New Jersey is known for its outstanding beaches, but it also has some of the best lakes for swimming in the Northeast. This summer, if you want a break from the pounding waves, dive into the calm waters of one of these beautiful New Jersey lakes. And for more wet (and dry) summer fun, check out our NJ Kids Summer Activities Guide.
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With 45 miles of shoreline, Lake Hopatcong offers plenty of activities and dining for the whole family. Photo courtesy of Morris County
Lake Hopatcong in Hopatcong State Park – Lake Hopatcong
Lake Hopatcong is New Jersey's largest freshwater lake, offering visitors outstanding boating, fishing, water sports, and swimming. Located just 30 miles from the Delaware Water Gap and 40 miles from New York City, Lake Hopatcong's 45 miles of shoreline is home to restaurants, marinas, and public beaches, making it a great escape for the day. Swimming is permitted during the summer months while lifeguards are on duty. In addition to changing areas and a concession, there are volleyball courts and playgrounds near the beach.
Dip your toes in Lake Marcia. Photo courtesy of Photography by Stephen Harris.
Lake Marcia at High Point State Park – Sussex
At 1,803 feet above sea level, the view from High Point Monument is a spectacular panorama of rich farmland and forest that spans three states. Spring-fed Lake Marcia is cool and refreshing for swimmers. The beach is protected by lifeguards, and there is a bathhouse and food concession adjacent to the beach, which is open daily through Labor Day weekend 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting). In addition, High Point offers more than 50 miles of trails as well as picnic and camping facilities.
Shepherd Lake in Ringwood State Park – Ringwood
One of several water holes in Ringwood State Park, Shepherd Lake's spring-fed waters are open to swimmers when lifeguards are on duty, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day. The recreation area features picnic tables, bathhouses, and a food concession. Boat rentals are available for fishing and canoeing, and the surrounding park features botanical gardens, historic manors, and more than a dozen trails.
Swartswood Lake in Swartswood State Park – Swartswood
Swartswood became New Jersey's first state park in 1915, established to ensure residents would have access to one of the state's largest freshwater lakes. Swartswood Lake is the park's main attraction, drawing families that enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, and kayaking in its calm waters. The lake offers a modest swimming area and a nice beach, both extremely clean and welcoming. In addition, visitors can rent pedal boats, canoes, and kayaks. Next to the beach, visitors can access restrooms, changing areas, showers, a first-aid station, and a kid-friendly (and reasonably priced) concession stand. Visitors can swim from Memorial Day through Labor Day while lifeguards are on duty, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance fees are charged per vehicle during the summer months.
Sunrise Lake Beach Club – Morris Township
With an inflatable obstacle course (for ages 7 and older) and an exciting Zoom Flume, Sunrise Lake Beach Club is one of our favorite summer destinations. The sandy beach is perfect for building sand castles and playing volleyball, and kids can enjoy both swimming and paddle boats. Restrooms, showers, and changing facilities are available. The lake is open to the public from Memorial Day through Labor Day; however, aside from holidays, it is closed on Mondays. Parents with toddlers can check out the lake's Tiny Tot Tuesdays in July, when the beach club opens exclusively for kids 4 and under and their parents. This is a great opportunity for little ones to play and explore without large crowds and older kids. Seasonal and daily passes are available.
Tomahawk Lake and Waterpark – Sparta
Tomahawk Lake offers everything a family could ask for during the hot summer months. Situated on 200 gorgeous acres, the grounds feature a lifeguarded swimming beach as well as a water park, complete with a variety of water slides and rides, including bumper boats and a one-person water coaster. Parents will appreciate Papoose Land, a specific area designed for children four feet and under. There is also an 18-hole miniature golf course, a volleyball and horseshoe area, picnic areas, and a rustic, outdoor beer garden with live music on the weekends. The park only accepts cash but does have an ATM on the premises. For more information, visit the park's website.
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The very popular Lake Wawayanda. Photo courtesy of Wawayanda State Park
Lake Wawayanda, Wawayanda State Park – Hewitt
During the summer months, the clear waters of beautiful Lake Wawayanda, part of the Wawayanda State Park, draw folks from all over the state. The park is known for its its scenic forested hills, many trails (including part of the Appalachian Trail), and tranquil atmosphere. Swimmers love that the lake is crystal clear, offering glimpses of fish as they swim by. Adjacent to the beach are changing stations, restrooms, a first-aid station, and concession stand. Visitors can also rent a variety of boats, including canoes, rowboats, and paddle boats. The lake gets crowded on the weekends, so be prepared to arrive early. It's open for swimming daily during the summer from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. There is a fee, per carload, to enter the park. Prices can be found here.
Lake Absegami in Bass River State Forest – Tuckerton
Bass River State Forest was the first forest acquired by the state of New Jersey in 1905 for public recreation, water conservation, and wildlife management. Lake Absegami, a 67-acre lake created in the 1930s, is the center of the forest's recreational facilities. It provides an area for swimmers as well as a serene setting for boating and canoeing. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day. After taking a swim, check out the trail through the Absegami natural area, which wanders through the woods and a small Atlantic white cedar bog.
Lake Atsion. Photo courtesy of W Fukuyama
Atsion Lake in Wharton State Forest – Shamong
Take a cool dip in the pristine waters of Atsion Lake. Located within the Wharton State Forest, the lake is a popular destination for families looking for an alternative to the Jersey Shore. The swimming area boasts three comfort stations with showers and restroom facilities. Also near the lake are barbecue grills, a playground, ball fields, trails, nature crafts, and concession stands. Swimming is permitted from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., while lifeguards are on duty. If you plan to go on the weekend, get there early as the park often fills to capacity and is closed by 10 a.m. An entrance fee per car is charged during the summer months. Prices can be found here
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Relax and rejuvenate at Hooks Creek Lake. Photo by weimin liu via Flickr.
Hooks Creek Lake in Cheesequake State Park – Old Bridge
Located in the heart of Cheesequake State Park, the six-acre Hooks Creek Lake is a great family destination and a relaxing alternative to the hustle and bustle of the nearby Jersey Shore. The lake is clean and not crowded during the week. Swimming is permitted from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend at a lifeguarded area of the Lake. Playgrounds, concession stands, restrooms, and changing areas are available lakeside. The park is also a great place to explore with kids. It is home to fresh- and salt-water marshes, five different trails, campsites, a nature center (complete with live animals), and a crabbing bridge.
Swim, boat, or fish at Round Valley Reservoir. Photo by David via Flickr.
Round Valley Recreation Area – Lebanon
The blue waters of Round Valley Reservoir are enjoyed by swimmers, boaters, and fishermen. Swimming is permitted daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer months, while lifeguards are on duty in the day-use area only. Swimming is not permitted in the main reservoir. There are plenty of beach-side amenities, including playgrounds, volleyball courts, changing areas with showers, and a concession building that sells food and beach supplies.
Lake Nummy at Belleplain State Forest – Woodbine
Belleplain State Forest consists of 21,000 acres of pine, oak, and Atlantic white cedar, located in Cape May and Cumberland counties. It is also home to beautiful Lake Nummy. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, swimming is permitted on the north side of the lake, where lifeguards are on duty. Visitors will find a beach complex containing changing areas, restrooms, a first-aid station, and a concession stand offering refreshments, beach supplies, and novelties. Picnic areas are nearby and include tables, charcoal grills, and restroom facilities. During the summer months an entrance fee to the park is charged per vehicle.
Top photo: Lake Atsion. Photo courtesy of W Fukuyama.
Originally published 2014; updated for 2018.