One of the best things about owning a boat is the ability it gives you to leave the mainland and explore places you couldn’t get to without one. Few areas in New England offer boaters a better chance to do that than Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

With at least 253 islands, Winnipesaukee is a perfect playground for boaters who love to explore.

Islands vary from several hundred acres in size down to little strips of land. And many of the lake’s islands are protected from development, giving boat owners a great opportunity to appreciate scenic shorelines, look for wildlife and anchor at secluded beaches.

Winnisquam Marine Visiting boaters will find plenty of marine services on the lake. Among the best is Crownline dealer Winnisquam Marine, Inc. in Belmont. This full-service marina features plenty of slips, repair services, and they even offer stand-up paddleboard rentals.

Among Winnipesaukee’s islands, Stonedam Island in Meredith is one of the most popular to explore. Home to a 112-acre wildlife preserve, it is one of the largest protected islands on the lake, with a nature trail, great views, a historic log cabin and quiet beach. Boaters can access the island from a dock on a northeast cove.

Also in Meredith is Five Mile Island, an undeveloped island with two natural beach areas and fantastic views of surrounding mountains and islands. The island is heavily forested and includes the remnants of a cabin foundation.

Crowline_blog_WinnipesaukeeIn Alton, 368-acre Rattlesnake Island is home to an impressive hike featuring a steep climb up a 400-foot rocky peak with spectacular views of the area. Just south of Rattlesnake is Sleepers Island, where the remnants of Hale’s Castle — a stone house built to look like a castle in Europe — stands on the shore.

Timber Island, in Guilford, is 136 acres, all but 10 of which are protected by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust as unspoiled habitat and ecosystem. With more than 2.5 miles of undeveloped shoreline, the island has the longest stretch of protected shore remaining on the lake. As it the island is a refuge for wildlife, access to it is restricted. But boaters are able to enjoy its scenic beauty from the water, while looking for bald eagles, loons and otters.