From coast to coast, and throughout the midwest, America is full of picturesque lakes and charming communities that surround them. Imagine spending day after day at the lake fishing, swimming, or simply cruising around in your powerboat. While the shimmering waters are a huge draw, these waterfront havens feature just as much to do on land as they do in the water. Whether you’re planning a getaway or looking for your next destination to call home, Boatline has compiled a list of 17 of the best lake towns in the U.S.
1. Bigfork, Montana
Bigfork, situated along Montana’s Flathead Lake, offers a mix of outdoor recreation and Rocky Mountain charm. This year-round resort village is home to whitewater rafting in the spring, boating in the summer, fly fishing in the fall, and ice fishing in the winter. In town, you’ll fall in love with the storybook scenery, local artisan community, and annual events such as the Bigfork Festival of the Arts.
2. Burlington, Vermont
Vermont’s most-populated city, Burlington, is known for its brick-paved pedestrian mall, outdoor cafes, and lively evening entertainment. However, Burlington’s waterfront calls for different experiences. Soak up the sun on one of Burlington’s lakeside beaches or let your sails guide you along Lake Champlain’s miles of shoreline. If you visit, be sure to ask about the resident Loch Ness Monster, along with the Revolutionary War remnants at the bottom of the lake.
3. Chelan, Washington
Chelan presents a quant Main Street charm on the southeast end of this Washington lake of the same name. The city’s annual population of approximately 4,000 people booms during the summer months when tourists and lake-house owners flock to the clear waters for boating and swimming. Get a bird’s-eye view of the Cascade Mountains on a parasail or raise a glass at one of the area’s 30-plus wineries.
4. Grand Lake, Colorado
Find wildlife and postcard-worthy scenery all around Grand Lake, Colorado. With proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park and Arapaho National Forest, the area is teeming with miles of lakes and rivers. The historic Grand Lake was formed 12,000 years ago by glaciers and is the largest, deepest natural lake in Colorado. When the weather is warm, you’ll find swimmers, anglers, and boaters alike exploring the lake.
5. Grand Marais, Minnesota
Tucked away between the Sawtooth Mountains and the north shore of Lake Superior, Grand Marais, Minnesota is an opportunity for exploration. Hike to rushing waterfalls and along rocky cliffs, or traverse the harbor-side shops, restaurants, and galleries in town. Lake Superior is home to world-class fishing and panoramic views that you can take in while canoeing or sailing.
6. Greensboro, Georgia
Founded in 1786, Greensboro, Georgia perfectly illustrates small-town charm. Historic downtown Greensboro is brimming with locally owned shops and restaurants, as well as exquisite antebellum homes. Greensboro is also known as “Lake Oconee’s Hometown.” Casually cruise around this 19,000-acre lake or reach high speeds on a personal watercraft. You can even pull your boat up to the famous 10-foot-tall Jumping Rock and make a splash.
7. Hot Springs, Arkansas
Take a dip into the warm waters of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Hot Springs is home to the smallest national park. The 5,550-acre Hot Springs National Park boasts 47 hot springs that flow from the mountain. The lakes surrounding the city of Hot Springs are also a hot spot for boating and water sports in the summer, along with year-round fishing excursions.
8. Lakeway, Texas
Lakeway is a laid-back destination located on the southern shores of Texas’ Lake Travis. While the city started as a community for retirees and second-home owners, Lakeway is now home to full-time residents of all ages that are drawn to the lake lifestyle. You’ll often find locals, as well as weekenders from nearby Austin and farther, taking in the panoramic views of Lake Travis from a pontoon or speedboat.
9. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Lake Geneva is a resort city south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Many of the city’s boutiques, attractions, and walking paths are complemented by 5,000 acres of crystal water. Pull your boat up to one of the lakeside restaurants for a meal with a view. You can also visit one of Lake Geneva’s four beaches or explore the lake, dotted with designer boathouses, luxury estates and beautiful gardens, by boat.
10. Lake George, New York
Nestled in New York’s Adirondack forests, Lake George boasts over 100 miles of shoreline and more than 40 state-owned islands to explore. While you’re here, go whitewater rafting down raging rapids, zoom around on a personal watercraft, or simply unwind on the deck of a sailboat. On land, Lake George offers plenty of family-friendly activities, including an amusement park, outlet shopping, historic sites, and even a pedal-powered railbike.
11. Lake Havasu City, Arizona
Known as “Arizona’s playground,” and one of our best spring break boating destinations, Lake Havasu City attracts over one million visitors every year. Whether you’re attending one of the hundreds of annual events or seeking a beach getaway, Lake Havasu has no shortage of activities. Launch your boat to explore the 60 miles of uninterrupted waterways. Or, charter a yacht to one of the secret lake coves and swim in the turquoise water.
12. Osage Beach, Missouri
Osage Beach is a quaint city located on the Lake of the Ozarks. The city itself is home to picturesque resorts and a local distillery, but the real fun is on the water. Lake of the Ozarks features more than 1,100 miles of shoreline, including public beaches. The lake is always buzzing with fishermen, boaters, and sunbathers, which is why it’s one of Missouri’s top destinations.
13. South Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
South Lake Tahoe is shared by both Nevada and California, and is the largest city around the lake. The Nevada side features dazzling casino resorts, while the California side is home to Heavenly Village which is filled with walkable restaurants, shops, and outdoor entertainment. What both areas share is access to clean, sandy beaches and the largest alpine lake in the country—a boater’s paradise.
14. Summersville, West Virginia
Summersville is the perfect lakeside hideaway, located in the West Virginia mountains. This modest city plays host to annual fairs and festivals, including the West Virginia Bass Federation fishing tournaments. The 2,800-acre Summersville Lake is a prime destination for fishing, boating, rock climbing, and even scuba diving to explore the intentional wreck. The lake was constructed for hydroelectric power generation, so its temperatures are relatively warm.
15. Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City is one of the towns located along Lake Michigan, showcasing a different side to the state. Sip a local vintage at one of the area’s wineries or take a stroll through the hills to view the beautiful cherry blossoms. You can hike the Sleeping Bear Dunes or make your way to one of the beaches for windsurfing, wakeboarding, or cruising around the lake.
16. Winter Haven, Florida
While Florida is known for its beaches, central Florida shouldn’t be overlooked for its waterside attractions. White Haven, home to LEGOLAND® Resort, was appointed the Chain of Lakes City. Grab a bite to eat at one of the lakeside restaurants then catch a show at the community theater. Winter Haven’s Lake Eloise is the water ski capital of the world, where you can learn or watch the Cypress Gardens Waterski Team.
17. Wolfeboro New Hampshire
The Town of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire was incorporated in 1770 and is distinguished as “The Oldest Summer Resort in America.”. Visitors travel from all over for the scenic beauty and small-town New England charm. Located on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, Wolfeboro is bursting with activity when the weather warms up. Join the other swimmers, boaters, and fishermen and establish your place on the glittering lake.
By visiting one of these scenic lake towns, you’ll quickly understand why so many people boast about “lake living.” Life’s simple pleasures are amplified when you have the backdrop of a stunning waterfront view.
If you’re searching for the perfect boat to dock at one of these destination lake towns, browse the nationwide inventory of new and used boats for sale on Boatline.com. Ready for an adventure on the water? Head to Boatline’s Summer Destinations Resource Page for even more boating locales across the country.