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Visiting Sunapee Harbor -- New Hampshire

Sunapee Harbor Reflects The Beauty of New Hampshire

Sunapee Harbor, N.H.
Sunapee Harbor, N.H.

Article, photos by Eric Hurwitz created for on 10/28/2021. Find us on Twitter: @newenglandinfo

Editor's note: Many of the places mentioned in this article are seasonal. Always call ahead to find out latest business operation status before embarking on your itinerary.

All I ever need from New England travel is a lake or ocean setting, mountains or rolling hills, a country store, town green, place to grab a bite, historic homes and buildings and a sense of place.

Sunapee Harbor, located in the underrated Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region of New Hampshire, more than meets that criteria starting with its beautiful harbor framed by gentle, rolling hills.

Tucked away about a half-mile from the main drag in Sunapee (Route 11), this hidden gem of a harbor doesn't dazzle with heavily-advertised attractions and tourist trap stores and restaurants. There are no billboards or glitzy neon signs in sight nor lines of people stressed out, all in the name of seeking  relaxation. Traffic jams aspire for higher elevations in towns farther to the north that rely on the tourist trade. On a weekday in autumn during the foliage season, my only delay at the harbor was allowing two locals to cross the street with their dogs.
The atmosphere in Sunapee Harbor lends fresh, reviving New Hampshire mountain air to breathe. A quiet community allows one to hear that proverbial pin drop -- the silence rendered instantly with an inner sense of peace, rest and relaxation. The views and vibe creates a New Hampshire that we have expected to fall in love with during our anticipatory travel dreams at home.

Through our panoramic eyes, a wide view of Sunapee Harbor provides a welcoming scene that you wish you could capture and bring home. Since that isn't a possibility, the key is to take a deep breath and enjoy the given moment.

A panoramic view of Sunapee Harbor, N.H.
A wide view of Sunapee Harbor.

All the bells and whistles that Sunapee Harbor provides is virtually bereft of glitter and gold but, at the same time, offers a perfect fit for a wealthy soul gaining eternal sustenance through the innate brilliance of Mother Nature.

The feeling is genuine, laid back and with scenic views that truly serve as traditional New England eye candy. Case-in-point: the gazebo at Sunapee Harbor...

Bandstand at Sunapee Harbor, N.H.
Sunapee Harbor Gazebo.

View of Sunapee Harbor, N.H. from the gazebo.
A harbor view from the gazebo.

While the harbor offers an idyllic place to begin your journey, I would first recommend starting at The Riverwalk trail across the street. It's like having the most delicious appetizer before the memorable main course meal.

Riverwalk area at Sunapee Harbor, N.H.
Approaching The Riverwalk.

This half-mile scenic stroll along the sweet Sugar River combines history and scenery with sights of the old town hall, former livery stable, old factory and mill sites, waterfalls and the grace, flow and beauty of the river. The trail leads to the Sunapee Welcome Center where you can learn more about this special region.

Waterfalls, history by the Riverwalk at Sunapee Harbor, N.H.
History and waterfalls.

A Little Bit on Shopping, Dining and Lake Excursions

Country store at Sunapee Harbor, N.H.
The Wild Goose Country Store.

Sunapee Harbor doesn't possess an abundance of shops but what they do offer greatly satisfies, including stores that sell antiques, art and furniture. But wait, there's more.

A&E Harbor Shop across from the harbor is a store "run by kids!" as it states on its web site.
This family-run shop with the kids at the forefront of the store's operation sells souvenirs, beach stuff, tie dye, books, snacks and games.

The Wild Goose Country Store might just be the only country store located on a lake in New England. The water views from the outside are splendid, the experience on the inside full of old-time, traditional New England shopping fun. This pleasant shop features many of the requisite country store merchandise including maple syrup, locally-made coffee, nostalgic candies, jams, jellies, spices and mixes, decorative and gift items, bath and beauty products, jewelry, earrings and bracelets, toys, stuffed animals, games, puzzles and books.  It's not the biggest country store but they saturate the space with all the things we love about this kind of retro New England shop.

Regarding a good place to dine, I highly recommend the Anchorage at Sunapee Harbor. This popular restaurant with wonderful harbor views from the inside of the restaurant and deck is open-year-round (well, not the deck). Soups, salads, sandwiches, steak, chicken and seafood dishes highlight the impressive menu. On my most recent visit, I enjoyed a delicious tuna melt and ample and fresh Caesar salad that ranked amongst the best I've ever tasted for these two types of dishes.

For scenic boat excursions on one of New Hampshire's most clean and beautiful lakes, climb aboard the MV Mt Sunapee II for seasonal daily excursions and Mt. Kearsarge for dinner cruises...

Mt. Kearsarge boat cruise, Sunapee NH
The Mt. Kearsarge.

Sunapee Harbor boat cruise -- New Hampshire lake life.
The MV Mt Sunapee II.


A scenic view of Sunapee Harbor, N.H.
Another perspective of Sunapee Harbor.

Full disclosure: For a fleeting and unwise moment, I almost bypassed Sunapee Harbor. When arriving there after a two-hour drive I thought to myself, "Is that all there is?"

For the next 45 minutes I drove around to further explore the area and discovered some truly beautiful towns like New London and Newbury. I was also impressed by the small town charm in downtown Newport. During that time, however, Sunapee Harbor stayed on my mind. Absence quickly made the heart grow fonder.

Foliage by The Riverwalk in Sunapee Harbor, NH.
A sweet scene by the Sugar River.

When returning to Sunapee Harbor, I took a forever travel vow to keep this little gem of a place in the upper echelon of my personal favorite destinations. It might have taken 45 minutes to realize a lapse of sound travel judgment but ultimately proved that true love grows by the minute. Such grand unions between the heart and soul of a person and a destination lead to a connectivity that can only be experienced and never fully described. Sunapee Harbor is that kind of spot.

They say the grass is always greener on the other side, meaning other places seem better than the place most familiar with you. Sunapee Harbor gives that cliche a run for the money, however, by just being its authentic, genuine self in an idyllic location.

Where to stay near Sunapee Harbor? Check out the Mountain Edge Resort and Spa and the Maple Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast.

Additional reading:
Visiting Little Red Riding Hood's Grandmother's House in the middle of the New Hampshire woods
This New Hampshire highway stop proves that service centers don't need to be boring and mediocre
What's beyond this Copper Door in Bedford, N.H.?

Lake Sunapee NH OrnamentNew England Gift Idea! Lake Sunapee Ornament -- Your purchase of this Lake Sunapee Ornament helps keep VisitingNewEngland going. This pewter snowflake featuring a autumn foliage scene of Mt. Sunapee State Park Beach in Newbury, N.H. is made in a high-quality pewter construction and unique snowflake styling. It comes with a silver-toned hanging string, perfect for holiday d├ęcor!

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