While the Pacific Northwest is revered for its dreamy and inspiring coastlines, there’s something to be said about summer trips and spending time on the lake in the Northeast. Nothing beats the summer heat quite like a cool, refreshing swim in a freshwater lake. And the east coast is a prime spot for a lake vacation.
Lake Keowee, South Carolina: With 18,500 acres of water and a 300-mile shoreline, the Lake Keowee area is popular for fishing, waterskiing, kayaking, swimming, camping and picnicking. Framed by the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, the isolated lake is wondrously pristine and known for its mountainous surroundings. Public access is available through a variety of public boat ramps and state parks. Rent a boat toward the south portion of the lake at family owned Lake Keowee Boat Rentals. The deep waters make it a dream destination for fisherman. Nearby, Seneca has grown into a pedestrian-friendly city with boutique shops, restaurants and festivals. It’s teeming with an awesome mix of history and fun. And what’s the best part of the end of summer in The Palmetto State? The start of fall! This 90-minute drive (each way) starts at South Cove County Park and ends at Oscar Wigington Overlook.
Stay: Clemson RV Park at the Grove
Lake George, New York: Considered by many to be the most beautiful lake in the U.S., this 32-mile long lake offers a plethora of ways to enjoy it. Whether it’s a dinner sightseeing cruise, whitewater rafting the Hudson or exploring the biggest marble cave in the east, there are many ways to explore the beauty of Lake George. If you plan on taking your boat, start with their handy boating guide. And who doesn’t love rafting and tubing down a river on a lazy summer day? Guided river tubing is also a great way for a group of family or friends to spend a summer afternoon. Got the need for speed? Lake George is a great place to try water skiing or wakeboarding from certified instructors.
Lake George is currently operating with an increased emphasis on the safety and well-being of guests, employees and the community. As of the date of this article, restaurants and bars are limited to 50% of their indoor capacities, and many have chosen to offer takeout and/or outdoor dining only. Beaches throughout the Lake George region, Adirondacks and Capital District are currently operating at 50% reduced capacity. You should always have your mask available in case you are not able to social distance and/or the business requires it. Contact campgrounds directly to inquire about their status and restrictions before arriving.
If you’re currently planning a future trip, fall is one of the most beautiful seasons on Lake George. The leaves begin to turn in the Adirondack Park in late September, displaying spectacular views throughout Lake George. Typically, peak foliage in the area begins during the first week of October. A slow, scenic drive through old Adirondack towns is a perfect way to spend a day.
Pro tip: A wonderful way to see the fall foliage without driving is by taking a foliage cruise on a pontoon boat.
Stay: Ledgeview RV Park
Lake Winnipesaukee, Meredith, New Hampshire: This 186-square-kilometer majestic lake sits at the foot of the White Mountains. Take a dinner cruise and see why this lake is called the most scenic in New England. The M/S Mount Washington provides a scenic narrated 2.5-hour tour of the lake, which includes a reserved table. Or, come aboard for a sunset dinner cruise on the Winnipesaukee Flagship and enjoy the executive chef’s signature entrees, ambient music and leisurely tour of the lake.
Over 40 communities surround the lake. Among the highlights are the boardwalk and waterslide at Weirs Beach and the galleries and boutiques in the restored mill village of Meredith. Weirs Beach is Lake Winnipesaukee’s most popular beach and home base to a lot of family attractions. The boardwalk begins on Lakeside Avenue and runs the full 1300-foot-long length of the beach, offering gorgeous views of the lake and mountains at every step. Stop and take a dip or relax on the sand at several points from the boardwalk. At the boardwalk’s start is the first way down, where stairs lead down to the middle of the beach.
When you’re ready to venture off the sand, visit one of the pleasant towns nearby. Nestled along Lake Winnipesaukee’s northwestern shore and home to several smaller pristine lakes lies the charming town of Meredith. Truly a place for walking, boating, shopping and dining, Meredith offers classic New Hampshire lake appeal. Shopping begins across the street from the lake at the Mills Falls Marketplace, with its own shopping, lodging and dining character.
In the fall you can experience the colorful mountain sides from Castle in the Clouds. Take a leisurely walk along cascading waterfalls, ending at Falls of Song. This 40-foot plunge waterfall is just a short .1 mile hike from the auto road. Or opt for a more experienced hike to take in inspiring views of the Ossipee Mountains.
Stay: The Bluffs RV Resort
Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia: This popular local lakeside retreat is synonymous with sunshine, scenery and s’mores. Called the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” SML – as the locals call it – is the second largest body of freshwater in Virginia. Located in central Virginia, along the Blue Ridge Mountains, Smith Mountain Lake attracts vacationers from all over the world to fish and play in the water along the 500 miles of shoreline. Bridgewater Marina offers everything you’ll need for a water-loving vacation. Anglers can expect to catch largemouth bass, striped bass, crappie, rock bass, redbreast sunfish or bluegills. Enjoy events like the Antique & Classic Boat Festival in September or the SML Wine Festival.
Explore mountains of possibility at nearby Roanoke, America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital, where you can wear dirt as a badge of honor. Smith Mountain Lake State Park has a number of trails to enjoy the pine forests and dramatic overlooks. Closer to Huddleston, take an easy, beautiful walk at Turtle Island Trail, where you can savor over a mile of lakeside scenery and traversing a small secluded island.
Stay: Leesville Lake Campground
Moosehead Lake, Maine: Discover the unspoiled wilderness, solitude and tranquility of the largest lake in Maine. Spreading its blue expanses for miles across the mountainous highlands of northern Maine, the 74,890 acres of Moosehead Lake isn’t going to explore themselves! The largest lake east of the Mississippi offers its best boating from Memorial Day through early September.
Whether you are an angler, hiker, birder, swimmer, kayaker or boater, there are numerous ways to experience the lake. Hop on Steamship Katahdin, seaplane or boat for a lakeside adventure. Located right in the center of town, the Kate sails June through October and is one of the major highlights of the Region. Moosehead Lake is covered with coves, inlets, points of land, islands and deep shorelines. The lake is known for landlocked salmon and brook trout. And scores of smaller lakes and ponds await you. Check out Wilson Ponds, Prong Pond, First Roach Pond, Brassua Lake or Indian Pond.
Land lovers can take advantage of The Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit, which challenges hikers to summit six of the region’s most popular mountains. And the 100 Mile Wilderness is the northernmost section of the 2,179-mile-long Appalachian Trail which runs from Monson to Abol bridge at Mt. Katahdin’s base in Maine. It’s considered by many to be the most remote and inaccessible section of the entire Appalachian Trail. West of Moosehead Lake, you’ll discover a beautiful slate gorge with waterfalls and towering rock walls at Gulf Hagas. Nicknamed “the Grand Canyon of Maine,” the 3-mile long gorge on the Pleasant River features a network of trails, waterfalls and incredible rock formations.
Golfers can enjoy lake and mountain views at nearly every angle at a couple of the oldest golf courses in New England. Mount Kineo Golf Course is a 9-hole course built in the 1880’s and Squaw Mountain Village Golf Course offers terrific views and challenging play for golfers of all levels.
In the wintertime, explore the snow-covered mountains of Maine on snowshoe. Walk across it in the dead of winter, when this gigantic lake freezes thick enough to let snowmobiles traverse its surface.
Residents of New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey can travel to Maine without restrictions.
Stay: Katahdin Shadows Campground & Cabins
Deep Creek Lake, Maryland: Carved in the serene mountains of western Maryland, Deep Creek Lake is a true all-seasons destination. Visit for the white-water rapids, bass fishing, water skiing, snowboarding or ice-fishing. Take the family out on a patio boat for 360-degree lake views. With 3,900 acres of cool, clean water, there are plenty of marinas in the area that offer boat rentals. Because Deep Creek is the largest freshwater lake in Maryland, it’s perfect for kayaking. If you’d rather explore on two wheels, check out popular mountain biking spots like Fork Run Recreation Area or Garrett State Forest. Satisfy your appetite at Moon Shadow Café for a local pairing of farm fresh produce and goat cheese. At the Beach at Deep Creek Lake, you can paddle board, swim and kayak. At Youghiogheny River, you can enjoy class three and four rapids, year-round – thanks to dam releases. In the winter, Deep Creek Lake doesn’t shut down. Enjoy ice-fishing once the lake freezes over.
Stay: Sand Springs Campground
BONUS – okay, so I know this isn’t the Northeast, but why not give the Midwest some love?
Minocqua, Wisconsin: If you’re seeking a peaceful summer escape, look no further. For water enthusiasts, the greater Minocqua area is a water sports heaven. Located in the middle of Northern Wisconsin’s Lake Country, where the outdoor watersport adventures are endless. You’ll find world-class fishing, leisure boating, water skiing and more. Go full throttle and try catching some air wake surfing. And with 2,300 bodies of fresh water, it’s sure to satisfy all angler levels in the Minocqua area’s lakes, rivers and streams. Most support a variety of fish, such as Northern Pike, Muskellunge, Large and Smallmouth Bass, Trout and Walleye. Wisconsin has enough rivers and lakes to keep you adventure-fed for countless summers. Kickapoo River is a beginner-friendly water route, where the current is steady and the towering sandstone bluffs along the banks make for beautiful memories.
A total of 6 lakes and approximately 15 miles of waterfront make up what is called the “Minocqua Chain”. The town of Minocqua is nearly entirely surrounded by blissful 1,339-acre Minocqua Lake. Motor under the old train bridge and dock near Torpy park. Or, check out the Min-Aqua Bats ski show, where you’ll find a handful of restaurants where you can dock and whet your appetite for some Midwest comestibles.
Stay: Chain O’ Lakes Campground