Lake Taghkanic in Ancram, New York  is a family favorite. Photo courtesy of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Lake Taghkanic in Ancram, New York is a family favorite. Photo courtesy of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Swimming Lakes Near NYC for a Family Dip

New Yorkers are lucky to be surrounded by water: When we get the urge to take a dip on a hot summer day, there are plenty of family-friendly beaches a short drive or subway ride from NYC. But for families with little kids, the ocean can be intimidating, with its choppy waves and miles of hot sand without an inch of shade.

Sure, there’s always the local pool, but if you’re itching to get the kids out of the city to enjoy a swim in the great outdoors, what better place than one of our area’s beautiful, placid, freshwater swimming lakes? We’ve rounded up the best lake swimming spots within a two-hour drive from the city.

Find more fun things to do this summer (and ways to cool down) with our Beaches, Pools, and Water Parks Guide for NYC kids.

Remember that a lot of these state- or locally-run parks have limited parking spaces, so once the lot is full they'll start turning people away. That means get there at opening time to beat the locals, or make it a weekend getaway by snagging a nearby hotel room or kid-friendly camping site. And before you go, be sure to read up on park rules and prices. Some allow barbecues, others do not. Many do not allow flotation devices, blow-up rafts, pool noodles, water wings, or other water toys.

Sign up for our FREE newsletters to get posts like this delivered to your inbox.

Best Swimming Lakes in New York State

Lake Taghkanic offers a sandy beach, plus playgrounds and more fun for kids. Photo courtesy of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Lake Taghkanic — Ancram, New York
1 hour, 45 minutes from Midtown Manhattan
This gorgeous Hudson Valley state park lake features a sandy beach for swimming, along with playgrounds, restrooms, a snack bar, picnic areas, and hiking trails, plus paddleboat and kayak rentals. If you can’t bear to stay only one day, book a cabin or campsite along the water’s edge. Our Mommy Poppins Westchester crew counts it among their favorite summer spots.

RELATED: 9 Play Fountains Where NYC Kids Can Get Totally Soaked

Lake Tiorati in Harriman State Park is always popular in the summer. Photo courtesy of New York State Parks

Lake Tiorati  Southfields, New York
1 hour from Midtown Manhattan
This popular swimming lake in Harriman State Park boasts a nice sandy beach that can get crowded on hot summer weekends. The bathhouse has restrooms with showers. There are plenty of picnic areas and grills, but you might want to bring a full picnic basket—there’s no concession stand, just vending machines.

 Greenwood Lake is one of the closest swimming lakes to NYC. Photo courtesy of Village of Greenwood Lake, NY

Greenwood Lake — Warwick, New York
1 hour, 15 minutes from Midtown Manhattan
This 9-mile lake is divided in half by the New Jersey-New York border. On the New York side, in the town of Warwick, you’ll find a smallish sandy town beach for swimming, known as Warwick Town Beach or Thomas P. Morahan Waterfront Park. The beach park, with restrooms, volleyball court, and playground, is popular with locals and has a low-key vibe. There are a few picnic tables and sometimes a food truck or two shows up.

Canopus Lake — Carmel, New York
1 hour from Midtown Manhattan
This 100-acre lake in Fahnestock State Park boasts a large beach with picnic areas and hiking trails nearby, plus rowboat rentals and family camping. You’ll also find a snack stand, restrooms, and shower facilities.

Best Swimming Lakes in New Jersey and Connecticut

Highlands Natural Pool is carved out of a hillside in New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Highlands Natural Pool

Highlands Natural Pool — Ringwood, New Jersey
1 hour from Midtown Manhattan
This Olympic-sized freshwater natural swimming pool in New Jersey is fed by a mountain stream and was carved out of a hillside in the 1930s. The pool goes up to 10-feet deep and includes a fenced-off shallow children’s area. There is a snack stand and picnic area, a beach volleyball court, hiking trails, and restrooms with changing facilities but no showers.

Bantam Lake – Morris, Connecticut
2 hours from Midtown Manhattan
This freshwater gem in Litchfield County, the northwestern section of Connecticut, has two beaches, but just one is open to the public. Sandy Beach on East Shore Road has a concession stand, restrooms, and a shaded picnic area.

RELATED: Best Water Theme Parks Near NYC for Families

Lake Hopatcong State Park in New Jersey offers refreshing lake swimming, grills, a concession stand, and playgrounds. Photo courtesy of Morris County, NJ

Lake Hopatcong — Landing, New Jersey
1 hour from Midtown Manhattan
New Jersey’s largest lake is a major draw for swimmers during the summer. Hopatcong State Park at the southwest end of the lake boasts a sandy beach perfect for sand castles, with picnic areas, a playground, a concession stand, restrooms, and shower facilities. Lifeguards keep the horseplay under control (we've seen them in action!). Get there early as the parking lot fills quickly on weekends.

Find more popular swimming lakes in New Jersey from our sister site, Mommy Poppins New Jersey.

A version of this article was first published in 2017, it is updated annually.

Lake Taghkanic
1528 Route 82
Ancram, NY 12502

Lake Tiorati
2300 Seven Lakes Drive
Southfields, NY 10975

Greenwood Lake
end of Windermere Ave Thomas P. Morahan Waterfront Park
Warwick, NY 10925

Canopus Lake
1498 Route 301 Fahnestock State Park
Carmel, NY 10512

Highlands Natural Pool
180 Snake Den Road
Ringwood, NJ 07456

Bantam Lake
East Shore Drive
Morris, CT 06763

Lake Hopatcong
Lakeside Boulevard Hopatcong State Park
Landing, NJ 07850