It’s time to put your cares behind you, hike the trails before you, and dive into the serene world of Squam Lake. One of the most tranquil and pristine locations in the country, it was the setting for the 1981 movie “On Golden Pond.” Your vacation rental puts you in the midst of an abundance of natural beauty set against the peaceful wilderness backdrop of the White Mountains north of the lake. Whether you want a rustic vacation rental in the woods or a charming place in town, the Squam Lake area has it all. To help you find your personal vacation paradise, here’s a list of the nine top Squam Lake vacation rental locations.

1. Holderness

If you really want to zero in on swimming, fishing, water skiing, wakeboarding, and boating on Lake Squam, Holderness is the place to stay. Holderness Harbor rents pontoon boats, fishing boats, bow riders, canoes, and kayaks. If you want a tour of the lake, Experience Squam offers private excursions, from zooming around the lake or just drifting along. Your tour guide stops to let you swim in private coves or view wildlife and takes you to see famous movie sites. If you prefer a sunset cruise, you can gaze at the stars. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center offers tours to show guests around the lake, view movie locations, and look for loons, eagles, and other wildlife.

2. Sandwich

Make Sandwich your vacation destination to experience everything Lake Squam offers and to explore the mountain tops that speak to your inner landlubber. The southwest corner of town takes in several miles of shoreline, including the Sandwich Town Beach where you can take the kids swimming, sunning, and building sand castles. When you’re ready for some hiking, the Mount Percival Loop on Mount Morgan is a 5.5-mile loop that gives you opportunities to experience ladders and caves in addition to the amazing views.

3. Center Harbor

When you stay in Center Harbor, you can cut loose at Squam Lake at the northwest side of town and Lake Winnipesaukee at the southwest side of town. Jump on in for some great swimming, boating, and fishing. Imagine yourself zipping along on water skis or floating along on a paddle board while your stress melts away. You can wash away your cares with a leisurely swim in either lake or revel in the soft lapping of the waves as your canoe breaks through the water. When you work up an appetite, the Center Harbor Diner features a multi-cuisine menu in a friendly, family atmosphere, while the Canoe Restaurant makes gluten-free menu selections available.

4. Ashland

Ashland borders on Little Squam Lake, less than 10 minutes from Squam Lake. Take the kids tubing on either lake for an afternoon of the ultimate adventure in laughter and fun. You can rent a boat or a pontoon boat at Riveredge Marina. Your vacation rental in Ashland also puts you close enough to visit Livermore Falls on the Pemigewasset River. A pretty little beach down below the falls is a good place to take the kids swimming, and if you explore to the right of this beach, you get a breathtaking view of the falls.

5. Plymouth

Settle into your vacation rental in Plymouth, just 13 miles from Squam Lake. Plymouth is the home of Plymouth State University’s Museum of the White Mountains, which is housed inside a former church. Entertain your family with historic exhibits while the little ones enjoy the coloring room. To let off some steam, check out Rhino Bike Works for bike rentals and group rides. In the wintertime, they also rent snowshoes and tubes that you can take over to Tenney Mountain, about 8 miles west and south of Plymouth for skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and other winter sports.

6. Moultonborough

A vacation that includes castles and horses sounds like something out of a storybook, but in Moultonborough, it’s all quite real. Castle in the Clouds, an exquisite mansion that was built in 1913, is now a museum, preserved and furnished with the personal effects and clothing of the original family. If you want to see more of the lovely mountain surroundings, Riding in the Clouds offers trail rides, pony rides, and carriage rides on the mountaintop estate of the Castle in the Clouds. To entertain the kids indoors, head to the Funspot in Laconia, a 30-minute drive to the south. The owner claims it’s the largest arcade in the world with over 600 games, a 20-lane bowling center, bingo, mini-golf, and more.

7. Waterville Valley

You can find a broad variety of year-round family adventures in Waterville Valley. Take on some rock climbing at Crows Nest, or make a winter vacation complete at the Waterville Valley Resort with skiing, tubing, or dog sledding. The Waterville Valley Golf Course offers year-round fun as well. You can swing a club in summer months on the course and practice area. During the winter, the clubhouse turns into a warming center for tubing.

8. Tamworth

Tamworth vacation rentals let you leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind as you reconnect with your loved ones. Within the town limits, Chocorua Lake and White Lake State Park present opportunities for your family to enjoy outdoor activities, including swimming, kayaking, picnicking, hiking, and boating in summer months. If you want some high-flying adventure, head over to Monkey Trunks Zipline Park for zip lines and rope courses that get you up to 55 feet off the ground. When it’s time to slow things down a bit, check out the Remick Country Doctor Museum, located in the farmhouse where two country doctors lived and worked for a combined total of almost 100 years. The property includes a working farm and the Remick homestead.

9. Meredith

It’s easy to escape the humdrum of the daily grind in the delightful town of Meredith when you set your family up in a comfy vacation rental along the northwest side of Lake Winnipesaukee. Summertime fun at the lake includes sailing, fishing, canoeing, and swimming at the lake’s beaches. Treat your family to spectacular views along the trails high above the trees while hiking or riding horses. In the wintertime, you can go skiing, snowmobiling, or ice fishing. To show you more of the area, the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad Train travels from Meredith along Meredith Bay, and the Meredith Sculpture Walk introduces your family to the town via an exhibit featuring 33 sculptures placed along Main Street, beside the lake, and in some of the city parks.

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