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Meredith: 40 miles N of Concord; 60 miles NW of Portsmouth; 110 miles N of Boston

Huge Lake Winnipesaukee, carved by glaciers from nearly the dead center of New Hampshire, is easily the state's biggest, with a 180-mile shoreline. Yet it's so irregularly shaped, edged with dozens of inlets, coves, and bays, and dotted by more than 250 islands. As a result, when you're actually out on the lake, it doesn't seem very big at all. The lake gives the illusion of being a chain of much smaller lakes and ponds, rather than one massive body of water, which makes it more welcoming than a single monolithic body of water.

The best bases for the lake include Weirs Beach (if you don't mind tourist tack); small towns like Center Harbor, Moultonborough, and Wolfeboro ; and Meredith.