Everybody loves a summer trip to the beach — but not everybody lives close to the ocean. Contrary to popular belief, however, not all of the best beaches are located by the sea. There are a bunch of lake destinations that are just as gorgeous and fun as their ocean-side counterparts.
If you plan a summer vacation at the lake, the possibilities are endless. You can rent a houseboat or a cozy cabin, you can camp — hell you can even hole up in a fancy hotel, if that’s your thing. But no matter how you decide to lodge, you’ll get to enjoy stress-free days by the water with your family and friends, just like the good ol’ days.
These are our favorite lakes for summer.
1. Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan sits on Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois — so it’s perfect for those living in the Midwest. It’s known as the “Third Coast” of the U.S., due to having over 1600 miles of beaches. This lake offers more than your typical water activities and beach sports — you can go wine-tasting, rent a fishing boat, head to the farmers market, shop for antiques, walk the boardwalk and more.
2. Lake Powell
Lake Powell sits between Arizona and Utah and is by far one of the most gorgeous lakes you will ever lay your eyes on. Essentially, it’s the Grand Canyon underwater — surrounded by red rocks and canyons. The lake stretches almost 200 miles, so you’ll be sure to get plenty of privacy and be able to appreciate the beauty of the lake. Most people rent houseboats, but you’ll have just as much fun (if not more) camping on smooth rocks and beaches.
3. Lake Placid
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Located in New York and known for hosting the 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid is surrounded by the Adirondack Park — a six-million acre alpine village offering family activities galore. You can play golf, go paddling, take a whitewater rafting excursion, go rock climbing or simply relax on the shore with a drink in hand and your favorite book. As far as where to stay — Lake Placid offers everything from luxury resorts and private waterfront house rentals to rustic cabins and campgrounds.
4. Lake Chelan
If you live in or near Washington, Lake Chelan — also known as Washington’s playground — is not a vacation you’ll want to pass up. It’s the third-deepest lake in the U.S., and has both a beach and mountain vibe. Activities include touring world-class wineries, dining at gourmet restaurants, skiing and tubing, going on bike tours and more.
5. Lake Lanier
And finally, if you live in the Southeast region of the U.S., check out Lake Lanier Islands this summer for an unforgettable lake vacation. Stay at a campground, in a luxury hotel or on a houseboat, and plan your days around golfing, water sports, water parks, wine tasting, horseback riding, ziplining and tons more. This lake truly has it all, and you’ll leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Originally published May 2013. Updated April 2017.