What to Look For In Campgrounds Near Lakes

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July 20, 2023

RVing lakeside — it’s hard to beat. Depending on the location, you get the best of both worlds, enjoying the comforts of your RV while in close proximity to waterfront entertainment like beaches, swimming, and boating. And, during summers as hot as these, escaping to the water for a swim makes the heat more manageable. But not all campgrounds near lakes offer the same experience, and it’s an important consideration before booking just any lakeside campground. 

Let’s explore how to find lakeside campgrounds, what to look for in a great campground by the lake, and what to bring to complete the experience.

What are lakeside campgrounds?

Proximity matters, especially when choosing a lakeside campground. While looking for a campground near a lake, make sure you research how far you actually are from the water. If you imagine a beach within walking distance, verify before booking. 

For those with a boat who plan to launch onto the water, this is less of a concern. You’re driving already. But if you want to hike or walk to the waterfront, some campgrounds listed as “lakeside” may be a mile or more from your campground, and that might be a dealbreaker, depending on your aims. 

Secondly, consider access. Not all public freshwater lakes will have public access, and not all lakeside campgrounds will have direct access to the lake either. Private residences or businesses may control the waterfront. 

Seek out campgrounds that include some lakeside terrain within campground limits or that promote their own beach. Otherwise, search for the nearest public access. If all else fails, it’s worth calling the campground to investigate further. Locals will always have a better take on access, availability, and recommendations. 

If you don’t plan to swim or hit the beach, you may still find value in lakeside campgrounds that offer excellent views.

What to look for in campgrounds near lakes

Whether you own a boat or not will determine much of what you look for in a lakeside campground. (It also depends on what type of boat — sailboat vs speedboat, for example). 

For boaters, make sure that the lake is an adequate size for boating. Also, ensure there is an accessible launch ramp — just as you would check anywhere else. Finding a campground near a boat ramp will save you time. 

The campground in the state you are visiting may have different regulations for boaters, so be sure to research and adhere to local regulations. Beyond this, you will experience different boating rules lake to lake. Some prohibit certain engines, boat types, noise levels, and more. If you plan to boat, know beforehand what regulations exist. In rare conditions, boaters are required to have a license. 

For those that kayak or canoe, look for a lakeside campground with a lake that is restrictive to boat and engine types. Otherwise, the effort of loading and strapping down your paddle boats will be for naught. Even better, seek out “no motor” lakes, meaning you’ll have the water to yourselves and other kayakers and canoers. 

If you aren’t boating, identify a public swimming area or beach before booking a campsite. Otherwise, you might be out of luck, limited to less-than-ideal lookouts and no swimming opportunities. In fact, some campgrounds prohibit wading or swimming. Know what your campground allows before booking. 

If the campground does have a beach or public swimming area, determine your comfort zone when it comes to capacity. Many lakeside campgrounds with public swimming access areas get especially crowded during peak season. Call ahead if this is a worry to inquire what their busiest months look like on the water.

How to find lake campgrounds near me


Now that you have tools to evaluate campgrounds near lakes, let’s explore how to locate all the options available for lakeside camping.

For Good Sam Members, you’ll ideally find a Good Sam campground where you can make use of the 10% booking discount. Plus, the Good Sam comprehensive online directory makes finding a lakeside, riverside, or boat-friendly campground easy!

You can manually search through all results for campgrounds in the zip code or city/state where you’re camping, or you can make use of the “Boating Fun” category, which will provide a list of all campgrounds with marinas, boat access, or near lakes or rivers.

Once you narrow down your location, you can browse campgrounds and learn more about what each offers in regard to boating, swimming, or general water recreation.

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