Coastal beach towns get a lot of attention, understandably so. But the interior of the U.S. is dotted with hundreds of sparkling lakes, from Utah’s salty behemoth to New York’s eleven fingers. With thousands of miles of lakeshore to explore, there are quite a few wonderful lake towns prime for visitors. Grab your floaties and sunhat, these are the best U.S. lake towns to visit this year.
Ithaca, New York
Perched at the southern point of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca is a thriving college town and a perfect base camp for lakeside fun. Ithaca belongs to the Finger Lakes, a series of eleven elongated lakes in Upstate New York. Created by glaciers, these lakes are unique in that they run north to south, and appear as if a bear scratched a perfect series of jagged lines in the earth. Nearby vineyards are one of the biggest draws to this lush, agricultural area, and wine lovers can’t miss the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, which showcases 12 wineries. If wine doesn’t excite you, head over to Ithaca Beer Company for craft brews or Purity Ice Cream, rumored to be the original birthplace of the ice cream sundae. You can hike off your lakeside indulgences chasing one of 150 nearby waterfalls at both Buttermilk Falls State Park and Taughannock Falls State Park.
South Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful lakes in North America and the city of South Lake Tahoe is your headquarters for exploring it. Take to the outdoors on epic hikes, fishing, paddleboarding, or clear kayaks for an incredible way to see what lies below the crystal-clear water. As one of the deepest lakes in the U.S., second only to Oregon's Crater Lake, Tahoe is known for its indigo color, complimented by turquoise shallows and surrounded by the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains. After you’ve worked up a sweat on the lake, head to the Lake Tahoe Beer Trail to explore local breweries through your tastebuds. If you’re looking for the perfect spot to grab dinner with a view, Beach House Tahoe can’t be beat for stunning mountain scenery, all overlooking the lake of course.
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Tucked away just south of the Idaho Panhandle, Coeur d’Alene is a quiet town on the shimmering lake of the same name. Both a winter and summer paradise, visitors will adore this town of many seasonal hats, strolling its tree-lined boulevards in summer and ice skating at the lakefront rink in winter. If you’re looking for dining with views of Coeur d’Alene Lake itself, head straight for Cedars Floating Restaurant. Those who do decide to visit CDA in the winter will be delighted with nearby ski resorts like Schweitzer Mountain, a heated indoor waterpark, and festive holiday events like Santa’s visit to town.
Situated in the heart of Montana along Flathead Lake, Bigfork is perfectly sandwiched between Glacier National Park to the north and the town of Missoula to the south. This lake lover’s paradise tempts travelers with snow-capped peaks, a plethora of watersports, and First Peoples heritage. Grab your kayak or SUP and paddle out to one of the lake's 12 islands, the largest being Wild Horse where huge big-horned sheep and wild stallions reside. Circled by mountains, the lake's water temperature is exceptionally cold as it's fed by a combination of river and snow runoff. Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake by area west of the Mississippi River. Keep your eyes peeled for the mythical lake monster said to roam its depths while you’re kayaking or paddleboarding.
Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
Nicknamed “America’s Oldest Summer Resort,” Wolfeboro is a true American lake town in New Hampshire’s evergreen White Mountains. The town sits on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, affectionately referred to as Lake Winni. This area has long been the stomping grounds of the rich and famous and made even more well known in the movie What About Bob. The true allure of this New England laketown is its characteristically quaint feel. Go sailing along its calm waters, fish for salmon, or take a picnic to one of the idyllic beaches. Back in town, there are cute storefronts for window shopping and ice cream parlors, like the Yum Yum Shop, for delicious confections. Winter reveals another beautiful side of both Wolfeboro and Lake Winni with snowshoeing, ice fishing, and sled dog races.
Page is unique among lake towns thanks to its otherworldly red rock landscapes, and in that it technically sits on a large reservoir. Stretching from Arizona across southern Utah, Lake Powell might be manmade but it makes up for it with astonishing natural surroundings. Page is perfectly placed for exploring slot canyons, like the famous Antelope Canyon, and geologic formations like the Rainbow Bridge and Horseshoe Bend. Although Page is a great base for your lake activities, renting a houseboat is a truly memorable experience and affords visitors a unique way to see the hidden inlets and secret bays that Lake Powell is famous for. When you’re worn out from discovering all of the lake's incredible sights, delve deeper into the city’s rich Navajo roots through food and culture at Red Heritage Indigenous Entertainment Hall.
Munising is one of the Great Lakes' hidden gems. Set on a picturesque bay in Lake Superior, this town of just 2,000 sits on the doorstep of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Spend your days seeking out waterfalls or exploring the lighthouse-dotted coastline, retreating to a cozy, lakefront cabin in the evenings. Believe it or not, sunken shipwrecks lie just off Munising’s shore and can be discovered on a glass-bottom boat tour. Grand Island is also a ferry ride away and makes for a wonderful day trip for adventure-types in both summer and winter. The island’s sea caves in the warmer months turn to ice caves by January and make for a dazzling natural wonder that’s easy to explore. Celebrate your lake vacation with a craft brew from ByGeorge Brewing Co. back in town.