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Discover New Hampshire's Great Vacation Destinations   by Jeff Smith


New Hampshire is a great vacation destination, especially if you like outdoor activity. Most people don't realize that such a small state has so much to offer, from its 18 miles of ocean coast to soaring Mount Washington to massive Lake Winnipesaukee. One of the great things about the size of the state is that it's possible to incorporate more than one of these great areas in your Granite State vacation.

The Seacoast Region is a small but diverse area that is suitable for families, groups of friends or couples on a romantic getaway. Beginning at the Massachusetts state line, the coast begins at a busy state park with nice sandy beaches and amenities such as restrooms and picnic tables. A little farther is the bustling Hampton Beach area, with its classic East Coast boardwalk with arcades, shops and restaurants, all across the street from the wide beach.

The beaches get smaller and more low-key the farther north you drive, but the scenery becomes more dramatic as the beaches are interspersed with rocky outcroppings and tide pools. At the Maine border, just 18 miles after the NH coast started, there is Portsmouth. This old city is home to good restaurants, music festivals, and the historic Strawberry Banke Museum, where you can tour restored Colonial-era homes and buildings, and tour guides dress in Colonial outfits to give you a real sense of the time period.

Not far inland and just north of New Hampshire's major cities of Nashua and Manchester lies the state capital, Concord, which is basically the gateway to the Lakes Region. There are many large lakes in this area, the largest and most well-known of which is Lake Winnipesaukee. Popular towns along Winnipesaukee are Laconia, Meredith, Wolfeboro and Moultonborough. These towns are an excellent base if you are interested in hiking, boating, fishing, checking out NASCAR races at New Hampshire International Speedway or historical attractions.

But there are a number of quieter, less busy lakes that are excellent for relaxing. Especially noteworthy are Newfound Lake, Squam Lake, and lakes Winnisquam and Ossipee. Most of these lakes have the foothills of the White Mountains as their backdrop and offer stunning scenery, particularly in autumn.

Continuing north, whether on back roads or on Interstate 93, you will soon pass into Franconia Notch State Park, through which also passes the Appalachian Trail. In addition to the terrific hiking, there are many family attractions for varying ages, from Storyland and Santa's Village to the Flume Gorge and Lost River. This area is beautiful in the summer and spectacular during the fall foliage season. Just keep in mind that should you visit this area in the fall, you will be joined by throngs of leaf peepers from all over the Northeast. It can get quite crowded, although it is generally well worth it.

Just a little farther north, into the heart of the White Mountains, the views become even more dramatic. In the White Mountains it is possible to swim in rushing rivers, fish in lakes and streams, hike the rocky-topped peaks, bicycle winding back roads, golf, play tennis or ride horses. And for those needing a break from the great outdoors, there are museums and plenty of tax-free shopping, particularly in North Conway.

The Lakes Region and the White Mountains are dotted with ski areas, such as Waterville Valley and Loon Mountain. Many of the region's golf courses become cross-country ski areas for the winter.

Beyond the White Mountains is the Great North Woods, where you are almost as likely to encounter a moose as a person. This is a haven for fishing and hunting as the wildlife is abundant here.

Along the western border of New Hampshire, the Connecticut River divides the state from Vermont. The landscape remains beautiful and less populated in this less accessible part of New Hampshire. Dartmouth College, located in the town of Hanover, brings a bit of cosmopolitan culture to the region. The town features good restaurants, shops, theater and an eclectic movie theater. Not far from Hanover, Lake Sunapee is a big draw in the summer and Mount Sunapee is a winter ski destination.

Southwestern New Hampshire is dominated by Mount Monadnock, one of the most hiked mountains in the world. Its bald top and rocky sides provide excellent views of New England that stretch to the Atlantic Ocean and Boston on clear days. This region has its share of quaint towns, as well as Keene, a small city that hosts a state college. Keene's annual Halloween jack o'lantern festival seems to grow in popularity each year.

Though you have many lodging choices in New Hampshire, the best way to enjoy all of this beauty is to rent a vacation home, cabin or cottage. Whether you decide to rent a cabin on a lake, a condo in the mountains or a cottage at the beach, it's easy to make daytrips to some of the best features New Hampshire has to offer. Renting a vacation home will give your family the space it needs to relax on your vacation, the privacy you want for a romantic getaway and a range of prices to fit your budget.

It's now easier than ever to find New Hampshire vacation rentals online. Visit CyberRentals.com to view properties, submit inquiries to the property owners or managers, and book a home for your next vacation. Another good place to find New Hampshire vacation rentals is HomeAway.com.

About the Author

Jeff Smith grew up in the Granite State and spent much time exploring these great areas






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