The 25 Best Small Lake Towns in America

BRB, packing our bags!

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Dennis Bentson

Nothing says breezy, summery perfection like hanging out lakeside soaking up the sun while finishing up one last chapter of your (okay, two). Looking for a new lake area to visit this summer? We've rounded up the absolute coolest small lake towns in America — from off-the-beaten-path locales in Texas to the crooked Finger Lakes in New York, summer bliss awaits.

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Sandpoint, Idaho

The number one reason we're bee-lining to Lake Pend OreilleWell, besides the spectacular views of Montana's Cabinet Mountains and the Selkirk Mountain Range, the huckleberry lemonade is a major draw (vodka is a necessary addition if it's after 5 p.m.).  After you're done meandering through the walkable downtown, dig into hearty grub at . Festivals abound here, and a few of our favorites include the , the (where hundreds of swimmers compete annually), and the 25th annual .  If you're trying to figure out where to stay, the  won't disappoint.

For more information, visit .

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Dennis Bentson
Big Bear Lake, California

Mountain junkies will love this Southern California jewel that's sure to get your adrenaline spiking. First, crank up the sweat  on trails of all levels. Then, cool off on the new , a one-of-a-kind party boat with a Tarzan swing, 12-foot high trampoline, and14-foot high "Gorilla Jump" dive. Trust us when we say  is the place to catch your ZZZs and test your luck at bocce ball and corn hole (the rustic cabins will conjure up your greatest camp memories). When your stomach starts growling, head to  for funky California-Hawaiian grub, for upscale dining, or the beloved staple that is the  

For more information, visit .

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Oswego, New York

Named for an Iroquois word meaning "place of the pouring out," this town located near where the Oswego River and Lake Ontario meet, is overflowing with gorgeous architecture, cute eateries ( will have you craving its Texas hots and fried scallops long after you leave town), and dreamy summer sunsets (see: ). We'd recommend a kayaking tour with , but if you're more of a landlubber, check out the 18th annual on June 17th. For July visitors, don't miss , July 27-30, with free music, fireworks, and more. Shack up at , just a hop, skip, and a jump from Lake Ontario and the Oswego River.

For more information, visit .

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Lakeway Resort and Spa
Lakeway, Texas

Days have a way of feeling very long (in a good way) in the easygoing village of Lakeway on serene Lake Travis, 25 miles outside of the greater Austin area. Cozy up in your very own slice of Hill Country paradise at , which also has three freshwater swimming pools if you need a break from Lake Travis' many water sports or sailing charters. Hungry?  is a glass-enclosed oasis that seriously brings the party. Craving a BYO adventure? Pack a picnic and hit up one of Lake Travis' lush .

For more information, visit .

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Lake Opechee Inn
Laconia, New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee may get most of the buzz in the Granite State, but there's good reason to consider a trip to Laconia. There, you'll find Winnipesaukee's smaller sister lake, beautiful Lake Opechee. The quaint and inviting shifts the emphasis from "doing" to "being," whether that means petting the property's gorgeous dogs, indulging in a pedicure at the spa, or enjoying views of the tranquil lake from the heated indoor pool. If adventure calls, try a chair lift ride at , hopping aboard the , or catching a concert at the . No matter how your day shakes out, make a pit stop at , a legendary chocolatier that's been around since 1906 (save your appetite: there's a weekend waffle breakfast too!).

For more information, visit .

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Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Animal species you can't find anywhere else on Earth? You betchya. Perfect picnics under oak trees? But of course. If you're visiting this idyllic lake in North Carolina's Eastern region, stay in nearby Whiteville, North Carolina at . While in town, you're definitely going to want to spend time kayaking the largest freshwater lake in the state, and scoping out  (park rangers regularly hold educational programs for visitors). When you've worked up a sufficient appetite, slurp up some swoonworthy oysters at on the shores of this glimmering natural wonder.

For more information, visit .

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Eureka Springs, Arkansas

What's better than one lake? Three. Enjoy 53,000-acre , spring-fed (hiking and mountain bikers, this one's for you!), and fishing gem while visiting this charming town in the Natural State. Check into , a historic mountaintop property (heads up, it may be !) or if you're craving a lakeside retreat, call your temporary home the . Don't miss a visit to the , a celebrated wooden structure containing 6,000 square feet of glass, which we hear pairs really well with pecan pie with shortbread crust from .

For more information, visit  .

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Oakridge, Oregon

Where's Waldo? Well, Waldo Lake, one of the purest lakes in the world, is located about half an hour from the town of Oakridge, and an hour and a half southeast of Eugene in Oregon's majestic Cascades Mountain Range. A must-visit for mountain bikers, tackle the town via two wheels on the  , or Dead Mountain Trail, with McCredie Hot Springs  as your sweet reward, where a dip in the Belknap hot springs awaits as your sweet reward. Or, head straight to Waldo for some laid-back kayaking or paddle boarding. Set up shop at  and wake up to the gentle sound of waterfalls and the smell of the area's fresh hazelnuts.

For more information, visit .

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Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

The town of Breaux Bridge, founded in 1829, sits on the shores of Lake Martin, which has the largest nesting area of wading birds in the United States. Many residents here are of Cajun descent (and still speak Cajun French) and their enthusiasm for living in the "Crawfish Capital of the World" is contagious. Le Pont-Breaux offers boating, fishing, kayaking, bird watching and air boat tours, but we'd urge you to spend a day antiquing, especially at , a 17,000 square-foot hub for art and other treasures.  Bring your loot back to the spacious , and enjoy your private porch with a pile of magazines. At Buck & Johnny's, treat yourself to Cajun-Italian fusion, and if you can, hit up their famous  on the weekend.

For more information, visit .

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Joe Carroll
Hammondsport, New York

While the other famed Finger Lakes are slender and straight, Keuka is a crooked prize, that also happens to be one of the only Y-shaped lakes in the entire world. Start your day with stand-up paddle board yoga or a quiet walk (the town has about 750 people) as a warm up for an excursion to  or  . Speed demons will rejoice in a trip to the , to geek out on motorcycles and planes. Properly worn out, retreat to  where you can schedule a special art therapy class in , on the inn's premises.  The following day, try not to sleep in too late,  opens at 7:30 a.m.

For more information, visit .

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Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Stunning is an understatement at this stunning region in southeastern Wisconsin that's only two hours from Chicago. The  makes a welcome destination for a BFF getaway (check out the award-winning ). Or, rally up the fam for a weekend of laid-back camping at . Wander aimlessly around the lake checking out boutiques or break a sweat paddle boarding or parasailing. The lake also has four beautiful public beaches. Cap off a fun day with free concerts in the park on Thursdays (there's also the , July 15th). Sweet tooth? Check out and grab a cinnamon roll.

For more information, visit .

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Chelan Country, Washington

If Lake Chelan isn't on your radar, you're missing out. Unpack at  (the Wapato Family has owned the lakeside property for over 100 years), before deciding on your itinerary, which could include hiking, whitewater rafting with , a trip to the , or power boating back at the resort. When you need a jolt of caffeine, there's , or head to   where locals congregate on the patio sipping loaded Bloody Marys and digging into the scrumptious mac and cheese.

For more information, visit .

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Versailles, Missouri

Seafarers will love this beautiful town that serves as gateway to the Lake of the Ozarks. We're partial to planting ourselves at   with Fido (they even have a pet menu), but there's loads more to discover in this rural getaway. For a town of only 2,500, you'll find over 100 Mennonite businesses, ranging from herb stores to bakeries, and the bustling . When you're ready to hit the hay, count on , which will feel especially indulgent after touring , a massive and fascinating underground tourist attraction.

For more information, visit  .

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Georgetown, Texas

Lakeside is the best side in this charming town perched on Lake Georgetown. Explore the area's 16 miles of hiking trails, or enjoy a every Friday from June through August in the picturesque town square, known as "The Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas." You'll also want to venture to the  and  the  swimming lagoon. And if your energy levels are depleted, there's  which offers stellar street corn, tacos, and queso panela frito that you won't want to share. Looking for a place to stay?  name sold us, but   flaky, croissant sandwiches will have us coming back for years to come.
 
For more information, visit 
.

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Todd Powell
Frisco, Colorado

Main Street charm is in full swing in this town surrounded by breathtaking peaks near the sandy shores of the Dillon Reservoir. Whatever you do, our one piece of advice is to wake up early (at least once): the  offers lessons and rentals and you'll never forget cruising over the glassy surface at 6 a.m. with bald eagles and osprey overhead. Camp at  if you crave fresh air 24/7, or opt for the down-home , which has its roots in the 19th century. Before you depart the Centennial State, have a meal at , where you'll be wishing you could cook up their organic eggplant tower at home every night of the week.

For more information, visit .

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Courtesy of Destination Niagara USA
Olcott Beach, New York

We'll never tire of the views on the 45-minute drive from Niagara Falls to this old-timey hamlet. Ditto the jumbo popcorn from , a family-owned roadside popcorn stand. The whole fam will swoon for , which features a 1928 Hershell-Spillman two-row carousel, a collection of fun kiddie rides, and a 1931 Wurlitzer band organ. If your crew is mostly adults, venture to the allegedly haunted Winery at Marjim Manor for guided ghost tours, a yoga class, or, you know, vino. As the moon rises, retreat to  The , within walking distance of Krull Park, Olcott Beach, and the Olcott Beach Carousel Park.  Another favorite? , where you can hit the hay in the lighthouse's guest suite. 

For more information, visit .

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Heather Higham
Bellaire, Michigian

After gathering picnic necessities at ,  it's time to feast on the dazzling shores of Torch Lake, which twinkles with a deep turquoise hue. As Michigan's longest inland lake, you can expect superb kayaking, fishing, swimming, and photo ops along its glimmering 19 miles. Once you're ready to say goodbye to the waters and giant sandbars, tuck yourself in at  in nearby Alden. After a solid night's rest, fill up on moooncakes with wild cherry sauce or biscuits and gravy at .

For more information, visit .

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Old 96 District Tourism
Greenwood, South Carolina

Lake Greenwood in , located right outside the towns of Ninety Six (yes, real name) and Greenwood, offers 11,400-acres of floating fun.  Don't delay on booking your summer getaway: On August 21, you can see the here for the 2 minutes and 28 seconds everyone's been buzzing about for months. Kick up your feet at the  between grub sessions at   and the . Got a hankering for a good old fashioned festival? Consider the , Thursday, June 29th through Saturday, July 1st.

For more information, visit  .

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Basin Harbor
Vergennes, Vermont

Perched on scene-stealing Lake Champlain, this lake has an impressive history of battles, which you can learn about at . As the sun sets, relax at . If you prefer to swap the sea for land, their craft workshops and guided biking excursions are a must, as well. (Note: cottages and guestrooms are certainly options, but you can also stay aboard your boat in an overnight slip!)  When yo get hungry, head to  where you'll definitely want to save room for indulgences like gingersnaps and pâtes de fruits.

For more information, visit .

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Getty Images
Greenville, Maine

You'll feel like a kid at summer camp again in the center of the Maine Highlands region. In Greenville, Moosehead Lake offers plenty of open-water fishing, boating, and  cruise tours. New to fishing? Use   to hone your skills in seemingly endless miles of streams stacked with salmon and trout. Soak up 4th of July fireworks  or plan your trip around the June 24th   or  on August 11th.  Why let your hunger take you away from crystal-clear lake views? Head on over to for  a lobster roll. Kelly's also provides , but there's also the gorgeous .

For more information, visit .

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Courtney of North Dakota Tourism
Devils Lake, North Dakota

This lagoon is a real looker, and offers some serious fishing (10-pound pike and epic walleye), Main Street USA-style strolls, and family-friendly dining. Rent your pontoon or test your luck on water skis before journeying to , which is comprised of 1,100 acres of wooded land. Wash away your stress at  (head to the lively outdoor tiki bar), or enjoy a sit-down dinner at the , housed in a restored barn. When you're ready to swap paddling, swimming, and swilling for slumber, we're fans of the  for a unique lakeside experience that's close to the .

For more information, visit  .

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Vallecito Lake, Colorado

If you want a secluded vacation, good luck finding a spot to outshine this "little valley." Nestled in a beautiful and isolated mountain valley 8,000 feet above sea level, Vallecito Lake is the ancestral home to many of Colorado's Ute Indians. About 18 miles from Durango,  it's tough to narrow down what lake activity to start with. Our vote?  Stand-up paddle boarding on the gentle North shore, followed by a kayak session. Don't miss spending a day exploring the , with a quiet beauty unlike any you've ever seen. Book your stay at the inviting  and be sure to grab a bite at  with lake views that no camera could do justice.

For more information, visit .

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Missouri Division of Tourism
Branson, Missouri

Pick your pool: Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake, and Lake Taneycomo are all stellar options in this energetic town of around 10,000 people.  Amp up your boating, fishing, jet skiing and even scuba diving  or make the most of your time on land at  or at the new  with a ropes course, climbing walls, and zip lining. Keep riding the wave (literally) when you make a reservation at , which has a 10,000-square-foot "Splash-a-Torium." For dinner, you can find us at , where one order of onion rings is about five too few.

For more information, visit  .

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Blairsville, Georgia

The best of both worlds can be found here: sprawling mountains and three sparkling lakes. First, there's the 18-acre Lake Winfield Scott in Suches; the 4,180-acre Lake Nottely with an impressive 106 miles of shoreline, marinas, and public boat ramps; and the 20-acre lake and beach at . At Lake Nottely, embrace your inner sportsman and enjoy first-rate striper fishing and guided fishing excursions. Or, opt for a more low-key break and pitch a tent at on Lake Nottely. On the 4th of July, visitors can even enjoy an annual boat parade hosted by  (they also offer live music on the weekends). After a rela weekend of antiquing, kayaking, and waterfall viewing, it may be difficult to peel yourself away from . May we suggest a milkshake or malt at to lift your spirits?

For more information, visit

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White Lake, North Carolina

If you're deciding whether or not to take a family vacation in the Old North State, let this charming village, seven miles outside of Elizabethtown tip the scale.  For one thing, you'll love the spring-fed waters' white, sandy bottom. For another, you'll feel great about the fact that there are no currents or tides, making it great for kids. Whittle away your day jet skiing, wakeboarding, or swimming before experiencing laid-back evenings at . Any day that includes  is sure to be a memorable one, and be sure to tack on a trip to , because wine always goes well with chocolate strawberry cupcakes.

For more information, visit  .

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