Summer is upon us here in the Monadnock Region. Although plenty of uncertainties lie ahead, it’s nice to relish the joys of the season. There’s no lack of low-cost or even free activities to enjoy while practicing physical distancing. Outdoor lovers and ice cream connoisseurs alike can take advantage of these sweet sunny days here in the Granite State.
Southwest New Hampshire is jam-packed with quaint farm stands, markets, and stores that are well worth a visit. For a little local flavor, swing by The Farmers’ Market of Keene on Gilbo Ave from 3-6 on Tuesdays and 9-1 on Saturdays.
While you’re in Keene, Stonewall Farm is another great place to explore. Their store sells a colorful array of fresh produce, local foods, prepared meals, and handmade items. You can even grab a taste of gelato from Frisky Cow made with milk right from the farm. Pull up a picnic table or explore their trails and make a day of it.
In Peterborough, the Fresh Chicks Local Outdoor Market kicks off the week, running Mondays from 11-3 in the Monadnock Community Hospital parking lot. The Peterborough Farmers Market is also available on Wednesdays from 3-6 at the Community Center, selling local garlic, bread, mushrooms, and more! Across town is Rosaly’s Garden and Farm Stand, situated on 20 acres of organic fields filled with herbs and flowers. Pop by to find fresh pastries, granola, dressing, and tasty maple syrup in addition to seasonal vegetables, herbs, and fruit.
Wonderful places like these, including several more weekly markets, are in full swing across the region, though there are too many to name. Thankfully, you can find one (or several!) near you in this great guide from the Cheshire County Conservation District.
Bring on the Berries
While you’re thinking about homegrown delights, don’t forget the region is “ripe” with opportunities for berry picking. July is prime time for pick-your-own; discover hundreds of acres filled with deliciously plump and tasty treats.
Monadnock Berries in Troy, with magnificent views of Mt. Monadnock, is a prime example. The property boasts ten acres of blueberries ready to be picked throughout the season, as well as home-grown gooseberries, raspberries, and currants for sale. Smith’s Blueberries in New Ipswich also just opened for the season and is stocked up with new vendors and farm-fresh goodies to go along with your pickings. Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard and Barrett Hill Farm in Mason are also favorites for blueberry picking.
We get it; berries are scrumptious, but sometimes you’re just craving a good sugar fix. Well, you’ve come to the right place. The Monadnock Region is famous for its ice cream, drawing locals and tourists to destinations like Kimball’s Farm in Jaffrey or Ava Marie’s Handmade Chocolates and Ice Cream in Peterborough. Both stores produce their ice-cream in house and have unique, fun flavors.
Walpole Creamery, which is served up on Main St. in Walpole and Keene, as well as in stores throughout the region, also tops this list, with its creamy, natural feel. Most recently, it was also added to the menu at Frogg Brewing in Marlborough, so you can grab a pint and a cone! Each mouthful is truly a taste of the good old summertime.
If you happen to be on the other end of the region, Hayward’s Ice Cream in Milford is a must. They’ve been dishing up their homemade premium ice cream for over 75 years. You can also grab a cone at The Driving Range in Mason and pull up a picnic spot alongside the golf course. Here’s to finding your perfect scoop!
Time for Tee
While we’re talking golf—what a great idea for getting outside with friends in this time of physical distancing. Local courses have been happy to see faces old and new hitting the green for a fun social outlet and some exercise.
There are a range of stunning places to tee off surrounded by radiant views, including the Keene Country Club, which offers excellent amenities and dining. The Bretwood Golf Course, which meanders along the Ashuelot River provides another lovely setting, with clubhouse meals, snacks, and drinks available.
In Jaffrey, the Shattuck Golf Club serves up a beautiful landscape, great game, and delicious eats at the Dublin Road Taproom & Eatery. And the Hilltop Golf Course in Peterborough is another great choice for those looking to play a round in a serene and pristine setting.
If you like to hike, bike, trail run, or just take a stroll, where do we even begin? From the unique network of stellar rail trails to historic hikes like the ruins of Madame Sherri Forest in Chesterfield, there’s an outdoor experience for every occasion.
Gentle walks can be enjoyed at the forested loop of Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam, where the blooms pop in July or the Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge, a contemplative setting with a panoramic view of Mt. Monadnock and many trails.
More moderate or challenging hikes for people who love to soak in the scenery include Pack Monadnock in Peterborough, Mt. Caesar in Swanzey, and Kidder Mountain in New Ipswich. (Save these for your fall foliage list, too!)
Bikers rave about the rail trails, which even weave through some of the state’s historic covered bridges. More challenging mountain biking systems, like those at Drummer Hill and the Food Network (Mountain Bike) Trail in Keene, are also a big draw. In addition, Peterborough recently installed a bike park at Adams Playground.
Distant Hill Gardens and Nature Trail, straddling the towns of Walpole, NH and Alstead is a must for outdoor lovers. Distant Hill Gardens is an Environmental and Horticultural Learning Center encompassing fifty-eight acres of forest, fields, and wetlands. Distant Hill Nature Trail is a mile-long, wheel-chair accessible, gravel trail just east of Distant Hill Gardens. It is open daily, dusk-to-dawn, free of charge. Trailhead parking and an information kiosk are available just off a paved road.
Perhaps the water is what’s calling your name. If that’s the case, you have another fantastic menu of places to choose from. Whether you’re kayaking, canoeing, fishing, or diving right in, you can cool off just about anywhere in the area.
Here’s a quick list of a few well-loved splash spots with a note about what makes each of them special:
- Contoocook Lake in Jaffrey/Rindge – several access points and plenty of fish
- Dublin Lake in Dublin – classic for recreation
- MacDowell Lake in Peterborough – wide open paddle and lots of wildlife
- Meetinghouse Pond in Marlborough – nice spot to cast
- Nubanusit Lake in Hancock – beautiful, secluded spot with great views
- Otter Brook Lake, Keene/Roxbury, offers swimming and various recreational opportunities
- Powder Mill Pond in Hancock – wonderful bird watching
- Pratt Pond in Mason – secluded, back road find
- Surry Mountain Lake Beach, Surry, offers swimming and various recreational opportunities
- Willard Pond in Antrim – quiet paddle with a pair of nesting loons
Ask any local, and they can likely rattle off 10 other favorite places to get out in nature – we have not attempted to provide a complete listing of places to visit, just a sampling. Part of the joy is in discovering the ones that speak to you.
If you choose to spend a little time exploring in the Monadnock Region, a number of great places to stay as well as additional activities can be found on the Monadnock Travel Council website.
Stay cool and enjoy! We know it’s a summer unlike any other, but maybe that’s a chance to try something new. Here’s to making the most of the season we wait for all year!