Frequently Asked Questions On Lake Winnipesaukee Islands

Learn About The Islands of Lake Winnipesaukee

Lake Winnipesaukee is New Hampshire's largest lake with a surface area of 72 miles and around 200 miles of shoreline. At 9 ½ miles wide and 28 miles long, the lake is home to (what some estimate to be) 365 islands of which 274 are habitable. 

Visitors to the lake are often fascinated by Winnipesaukee's islands. For residents, island living affords a unique lifestyle and the ability to get back to nature, amazing views, privacy, friendly neighbors, and a unique culture all its own!

FAQs About the Islands of Lake Winnipesaukee

Visitors who take the M/S Mount Washington sightseeing cruises often ask us about the islands. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from visitors about the islands of Lake Winnipesaukee!

Q: What is the island population in the summer?

A: With so many rentals and turnover, it's hard to say. But there are many habitable islands with homes, cabins, yurts or campsites. Some of the larger islands like Governor's Island host multi-million dollar mansions with boats bobbing at their docks. Governor's is perhaps the best known. It's a private community with some year-round residents and one of only a handful with bridges to the mainland. Others like Cow Island has 132 houses and a perimeter road around the island. Dolly Island has 2, and Little Penny Island has just one house on it!

Q: What is the Largest Island on the Lake? The smallest?

A: The two largest islands on the lake are Long Island, which has a bridge to the mainland and is 1186 acres, and Bear Island. Bear Island has 192 homes, two children's camps, a graveyard, and a church. The smallest island is believed to be Becky's Garden. It's about 10 feet wide (depending on the lake's water level) and is the subject of folklore. Each summer, someone places a miniature house on the island.

Q: What is island life like?

A: It depends on the island. On many, life tends to be straightforward with camps along the shoreline and the center of the island undeveloped and natural. Welch Island is one example of the simple life. There are camps and a yacht club along the shoreline along with about 60 homes on roughly 200 acres. There are no paved roads, no cars, access is by boat only, and there's no cable TV (although today, some get satellite television). Other's like Governors have grand multi-million dollar homes, roads, cars, and electricity. Remote islands require all supplies be brought by boat. Some have cabins or campgrounds, while others are entirely natural.

Q: How did Cow Island get its name?

A: This island is sometimes called Guernsey Island because it was once used to quarantine cows brought to the new world from Europe.

Q: How many islands can be reached and explored by car?

A: There are six Islands connected to the mainland by bridges; they are Black Cat Island, Long Island, Oak Island, Governor's Island, Worcester Island, and Christmas Island.

Q: How did Three-Mile Island get its name?

A: Three-Mile Island is one of three that are named “Mile.” They are Three-Mile Island, Five-Five Mile Island, and Six-Mile Island. They are named based on the distance they are from Center Harbor.

Q: Are any of the Islands connected together?

A: Yes. Birch Island and Steamboat Island are the only two islands connected by a bridge.

Q: I've heard about a place called “The Witches” where is that and how did it get its name?

A: Every summer, boaters who are unfamiliar with Lake Winnipesaukee enter The Witches and run into trouble. Many have sunk; others have damaged boat props or worse. The Witches is a rocky area east of Governor's Island. There is a field of rocks that lie just below the surface and are extremely hazardous. At some point, “The Witches” was actually Witches Island. When the dams were built, the water level rose and put much of the island underwater. Over the years, erosion got rid of much of the soil, leaving nothing but rock. Supposedly back in the 1800s, there were trees on The Witches.

Learn The Legends and Lore of Lake Winnipesaukee!

Cruising Lake Winnipesaukee aboard the M/S Mount Washington is a great way to see the lake and her islands. Our crew is knowledgeable about Lake Lore and is always happy to point out the sights and answer questions about the lake.

Today the Mount Washington plies the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee from May through October, offering daytime scenic, evening dinner/dance and special theme cruises. Her homeport facility located in Weirs Beach was built in 1987 and includes an on-shore kitchen, gift shop, and offices.

She also offers cruises from Wolfeboro, Meredith, Alton Bay, and Center Harbor. For the past ten years, the M/V Mount Washington has been owned and operated by local individuals.

If you're planning a vacation on Lake Winnipesaukee, make sure to visit any Cruise NH ticket office to experience a unique view of New Hampshire's crown jewel! Don't miss our spectacular Sunday Brunch cruise leaving Alton Bay.

If you're planning an event, wedding, company outing, or would like to arrange a private charter on Lake Winnipesaukee, give us a call at (603) 366-5531 and let us help you plan a memorable event you'll be talking about for years to come!


  • Chuck Morse

    Does anyone have information or know of Dawley Island. My grandparents owned it and had a cottage there. It was sold in the 50’s. I’d love to find out more about it. Thanks!

  • Charles Stone

    My Retirement Home, Until????, All -year , 4 seasons, Spring, Summer, Fall, @ Winter.

  • Christine Fee

    This was very informative. Thank you!

  • Barbara

    My home away from home…Spent 50 or more years building homes on the lake as well as living on a boat in summer there……It is the most miraculous place to be, with all the wonders of the world…….

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