The 30 Best Lakes to Live on in the United States

Whether you are considering a place to retire or are just looking for a change of scenery, a lakeside home is the perfect place to find relaxation and recreation on and around the water.

Thankfully, there are many picture-perfect lakeside communities in the United States to explore and choose from.

Whether you are looking to just lounge by the water or to explore the lake with a boat, there is a wonderful lake out there that is ideal for you and your family.

When considering lakeside communities, it’s best to consider your family’s expectations and desired activities.

Every lakeside community is a little different and vacationing at a few well-chosen spots will help you decide where you would like to live.

Be sure to consider the weather at different times of the year and how it will affect your decision to relocate there.

Whether you are looking for nature activities, water sports, or fishing opportunities, there is the perfect lake for you.

While many lake towns are small communities, most have many dining and shopping opportunities. Read on to discover 30 of the best lakes in the US to live on.

1. Hot Springs, AR

Known for its thermal spring waters, Hot Springs, AR is a popular place to visit and live. The area was included as part of the first federation reservation in 1832.

One popular spot to visit is the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, which stands 1,256 ft above sea level. From the observation deck, visitors are able to look over the Ouachita Mountains and Hot Springs National Park.

Lake Hamilton, located in the national park, is a popular spot for water sports. Many residents and visitors enjoy water tubing, water skiing, fishing, and boating.

When you are looking for something else to do, consider visiting the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort where you can play casino games and participate in American thoroughbred horseracing.

When the day is done, stop by one of the many tantalizing restaurants in the area like 501 Prime. This all-star restaurant offers prime beef and fresh seafood, including an oyster bar, with stellar wines, bourbons, and whiskeys.

If you’re not in the mood for steak, there is a broad variety of restaurants and cafes in this area to choose from.

2. Coeur d’Alene, ID

A charming lakeside town, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, features a lake of the same name. The lake is 25 miles long and ranges from 1–3 miles in width.

You’ll be able to enjoy over 109 miles of beautiful shoreline in this area. Besides fishing and watersports, many residents enjoy spending time watching the bald eagles that feed in the area.

The Coeur d’Alene Resort is well known as one of the best hotels the state has to offer, so you’ll have a great place to recommend to out-of-town relatives who want to come and visit and take advantage of the wonderful nature in this area.

3. Saugatuck, MI

This town is perfect for art lovers. Located on Michigan’s “art coast”, the area boasts many art fairs, galleries, and a commitment to art education.

Rated by Conde Nast’s Traveler Magazine as one of the best 25 shorelines in the world, Oval Beach is the perfect place to relax and sunbathe.

This beach town is perfect for those who enjoy time in and around the water. Bordered by the Kalamazoo River, the town is a mix of arts, culture, and entertainment that will delight every member of the family.

Being surrounded by the beauty of nature provides many additional opportunities when not in town.

Though Saugatuck is a small community, you’ll find exceptional and sophisticated culinary options. Due to its location, farm-to-table restaurants are very popular here.

Also, the town is located in Michigan’s Fruit Belt, so you’ll find incredible produce, fruits, and locally produced wines.

Experience Flights of Fancy for a selection of locally produced ciders and wines. Then, head to Mermaid Waterfront Bar & Grill for the best in “boat-to-table” selections.

End your meal with brown butter cookies from Pennyroyal Café and Provisions or a Michigan fruit pie from Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant.

4. Lake Geneva, WI

Lake Geneva is reputed to be one of the best lakes in America. It is well known for its hiking trails, sailing, and many golf courses. As a small lake town, it is still within a short drive of Milwaukee and Chicago.

While the community is driven by tourism, local residents also enjoy the perks of being near the water. Geneva Lake is a freshwater lake that is about 7.5 miles long.

This area is known for mail jumping, which is a mail delivery technique that requires the mailperson to jump from a boat onto a dock to deposit mail and gather outgoing mail.

The boat continues to slowly move as the mailperson jumps in and out of the boat.

From steaks and seafood to casual dining options, you’ll find the perfect restaurant for what you are craving. With 40 restaurant options here, there is something for everyone.

If you are looking for waterside dining, check out Pier 290 for a diverse selection of seafood, steaks, and other grill options. You’ll be charmed by the ambiance and amazed by the food.

5. Lake Havasu City, AZ

While Arizona is landlocked, it boasts the beautiful community of Lake Havasu. This lake community, located in Mohave County, is a mid-size town with many entertainment opportunities.

Residents also enjoy the close proximity to additional cultural opportunities in nearby California.

Lake Havasu was formed when the Parker Dam was built in 1938 on the Colorado River. This large reservoir contains 619,400 square feet and gives residents ample opportunities to enjoy watersports, boating, and fishing.

6. Lake Placid, NY

Nestled in the Adirondacks, this mountain lake town enjoys stunning scenery and four distinct seasons. This small, charming town is known for its hiking trails and boating.

Although quaint, the town offers residents and visitors numerous restaurants and shops.

Lake Placid is perhaps best known for hosting the 1980 Winter Olympics. Many of these Olympic structures, including ski jumps, are still available for use.

7. Dandridge, TN

Dandridge, TN, located on Douglas Lake, is the second oldest town in Tennessee and its downtown area is listed as a National Historic District. The area itself boasts 21 historic sites that invite you to explore.

The town’s lake, Douglas Lake, is a reservoir created by damming the French Broad River. The area offers many cultural, historic, and recreational activities.

Also, it is near Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Pigeon Forge/ Gatlinburg communities.

8. Mammoth Lakes, CA

For year-round activities, Mammoth Lakes is the ideal location. While the area is best known for its skiing opportunities in winter, the rest of the year can also be filled with other outdoor activities.

In fact, the area has more than 300 miles of trails within its hiking system.

June is the peak tourism season for the area, but if you live here your family will be able to enjoy the benefits of the area for the rest of the year.

When you are not enjoying the lake, boating, cycling, or fishing, experience the many cultural and arts opportunities in town.

9. Holland, MI

The strong Dutch heritage of the people in this area is evident in springtime when the countryside blooms with over 6 million tulips. This gives this lake town, which sits on Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa, a strong European feel.

Relax on the beaches at the Holland State Park, which covers 142 acres of land, then head over to Laketown Beach for incredible views of Lake Michigan.

You can also explore downtown where you will find shops, craft breweries, and over 25 diverse restaurants.

10. Sandpoint, ID

Lake Pend Oreille and the town of Sandpoint, ID, are located within the intersection of three mountain ranges. This gives you and your family many opportunities to engage in watersports, as well as hiking and other outdoor activities.

In the downtown area, you are able to explore many art galleries, shops, and a variety of restaurants. There are also several antique stores where you can find that perfect treasure to help you decorate your new home.

11. Peoria, IL

Peoria, IL is situated on Upper Peoria Lake and near the Illinois River. The area is well known for its scenic trails, where residents enjoy hiking and biking.

Visit the downtown area to get the true vibe of the city through establishments like Martinis on the Water for a drink and The Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern in the Riverfront District for pulled pork and smoked meats.

Then head over to the Warehouse District for Sugar Wood-Fired Bistro or Thyme Kitchen and Craft Beer where you can enjoy local craft beer and wood-fired pizzas. You’ll find amazing views everywhere you turn.

12. South Lake Tahoe, CA

Situated in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, South Lake Tahoe offers popular activities throughout the year.

The mountain range straddles Nevada and California and as an alpine lake, South Lake Tahoe offers beautiful vistas and an abundance of opportunities to spend time in nature.

When the day’s fun on the water is over, head downtown for BBQ or craft beer at restaurants like The Brewery at Lake Tahoe and Sonny’s BBQ.

Downtown also has several sporting goods stores, ski shops, and artisanal boutiques such as the Tahoe Mountain Soap Company and Bohemian Beads and Arts. You’ll find the perfect treasure to complement your home décor.

13. Burlington, VT

Nestled on the shores of Lake Champlain, the lake town of Burlington, Vermont, is often overlooked. The lake offers a 12.5-mile hike and bike path. You will also have many lakeside parks to choose from when planning a picnic or water activity.

In Burlington, one of the “must-see” places is the Church Street Marketplace, which is an uncovered pedestrian dining and shopping area.

With four blocks of specialty shops and restaurants, you’ll enjoy exploring the 86 storefronts in the area. Drop into the Farmhouse Tap and Grill for a meal of local favorites when you get hungry from all your exploring.

14. Lakeway, TX

Lakeway, TX, is part of the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Conveniently located near the capital in Austin, getaways are easy when you are ready for a change of pace.

The 65-mile-long lake provides an abundance of opportunities to fish, boat, and engage in other water activities.

Start your Lakeway, TX, adventure with the Lake Travis Zipline Adventures for fun the whole family will enjoy. Then experience a tour and tasting at the Oasis Brewery Company available Thursdays through Sundays.

In the evening, take in a free, open-air movie at Lakeway City Park for a family-friendly fun time.

15. Lakeland, FL

When you consider Florida, you might think of sandy beaches and Disney World. Lakeland offers more than you could imagine, with a botanical garden, art museum, and Florida Southern College.

The college manages the largest Frank Lloyd Wright collection of architecture in the country.

You won’t go hungry in Lakeland, with restaurants like The Joinery, Nineteen 61, and Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille. The wide range of restaurant choices will make everyone happy.

Downtown is known as “a little mecca of cool” for its shops like My Cottage Garden and Scout & Tag where you can shop like a local for the perfect items.

16. Marblehead, OH

Neatly located on the shores of Lake Erie, the village of Marblehead, OH, is a hidden treasure.

Spend time playing and picnicking on the sandy shores of the lake, then explore the area’s nature preserve, dedicated to a native, endangered flower, the Lakeside Daisy.

Of the five Great Lakes, Lake Erie is the fourth largest and is also the shallowest among the Great Lakes.

Despite its being smaller than the others, it’s still vast and gives the community of Marblehead access to a broad variety of activities in and around the water.

17. Mount Shasta, CA

Situated in the Cascades, Mount Shasta, Ca, is the ideal location for enjoying beautiful scenery throughout the year. This northern California town is a prime location for rafting, canoeing, and other water activities.

Many residents also enjoy hiking, caving, and camping in the area’s abundant nature.

When you’re ready to shop, there are a variety of truly special boutiques. When it’s time to eat, choose from vegetarian options, gorgeous desserts, or modern California cuisine.

Try Lilly’s for delicious vegetarian cuisine and The Tree House Restaurant for something a little more traditional (be sure to try their prime rib!).

18. Elmore, VT

This corner of Vermont is covered in captivating forests. Residents of the town also enjoy hiking on and around Elmore Mountain, and Elmore Lake is a popular place for water activities and peaceful walks.

The lake is 219 acres northwest of the community of Elmore and drains into Elmore Pond Brook in the north.

When you are looking for the perfect meal at the end of the day, consider Harrison’s Restaurant and Bar, Plate, or The Bench. Each provides comforting appetizers and entrees that are sure to delight.

Lost Nation Brewing is another option for food and a refreshing selection of craft beers.

19. Whitefish, MT

The charming town of Whitefish, MT is situated on the periphery of Glacier National Park. Residents engage in outdoor activities, such as fishing, biking, hiking, and skiing throughout the year.

Also, you never know who you’ll run into here as this town is popular with celebrities.

With Glacier National Park close by there are always many activities to get involved in. In town, you’ll find a delightful mix of shops, restaurants, and live professional theater.

When outside, people enjoy boating, hiking, skiing, and snowboarding throughout the year.

20. Wasilla, AK

In Wasilla, AK, you have access to not one, but two lakes.

Wasilla Lake and Lake Lucille are popular locations for water sports and hiking. Hiking in Hatcher Pass, at 4,000 ft., gives residents panoramic views of the mountain scenery and glaciers of the Matanuska Valley.

Wasilla Lake was named after a nearby creek by workers building the Alaska Railroad and is near popular Newcomb Park and the Seven Mile Canoe Trail.

Populated with a healthy rainbow trout population, many fishermen come to fish from its banks, from their boats, or by ice fishing in winter.

21. Mackinac Island, Michigan

If you are looking for a slower way of life, consider Mackinac Island. At 4.35 sq. miles big, the island is surrounded by the beautiful waters of Lake Huron.

Don’t expect modernism, though – the town is populated with Victorian architecture and uses buggies rather than cars (which certainly makes the town charming).

If history and culture are appealing to you, you’ll find both here.

The American Revolutionary War Era Fort Mackinac can be found here, and the stories of the time when the island served as a trading post and center for the fur trade will captivate you.

Beyond history, you’ll find activities such as fishing, boating, and kayaking to enjoy.

22. Laconia, NH

The quaint town of Laconia, NH, is next to Lake Winnisquam and the smaller Paugus Bay. This affords residents many water-related activities, hiking, and nature experiences.

The town, though small, has five beaches accessible by a boardwalk along with several parks where you can go to enjoy beautiful natural scenery.

Lake Winnisquam – a triangular lake that covers 4,214 acres – Paugus Bay, Opechee Bay, and the Winnipesaukee River are all near Laconia and offer excellent opportunities for outdoor adventures.

23. Blairsville, GA

Residents and visitors to Blairsville, GA, enjoy the benefits of living around Lake Nottely.

With over 100 miles of shoreline, there is no shortage of opportunities to enjoy the water and surrounding mountains, and hiking and horseback riding aren’t the only activities to engage in; mix things up a bit by exploring area wineries and sampling fresh produce from local farms.

Lake Nottely is a Tennessee Valley Authority reservoir and is situated in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, which offers many nature hikes and activities. The lake extends 20 miles in length.

24. Guntersville, AL

Guntersville, AL
Image: Wikimedia / KyleRobles

If you are seeking mountain vistas and a lush, peaceful lake, look into the town of Guntersville, AL. Located in northern Alabama, the lake of the same name boasts 1,000 miles of tree-lined shoreline. This offers many opportunities to enjoy the lake and the surrounding natural areas.

Guntersville Lake is 75 miles long and is found below the Nickajack Dam, which separates it from Wheeler Lake. Guntersville Lake is the largest lake in Alabama and is part of the Tennessee River.

25. Greenville, ME

The town of Greenville, Maine, is situated on Moosehead Lake – the largest lake in the state. The town is particularly known for moose sightings due to the large population in the area and is considered the entry into the north country.

Moosehead Lake is a popular destination for boating and fishing. One notable feature of the lake is Mount Kineo, which is a rocky mount in the middle of the lake. It is an ideal hiking location.

26. Chelan, WA

If you are seeking a cozy little community that is relatively unknown, Chelan, WA, is a good choice. The Chelan area is an ideal spot for eating al fresco, fishing, and outdoor activities.

A 12-acre Riverwalk Park includes a mile-long loop that is perfect for viewing the scenery.

Be sure to explore the historic downtown Main Street for a wide selection of shops and restaurants where locals eat and shop. Historic Downtown Chelan Association also holds free live music on the first and third Sundays on the Riverwalk.

27. Ithaca, NY

While Ithaca, NY, is best known for being the home of Cornell University, the town is also situated on the beautiful Cayuga Lake, part of the Finger Lakes region.

The area is perfect for hiking and has some incredible waterfalls. Ithaca is known for its excellent location due to its proximity to major urban hubs such as New York City, Toronto, Syracuse, and Philadelphia.

Cayuga Lake is the largest of the Finger Lakes at 39 miles long and ranges from 1.7–3.5 miles in width with 95 miles of shoreline. The lake takes its name from the Cayuga people in the area.

The downtown of Ithaca, New York, is alive with activity. From free concerts to specialty boutiques and restaurants. Bon Appetite Magazine recognized the town as the “foodiest” in America.

The world-famous Moosewood Restaurant is located here, but if vegetarian is not what you are looking for, there are over 50 other restaurants to choose from.

28. Lake Lure, NC

Lake Lure was created when a dam was built on the Broad River. This man-made lake features stunning waterfalls and streams that add to the natural beauty of the area.

Also notable, many movies, including Dirty Dancing, have been filmed in the area.

Lake Lure offers 720 acres of water and 27 miles of shoreline. This affords residents and visitors many water and nature activities to choose from; boating, hiking, and kayaking are all popular hobbies here.

The charming downtown area of Lake Lure, NC, offers a variety of shops and restaurants to meet your every desire. Try Alyssa’s Restaurant and Bar, Azaleas Restaurant, Anna Rose Restaurant, or Legends of the Lake.

These are places where locals gather for a glass of wine and a meal of locally favorite dishes. You won’t be disappointed by the warmth and hospitality.

29. Bayfield, WI

Considered one of the most undervalued areas in America, Bayfield, WI, is a charming community and one of the smallest in the state. This lovely town is an ideal place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Bayfield Lake is the entryway to the Apostle Islands and kayaking here is incredibly popular. When not on the water, explore the area’s lighthouses and orchards or become immersed in nature along the many hiking trails.

Downtown Bayfield has dining options ranging from coffee shops to family-friendly restaurants and fine dining. Choose the Fat Radish for excellent coffee or Portside Bar and Restaurant for a relaxing meal beside the water.

A local favorite restaurant is Greunke’s First Street Inn for classic American dishes and favorite Wisconsin meals.

30. Grand Lake, CO

Sitting at an elevation of 8,000 ft., the historic town of Grand Lake, CO, can only be described as lovely. Rocky Mountain National Park is on the town’s doorstep, only about a mile away.

Hiking, biking, and snowmobiling “in the snowmobiling capital of Colorado” are popular sport activities here.

The lake is the largest and deepest in Colorado and was formed during the Pinedale glaciation when a natural dam created the lake.

The Ute tribe named the lake Spirit Lake because they believed the cold lake water was the home of departed souls.

With over 100 dining options in the town, you can choose between a variety of cuisines and locally produced wines. Try the Lodge at Sunspot for an exceptional dining experience at 10,700 ft. with spectacular vistas.

Whatever you are craving, you’ll find the perfect restaurant to meet that need in Grand Lake, CO.