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A Tank Away

Busy little place near a great big lake

Swim, sail, eat, sleep, shop, cruise - or just sit and soak up Winnipesaukee’s atmosphere

By Paul E. Kandarian
Globe Correspondent / August 17, 2011

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If you haven’t been to Meredith on Lake Winnipesaukee since the days when you were a child vacationing with your parents you may not recognize the place. Long a sleepy little town on winding Route 3, Meredith is now a bustling tourist destination, with new hotels, restaurants, marinas, and stores - along with some old ones - offering boating, fine dining, quality stays, and killer views of Meredith Bay on which its main village sits.

STAY

Church Landing at Mills Falls (281 Daniel Webster Highway, 800-622-6455, millfalls.com/inns/church_landing.htm, rates $239-$269) is the prime spot to stay on the water, located on the site of an old church that owner Rusty McLear turned into an Adirondack-style lodge. It is the biggest hotel in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, featuring well-appointed rooms facing the water and a swimming pool that starts indoors and opens to the outside. Check out its Cascade Spa for an aptly named Tranquility Massage for $100. The Meredith Inn (Main and Waukewan streets, 603-279-0000, www.meredithinn.com, rates from $139), a bed-and-breakfast of Victorian design, sits steps away from the town’s shops and restaurants. Oliver Lodge (92 Powers Road, 603-279-3940, www.oliverlodge.com, rates from $1,000 a week) is a terrific family getaway with five houses and a main lodge on five private acres of Winnipesaukee shoreline.

DINING

Looking for a great homemade breakfast or lunch? Step into Meredith Bay Coffee House (136 Daniel Webster Highway, 603-279-0896, meredithbaycoffeehouse.com/Meredith_Bay_Coffee_House.html, lunch, breakfast from $5.95), situated in an old house just outside the village with the big lake looming in the distance. Grab a bagel, muffin, or sandwich; I recommend the chicken salad on homemade Romana bread. Another area mainstay is Hart’s Restaurant (233 Daniel Webster Highway, 603-279-6212, www.hartsturkeyfarm.com, entrees from $10.99), which has been doing all-things-turkey since 1954. Try the turkey tempura for $6.99 or perhaps a whopping jumbo turkey plate with a full pound of meat for $20.99. Hungry for something more upscale for dinner? Head to Canoe (232 Whittier Highway, Center Harbor, 603-253-4762, magicfoodsrestaurantgroup.com/canoe/, entrees from $14) and order from the extensive menu of fish dishes, steaks, pasta specialties, or updated comfort favorites such as lobster mac and cheese.

DURING THE DAY

Ever see yourself gliding over Lake Winnipesaukee on a boat? At Meredith Marina (2 Bayshore Drive, 603-279-7921, www.meredithmarina.com, half-day rentals $200), you can rent a 19-foot Stingray bowrider or 19-foot Hurricane deck boat. More shopper than sailor? Poke your head into Once New Vintage Wares and Salvage (38 Main St., 603-279-5151), an old, sloped-floor store with tiny rooms jammed with old tools, ancient doorknobs, and other doo-dads. Cooks will get a kick out of So Little Thyme (51 Main St., 603-279-1296), which offers eclectic essentials such as stainless prep bowls, mango-curry mix, and stainless asparagus steamers. Or go gourmet at The Wine’ing Butcher (81 Whittier St., 603-279-0300, www.wineingbutcher.com), where they sell what are arguably the best marinated steak tips in the state. Picnic Rock Farms (85 Daniel Webster Highway, 503-279-8421, www.picnicrockfarms.com) has been run by the same family for eight generations and boasts a farm stand chock-full of New Hampshire products, including the farm’s own produce, maple syrups and candies, fresh eggs, cheeses, pickles, chutneys, jams, jellies, and an array of baked goods. If you’re looking to give your wallet a rest, take a ride to the American Police Motorcycle Museum (194 Daniel Webster Highway, 603-279-6387, admission $10), which opened in June and is home to gorgeous vintage cop bikes, including a 1976 Memphis model used in Elvis Presley’s funeral. Rail history buffs should check out the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad (154 Main St., 603-279-5253, www.hoborr.com/winni.html, tickets $15), which chugs from Meredith to Lakeport on a line built in 1849 along Meredith Bay, clinging to a shelf dug out more than a century ago to accommodate the fast Montreal trains that once zipped through here.

AFTER DARK

The Interlakes Summer Theatre (1 Laker Lane, 888-245-6374, www.interlakestheatre.com, tickets $30), where I saw a superb version of “Man of La Mancha’’ last month, hosts professional summer theater, with performances of “The Buddy Holly Story’’ through Aug. 21 and a kids’ show of “Peter and the Wolf’’ Aug. 19-20. For live music, hit Giuseppe’s (Mills Falls Marketplace, 603-279-3313, www.giuseppesnh.com/), and if you find yourself still feeling a bit peckish there, you can order up a pizza or some other Italian favorite. The Barnz’s Meredith Cinema (38 Route 25, 603-279-7836, www.barnzs.com/meredith.html, tickets $8) is within walking distance of the village and shows first-run movies. Many flock to the nearby dinner-dance cruises on the M/S Mount Washington (211 Lakeside Ave., Weirs Beach, 603-366-5531, www.cruisenh.com, tickets from $47), where you cruise the state’s biggest lake, eat a buffet dinner, and dance to live music.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at kandarian@globe.com.