Be sure to bring your swimming trunks and plenty of sunscreen if you visit during the summer months. You can count on warm weather from mid-June through mid-September. And with that warm weather comes hiking, fishing and (of course) swimming. With more than 200 scenic ponds and lakes within Southwest New Hampshire, there are numerous beaches and waterfronts to enjoy. If you include the brooks and streams you'll find throughout the area, the Monadnock Region could be considered a swimmers paradise!
SPOFFORD LAKE, Spofford: Follow Route 9 West from Keene about 7 miles, and then take Route 9A into the village of Spofford. Spofford Lake covers about 1.1 square miles and has a circumference of six miles. The lake offers two public beaches: North Shore (town residents only) and South Shore. For the North Shore beach, follow North Shore Road off Route 9A. The beach offers lifeguards during part of the summer and is open from 9 am to 9 pm daily. The sandy beach offers both sun and shade and is rarely crowded. There are bathrooms, grills and picnic tables. Note: North Shore beach is open only to town residents.
If you prefer the south shore, and more amenities, continue on Route 9A and watch for signs for Wares Grove Beach. The large sandy beach is great for toddler and teens with shallow water for a long way out. You'll find a concession stand, volleyball court, basketball, tetherball, play structure and a swing set. Wares Grove is open from 9 am to 9 pm, with lifeguards on duty until 6 pm. There is a small admission fee.
In addition to swimming, Spofford Lake is a favorite destination for boaters, with one boat launch and a yacht club. It also boasts an island to visit with no houses, only a rope swing.
OTTER BROOK LAKE PARK, Keene/Gilsum: Follow Route 9 East from Keene (toward Concord) and you'll find Otter Brook Lake Park. The park, maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers, offers many recreational opportunities, including: swimming, picnicking, canoeing, fishing, and hunting. There are flush toilet restrooms, a sandy beach, picnic tables, grills and two group shelters (which may be reserved). There is a $1.00 fee for swimming. The park is open from 8 am to 8 pm daily.
SURRY MOUNTAIN LAKE, Surry: There are two faces for Surry Mountain Lake, both worthy of exploration. If you want a chance to view the Surry Dam, follow Route 12A North from Keene and take Surry Dam Road. Here you'll find a beautiful view of the dam and the opportunity to drive across it. For swimmers, stay on Route 12A and follow it to Surry Mountain Lake Recreation Area (also maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers) and look for the entrance on right. The recreation area is open from 8 am to 8 pm daily and features a beautiful sandy beach with a great view of the surrounding hills. There is a $1.00 admission fee for swimming.
DUBLIN LAKE, Dublin: Although there is no public beach on Dublin Lake, there is public access for boats. Follow Lake Road off Route 101. The views of Mt. Monadnock from the Lake make this a worthwhile stop and a great place for boaters wishing to take in the scenery while they enjoy their craft.
ASHUELOT POND, Washington: Although Ashuelot Pond is in Washington, you get there by turning onto Washington Road off Route 10 in Marlow. Follow to the end of the road and there is a place to launch a boat or canoe. If you cross the 220 acre pond, you'll find an inlet to paddle up and a spot for picnics. There are no lifeguards or toilets.
CENTER POND, Stoddard: Follow Center Pond Road off Route 9. You'll find a small sandy beach and a boat landing. The beach is not very crowded because its far from the center of town and the water quality is good, because its spring fed.
ISLAND POND, Route 123 Stoddard: There is a large beach area with a boat landing, The beach is sandy near the waterfront and then drops off to about 10 feet and becomes a bit mucky on the bottom.
LAKE WARREN, Route 123: Located in the pastoral hamlet of East Alstead, in southern NH, Lake Warren symbolizes country living of times past. Disconnect, simplify and engage yourself in reconnecting with nature through the beautiful flora and fauna of this 200 acre lake and the surrounding ecosystems. The Orchard School Breadworks and Community Seed Association, the Monadnock Conservancy, Kroka Expeditions, and the Lake Warren Lake Association are just representative of the special people who collectively share, enjoy and protect this natural environment and philosophy. Swimming, sailing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, biking, snowshoeing, ice fishing, cross country skiing, ice skating and picnicking are just some of the simple seasonal pleasures of life that can be enjoyed here.
CUNNINGHAM POND, Peterborough: Follow Route 101 to Cunningham Pond Road. The beach is open to Peterborough residents and their guests. It features 200 feet of water frontage and has a landing for non-motorized boats. Facilities include bathrooms, changing rooms, picnic tables and a lifeguard on duty every day, from 11 am to 5 pm.
OTTER LAKE, Greenfield: This 401-acre park features a half mile of frontage on Otter Lake, picnic grounds, nature trails, canoe, kayak and paddle boat rentals. It also has changing rooms, a snack bar and a park store. The beach is monitored by a lifeguard. The park is open daily and there is a $2.50 admission.
THORNDIKE POND, Jaffrey: Thorndike Pond is a 249-acre pond with swimming.
CONTOOCOOK LAKE, Jaffrey: Contoocook Lake is used for numerous recreational activities, including boating, fishing and swimming. There is one designated public access for boats on the western side of the lake. There are several public beaches on the pond.