After lunch in Kennebunkport, we wanted to head up to see the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Many visitors will stay in Conway which is a large town with outlet stores, restaurants and a wide selection of lodging. But if you want to stick to the small New England towns then Jackson is only a small half circle drive with a covered bridge entrance and the Jackson falls.
You can drive directly to the Conway/Jackson area in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a shorter route – or you can add some time (about an hour) and go by the Lakes Region to stop in Wolfeboro on Lake Winnipesaukee. Wolfeboro is the oldest summer resort in the U.S. and is worth the extra drive time especially to stop in at Bailey’s Bubble, a town favorite for ice cream. If you can’t decide which flavor, we recommend the Moose Tracks with mini-peanut butter cups, chocolate fudge and vanilla ice cream. It’s also worth spending some time walking around this small resort town to see the beautiful lake, the islands in the distance, vintage wood boats (which can be rented for tours in the summer) and crystal clear water. We will definitely be bringing our kids back on a future summer trip.
Heading north after Wolfeboro, you will begin to see signs for the Castle in the Clouds which is a large, sixteen room historic house where you can tour the house, go horseback riding or enjoy lunch. For a quick stop, you can also park as we did and simply walk out onto the patio if you want to see the lake and islands from an amazing vantage point.
Afterwards, we drove onto Tamworth. The population of Tamworth is just under 3,000 residents but the town has seen a recent rebirth with the opening of the Tamworth Distillery and Lyceum. The Distillery is just now seeing its first whiskey about to be aged and released (already sold out) and you can take a flight of flavored whiskies and vodkas – including our personal favorite, the beet-infused vodka. Yes beets – it’s so good we purchased a bottle to take home.
The Lyceum is a sister company to the distillery and roughly translates to “meeting place” where they serve coffee and host live musical acts a few times a month so check the lyceum’s calendar to see if you might get to stay for a show. They both close around 5:00 but it is worth stopping to see such a small town supporting/supported by a distillery, lyceum and the Barnstormers Theatre.
Heading further up towards Conway, we made reservations at White Mountain Cider Co. where the specialties are crab cakes and pork schnitzel (which was a surprise for New England but very good). Although, nothing outdid the warm cider donuts and ice cream covered in caramel sauce.
For lodging, we chose the Inn at Thorn Hill and if you do, try to reserve the Mt. Washington Suite which has wrap-around windows looking out onto the lawns (including wild turkeys when we arrived) and a beautiful view of the mountains and Mt. Washington in the distance.
Being a B&B, they offer a quick breakfast at the hotel – although you could have a very long one if you liked – and then you can make your way back out the covered Jackson bridge to the Kancamagus Highway (rated as one of the top scenic drives in the country). But before you start, be sure to fuel up on gas as there are no stops on the roughly 60-mile scenic drive.
At the beginning of the drive, there is a ranger station where you can pick up a map which nicely outlines each of the stops by mileage points. We also recommend buying the full pass. It’s slightly more than paying $3 cash at each of the paid six stops for parking but makes it much easier to get in and out as needed.
There are a number of stops along the tree-lined drive which include hikes up to flumes, waterfalls, outlooks and more. We spent about two hours on the drive but it could easily be three or four if you want to explore more of the trails. Be sure not to miss the Albany Covered Bridge and the Sugar Hill overlook though. And like any popular attraction, the earlier you start, the less crowded the areas will be for your visit, views and photos.
After the scenic drive, there are a number of other options. Many visitors will visit the Flume Gorge, Franconia Notch, Cannon Mt Tram or Mt. Washington (either by the Cog Railway or hiking). One stop we would recommend skipping is the Old Man of the Mountain unless you really want to see it. It is an optical illusion where you look up at a sculpture and it imposes the small face of a person onto the side of the mountain. It can take some time to park and walk to. And, for us, we were not hiking on this particular trip as we wanted to explore as much of New England as we could so we did not plan any of the longer activities – like the railway, tram or hikes – for our trip.
Our next stop was a small side trip into Sugar Hill which is a picturesque village. First we visited The Frost Place, the home of Robert Frost, which did not take much time but included an interesting history of the poet and a chance to see the inspiring views of the White Mountains out of his upstairs window. The house also includes a private residence which is occupied each year by an aspiring poet sponsored by Dartmouth College.
If you want to try some cheddar cheese along the way, you can stop in at Harman’s Country Store in Sugar Hill. Or you can head directly up to the Inn at Sugar Hill where just passed the property is a beautiful vista of the entire area. It is well worth the stop if you want to capture the quintessential panorama of fall.
For lunch, we headed to Miller’s Café in Littleton which is a small restaurant favored by locals with a patio which looks out directly over the river and a covered bridge. The restaurant was awarded one of the Top 50 Best Sandwiches in the U.S. by Food Network for its Yankee Flip with pot roast, cheddar, garlic potatoes and more.
From there it was heading out of New Hampshire and onto the Vermont portion of our trip.