Off the Beaten Path

A display at Warner’s Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum shows methods of transportation.

WARNER – Vacation in New Hampshire tends to mean two things: the lakes and the beaches. And for good reason: They are lovely and filled with fun things to do. But with more than 17 million people expected to visit the state this summer and fall, they can get crowded.

For enjoyable day trips it’s often best to try back roads that don’t have the traffic and crowds of Lake Winnipesaukee or Hampton Beach.

The town of Warner, home of Mount Kearsarge, is just 45 miles northwest of Milford and offers two small museums and a delightful place for lunch.

The Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum has beautiful exhibits that showcase historical and contemporary Native American culture divided into regions of the country, with guided tours daily at 2 p.m.

Outside are rolling lawns and woods, with an arboretum identifying common and unusual trees.

The museum is open until Oct. 31 every day, including holidays, Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.,

Sunday noon- 5 p.m. Tickets are $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and $7 for children 6-12. No charge for children under 6 and free admission for members and for Native Americans. For more information go to

Across the lawn from the Indian museum is the Little Nature Museum, with hands-on exhibits for all ages – on rocks and minerals, birds and mammals, fossils, fungi, and exhibits on current topics, including invasive species and the decline in bee populations.

It was founded by Sandra Waddell Martin when she was in middle school in the mid-1950s and moved from Hopkinton to Warner a few years ago. On a recent Sunday, Martin was there working on exhibits and enjoying the enthusiasm of a curious young visitor.

“We try to keep it up to date,” she said, showing an exhibit on efforts to breed bats resistant to white-nose syndrome, the disease that has devastated some bat populations. Outside, there is a pollinator-friendly flower garden, with black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower and other plants that attract bees and other useful insects. Martin gives out sheets of planting tips from the University of New Hampshire Department of Biological Sciences.

There are some interesting restaurants for lunch in Warner, but the charming Schoolhouse Cafe, on Route 103 drew us in. The sunny renovated 1916 school house has warm wooden counters and tables and embroidery-designed cotton placemats. The cafe is locally famous for its breakfasts, which they serve all day, and our salad and wrap were fresh and delicious.

Mount Kearsarge, by the way, is 2,937 feet above sea level and the third tallest peak south of the White Mountains. Two state parks are on the mountain, and there is a picnic area and hiking trails.

It’s said that on a clear day the summit offers a 360-degree panorama that includes the White Mountains, Green Mountains, New Hampshire and Maine coasts and the tallest buildings in Boston.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or