Making a day of it in the Dartmouth-Sunapee region
The natural beauty of Lake Sunapee and the vibrant cultural offerings of the area surrounding Dartmouth College are well worth spending a day or more exploring the eastern half of our state.
Coming from the southern parts of the state, Interstate 89 is the quickest way into the area. Those wanting something more adventurous can try Route 114 as it meanders through quaint hamlets and wooded countryside. West of the Newport area, you can take another beautiful leg of Route 11 to Route 12A or even cross over into Vermont on I-91 for views along the Connecticut River. From the north, you can take I-91 south or NH Route 10 for your riparian ride into the region.
The 71st annual Craftsmen’s Fair (224-3375, nhcrafts.org) at Mount Sunapee Resort, Aug. 7-15 in Newbury, is a definite do-not-miss. Artisans from all across the state and country sell handmade art crafts from jewelry, pottery, weaving and wood in this tent city on Mount Sunapee’s summertime slopes. If you walk away empty-handed, it’s your own darn fault. Tickets (good for two days) are $8 adults, $6 seniors, children 12 and under are free.
After you’ve become shopped out, rest and recharge at Lake Sunapee itself. The Fells in Newbury (763-4789, thefells.net), the early 20th-century summer estate of John M. Hay, U.S. secretary of state under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt and one-time private secretary to President Abraham Lincoln. Tours of the 164-acre estate shed light on both the Hays and those who maintained the beautiful house and the grounds. The Hay Estate is gracious, but The Fells, a Scottish word meaning rocky upland pasture, is known for its breathtaking gardens, including a nationally recognized alpine rock garden. Admission is $5 adults, $2 children 6-15, free for children under 6 or members of The Fells. At the same site, is the John Hay II National Wildlife Refuge. You can take a stroll on the natural trail along Lake Sunapee.
If you go up to Hanover/Lebanon area, you have a whole world of cultural activities awaiting you at Dartmouth College. Centered primarily on the Hopkins Center (646-2422, dartmouth.edu/~hop), you can take in a live performance, see a movie or visit an art gallery.
Stay on the road south of Hanover and head toward the little town of Cornish. There you can visit the home, gardens and studios of world renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (sgnhs.org, 675-2175). His works include the Shaw Monument in Boston, depicting Civil War colonel, Robert Gould Shaw and the troops of his 54th Regiment, the first African-American regiment raised in the North. Admission to the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is $5 per person for those 17 and older, children 16 and under are free.
And, of course, don’t miss the opportunity take a photo or two of the covered bridges in and around Cornish (state.nh.us/nhdhr/bridges).
Dockside dining doesn’t get much better than at The Anchorage at Sunapee Harbor (763-3334, sunapeeharboranchorage.com) located on Sunapee Harbor. Order from an American menu and get a free side-dish: a view of the boats in the harbor. This is a place the locals love, so much so you might not get a seat at night, so call ahead to get on the wait list.
If you’re in the mood for a something bistro-style, try Three Tomatoes Trattoria (448-1711) on the Mall in Lebanon. This trattoria serves good, fresh Italian food and many grilled seafood and steak entrees, but the items baked in their wood-fired oven, such as the three cheese baked chicken, are the items that really shine here.
Nearby New London has a number of great eateries. Peter Christian’s Tavern (526-4042, peterchristianstavern.com) gets a thumb’s up from our editor. Hearty pub food, like Peter’s Father’s Favorite Roast Beef Sandwich with cream cheese horseradish spread, spinach, tomato and red onion, was voted “2003 Best of New Hampshire Sandwich” by New Hampshire Magazine readers. Peter Christian’s beef stew and chili are also award winners.