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Skyline, Shores and Surf: 8 Weekend Getaways in New Hampshire

Whether you want a quiet rural retreat or time on New Hampshire's bustling sea shore, the Granite State offers something for everyone.

I took my drink and my husband’s hand, and walked out onto the veranda of the White Mountain Hotel and Resort in North Conway. As we stepped onto the porch, a hang glider dropped in front of us, zipping across our mountain view before landing on the lawn.

“Couldn’t have timed that better,” my husband said.

Although we were less than two hours away from our home in New Hampshire, we felt like we were on vacation. New Hampshire’s mountain air and clear lakes can have that effect, whether you call the Granite State home or are visiting from another state.

From the rocky seacoast to the vast forests of the North Country, here are 8 of the best weekend getaways in New Hampshire, for locals and tourists alike.

Go From Mountains to Lakes in The Sunapee Region

Credit- New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism

In most areas of the state, the lakes and mountains are a decent drive apart from each other. In the Sunapee region, they’re neighbors. Mount Sunapee State Park is home to a popular skiing mountain and a beautiful sandy beach. During the summer, you can enjoy views of Lake Sunapee from the summit before heading out on a dinner cruise.

Part of the appeal of the Sunapee region is that it’s not as developed as Winnipesaukee or the White Mountains. To get the best dining and shopping in the area, head to the nearby town of New London, which has boutiques, high-end consignment shops and restaurants.

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Get in Touch With Your Higher Power at Church Landing in Meredith

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Lake Winnipesaukee is the jewel in the crown of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, the most popular tourist destination in the state. Luckily, Lake Winni has plenty of space to accommodate the crowds: the lake covers more than 70 square miles and has an astounding 288 miles of shoreline. While the mainland is beautiful, for the true Winnipesaukee experience, you should hop on a tour boat like the MS Mount Washington to see some of the lake’s 264 islands.

Quaint Meredith is one of the most developed towns on the lake. Despite plentiful shops and restaurants, excellent town planning means that Meredith has kept its charm. Features like a waterfall mill and a wooden walkway along the bay make a stroll through Meredith downright delightful.

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Golf in The Shadow of Granite Cliffs in North Conway

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North Conway is one of the most well-known destinations in New Hampshire, but for good reason. It’s truly a four-season destination. During the summer, the Saco River provides a natural lazy river to float down, while dozens of swimming holes in the surrounding mountains appeal to people looking for a more dramatic plunge. Skiing, snowmobiling and outlet shopping dominate the winter months, while the fall colors are enough to impress even the most jaded locals.

Although North Conway offers the convenience of shopping and restaurants, it is easy to disappear into the surrounding White Mountain National Forest for a slice of solitude. From a base in North Conway, you can drive the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, which cuts 34.5 miles through the heart of the White Mountains. If you’re up for a physical challenge, hike to the top of one of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000-foot (or higher) peaks for a truly unforgettable view.

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Cast Off For an Island Getaway Near Portsmouth

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If you prefer salty air to alpine breezes, Portsmouth provides rich history and seaside charm. The city was founded all the way back in 1623, before even Boston. Strawbery Banke Museum is a living history establishment that gives you the chance to experience 300 years of New Hampshire history through guided tours of a historical neighborhood, led by period actors.

While the cobblestone streets in Portsmouth will remind you of the city’s rich history, the dining and brewery experiences are distinctly modern. Local brewery tours will take you to all of the best craft breweries.

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Hike and Dine Along The Vermont Border in Hanover

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When you think about New Hampshire’s tourist destinations, your mind might not travel up interstate 89 to the Upper Valley. In fact, that’s exactly the appeal of this region, which straddles the Connecticut River and includes western New Hampshire and eastern Vermont. A weekend in the Upper Valley is perfect when you’re looking for a slower pace, with afternoons spent kayaking down the river and evenings indulging in artisan food.

One of the main towns in the Upper Valley is Hanover, home to ivy- league Dartmouth College. Here, you can enjoy all the charms of a college town, complete with a rolling green and historic brick buildings. Hanover is home to art galleries and independent shops perfect for perusing. If you’re craving outdoor time, take a day hike on the Appalachian Trail, which cuts right through town. Then, hop across the river into Vermont to eat at King Arthur Flour, a local favorite that’s garnered national attention.

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Check Out the Most-Climbed Mountain in The Monadnock Region

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Although the larger mountains to the North get lots of attention, there’s a hidden gem that makes the south-west corner of the state perfect for a weekend away. Mount Monadnock is shorter than New Hampshire’s highest peaks at 3,166 feet, but it’s taller than any mountain for 30 miles, and the summit provides sweeping views over six states on a clear day. The hike to the top is fairly easy, so it’s no wonder that popular claims say Mount Monadnock is the second most-climbed mountain in the world.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to picturesque Peterborough. This small town has a classic New England feel, with red brick buildings and a river running through town. As you wander, you’ll find gustatory gems like Ava Marie Handmade Chocolate.

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Revel in New Hampshire's Geology in Lincoln

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North Conway gets all the buzz, but tucked at the other end of the Kancamagus Scenic Byway is another town that’s slightly quieter with just as much to see. Lincoln is also directly off Interstate-93, making it extremely convenient for visitors from Massachusetts.

Lincoln is a great base-camp for exploring some of the most unique geological sites in the White Mountains, including Lost Giver Gorge and Flume Gorge. At Lost River, a one-mile trail winds through 11 boulder caves, with clear waterfall pools where you may even spot trout. Flume Gorge, a ravine cut into the base of Mount Liberty, is one of New Hampshire’s most iconic sites. Walking beneath the walls of Conway granite that extend 70 feet into the air, you’ll understand how the Granite State got its nickname.

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Reach The Top of New England in Gorham

Credit- New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism

If you want an immersive outdoor experience without the crowds, head north of the White Mountains to Gorham. Here, you’re closer to Canada than to Boston. The accessibility of the White Mountains give way to true wilderness, which is why the North Country draws four-wheel enthusiasts, snowmobilers, mountain bikers and skiers.

Of course, there are still touches of civilization, like the nearby Mount Washington Auto Road. The road winds 7.6 miles to the summit of Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the Northeast at 6,288 feet. Once you’re at the top, you might have views as far as Canada and the Atlantic ocean, but more often you’ll see nothing but cloud — there’s a reason that the summit is said to have the worst weather in the world.

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New Hampshire is fully of natural beauty and luxurious accommodations, so next time you need a break from reality, slip into the Granite State for a quick way to reset and rejuvenate.