Nothing says breezy, summery perfection like hanging out lakeside soaking up the sun while finishing up one last chapter of your summer beach read (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.
The number one reason we're bee-lining to Lake Pend Oreille? Well, 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 Spuds Waterfront Grill. Festivals abound here, and a few of our favorites include the Festival at Sandpoint, the Long Bridge Swim (where hundreds of swimmers compete annually), and the 25th annual Fall Fest. If you're trying to figure out where to stay, the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch won't disappoint.
For more information, visit visitsandpoint.com.
Mountain junkies will love this Southern California jewel that's sure to get your adrenaline spiking. First, crank up the sweat mountain biking on trails of all levels. Then, cool off on the new Tarzan Boat, 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 Noon Lodged 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 The Big Bear Local for funky California-Hawaiian grub, The Black Kat for upscale dining, or the beloved staple that is the The Old German Deli.
For more information, visit bigbear.com.
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 (Rudy' Lakeside Drive-In will have you craving its Texas hots and fried scallops long after you leave town), and dreamy summer sunsets (see: Historic Fort Ontario). We'd recommend a kayaking tour with Oswego Expeditions, but if you're more of a landlubber, check out the 18th annual Oswego County Hospice Cup Regatta on June 17th. For July visitors, don't miss Harborfest, July 27-30, with free music, fireworks, and more. Shack up at Merriam Barrett Guest House, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Lake Ontario and the Oswego River.
For more information, visit oswegony.org.
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 Lakeway Resort and Spa, which also has three freshwater swimming pools if you need a break from Lake Travis' many water sports or sailing charters. Hungry? Ernie's on the Lake 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 parks.
For more information, visit laketravis.com.
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 Lake Opechee Inn and Spa 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 Gunstock Mountain, hopping aboard the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, or catching a concert at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion. No matter how your day shakes out, make a pit stop at Kellerhaus, a legendary chocolatier that's been around since 1906 (save your appetite: there's a weekend waffle breakfast too!).
For more information, visit visitnh.gov.
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 The Madison House. While in town, you're definitely going to want to spend time kayaking the largest freshwater lake in the state, and scoping out Lake Waccamaw State Park (park rangers regularly hold educational programs for visitors). When you've worked up a sufficient appetite, slurp up some swoonworthy oysters at Dale's Seafood on the shores of this glimmering natural wonder.
For more information, visit lakewaccamaw.com.
What's better than one lake? Three. Enjoy 53,000-acre Table Rock Lake, spring-fed Lake Leatherwood (hiking and mountain bikers, this one's for you!), and fishing gem Beaver Lake while visiting this charming town in the Natural State. Check into The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa , a historic mountaintop property (heads up, it may be haunted!) or if you're craving a lakeside retreat, call your temporary home the Beaver Lakefront Cabins. Don't miss a visit to the Thorncrown Chapel, a celebrated wooden structure containing 6,000 square feet of glass, which we hear pairs really well with pecan pie with shortbread crust from Local Flavor Cafe.
For more information, visit eurekasprings.org.
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 Alpine Trail , 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 Salmon Creek Campground and wake up to the gentle sound of waterfalls and the smell of the area's fresh hazelnuts.
For more information, visit eugenecascadescoast.org.
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 Langiappe Antiques Market, a 17,000 square-foot hub for art and other treasures. Bring your loot back to the spacious Bayou Cabins, 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 Zydeco breakfasts on the weekend.
For more information, visit breauxbridgela.net.
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 Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars or Keuka Brewing Company. Speed demons will rejoice in a trip to the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, to geek out on motorcycles and planes. Properly worn out, retreat to The Black Sheep Inn and Spa where you can schedule a special art therapy class in F.L.A.V.O.R. Studio, on the inn's premises. The following day, try not to sleep in too late, Crooked Lake Ice Cream Parlor opens at 7:30 a.m.
For more information, visit fingerlakestravelny.com.
Stunning is an understatement at this stunning region in southeastern Wisconsin that's only two hours from Chicago. The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa makes a welcome destination for a BFF getaway (check out the award-winning WELL Spa + Salon). Or, rally up the fam for a weekend of laid-back camping at Big Foot Beach State Park. 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 Rock the Lake Festival, July 15th). Sweet tooth? Check out Egg Harbor Cafe and grab a cinnamon roll.
For more information, visit visitlakegeneva.com.
If Lake Chelan isn't on your radar, you're missing out. Unpack at Wapato Point Resort (the Wapato Family has owned the lakeside property for over 100 years), before deciding on your itinerary, which could include hiking, whitewater rafting with River Recreation, a trip to the Tandem Winery Skydive, or power boating back at the resort. When you need a jolt of caffeine, there's Lake Chelan Coffee Company, or head to A Shot of Gratitude where locals congregate on the patio sipping loaded Bloody Marys and digging into the scrumptious mac and cheese.
For more information, visit lakechelan.com.
Seafarers will love this beautiful town that serves as gateway to the Lake of the Ozarks. We're partial to planting ourselves at Coconuts Caribbean Beach Bar & Grill 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 Royal Theatre. When you're ready to hit the hay, count on Hilty Inn Bed and Breakfast, which will feel especially indulgent after touring Jacob's Cave, a massive and fascinating underground tourist attraction.
For more information, visit visitversailles.org.
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 free concert 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 Inner Space Caverns and the Blue Hole swimming lagoon. And if your energy levels are depleted, there's El Monumento which offers stellar street corn, tacos, and queso panela frito that you won't want to share. Looking for a place to stay? Sweet Lemon Inn's name sold us, but Sweet Lemon Kitchen's flaky, croissant sandwiches will have us coming back for years to come.
For more information, visit visit.georgetown.org.
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 Frisco Rowing Club 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 Heaton Bay Campground if you crave fresh air 24/7, or opt for the down-home Frisco Lodge, which has its roots in the 19th century. Before you depart the Centennial State, have a meal at Vinny's, where you'll be wishing you could cook up their organic eggplant tower at home every night of the week.
For more information, visit townoffrisco.com.
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 Bye's Popcorn, a family-owned roadside popcorn stand. The whole fam will swoon for Olcott Beach Carousel Park, 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 Old Olcott Beach Fire Station Guestrooms & Suites, within walking distance of Krull Park, Olcott Beach, and the Olcott Beach Carousel Park. Another favorite? Golden Hill State Park and the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse, where you can hit the hay in the lighthouse's guest suite.
For more information, visit niagarafallsusa.com.
After gathering picnic necessities at Bellaire Smokehouse, 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 The Inn at Torch Lake in nearby Alden. After a solid night's rest, fill up on moooncakes with wild cherry sauce or biscuits and gravy at Torch Lake Cafe.
For more information, visit bellairechamber.com.
Lake Greenwood in Lake Greenwood State Park, 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 total eclipse here for the 2 minutes and 28 seconds everyone's been buzzing about for months. Kick up your feet at the Inn on the Square between grub sessions at Good Times Brewing at The Mill House and the Cheeseburger House. Got a hankering for a good old fashioned festival? Consider the SC Festival of Stars, Thursday, June 29th through Saturday, July 1st.
For more information, visit visitgreenwoodsc.com.
Perched on scene-stealing Lake Champlain, this lake has an impressive history of battles, which you can learn about at The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. As the sun sets, relax at Basin Harbor Resort & Boat Club. 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 Vergennes Laundry where you'll definitely want to save room for indulgences like gingersnaps and pâtes de fruits.
For more information, visit vergennesdowntown.org.
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 National Landmark Katahdin cruise tours. New to fishing? Use First Light Guide Service to hone your skills in seemingly endless miles of streams stacked with salmon and trout. Soak up 4th of July fireworks aboard a 1914 steamboat or plan your trip around the June 24th Moosehead Area Artisans Art Show or Roaring '20s Themed Katahdin Cruise on August 11th. Why let your hunger take you away from crystal-clear lake views? Head on over to Kelly's Landing for a lobster roll. Kelly's also provides lakefront lodging, but there's also the gorgeous Blair Hill Inn.
For more information, visit mooseheadlakeedc.com.
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 Graham's Island State Park, which is comprised of 1,100 acres of wooded land. Wash away your stress at Proz End of the Line Sports Bar & Grille (head to the lively outdoor tiki bar), or enjoy a sit-down dinner at the Ranch Steakhouse, housed in a restored barn. When you're ready to swap paddling, swimming, and swilling for slumber, we're fans of the Totten Trail Historic Inn for a unique lakeside experience that's close to the Lake Region Pioneer Daughters Museum.
For more information, visit ndtourism.com.
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 San Juan National Forest, with a quiet beauty unlike any you've ever seen. Book your stay at the inviting Elk Point Lodge and be sure to grab a bite at Pura Vida Cafe with lake views that no camera could do justice.
For more information, visit vallecitolakechamber.com.
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 lakeside bliss boating, fishing, jet skiing and even scuba diving or make the most of your time on land at The Titanic Museum or at the new Fritz's Adventure with a ropes course, climbing walls, and zip lining. Keep riding the wave (literally) when you make a reservation at Welk Resorts Branson, which has a 10,000-square-foot "Splash-a-Torium." For dinner, you can find us at Danna's BBQ and Burgers, where one order of onion rings is about five too few.
For more information, visit explorebranson.com.
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 Vogel State Park. 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 Poteete Creek Campground on Lake Nottely. On the 4th of July, visitors can even enjoy an annual boat parade hosted by Nottely Marina (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 Your Home in the Woods Bed and Breakfast. May we suggest a milkshake or malt at Sensational Shakes to lift your spirits?
For more information, visit visitblairsvillega.com.
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 The Elizabethtown Inn. Any day that includes Lu Mil Vineyard is sure to be a memorable one, and be sure to tack on a trip to Burney's Sweets & More, because wine always goes well with chocolate strawberry cupcakes.
For more information, visit elizabethtownwhitelake.com.