Best Swimming Lakes in New Jersey for Families in 2021
New Jersey is known for its outstanding beaches, but it also has some of the best swimming lakes 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.
For more summer fun, check out our NJ Kids Summer Activities Guide.
Sign up for our FREE newsletters to get posts like this delivered to your inbox.
Arrive early on weekends and holidays since the parks get very busy. When parks reach capacity, entry is closed. The NJ State Parks Facebook page regularly updates which parks have reached capacity, so be sure and check there before heading out. This year, the NJ state park lakes' swimming hours are 10am-5:30pm.
Note that the lakes' swimming hours are subject to change due to weather and staff changes. Check the NJ Department of Environmental Protection's daily swim schedule for updates.
With 45 miles of shoreline, Lake Hopatcong offers plenty of activities for the whole family. Photo courtesy of Morris County
1. Lake Hopatcong in Hopatcong State Park – Lake Hopatcong
Anticipated opening date for swimming is the week of June 14, 2021.
At about four square miles, Lake Hopatcong is New Jersey's largest freshwater lake, offering 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.
Cool off in Lake Marcia after a hike in High Point State Park. Photo courtesy of Photography by Stephen Harris
2. Lake Marcia at High Point State Park – Sussex
Open for swimming Fridays-Tuesdays
At 1,803 feet above sea level, the view from the 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. In addition, High Point offers more than 50 miles of trails as well as picnic and camping facilities. Read our full review of High Point State Park.
The crystal-clear waters of Lake Wawayanda draw lots of visitors every summer. Photo courtesy of Wawayanda State Park
3. Lake Wawayanda, Wawayanda State Park – Hewitt
Open for swimming Wednesdays-Sundays
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 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 a concession stand. Visitors can also rent a variety of boats, including canoes, rowboats, and paddleboats. The lake gets crowded on the weekends, so be prepared to arrive early. There is a fee, per carload, to enter the park.
Put Hooks Creek Lake on your summer bucket list. Photo by weimin liu via Flickr
4. Hooks Creek Lake in Cheesequake State Park – Old Bridge
Open for swimming Fridays-Mondays
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 uncrowded during the week. 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.
5. Atsion Lake in Wharton State Forest – Shamong
Atison Lake is open for swimming, but its hours have not been posted.
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. If you plan to go on the weekend, get there early as the park often fills to capacity and is closed by 10am. An entrance fee per car ($10 residents/$10 non-residents) is charged during the summer months.
Swim, boat, or fish at Round Valley Reservoir. Photo by David via Flickr
6. Round Valley Recreation Area – Lebanon
Open daily for swimming
Swimmers, boaters, and fishermen enjoy the blue waters of Round Valley Reservoir. Swimming is permitted 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.
7. Lake Absegami in Bass River State Forest – Tuckerton
Anticipated opening date for swimming is the week of June 14, 2021.
Bass River State Forest was the first forest acquired by 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. 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.
Sunrise Lake Beach Club is one of our favorite summer destinations. Photo courtesy of Morris County
Open for the 2021 season.
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 sandcastles and playing volleyball, and kids can enjoy swimming and paddleboats. 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 and August, 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. Book reservations online.
Open weekends starting May 29, 2021, and then daily June 17-September 6, 2021.
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 4-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.
Enjoy the man-made lake at Captain Kilroy Park.
10. Tom’s Lake at Captain Kilroy Park – Wayne
Open weekends starting May 29, 2021, and then daily June 21-August 22.
This man-made lake offers swimming and a sandy beach. Nearby, there's a playground, basketball and volleyball court, softball field, a picnic area, locker rooms, and a concession stand. There's also a Wibit Play Area in the water as well as a diving dock. Purchase day passes or buy season passes. You can even book birthday parties by the lake.
11. Lake Barnegat – Forked River
Beaches will be open beginning on June 19, 2021.
Located on Lake Barnegat, the Wibit floating playground will be open for summer 2021 for Ocean County residents only. Admission is $10 per session for Lacey Township residents and $15 per session for non-Lacey Township residents. An additional beach badge is required for ages 5+ and costs $5 for the season.
NJ Swimming Lakes That are Closed for the 2021 Season
Shepherd Lake in Ringwood State Park – Ringwood
Closed for the 2021 season.
One of several water holes in Ringwood State Park, Shepherd Lake's spring-fed waters are open to swimmers when lifeguards are on duty. The recreation area features picnic tables, bathhouses, and a food concession stand. Boat rentals are available for fishing and canoeing, and the surrounding park features botanical gardens, historic manors, and more than a dozen trails.
Lake Nummy at Belleplain State Forest – Woodbine
Closed for the 2021 season.
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 the beautiful Lake Nummy. 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.
Swartswood Lake in Swartswood State Park – Swartswood
There is no swimming allowed at Swartswood in 2021. The sandy beach will be open for play only.
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 who 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 pedalboats, 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.
This post, originally published 2014, is updated annually.
Places featured in this article:
Tom’s Lake at Captain Kilroy Park