The first settlers in Newbury cleared their homesteads on hundred-acre lots in the mid-1700s. The town was incorporated in 1778, following the Revolutionary War. The growth of the town has remained closely linked to Lake Sunapee and the imposing Mt. Sunapee range. In the 1830s, the town meeting house was established in Newbury Harbor, where it was joined over time by other public buildings, including a school (today's Town Office building), Veterans' Hall, Safety Services building, and library. Today Newbury's permanent year-round residents number approximately 1,800, with a summer population peaking at more than 6,000.
Newbury began to attract summer visitors and residents in the late 1800s, when the railroad between Concord and Claremont made stops at the Harbor and along Lake Sunapee. From the depots, passengers were delivered to their summer homes by the steamboats that plied the lake. Modern transportation has made the town accessible year-round to skiers, snowmobilers, boaters, hikers, bikers, and fishermen. Newbury has a full range of attractions to appeal to lovers of the outdoors every season of the year.
The Mount Sunapee Resort ski area, under private lease agreement with the state, has undergone over $5 million dollars worth of renovations and improvements in its first year of private management, and has become the destination of choice for visiting and local skiers. Initial improvements include 41 trails with two new quads, a high-speed detachable to the summit, and increased snow making capacity. There are also facilities for snow boarding, upgraded grooming, and expanded base facilities.
Boaters and swimmers are drawn to the Sunapee State Beach, which features wide beaches of both grass and sand, a refreshment stand, changing and rest rooms, boat rentals, and a public boat launch. There is ample parking, and a lifeguard is on duty.
The John Hay National Wildlife Refuge includes former Secretary of State John Hay's summer home, the Fells, with its noted gardens and hiking trails. Special programs and walking tours are available to the public throughout the year.
In addition to its natural attractions, the town offers a variety of sightseeing opportunities. South Newbury is home to several historic buildings, including a 19th century town hall; a church dating back to 1831; Sherman Hall, home of the Newbury Historical Society; and the Sunapee Lake Grange, established in the town more than 100 years ago and one of the few in the area still in operation. The harbor area is bustling in the summer with its popular public dock, old railroad station, information booth and gazebo hosting summer concerts and activities. The annual Craftsmen's Fair held at Mt. Sunapee State Park is the oldest such fair in America, having been in operation since 1933.