Family, Food, Blanket, Go!

17 Special New Hampshire Picnic Spots

Lisa Martineau
July 23. 2014 11:41PM
Rye Harbor State Park (Courtesy)

Looking for a great way to spend some time with the family?  Pack those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grab a cooler and pile the kids into the car for a one-of-a-kind picnic this summer. 

It's true that some of these cannot be done during a day trip, but if you are already vacationing nearby, these picturesque locations are waiting for you to pay them a visit.

Cathedral of the Pines, Rindge - A nature preserve, this County Park offers walking trails and picnic tables. This open-air cathedral offers panoramic views of Mt. Monadnock. While there, be sure to visit the Altar of the Nation, built in 1946, the stones that make up the body of the Altar come from all 50 states and every U.S. President since Harry Truman. 
Website: Cathedral of the Pines

Ragged Neck, Rye - This little known area, located at Rye Harbor State Park, is an earthly paradise. Bring binoculars and take a peek at the Isles of Shoals in the distance, and watch fisherman coming and going from the harbor. There is an admission fee to get into this park.
Website: Ragged Neck

Cate Park, Wolfeboro - Cate Park features a bandstand where music is performed during the summer months. Located at the Town Docks, the park also provides views of Wolfeboro Bay. Be sure to take a short walk to the Yum Yum Shop on Main Street for dessert.

Echo Lake, Franconia Notch - Beautiful Echo Lake is at an elevation of 1,931 feet and offers views of Mount Lafayette and Cannon Mountain. Visitors are welcome to spend the day swimming, fishing or just sitting on a blanket beside the pristine waters. You can also rent a canoe or paddle boat and enjoy some time out on the water. A scenic trail around the lake provides views of the sheer, 700-foot Cathedral Ledge. There is a fee to get into the park, which is only open until September 1. 
Website: Echo Lake

Sunapee Harbor

Sunapee Harbor - Sunapee Harbor sits beside the quaint and quiet lake. Put a blanket down on the grassy hillside near the gazebo or sit dockside and enjoy the views of the marina and boats on the water. During the summer, music plays under a tent nearby, and we recommend a quick walk to Marzelli's for a delicious gelato.

Rhododendron State Park, Fitzwilliam - The Rhododendron State Park explodes with color in mid-July - the perfect time for a family picnic. That's when the 16-acre grove of Rhododendrons, the largest grove in northern New England, is in full bloom. Come walk along a .6 mile trail that encircles the grove, or instead wander the wildflower trail which is blooming at different times. You might find yourself serenaded by songbirds who are naturally drawn to this place, while you enjoy a picnic lunch with your family.
Website: Rhododendron State Park

Massabesic Lake, Manchester - You'll have to bring your own food and drinks but the views at the edge of Massabesic Lake are picture perfect, with sailboats adding to the views. The lake provides drinking water for the City of Manchester. There are walking and biking trails around the lake if you decide to set out on a walk. Swimming is not allowed but families come to sit at the picnic tables and enjoy the natural surroundings.

Prescott Park, Portsmouth - a city-owned park, the peaceful tranquility of the beautiful paradise known as Presscott Park, is the perfect setting for a picnic. Flowers are in bloom throughout the summer season and the sound of running water, as well as the beauty of the Piscataqua River which sits beside it, create a magical garden experience. There are ten acres of gardens, walkways, seating, docking and grass areas designed for public use. In the evenings during the summer, the stage is set for theatre and musical entertainment. Bring a blanket and enjoy the beauty of this special place.

Great Island Common, New Castle (Lisa Martineau)

Corcoran Pond, Waterville Valley - The shores of Corcoran Pond are a great place to plunk down and soak up the surroundings of picturesque Waterville Valley. The nearby Town Square has many unique shops and the pond is a superb spot to put down a blanket and sit for awhile. It seems there is always something happening here during the summer months - from fishing derbies to concerts to fireworks. So come down and enjoy the beauty of the lovely "town at the end of the road."

Great Island Common, New Castle - Enjoy 32 acres of seaside greenspace, craggy coastline and beach. This town owned park has benches and picnic tables but why not bring your own chairs or blanket and sit for awhile? The site features views of two lighthouses, the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse and the Whaleback Lighthouse. You can also see the Isles of Shoals off in the distance. A beautiful and little-known spot on the seacoast, this one is sure to provide some memories for the whole family. There is a small fee for use of the park.

West Rattlesnake Mountain, Center Sandwich - You'll be sitting on flat rocks for this picnic and you should wear your walking shoes because you need take hike about a mile to the site. But it's worth the outstanding panoramic views of Squam Lake that surround you from this location. Worth every step!

Forest Lake State Park, Dalton - Picnic tables are available beside a grassy area and 200 foot beach on the shore of Forest Lake. Kids can also swim in the shallow waters here and we think this is a little-known special spot for a day with the family.
Edward MacDowell Lake (Devon Hamilton)

MacDowell Dam at Edward MacDowell Lake, Peterborough - Take in the surroundings at MacDowell Dam, stroll along several hiking trails, play some horseshoes or take a swim here. Enjoy the shade of one of the picnic shelters or grab a picnic table and serve the filet minon (or chicken fingers) you brought for the occasion. The spectacular views here are especially beautiful in early fall.

Umbagog Lake State Park, Cambridge - Lake Umbagog sits in the heart of "Moose Country" or the North Woods and the abundant wildlife is just part of the attraction here. The 7,850 acre lake is one of the most pristine lakes in the State of New Hampshire. Unfettered beauty surrounds you. This may require more than a day trip but there is a campground nearby with 27 sites. Pack something tasty and hearty for this excursion because you may wind up renting a canoe to explore this magnificent lake. 
Website: Umbagog Lake State Park   

Table Rock, Dixville Notch - Table Rock is definitely for the more adventurous among you. You should be a strong hiker to manage a picnic at the top of this near-vertical hike. Still it's not a long trek to the ledge that is known as 'Table Rock' (quite fitting for a picnic, wouldn't you say?) and yet, we suggest you stay away from the rocky cliff and have a safer seat away from the ledge where you can still take in the most breathtaking views you may ever experience.

Wason Pond, Chester - Wason Pond - A small park on Raymond Road in Chester on a Wason Pond, where the kids can swim or fish. Or, take a stroll under the recently built covered bridge (or "kissing" bridge) and listen to the sounds of running water. There is also a small playground for the kiddies to burn some energy. There are picnic tables and plenty of room to lay down a blanket and break out the baloney sandwiches!

Hampton Beach, With only 13 miles of coastline, Hampton Beach is the beachy-est and the most logical place to bring the family for an afternoon of sunshine, sea breezes and a picnic lunch. Pack a cooler, walk the boardwalk, enjoy some music on the Sea Shell Stage and make some memories for the whole family. Best of all, dessert - from fry doe to ice cream to salt water taffy - is just a short walk away.

OutdoorsFoodTourismFishingFoliageHikingState ParksDartmouth-Lake SunapeeGreat North WoodsLakesMerrimack ValleyMonadnockSeacoastWhite MountainsPhoto Feature

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