Lake Beaches: The Best Non-Ocean Beaches in the US
When you think of beaches, you might picture a vast and endless blue horizon, hear the rush of rolling waves, taste the salty air, etc. Images of tanned surfers carrying their boards out to the water might come to mind, or the anxiety of curious seagulls approaching as you try to enjoy your bag of pretzels.
Dang seagulls. Let us sit back on our retro folding chairs and enjoy our pretzels in peace!
But there are other beaches out there. Beaches that don’t require a trip to the coast. Beaches with calm, freshwater free from the unlikely but very real possibility of meeting a shark. Beaches (hopefully) without seagulls.
Lake beaches might be exactly the recreational spot you're looking for. There are tons of them out there to discover. Read on for what makes lake beaches awesome and some stand-out lake beaches that will inspire your next day of waterside entertainment and fun.
Why Lake Beaches?
There are thousands of lakes across the United States. Only one state, in fact, doesn’t have a natural body of water large enough to qualify as a lake. Sorry Maryland, you may have to visit a neighboring state to get to a lake.
Ease Of Access
For most, however, part of the appeal of heading to the lake is the ease of access. Unless you live on the coast, you probably can get to a lake much easier than the ocean. Many lakes will give you a similar beach experience that you love about coastal beaches; sand, sun, water, and fun are found at lakes as well!
Along with the beachy qualities that lakes and oceans share, lakes are usually found in their own natural setting that differs from the coast. Relaxing on a lake surrounded by mountains or in a forest clearing makes for a unique experience (and amazing photos). You might see wildlife that you wouldn’t see at the ocean as well.
Calm Waters Are Great for Water Activities
Lakes don’t have the waves you get at oceans. Calm waters are great for water activities like fishing, boating, waterskiing, and tubing. Sure, you probably aren’t going to be able to surf waves at your local lake, but you can definitely do some wakeboarding. You don’t normally see that at ocean beaches.
The Best Lake Beaches
Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada
Straddling the border of Northern California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a large lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Surrounded by large mountains and dozens of ski resorts, Lake Tahoe is a popular destination in winter for snow sports and makes for a breathtaking view from the mountaintops.
However, Lake Tahoe’s crystalline water and the beaches that surround it are best enjoyed in the warmer months.
- Sand Harbor
Sand Harbor beach on the Nevada side of the lake is one of the best beaches. It has everything you could think of, complete with a visitors center, restrooms, and amenities. You can enjoy the large stretches of sandy beach or launch a boat into miles and miles of clear water. Sand Harbor even has a cove of the beach dedicated to scuba diving.
- Secret Cove
Secret Cove is another Lake Tahoe beach on the east shore that is a distinguished destination for those looking for a bit of quiet. A secluded beach tucked away through a forest path; Secret Cove may be the ideal spot to lay down a beach towel and take in deep breaths of pure nature.
For those who may have gone skinny dipping in the past at Secret Cove, this is a no-go now. It’s been a hard-no from the local sheriff since 2019.
Lake Murray, Oklahoma
Lake Murray State Park is the largest state park in Oklahoma and includes the largest lake in the state as well. There are several beach options to choose from, each of which makes an excellent spot to enjoy the sand and refreshing water of Lake Murray.
Visitors enjoy watersports, fishing, swimming, and sunbathing as anyone would hope for in a day at the lake.
As a bonus, the surrounding nature allows for additional recreation such as hiking and ATV riding. Stay at Lake Murray just for the day or choose from several campsites to pitch a tent or park your RV. For a unique experience that you won’t forget, spend the night on Lake Murray in a floating cabin.
Lake Powell, Utah & Arizona
To be fair and transparent, we need to preface this one by noting that it’s not actually a naturally occurring lake. And it might technically be a reservoir.
But before you judge it too harshly, consider that it’s absolutely glimmering with nature. It makes for a truly one-of-a-kind beach experience you’ll ever enjoy.
Created by a dam along the Colorado River, Lake Powell is bright blue water cupped by rocky red canyons. Across the water, reflections of blue skies, white clouds, and red rocks show you a kind of beauty you won’t find anywhere else. There’s no wonder why millions visit this destination every year.
- Bullfrog Bay
While soft sandy beaches aren’t the first picture that comes to mind considering the canyon setting of the lake, miles of sandy beaches are waiting at Bullfrog Bay. Stanton Beach and Hobie Cat Beach are two of the most popular beaches there. They showcase warmer water and a nearby marina where you can rent boats to explore.
Private alcoves can be discovered by boat for a secluded beach spot all to yourself. Whether you want to camp, park your RV, or stay in a resort, options are available nearby to this favorite beach spot on Lake Powell.
Flathead Lake, Montana
Known as some of the cleanest water to swim in, Flathead Lake is a large lake in northeast Montana home to much wildlife and lake activities. Montana is known for scenic nature views, and Flathead Lake is no exception.
- Yellow Bay
Imagine spending the day at a beach that’s backed up by acres of sweet cherry orchards. Pick a basket of cherries, take them down to the beach, and munch on them while relaxing on a FunBoy Butterfly Pool Float. Where else have you heard of this kind of paradise?
Although the beach itself has gravelly sand, not the fine sand you want to dig and bury yourself in, it makes up for it with the surrounding nature and array of activities. Fishing, camping, bird watching, boating, skiing, and scuba diving are all on the menu here.
Lake Superior, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan
Spanning over US states, Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world when considering the surface area. Plus, it’s the third-largest in the world when it comes to volume.
From a beach on Lake Superior, you might confuse it for an ocean. It holds 10% of the entire world’s freshwater, a vital and surprisingly rare resource on our planet.
- Sand Point Beach
Sand Point Beach is located near Munising, Michigan. Complementing the impressive view of Lake Superior is a long stretch of white sand beach. Beachgoers hanging here get several picturesque views, including Munising Bay, an island out on the horizon, a lighthouse, and unforgettable sunsets.
Although Lake Superior is common to gusty winds and cold water that make swimming chilly, Sand Point Beach offers some wind protection from Grand Island. This makes it the ideal spot for swimming and sunbathing on an inflatable chaise lounger. Public amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables, and grills make it a fantastic location for a cookout as well.
Echo Lake, Maine
Echo Lake is located within Acadia National Park. Echo Lake is a magical clearing in the dense evergreen forest of the park. The trees and mountains surrounding the lake give a secluded and protected feel. Here you can enjoy not only the crystal clear water and sand beach in a setting like no other.
In addition to your favorite beach activities you’d normally prepare for, consider bringing a pair of binoculars to see what kind of wildlife you can find from your spot on the beach. Bringing along hike-ready attire might be a good idea as well so you can explore the surrounding trails before jumping into the water to cool off.
Beach It Up at Your Local Lake
You don’t have to live near a Great Lake or a National Park in order to enjoy a day at the lake. As long as the sun is shining and the water is relatively clean, planning for a day at a lake near you is a sure way to have a great time that everyone can enjoy.
So, invite your friends and family, pack up your beach bag, and head to the lake for a day full of fun!
Freshwater Resources | National Geographic Society
Lakes and Reservoirs | US Geological Survey
Nudity No Longer Allowed at Tahoe's Little-Known Nude Beach | Active Norcal