What is now the popular resort of Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee was a prime
Native American fishing
crossroads long before Europeans arrived in 1736. It was a small fort settlement
in a sleepy little village surrounded by farms
until the railroads came in 1848, and New Englanders discovered vacations to
Weirs Beach to be most rewarding. By 1900, there were four express trains from
Boston every day. Rail traffic was enhanced with the addition of steamboats
delivering visitors and people to the ports of Wolfeboro
and Center Harbor, just north of Meredith.
Today, the steamboat descendants, the Mount Washington (dating from 1872), Sopie
C and Doris E., are area attractions
and still provide tours of the lakes.
From the late 1890s until the mid 1920s, scores of Weirs Beach hotels were built and the town became one of the most popular resorts in all of New England. Victorian homes graced the main promenade overlooking the lake, and today they provide lodging in Weirs Beach with a taste of history and intimate accommodations. A wide boardwalk was built along the shoreline, and elegant ladies with parasols and gentlemen in top hats promenaded past elaborate fountains to the many fine dining and entertainment spots. Several very grand Weirs Beach hotels were built at the height of this Golden Age, and two of them continue to provide grand lodging in Weirs Beach today. A great fire destroyed the grandest hotel and many other buildings in 1924. Train service stopped shortly thereafter, and the 1929 stock market crash ended the Weirs Beach Golden Age. But, the arrival of the 1950s and 1960s saw a revival, and today it is one of the most popular resorts in the state.
The attractions of vacations to Weirs Beach include, of course, the beaches. The main public Weirs Beach is a broad stretch of sand at the entrance to the channel leading to Paugus Bay, the town of Laconia, and Winnisquam Lake. There is a large shaded area, picnic tables, and steps to access the boardwalk. All along the road that follows the channel and bay are Weirs Beach hotels and motels, many of which also have their own private beaches. The road in the other direction, leading to Meredith, is also dotted with lodging in Weirs Beach that includes vacation cabins and cottages as well as several resort properties.
In fact, most of the Weirs Beach attractions are all within a small area easily accessed on foot. Right on the boardwalk is a kiosk to purchase excursion tickets for the Winnipesauke Scenic Railroad. There are two routes, one to Meredith and one to Laconia. Scenic cruises – including dinner, sunset, and dancing cruises – can also be purchased. The Fourth of July is one of the big events of the area, and you can also board ships for fireworks cruises. There is a large marina and several public docks, so visitors staying elsewhere on the lakes often show up in their boats to enjoy all the exciting things to do.
It’s hard to run out of things to do in the concentrated three square miles
of “the Weirs.” There are two excellent water
parks within walking distance of the boardwalk, extensive amusement arcades,
bumper cars, go-karts, miniature golfing (as well as regular golf courses),
and even hot air balloon rides. And, you can top off your vacations to Weirs
Beach with a nostalgic evening at the drive-in theater. The drive-in theater
was invented in 1930, and this one opened in 1949. Today the Weirs Beach drive-in
is one of the few in the country still in operation.
Top image: NNECAPA (flickr)