10 Lakes That Are Just as Good as a Beach Getaway

Forget the salt and seashells. Lake vacations are just as relaxing and fun-filled as the beach.

Lake vacations can be more accessible to U.S. residents who do not live on one of the coasts.


The weather is heating up. School is out. It’s time for summer break. And while millions of families head to the coast, a lake destination could be a great change of pace for your vacation plans. Not only are lakes more accessible to travelers from land-locked states, but they can offer just as much adventure, relaxation and picturesque scenery as a beach. Here’s a look at the country’s top lake vacations spots—and reasons why you should give an inland escape a try.

Lake Michigan, Chicago, IL

Lake Michigan may be a lake, but it has a lively beach feel.

It’s hard to look at any of the Great Lakes and think “lake,” considering their vast size and ocean-like features. But that’s all the more reason why Lake Michigan is just as good as (if not better than) a beach on the coast. On the Chicago side of Lake Michigan, you’ll find more than just a great place to relax with your toes in the sand. Here, you can also tour Navy Pier or take a stand-up paddleboard yoga class on the lake’s crisp water. During the summer months, host a s’mores party on the beach at Promontory Point in Burnham Park, bike along the shoreline to take in the iconic Chicago skyline, or go to a free outdoor concert. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll discover that Lake Michigan offers a great urban spin on a traditional lake vacation.

Pickwick Lake, Savannah, TN

Pickwick Lake is great for fishing as well as motorized water sports.

This three-lakes-in-one destination is a can’t-miss for anyone who loves to fish. The southern portion of the lake provides shallow ledges ideal for fishing while the feeder creeks and gravel bars are a hotbed for just about every species of fish. But Pickwick is not just for fisherman. With an average depth of 30 feet, Pickwick is great for any kind of motorized water sport from jet skis to wake boats, making it an ideal lake vacation for families booking hotels in the Savannah area.

Morse Lake, Indianapolis, IN

Morse Lake is home to nearby antique shopping, food and live music.

A short drive from Indianapolis, Morse Lake was formed by Big Cicero and Little Cicero creeks and features more than 35 miles of shoreline. It’s a great lake for boating and even has some sandy beaches. Head to nearby downtown Noblesville, which is located waterside, to explore to more than 50 specialty shops, as well as antique stores and plenty of dining options. Noblesville is also home to Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center, the largest outdoor music venue in Indiana.

Lake Norman, Charlotte, NC

The waters of Lake Norman host catfish, bass, and a supposed sea monster named “Normie.”

This popular lake destination offers a variety of hotels near Lake Norman, and the unique chance to spot a sea monster while you’re having fun on the water. The legend of “Normie” may only date back to 1996, but many visitors swear they’ve seen something unusual in the lake. Of course, you’re much more likely to spot catfish and bass swimming around this popular fishing spot. Plus, Lake Norman State Park offers 30 miles of mountain bike trails, beach access and boat ramps. Great restaurants dot the shoreline, too, like Hello, Sailor, which has a Palm Beach vibe and outdoor seating.

Lake Hartwell, GA and SC

Lake Hartwell, crossing the South Carolina-Georgia state line, is one of the largest lakes in the Southeast U.S.

As one of the Southeast’s largest lakes, Lake Hartwell is also one of the South’s most popular and is often considered one of the top East Coast lake vacation spots. With nearly 1,000 miles of shoreline, the lake stretches from Clemson, South Carolina, to Hartwell, Georgia. Make your home base at a hotel in Clemson, a college and lake town, for access to great shopping and dining, and in the fall score a ticket to the stadium known as “Death Valley” for a Clemson University football game.

Lake Powell, UT and AZ

Red rocks and turquoise water make for amazing views at Lake Powell.

There are few lakes that take your breath away. Lake Powell is one of them. A reservoir on the Colorado River between Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell’s location sets it apart from any oceanside town. Stay at Lake Powell hotels near towering red stone rock formations, turquoise water and crisp blue skies make for a truly jaw-dropping experience by boat or land. Book a boat tour to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, which is only accessible by boat or hiking trail. There you’ll find the world’s largest natural bridge among other scenic highlights.

Lake Tahoe, NV and CA

Lake Tahoe hosts world-class snow skiing in the winter and great water sports in the summer.

Snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains and crystal-clear blue water make Lake Tahoe one of the most popular—and scenic—lakes in North America. The breathtaking setting isn’t the only thing that draws people from all over the world. Here, you get the best of both worlds with world-class skiing in the winter months and water sports in the summer. Explore nearby Yosemite National Park with a small-group guided tour. Lake Tahoe is a once-in-a-lifetime lake vacation with something for everyone to do—from scenic hikes to the gaming casinos of Reno, NV.

Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Surrounding Lake Winnipesaukee are amusement parks, arcades, and plenty of shopping.

The largest lake in the Granite State, Lake Winnipesaukee is a classic New England setting, with towering pine trees and cedar shake-style homes dotting the 101 miles of shoreline. The 81-mile drive around the lake connects you to some of New England’s best lake towns—from popular Laconia and Meredith to Center Harbor, the Ossipee Mountain area and Wolfeboro, and finally the Alton Bay area. Along the drive, you’ll find amusement parks, arcades, shopping and tiny village stores. But there’s more: this family-friendly lake vacation spot is ideal for water sports, hiking and fishing.

Lake Martin, Birmingham, AL

Lake Martin, known as a “party lake,” features a 60-foot rock jump.

Known as one of America’s top party lakes, Lake Martin is among the most popular in Alabama. Though the summer months are busy, it’s well worth the visit with Lake Martin’s naturally wooded shoreline and a jumping spot called Acapulco Rock. There, brave kids, teens and adults can jump from a 60-foot rock face into the water below. Wind Creek State Park is also on Lake Martin and is prime for camping, picnicking and relaxing by the water.

Lake George, NY

You can ride a zipline at Lake George overlooking the gorgeous Adirondack Mountains.

From the adrenaline junkie to the antiques aficionado, every traveler will love Lake George. The variety of Lake George accommodations and things to do here makes it one of the best lake vacations in the U.S. Zip line from treetop to treetop with panoramic views of the Adirondack Mountains, or during the summer months, visit the Lake George Village Farmers Market. You can buy local produce, dairy and seafood and enjoy live music, face painting and other activities.


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