Table of Contents
- Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
- Greensboro, Georgia
- Bayview, Idaho
- Aurora, New York
- Bigfork, Montana
- Clermont, Florida
- South Lake Tahoe, California
- Lakeway, Texas
- Charlevoix, Michigan
- White Lake, North Carolina
- Rangeley, Maine
- Osage Beach, Missouri
- Chelan, Washington
- Vergennes, Vermont
- Big Bear Lake, California
When it comes to relaxing vacations, there are few things more enjoyable than a quintessentially American lake vacation. The United States is filled with picturesque lakes, from the northeastern shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire to the southern California shores of Big Bear Lake. But what sets apart the best lake towns in America are their bustling town centers and lively culture. These lakeside communities not only offer stunning waterfront views but also exciting restaurants, hotels, shopping, and plenty of non-water-based activities.
If you’re looking to book a week-long rental or a charming inn for your next lake vacation, consider these 15 best lake towns in America.
Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
On the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, Wolfeboro is quickly becoming the best lake town in the Northeast. Just a two-hour drive from Boston and a little over six hours from New York City, Wolfeboro offers an expansive 72 square miles of water to explore. The town center of Wolfeboro is positioned directly on Lake Winnipesaukee, providing easy access to the water. Visitors can enjoy sunset swims at Brewster Beach, indulge in ice cream cones at Wolfeboro Dockside Grille & Dairy Bar, and sample local beers at Lone Wolfe Brewing Company. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a boat tour aboard the M/S Mount Washington, a historic cruise ship that has been sailing the lake for over 150 years. For a charming lakeside stay, check out Pickering House Inn.
Situated on the 19,000-acre Lake Oconee, Greensboro is a charming lake destination in the South. Located about 75 miles outside of Atlanta, Greensboro is known for its posh golf community, with six courses within Reynolds Lake Oconee. Whether you choose to rent a property or stay at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, you’ll be treated to waterfront views and five-star accommodations.
Bayview, Idaho, is a unique floating village located on the southern shores of Lake Pend Oreille. With the Coeur d’Alene Mountains on the other side of the water, visitors to Bayview can enjoy both land and sea activities. From hiking trails and wildlife spotting opportunities to boating and swimming along 42 miles of shoreline, there is something for everyone in this picturesque lake town. Consider renting a cabin with a private dock and boat at MacDonald’s Resort for the ultimate Bayview experience.
Aurora, New York
Aurora sits on Cayuga Lake, one of the largest lakes in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Known for its stunning wine trail, Aurora offers both waterfront attractions and inland charms. Explore the local wineries or take a day trip to Seneca Lake for a different perspective. In addition to gorgeous sunsets on Cayuga Lake, Aurora offers a vibrant culinary scene, with incredible food and wine options. Don’t miss the chance to stay at Inns of Aurora, a collection of five beautifully curated inns for a luxurious lakeside escape.
Located along the shoreline of Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, Bigfork, Montana, exudes old Western resort town energy. With its growing arts scene, impressive galleries, notable theater presence, and annual Festival of the Arts, Bigfork offers more than just water activities. Explore the great hiking trails that offer unique views of the lake or book a cabin at the all-inclusive Flathead Lake Lodge for a memorable dude ranch experience.
Clermont is a historic village nestled on the shores of Lake Minneola in the Clermont chain of lakes in Florida. Located about half an hour from Orlando, Clermont is not only a gateway to the surrounding lakes but also a charming town in its own right. Enjoy small-town charms, such as the Downtown Clermont Farmers Market and the shopping along Montrose Street in Clermont’s Historic Village. Don’t forget to explore Lake Louisa, the largest of the Clermont chain of lakes. For a lakeside vacation, consider staying at Clermont’s waterfront resorts or renting a lakefront property.
South Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular year-round destinations in California. With its stunning scenery and perfect weather, Lake Tahoe is equally enticing in the summer as it is during ski season. Visitors can rent a boat, hike the scenic Rubicon Trail, dine al fresco at Boathouse on the Pier, and watch breathtaking sunsets with a bottle of wine. Stay in a lakefront house or enjoy the amenities of Edgewood Tahoe, the only resort right on the water with gorgeous architecture, a golf course, and a stunning pool overlooking the lake.
Located near the southern shores of Lake Travis, Lakeway is a lakeside suburb on the outskirts of Austin. Its light turquoise waters attract vacationers from all over the country. Just a 45-minute drive from Austin, Lakeway offers a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere while still providing access to great barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine. Consider staying at Lakeway Resort & Spa, a lakeside hotel that offers not only stunning views but also a spa and exceptional dining options.
Charlevoix is the perfect getaway to Lake Michigan. With its six miles of shoreline at Fisherman’s Island State Park and Beach, it’s a beach-goers paradise. Besides the beautiful beaches, Charlevoix is also home to Lavender Hill Farm, which boasts idyllic fields of 30 lavender varieties, and Castle Farms, an actual stone castle in northern Michigan. Choose from a variety of charming accommodations, such as the modern Hotel Earl or the waterfront Edgewater Inn & Suites.
White Lake, North Carolina
White Lake is a 1,200-acre body of water in North Carolina that attracts 200,000 tourists each summer. Known for its variety of water sports, visitors can swim, boat, tube, jet ski, wakeboard, and more. The town of White Lake also offers a water park and a picturesque 18-hole golf course in nearby Elizabethtown. Whether you choose to spend the entire summer or just visit during the annual White Lake Water Festival held in May, White Lake is the perfect destination for a lakeside vacation.
Maine is home to thousands of lakes and ponds, making it a prime destination for lake vacations. Rangeley Lake, located in the northwest corner of the state, is known for its terrific fishing, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking opportunities. With 869 acres of mountainous terrain, Rangeley Lake State Park is also a great hiking destination. While Rangeley itself is a small town, visitors can find fabulous cabins in the area and enjoy browsing through shops like the lovely bookstore Books, Lines, and Thinkers. Don’t miss dining at Parkside & Main for a taste of local cuisine.
Osage Beach, Missouri
If you’re looking for the perfect vacation town on Lake of the Ozarks, Osage Beach is the place to go. Known for its inviting shorefront, Osage Beach offers a beach vacation experience perfect for families. While the town itself has a population of only about 5,000 residents, visitors can enjoy a variety of restaurants, bars, and parks. Consider staying at the family-friendly Margaritaville Lake Resort for a memorable vacation in Osage Beach.
Nestled on the southeast shore of Lake Chelan, Chelan is a resort town that offers both water activities and mainland charms. Surrounded by the Cascade Mountains, visitors can explore boutique shops, locally-owned restaurants, and enjoy hiking and mountain biking trails. Take advantage of the clear blue water of Lake Chelan for water sports and enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Vergennes, Vermont’s first and smallest city, offers a unique lakeside experience on Lake Champlain. With its old-world New England feel, Vergennes is a charming city located a short drive from Burlington and Middlebury. Explore the well-preserved downtown area and enjoy the historic charm of this city. For a lakeside stay, check out Basin Harbor, a resort on Lake Champlain that has been welcoming guests for over a century.
Big Bear Lake, California
Big Bear Lake is a year-round destination in Southern California. Known for its skiing in the winter and its beautiful lake in the summer, Big Bear offers a range of activities for visitors. Rent a house on the water and spend your days fishing, hiking, swimming, and mountain biking. Explore the village of Big Bear, where you’ll find a variety of restaurants and shops. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy brunch at Teddy Bear Restaurant or sample microbrews at Big Bear Lake Brewing Company.
Whether you’re looking for a summer rental or a fall getaway, these historical towns with beaches, lakes, and rivers offer the perfect mix of waterfront beauty and lively culture. From charming inns to waterfront resorts, there are accommodations to suit every traveler’s taste. So plan your next lake vacation and enjoy all that these picturesque towns have to offer.