In the late 19th century, Lake Sunapee became a popular destination for people that lived the city life in New England, New York and New Jersey. It was the Steamboat Era in which passengers came to the large resorts and lakefront cottages…AND GET AWAY THEY DID!
There were major steamer landings at Sunapee Harbor, Georges Mill, Lakeside Landing Blodgett Landing, Brightwood, Pine Cliff, Lake Station (which was also where the train station was located), Soo-Nipi, Burkehaven and Granliden. They would take the tourists to the grand hotels that surrounded the lake including Soo-Nipi Park Lodge, Granliden Hotel, Ben Mere Inn and Indian Cave Lodge. One of the first commercial boats in 1854 was actually propelled by horses!
N.S. Gardner purchased Little Island for $1.00 and put a bowling alley on it! He then launched the Penacook (latter named Mountain Maid) to carry passengers to Little Island and so the STEAMBOAT ERA BEGAN!
The Woodsum Brothers launched the Lady Woodsum in 1876. It was 50 feet long and could carry 75 passengers. In 1885, The Edmund Burke was launched. It was a 90 foot steamboat carrying 600 passengers. The Amenia White was launched in 1887, it was 101 feet long and carried 650 passengers and was the flagship of the Woodsum fleet and the biggest steamer to ever sail Lake Sunapee! In 1897 the MV Kearsarge was launched at 70 feet carrying 250 passengers with daily sails in the summer months. In 1902 the Weetamoo a 50 footer was launched and after 25 years service on the lake was suddenly scuttled in the middle of the night near Newbury. This ship is still intact and is visited frequently by local SCUBA clubs. The Sunapee Historical Society Museum also is home to the SS Kearsarge’s wheelhouse that was salvaged from the lake in the 1960’s. The 50 foot MV Mount Sunapee was launched in 1965 and takes passengers on lake cruises in summer months. The original Mount Sunapee was named Susie Q and had been a rum runner in Damariscotta, Maine.
Following the extension pf the B&M Railroad into nearby Newbury, Lake Sunapee became a popular vacation area long before the introduction of the automobile. The main rail station was at Newbury Harbor at the southern most point of the lake. Today, the village contains a colorful antique caboose commemorating the railroad line.
The Grand Resort Hotels
The grand resort hotels and family estates that were nestled around Lake Sunapee catered to the wealthy escaping the summer heat and hectic life of the city life in Boston and New York City. The hotels attracted many musicians for their house orchestras to entertain at the grand hotels.But with the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930’s the Grand Era of the many hotels ended.
The Woodsum Brothers , who owned the steamships in the area are also responsible for building the 3 lighthouses on Lake Sunapee in the 1890’s. The Burkehaven Lighthouse, Herrick Cove Lighthouse and Loon Island Lighthouse. These lighthouses were built to help direct the steamships of the day.
Lake Sunapee is about 9 miles long and is the highest lake of it’s size in America! It is 1100 feet above sea level and it contains 11 islands: Elizabeth Island, Emerald Island, Great Island, Isle of Pines, Little Island, Loon Island, Minute Island, Penny Island, Star Island and Twin Islands.
There are public access places for swimming at Sunapee State Park Beach and boat launch ramps at Sunapee Harbor and Sunapee State Park Beach.