The 30 Best Boating Lakes in the US

In a country that boasts more than one hundred thousand lakes, it can be difficult to decide at which of these beautiful places to launch your boat.

But like all things in this world, there are some places that are more beautiful than others, and the lakes of the United States are no exception.  

So check out this list of the thirty best boating lakes in the United States to make the most out of your next water-based activity. 

Table of Contents

1. Big Bear Lake

Nestled within the remote wilderness of the San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Southern California and one of the best boating lakes in the country. 

And since the lake is located at the foot of a mountain range, there is fun to be had here all year round, from fishing in the summer to skiing in the winter. 

But there is no denying that one of the most enjoyable things to do on Big Bear Lake is to spend an afternoon out on your boat. 

The lake boasts more than twenty miles of shoreline, and you’ll find six marinas scattered around it to make the most of your time on the water. 

Have your pick between paddleboards, pontoon boats, wakeboards, water skis, kayaks, and more at any of the various rental shops. 

Plus, when the temperatures get too hot, you can always go for a dip in the crystal-clear water to keep you feeling refreshed and ready to go. 

2. Lake Tahoe

If the crystal, turquoise water wasn’t enough to draw you to the shores of Lake Tahoe, then you should probably know that it is also one of the best boating lakes in the United States. 

You don’t have to take in these mesmerizing views from the shoreline as there are 191 square miles of exploration to be had on the water. 

There is a huge variety of marinas to rent a boat from, but just keep in mind that personal watercraft can cost upwards of one hundred dollars to launch. 

This is because Lake Tahoe is determined to stop an invasive species from ever tainting its pristine waters, and any personal watercraft must undergo an extreme inspection before being allowed to launch. 

But once you get out on the water, all the obstacles you faced to get there will feel completely worth it as you marvel at the lake’s serene beauty. 

In order to maintain the lake’s tranquil atmosphere for all visitors, it is important to follow no-wake rules near the shoreline, so everyone’s experience is a calm one. 

Take your time out on the water and remember to look down every once in and while to gaze in awe of the lake’s crystal-clear depth. 

3. Lake Lanier

When most people think of the peach-loving state of Georgia, they don’t think about Lake Lanier, but that’s probably because they didn’t know that Lake Lanier is one of the best boating lakes in the country. 

For starters, Lake Lanier is the largest lake in the state and boasts more than seven hundred miles of shoreline amongst its wide-stretching thirty-eight thousand acres. 

The water makes its way from the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains where it ultimately blesses Lake Lanier with the crystal-clear water you see today. 

And since the lake has such an impressive shoreline, you will find nearly fifty parks and ten campgrounds around its edges. 

These parks and campgrounds supply more than one hundred boat launches that are completely free of charge, but there are also plenty of marinas available for anyone looking for a rental. 

Although the entire lake is a thrill to boat on, you will notice that most of the crowds migrate to the south side, as it is closest to the city of Atlanta and boasts the widest portion of the lake. 

4. Lake Michigan

There is no denying that Lake Michigan is one of the best boating lakes in the country, and it should not be taken lightly considering its extreme similarities to the ocean. 

This lake is considered one of the Great Lakes for a reason, so prepare to be amazed by its impressive area of 22,404 square miles and wide-stretching shoreline that exceeds fifteen hundred miles.

But because of its grand size and the abundance of boaters who like to spend a day out on its waters, Lake Michigan is known for being one of the more difficult Great Lakes to boat on. 

Due to how intensely choppy the water can get, only those with larger watercraft can boat comfortably (and safely) on this lake.

Because of this, only experienced boaters should take on the challenge of Lake Michigan in order to ensure that their exciting adventure doesn’t become a dangerous one.

A great way to enjoy the views of Lake Michigan with calmer waters is to plan your boating trip during the off-season when fewer motorized boats are out and about. 

5. Flathead Lake

Known as being the largest of all the freshwater lakes on the western side of Mississippi, it is no wonder that Flathead Lake is one of the best boating lakes in the United States. 

The lake stretches out an extraordinary two hundred square miles to offer endless fun on the water and there is almost an equal number of picturesque shorelines to hang out on. 

Just keep in mind that the southern portion of the lake is home to the Salish and Kootenai people, so participating in recreation on this end of the lake requires a permit. 

But there are plenty of other places to launch your boat, with thirteen public access points to choose from each offering its own unique amenities and attractions. 

Not to mention the beautiful Wildhorse Island that sits at its center, where you can spend the day with a variety of tranquil wildlife.

6. Lake of the Ozarks

Considered one of the most uniquely shaped lakes in Missouri, you can spend weeks exploring the many wonders of Lake of the Ozarks via boat. 

The lake stretches out over fifty thousand acres and supplies its visitors with more than one thousand miles of shoreline to enjoy. 

But considering its impressive size, there are only three designated boat launches, which are located at Grand Glaize Beach, Pa He Tsi, and Public Beach #1. 

The cost to launch your boat at one of these ramps is as little as five dollars, and annual passes are available for people who want to make the most of their time here. 

Although, if you happen to be spending the night at one of the local campgrounds, you get to launch your boat free of charge from there. 

7. Lake Powell

Located within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, it may come as a surprise that Lake Powell is one of the best boating lakes in the country, given the fact that it is in the middle of the desert. 

This is partially because it is a manmade reservoir that maintains its impressive average of 252 square miles with the help of rainwater. 

But because certain seasons in Arizona are much drier than others, the depth of Lake Powell tends to fluctuate and thus the amount of space available for boating alters throughout the year.

During the wet season, you will find hundreds of boats out exploring the water, and you’ll even spot the occasional houseboat living out on the lake for the weekend. 

Have your pick between any of the five marinas to rent a boat from or launch your personal watercraft at any of the nine boat ramps scattered around the shoreline. 

Just remember to follow no-wake rules, as waves crashing up against the canyon walls can cause extreme chopping in certain areas. 

8. Lake Placid

Tucked away amongst New York’s iconic Adrindacks wilderness, Lake Placid is one of the most picturesque places for spending a day out on the water.  

The lake boasts more than two thousand miles of surface area and is home to two massive islands that add to its endless supply of shoreline.  

Much of the shoreline that encircles Lake Placid can only be reached by boat or a lengthy hike, so you will see plenty of boaters stopping along its edges to take in the remote beauty. 

Water flows into the lake from freshwater springs and comes trickling down from the famous Adirondack Mountains to create some of the clearest waters in the country. 

You can spend days out on the water taking in the beauty of the dense greenery and towering mountains at every turn. 

9. Lady Bird Lake

Part of a collection of reservoirs fed by the Colorado River, Lady Bird Lake is often mistaken for a river, but this hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the best boating lakes in the country. 

The lake boasts more than four hundred acres of waterfront recreation, so although there are some sections that are considered to be pretty narrow, there is plenty of fun to be had. 

But because lake access in Texas can get pretty limited, Lady Bird Lake is very specific about what type of motorized boats are allowed to launch on its water. 

This means that only boats with an electric motor have a chance of boating on these pristine waters and anything that is sporting more than five horsepower is strictly prohibited. 

Luckily enough, there are plenty of boat rentals located along the shoreline that offer exactly the perfect option to get you out on the water with ease. 

10. Lake Okeechobee

Nicknamed “Florida’s Inland Sea”, Lake Okeechobee stands at a whopping surface area of 730 square miles and offers some of the best boating opportunities in the United States. 

The lake is known for being the eighth largest freshwater lake in the country and of that, the second largest that is located completely within the states. 

And although its impressive size alone is enough to feel the urge to take out your boat, what really makes this lake special is the boat passageway that can take boaters all over the state. 

Because the lake is home to a thriving sugar cane business, waterways sprout out along its edges and create a system of boat trails that can take people on further adventures. 

But you will find most boaters migrating towards Clewiston because that is where all the action happens, like a bustling downtown area and an even more lively largemouth bass fishing scene. 

11. Lake Havasu

The shock continues as another one of the United States’ best boating lakes is located in the dry state of Arizona, but one visit to Lake Havasu will explain why. 

The lake stretches out nearly fifty miles and offers more than four hundred fifty miles of shoreline so you can make a quick getaway onto the water. 

If you are having doubts, you should probably know that Lake Havasu is located within a city referred to as the “Personal Watercraft Capital of the World”. 

It is here that you will find the iconic London Bridge, which was originally built in England before it was sold to the United States and placed over the lake in 1968. 

The Bridgewater Channel is the perfect place to take the whole family on a relaxing pontoon ride, where they can spend the day exploring nearby coves and taking cool dips. 

All around the lake, you will find plenty of scenic places to stop to take in the views, so feel free to take your time so you don’t miss places like the famous Topock Gorge. 

12. Lake Cumberland

Spread out over fifty thousand acres, who knew that the “Houseboat Capital of the World” was located right in the heart of Kentucky. 

Lake Cumberland prides itself on its calm waters, and the tranquil atmosphere is one of the many reasons people spend days at a time here out on the water. 

There are endless opportunities for exploration, as your boat takes you to peaceful coves surrounded by dense greenery and rugged cliffs that tower over you in all of their beauty.  

The shoreline stretches out to an impressive length that exceeds a thousand miles, so there are plenty of places to start your adventure. 

But the best way to fully appreciate boating on these beautiful waters is by spending the night and waking up to the unmatched beauty of a waterfront sunrise. 

13. Lake Superior

Known for being the largest of North America’s Great Lakes, Lake Superior offers some of the best opportunities for water-based recreation in all of the world. 

In fact, Lake Superior has the most wide-sweeping surface area out of any lake in the entire world, and its water makes up one tenth of the world’s freshwater as a whole. 

To be exact, Lake Superior is made up of nearly thirty-two thousand square miles and boasts a jaw-dropping shoreline of almost three thousand miles. 

About one thousand of these miles make up the lake’s many islands and allow visitors to enjoy shore trips exploring the remote wilderness that inhabits them. 

Just remember to keep a close eye on the weather, because facing a storm on Lake Superior is no joke and can lead to an extremely dangerous situation if not handled properly. 

14. Saratoga Lake

Although averaging in the smaller side of the United States’ best boating lakes, Saratoga Lake has plenty to offer to keep the whole family entertained while out on the water. 

The lake sits at the heart of Saratoga Springs, where you will find a bustling downtown scene filled with boutique shops, trendy restaurants, exciting bars, and so much more. 

This is part of the lake’s appeal, as there is always more fun to be had once you have made it back from a day out on the water. 

And since this is such a busy area, you will find no shortage of watercraft rental companies offering everything you may need from pontoon boats to paddleboards. 

15. Lake Travis

When it comes to water-based recreation, Lake Travis has earned the title as the number one location in the state of Texas band it also happens to be one of the best in the country. 

From one end to the other, Lake Travis stretches out an impressive 63.7 miles and it offers nearly three hundred miles of shoreline that make it easy to spend a day out on the water. 

There are nearly nineteen thousand acres of turquoise water to explore, so you can spend weeks out and about without ever seeing it all. 

This is part of the reason why the lake has been nicknamed the “Crown Jewel”, but this mostly revolves around the unique, blue water created by its limestone floor. 

Have your pick at any of the lake’s many marinas or feel free to launch your own personal watercraft at one of the waterfront parks to make the most of your experience. 

16. Lake Winnebago

Tucked away in the eastern part of Wisconsin, Lake Winnebago has earned itself the title as one of the best boating lakes in the country. 

It is the largest lake located completely within the state at a whopping 137,700 acres and boasts a shoreline that nearly reaches an impressive length of one hundred miles. 

There are various boat launches and beaches located all around the lake that offer quick access to the water for personalized and rented watercraft. 

As fun as it is to simply float along the peaceful waters, the best way to spend your time is to partake in the lake’s stellar fishing opportunities. 

It is here that you will find award-winning fish like Panfish, Largemouth Bass, Pike, Walleye, Sturgeon, and so much more. 

17. Norris Lake

With more than twenty marinas scattered around its edges, it should come as no surprise that Norris Lake is one of the best boating lakes in the United States. 

And marinas aren’t the only thing you will find in abundance here. With nearly thirty-five thousand acres of waterfront exploration to enjoy, there is always something to keep you busy. 

Take the lake’s three state parks, for instance, or its two unique wildlife management areas that let visitors mingle and appreciate the local species. 

The lake is also home to nearly fifteen different types of fish, so you will find fishermen out here at all hours of the day trying their hand at an award-winning catch. 

18. West Okoboji Lake

Known for being one of Iowa’s Great Lakes, West Okoboji Lake’s impressive size is one of the many reasons that it has become one of the best boating lakes in the US. 

West Okoboji Lake is the largest of this series of great lakes, with a wide-stretching surface area that spans out nearly four thousand acres. 

Considering its large size, it may come as a surprise that it only boasts a shoreline that barely reaches twenty miles. 

But the good news is that there are plenty of places to launch your boat along this shoreline, so it doesn’t take much effort to get out on the water. 

Other highlights of this lake include its three picturesque state parks and its abundance of fish species – nearly fifty different kinds. 

19. Lake George

Located at the foot of the Adirondacks, Lake George is not only one of the best lakes to boat on in New York, but in all of the United States.  

There is not a moment where you will see views that are anything short of spectacular as you make your way along the thirty-two miles that lead from Fort William Henry to Fort Ticonderoga. 

The lake winds its way through different towns, such as Lake George, Queensbury, and Bolton Landing, and each boasts its own variety of boat ramps to gain easy access to the water. 

All throughout the lake, you’ll notice a plentiful number of islands that are a mix of first-come-first-served campsites and popular day-use areas. 

20. Lake Wallenpaupack

Located along the northern edge of Pennsylvania, Lake Wallenpaupack is one of the largest bodies of water in the state and one of the best boating lakes in the country. 

The lake stretches out thirteen miles, offers more than fifty miles of untouched shoreline, and boasts nearly six thousand acres of waterfront exploration. 

There are six public areas nestled along the shoreline that provide boat ramps for getting out on the water and endless opportunities for on-foot adventures.  

Consider going for a hike through the remote wilderness in your downtime, but make sure to save room for dinner in Hawkeye where restaurants are in abundance. 

And just know that there are various local towns located near the water that offer plenty of watercraft rental options, from motorized boats to paddleboards, to make your trip worthwhile. 

21. Lake Winnipesaukee

Known as the largest lake in New Hampshire, you can’t go wrong with taking your boating adventures to the massive Lake Winnipesaukee. 

Everywhere you look, you are surrounded by towering mountains as Lake Winnipesaukee is located in the center of three separate mountain ranges. 

And if the mountains alone aren’t enough to pique your interest, you will be amazed by the crystal-clear waters and lush greenery that surrounds it. 

A fun activity that boaters enjoy is taking their boats from one small, waterfront village to another for a fun-filled day of taking in the attractions. 

With all of the beaches, parks, and marinas located around the lake, you will have no shortage of waterfront access.  

In fact, there are more than twenty different launches located around the lake, so you never have to worry about being too far away from the water. 

22. Lake Champlain 

Giving North America’s Great Lakes a run for their money, Lake Champlain stands at a shocking surface area that nearly reaches five hundred miles. 

This east coast gem is located on the cusp of New York and Vermont but also makes its way into Canada to finish off its impressive length of 107 miles. 

You can admire the green mountains that make up Vermont on one end and the towering beauty of the Adirondack Mountains on the other. 

And when you are not taking in some of the best views these states have to offer, you can be participating in a variety of other water-based activities like fishing, swimming, and exploring nearby islands. 

23. Beaver Lake

Many people know Beaver Lake solely because it was the result of the iconic Beaver Dam, but there is so much more that this extensive lake has to offer. 

Home to some of the best water-based recreation in Arkansas, Beaver Lake blesses its visitors with nearly thirty thousand acres of clear waters to explore. 

Aside from the fact that this lake has saved the state from various possible floods, it serves as a hub for recreational activities like boating, fishing, paddling, and much more. 

You will find more than ten state parks scattered around its shoreline, and among them lies nearly seven hundred campsites that let visitors spend the night by the water. 

24. Caddo Lake

Located on the border between Louisiana and Texas, Caddo Lake stretches out more than twenty-five thousand acres to offer guests endless water-based recreation. 

Part of what makes this lake so special is that there are giant cypress trees that grow from beneath its surface and allow boaters to navigate in what feels like a floating jungle. 

The best way to get quick access to the lake is through Caddo Lake State Park, but there are also two public boat ramps located in other areas. 

Plus, if you are renting a boat at one of the lake’s many marinas, you will gain immediate access to their private ramps for the smoothest lake experience possible. 

25. Crater Lake

Most people know Crater Lake as one of the country’s most iconic national parks, but what they don’t realize is that it is also one of the best boating lakes in the country. 

The lake can be slightly intimidating to explore as it reaches a shocking depth of more than two thousand feet, but this shouldn’t take away from its twenty-plus miles of shore length. 

As of right now, the only way to experience this lake by boat is by joining one of the national park service’s many boat tours. 

However, projects are in the works to open the lake’s first-ever public access ramp which will soon allow visitors to bring their own watercraft to explore the area. 

26. Lake Chelan

Stretching out more than fifty miles, you can have endless days of fun out on the water exploring Washington’s famous Lake Chelan. 

Lake Chelan may be narrow, but this is part of the appeal, as boaters are constantly immersed in the towering mountains that surround them. 

Make sure to pack all of your essentials for the day because once you head out on the water, you’ll have a hard time pulling yourself back to shore.  

But speaking of pulling, no trip to Lake Chelan would be complete without an afternoon of tubing, so don’t forget to ask your rental company for this thrill-seeking addition. 

Just remember to keep your eyes on the water, because the lake is known for having floating pieces of driftwood that can ultimately stop a prop in its tracks. 

27. Lake Kissimmee

Home to one of Florida’s most diverse collections of wildlife sightings, Lake Kissimmee has become a favorite boating location for more reasons than just its wide sweeping waters. 

There are more than fifty miles of water to explore, but most boaters have their eyes glued to the shoreline as they look out for animals like white-tailed deer, bobcats, and alligators. 

The sky is equally interesting with an abundance of bald eagles, ospreys, cranes, and vultures flying around at any given time. 

But this shouldn’t take away from the fact that the water has plenty in store as well like a world-renowned largemouth bass fishing scene. 

28. Lake Ontario 

Although about half of the lake resides in Canada, the portion of Lake Ontario that can be found in New York offers some stellar boating opportunities. 

In its entirety, Lake Ontario stretches out to create a whopping 7,340 square miles of surface area and boasts more than seven hundred miles of shoreline. 

But part of what makes Lake Ontario such a great boating destination is that it is often forgotten about and left in the shadows of the other Great Lakes. 

This means that you won’t see such a high number of tourists, which allows boaters to enjoy their time in peace and with much calmer waters. 

Plus, there are a plentiful amount of charming waterfront towns in New York that offer everything you could need to enjoy your time, from boat rentals to restaurants.

29. Lake Minnetonka

Made up of various smaller lakes, Lake Minnetonka is one of the largest lakes in the state of Minnesota and offers a plentiful number of water-based activities. 

The surface area of this lake spans out nearly fifteen thousand acres thanks to the help of the sixteen smaller lakes that make it what it is today. 

These interconnecting lakes create a wide-sweeping shoreline that stretches out more than one hundred miles and allows visitors to enjoy quick access to the water. 

There are over thirty channels to explore, so there is never a dull moment on the water. Plus, when you need a break, you can always drop an anchor and take in the beauty of the remote wilderness that surrounds you. 

30. Lake Coeur D’Alene

Tucked away along the northern edge of Idaho, Lake Coeur D’Alene has been blessing boaters who dare visit the rather remote state with extraordinary water-based fun. 

It is surprisingly only the second largest lake in the northern part of the state, with an impressive length of nearly thirty miles and an extensive shoreline reaching upwards of 130 miles. 

Aside from the endless beauty of the crystal-clear waters, you will also get to enjoy some of Idaho’s other wonders like towering mountains and dense forestry. 

Plus, there are plenty of state parks, beaches, recreation areas, campgrounds, and more scattered around its edges to make the most of your trip. 

Have your pick between any of the lake’s many watercraft rentals boasting options like pontoon boats, sailboats, and paddleboards, and feel free to utilize any of the lake’s 12+ boat launches.