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The township of Lake Hopatcong—one of several municipalities that surround the state’s largest lake—was once a summertime-only spot. These days, there is plenty to do year round, but it’s hopping when the weather gets hot.
Meet you at the market: The Main Lake Market (234 South New Jersey Ave; 973-663-0544; mainlakemarket.com) opened in 2006, moving into the space that had been the Prospect Point Boat Marina and making it into one of the must-go spots on Lake Hopatcong. Most customers come by boat (though you can get there by land), grabbing whatever a summer day might require, be it a sandwich, an ice cream cone, a kickball, a life preserver, the newspaper, a board game, or just a cup of coffee. The market is one of two places in northern New Jersey that sell Vibram Five-Finger Water Shoes, which are such a sensation that people come from all over to pick up a pair. But mostly, families will stop in for a bite to eat, which they either take back on the water or enjoy upstairs in a window-lined room that has been decorated with historic Lake Hopatcong photos—and offers a lovely view of the water. (The room is also rented out occasionally for baby showers, birthday parties, and the like.) “Everybody comes in and says ‘this place is such a little jewel,’” says Erika Simmons, who has worked at the market since it opened. “It has that nice lake feel, and this is probably the best summer job anybody could ask for.”
Get motoring: There are no public beaches in the town of Lake Hopatcong (though it's a short trip down to the state park on Lakeside Blvd in Hopatcong). So rent a small boat at Dow's Fishing and Boat Rentals (145 Nolan's Point Rd; 973-663 3826), hop in your craft, and set up anchor in whatever cove you please. Nearby Halsey Island has a large sandbar on its north shore that is perfect for swimmers of all ages.
Come sail away, with a sailing lesson from Sunset Sailboat Co. on the east shore of the lake (335 Espanong Road; 973-663-1242; sunsetsailboats.com). The company offers group lessons (given on 22-foot cruisers) and private lessons (given on the boat of your choice), teaching basic or competitive sailing techniques. If you're hooked and decide to buy, Sunset specializes in small one-design boats that are easy to trailer, such as a Sunfish or a Hobie Cat, both of which are family-friendly and fit in perfectly among the weekend scene on the water. You’re depending on the wind to move, but at least you don’t have to stress about gas prices.
Visit wide wooded spaces: For landlubbers (or those who are ready for some peace and quiet), the Mahlon Dickinson Reservation (Weldon Rd; 973-663-0200) is a 3,000 acre county park with hiking, mountain bike, and cross-country skiing trails as well as camp sites. Grab a camera and take some wildlife photos while you’re there.
Finish with friends: As dinnertime approaches, go by land or by lake to the Windlass Restaurant (Nolan’s Point; 973-663-3190; thewindlass.com) for a drink and a steak. It’s been a fixture on the lake for 45 years, and its outdoor tables offer a perfect view of the sunset. The place is quirky, with all kinds of lake paraphernalia on the walls, but the food is good and the atmosphere is welcoming. Afterward, trek up the hill behind the Windlass to Wicked Sisters (26 Nolans’s Point Rd; 973-663-0270; wickedsisterspub.com), where live music, cold drinks, and good bar food make for a great nightcap.
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