Sure, coastal beaches and tropical islands may be what first come to mind when thinking of summer vacation destinations. But when it comes to outdoor recreation and even beachside relaxation, America’s lake towns have just as much, if not more, to offer.
Short of big waves for surfing, some of the best U.S. lakes offer visitors the chance to participate in nearly any water sport imaginable. And since they’re considered superb locations for summer holidays, the nearby towns are bustling with lots to do as well. Not to mention, these charming locales boast some of the most stunningly scenic landscapes in all of America. From central Washington to New Hampshire’s Newport, these are some of the most spectacularly scenic and, of course, adventurous lake towns in the U.S.
Known as “The Village Between the Lakes,” Grand Rivers is home to both Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The quaint town boasts two resort marinas each with waterfront cottages and condos and unlimited access to water sports and outdoor activities including fishing, sailing, golf, kayaking and wildlife viewing, just to name a few.
Compared to more popular destinations in Wyoming like Jackson Hole or Grand Teton, Rock Springs — known as the "gateway to the Flaming Gorge Reservoir" — is somewhat of a hidden gem. Flaming Gorge is celebrated for its serene tranquility and is also considered one of the best lakes for cold-water fishing in the entire country. Plus, even if fishing isn’t your forte, this lake also serves as a perfect spot for other exciting water sports like skiing, tubing and kayaking.
Described as a quaint lakeside setting, Colorado’s largest natural lake is home to charming cabins and summer homes that make for an adventurous and picturesque summer escape. The historic town is known for its lively boardwalk with more than 60 shops, restaurants and galleries. Plus, the lake is of course open to boating, sailing and fishing, and with the Rocky Mountains nearby there’s certainly no shortage of opportunities for even more outdoor adventuring.
Not many would expect to find flourishing bodies of water in the middle of desert-like terrain, which is why Arizona is commonly overlooked as a destination for lake vacations. However, Mesa shares a border with the Tonto National Forest: home to Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake and Apache Lake. Visitors here can enjoy all sorts of water activities like wake-boarding, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing and even a more typical beach experience along the sandy shores of Jones Beach at Saguaro Lake.
South Carolina’s Tega Cay, a peninsula on Lake Wylie, is consistently rated as one of the best places to live and raise a family in the U.S. But it also happens to be a well-loved lakeside vacation destination. With a beach and swim center, tennis courts, golf club, walking trails, marina, street and water parades, free city summer concerts, and several fairs and festivals, there’s never a shortage of adventurous summertime fun.
Lake George has long been a popular vacation spot for lovers of outdoor recreation. Commonly referred to as the “Queen of American Lakes,” it’s easily fits in among the top lake towns, especially for vacationing in the summer. Water activities include everything from swimming and fishing to boating, jet skiing, tubing and even diving. With so many adventures to choose from, it’s truly an exceptional destination for summer travelers of all ages and interests.
Not only is this perfectly picturesque lake town known for averaging about 300 days of sunshine per year, but adrenaline junkies love Chelan for its access to thrilling activities like ziplining, parasailing and skydiving. Plus, in addition to breathtaking scenery and plenty of outdoor recreation the area is surrounded by more than 24 wineries and was dubbed an official American Viticulture Area in 2009.
Crystal Bay actually borders the California/Nevada state line and visitors can literally straddle the two states as they wade in the cool waters of North Lake Tahoe. That’s not all, though. The Tahoe Adventure Company offers a wide range of expeditions to choose from including kayak tours of the lake, SUP rentals, mountain bike, hiking and rock climbing tours, high ropes courses, multi-sport adventures and even custom-designed tours tailored to your favorite activities.
From fishing charters and farmer’s markets to horseback riding and countless water sports, Bigfork boasts big adventures among some of the most stunning landscapes in Montana. The town’s slogan reads “where Flathead Lake beings,” and in addition to superb lakeside recreation Bigfork is known for hosting fun summertime concert series and art festivals.
Summer at New Port's Lake Sunapee offers visitors the chance to experience boating, biking, hiking, swimming and fishing amidst the beauty of New England’s great outdoors. With everything from campgrounds and summer concert series to canoe and kayak rentals, the 4,085-acre lake at Mount Sunapee State Park Beach is a perfect spot for relaxing and reconnecting with nature. Plus, the Newport Area boasts more than 20 miles of trails for hiking, biking and running and the town’s summer calendar is stocked with exciting adventures like the Pinnacle Mountain Bike Race and the Sunshine 5k.