Gilford, NH: Ellacoya State Park
With my wife, Sally, three sons and, lately, their wives and children, I’ve spent summer weekends on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, for 38 years. So, until a surprise discovery just last summer, I assumed I knew all the fun things to do around New England’s third-largest lake–including having breakfast at The Strawberry Patch in Wolfeboro and then walking the railroad-track trail out along Lake Wentworth. Or shopping in Meredith–lunch at the Adirondack-style Lakehouse Grille (at Church Landing) there is a must.
Several times each summer, Sally has to visit the knit shop and quilt place in Center Harbor, while I peruse the great hardware store across the street. The kids play the miniature golf course in Alton Bay, and maybe, on the way back up Route 11 on the west side, we all climb Mount Major and pick blueberries up there while marveling at the incredible view. Of course, the younger family members consider Weirs Beach a must. They love the carnival-like stuff, but Sally and I have passed up that particular expedition for more than 30 years. I’m tempted to go back for the fried dough, though.
So the “surprise discovery” last summer? Well, first of all, you must learn to pronounce it correctly. It’s Ellacoya State Park on Route 11 in Gilford. If you call it “Lacoya,” everyone who works there (and from the manager to the ticket taker to the lifeguards to the snack-bar attendant, they’re all New Hampshire natives “born and bred”) will know you’re from Massachusetts. Besides, the Indian princess of long ago for whom the park is named would want you to say it correctly.
What we loved about it was not just the 600-foot sandy beach or the gorgeous view across the lake to the Ossipee mountain range. It wasn’t the hot dogs, pizza, or homemade ice cream at the snack bar, either. For Sally and me it was the shade. You see, while everyone else enjoyed the sun, we could relax in the shade of the pine grove, interspersed with picnic tables. It’s behind the beach and along the shore of Poor Farm Brook, which separates the beach section from the RV camping facility. We were all so happy during our first visit, we returned many times over last summer. “It’s our new favorite thing!” our grandchildren decided.
Did we mention that July 2009 marks the park’s 50th anniversary? And to think I’ve just discovered it. But I will say that although I was born in Massachusetts, I’ve got the pronunciation down pat now.
When You Go
The Strawberry Patch
50 North Main St., Wolfeboro. 603-569-5523; strawberrypatch.tk
Church Landing at Mills Falls, 281 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith. 603-279-5221; millfalls.com/dining.htm
Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce