it gets even sweeter when you get to sit at old-style parlor tables and chairs and look at one of the best views of Lake Winnipesaukee.
Turn-of-the-20th-century Boston shoe magnate Thomas Plant was a little man with big ideas as evidenced by a tiny suit of armor in the foyer of his summer home – Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough. For Lakes Region folks, the castle is kind of like the Statue of Liberty for New Yorkers. You know it’s there. You send your out-of-state visitors to see it, but you may have not taken time to go there yourself. Well, this is the time of year to do it. The hilltop retreat is popular with tourists and it still one of the best places to view foliage and grab lunch at the carriage house.
There are some lesser-known locations perfect for quick lakeside retreats. Abenaki tower on Route 109 in Tuftonboro is a fire lookout-style tower with a panoramic view of Lake Winnipesaukee and the Belknap Mountain Range. The tower was built in 1923 by local philanthropists just so others could enjoy the panoramic view.
Boston magnate A.V. Lincoln had a variation on the same idea. He gave the lakefront plot at the former site of his four-story summer “cottage” to Gilford for the creation of a park. There are now a half dozen picnic tables on the well-maintained site of Lincoln Park at the end of Belknap Point in Gilford. Bring a picnic and enjoy the view across the lake beyond Welch and Cow Islands to Tuftonboro Neck.
Want to enjoy the fall-iage up close and personal? How about a bike ride or a walk on the Cotton Valley Rail Trail, a gravel roadbed that extends eight miles from the old rail station in Wolfeboro with great views of Back Bay, Crescent Lake and Lake Wentworth. The WOW Tail is a paved, 10-foot-wide, 2.5-mile pathway that skirts the existing railroad corridor in Laconia from Elm Street in Lakeport to the Belmont Town Line and connects to the 1.7-mile Winnisquam Scenic Trail.
Tired? Spend a night at the waterfront Center Harbor Inn and see what that town has to offer. You can relive the ‘60s at The Edge Tie Dye where clothing, soaps, jewelry and hand-painted batik will help you make your own belated Summer of Love. Pick up something to read at Bayswater Books, a purveyor of volumes new and used.
Works by hundreds of artisans are on sale at Yikes! Crafts’ 4,000-square-foot gallery, and you can pick up something to keep your hands busy through the cold weather ahead at Keepsake Quilting. Canoe is always a fine stop for lunch and dinner.
Sure, most people have visited the Old Country Store and Museum in Moultonborough, a creaky 18th-century compendium of old-fashioned finery and kitsch, for some penny candy or a barrel pickle. But how many have actually climbed the stairs and visited the museum? It’s a willy-nilly collection of vintage curios, including artifacts from the post office that was once housed in the store. And it’s free.
Renew a tradition at the New Woodshed Restaurant in Moultonborough, which has risen from the ashes of the previous eatery, a Lakes Region favorite since 1978, which burned down a few years ago. The restaurant reopened this year after replacing the previous edifice with a new building built around a 200-year-old post-and-beam barn from Strafford.
Many of us have made the family-friendly hike to the peak of Mt. Major in Alton Bay, which offers a rewarding view of the lake, but it has become so popular that the parking lot overflows early on sunny mornings and is so well-traveled that some sections of the trail have turned into gullies. Much less popular, and nearly as rewarding, is the 1.7-mile loop on Pine Mountain that begins at the Alton Town Forest on Avery Hill Road. The top is wooded, but it has good views of Belknap Mountain and Lake Winnipesaukee at ledges along the way.
After working up an appetite you might want to head to Shibley’s at the Pier in Alton with a great view of the bay. It has a marble bar from a 1920s soda fountain and has been owned by the Shibley Family since 1993. In winter, it is a gathering spot for pilots who fly in to the temporary airfield on frozen Alton Bay.
For a more tucked-away meal, head to the Lyon’s Den Restaurant and Tavern at the Gilford Town Dock. The motto is “come for the view, stay for the food.” We did and were glad. During the high season, we had to wait for a longer time than we wanted, but during fall-iage, we’ve slipped right in. We adore their chicken francaise.
The Wolfeboro Inn has been welcoming guests since the late 1800s, and its Wolfe’s Tavern has been a neighborhood gathering place ever since. It’s a pub from central casting where you can have dinner and a drink and snuggle up in front of the fireplace – perfect for late summer or early fall visits.
Wolfeboro is an eminently walkable waterfront town with a couple of bookstores, a penny candy store and boutiques. Check out Garwoods Restaurant, where the view of the water is second to none and the lobster bisque will warm your cockles.
We’ve all passed the scenic view area off Route 11 between Belknap Point and Ellacoya State Park – it’s about a quarter-of-a-mile-long turnout curbed off from the highway. The tourists who have pulled over there all summer must have wondered what all the fuss is because the bordering trees have grown so tall they block the view of Winnipesaukee below. When the leaves fall, Winnipesaukee and its islands below will reappear like a Lakes Region Brigadoon.
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