New Jersey may be known for the shore, but we’re letting you in on a little secret—there are a bunch of pristine swimming lakes in NJ that are just as fun and family-friendly as the ocean. What’s more, they offer lots of ways to spend a family day on the water, whether it’s jumping from inflatables, spending the hours in a canoe, dropping in a fishing line, or renting a motorboat for a sunset cruise. Ready to go jump in a lake? Read on for where to find the best lakes in New Jersey and what to know before you visit this summer.
Featured Photo Credit: @dr._shine7878
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13 Of The Best Lakes in NJ For Families
Located within High Point State Park (and part of the Appalachian trail), this is a perfect location for new summer memories with the kids. With a beach and crystal clear lake, littles can spend the day on the waters’ edge playing in the sand and dip their toes in the shallow water. Swimming is permitted in Lake Marcia from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, and there is a visitors center, bathhouse, food concessions, playground on site. Want to stay longer? Bring your tent, sleeping bags, and s’mores to one of the campsites you can reserve ahead.
1480 Route 23, Sussex, NJ 07461
When your kids are looking for a little action, head to Tomahawk Lake. With an on-the-water blow-up water obstacle course (hello, Ninja Warrior wannabes) as well as plenty of rentable boating options, like bumper boats, paddle boats, rowboats, and more, the whole family can have an action-packed day on the water. Season passes are available and make sure you head to the waterpark slides, featuring twisty and thrilling body and coaster slides that plunge into the lake.
155 Tomahawk Trail, Sparta, NJ 07871
While it’s known for boating, NJ’s largest lake, Lake Hopatcong, has plenty of other options for the family, too, like fishing, swimming, paddle boarding, playgrounds, and restaurants with decks overlooking pretty water views. Swimming is permitted at Hopatcong State Park during the summer while lifeguards are on duty, and if you’re planning to spend the day, there are facilities, like a bathhouse complex containing restrooms, showers, changing areas, and a concession stand to pick up food and sundries.
1 Lakeside Boulevard, Hopatcong, NJ 07843
If you prefer a smaller lake and a quiet getaway, Swartswood Lake in Hewitt, NJ is perfect for a first lakeside adventure. Open for swimming from Mid-June to Labor Day, while lifeguards are on duty, the whole family can swim in the cool waters of the lake or enjoy the gorgeous beach area nearby. Pack a picnic, and when you need them, there are changing areas, restrooms, a first-aid station, and a food concession stand nearby.
885 Warwick Turnpike, Hewitt, NJ 07421
Shepherd Lake in Ringwood State Park is another great option for a gorgeous beach, hiking trails, and even a famous botanical garden (check out our 7 Places to Explore at The New Jersey Botanical Garden for more info on that.) Although the lake is unavailable for swimming in 2021, you can still come to hang out on and play on the beach, fish, kayak canoe and walk on one of the amazing trails nearby.
1304 Sloatsburg Road, Ringwood, NJ 07456
One of the largest lakes within the Highlands region of northern New Jersey, Greenwood boasts a two-state address, with half of the lake stretching into New Jersey and the other half in New York. Swim, fish, dive, jet ski, sail, kayak, and more at this Skyland’s region lake, though you’ll have to go to the NY side to access the lake for a swim and beach time. There’s also a 16.8 mile dedicated bike trail around the lake—the loop begins and ends at Brown’s Point Park in West Milford, New Jersey, crossing into New York State, with scenic lakeside stops along the way.
Greenwood Lake, Vernon, NJ 07421
Looking for something for every age in the family, even large groups? Sunrise Lake is the place. With a water top obstacle course, beach, beach tent rentals, and options for private lake use reservations, this is hits all the marks when you’re trying to appeal to everyone. And if you’re a mom to littles, every Tuesday in July and August, Sunrise Lake runs a “Tiny Tot Tuesday” event where you can enjoy the lake and beach with other toddler families.
Sunrise Lake, Mendham, NJ 07945
Lakes in Central NJ
Bring your hiking shoes—this lake is located in Cheesequake Park, where there are lots of trails and wood bridges when you’re not on the beach by the lake. Swimming is permitted in Hooks Creek Lake from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend while lifeguards are on duty and there’s a beach complex where you can change and fuel up on snacks after a swim. You can also fish from the fully stocked freshwater or try to catch the blue crabs that hang by the crabbing bridge near the beach.
300 Gordon Road, Matawan, NJ 07747
The huge beach area makes this a must for swimmers—you can find a roomy spot and relax in the sand after taking a dip. With a beach complex that’s got changing areas, restrooms, showers, a first-aid station, and a concession stand, you can spend the whole day here swimming and taking part in the action. Kids will love hanging at one of the two playgrounds and tossing a ball over the volleyball nets on the beachfront.
1220 Stanton Lebanon Road, Lebanon, NJ 08833
Hike, bike, or run the 5-mile trail around the Manasquan Reservoir or spend the day fishing or boating on the open water. There are over 1,200 acres of land and water in this Monmouth County Parks System spot. Kids can visit the playground or take a trip with an adult out on the water when renting a kayak or rowboat. Don’t miss the Environmental Center with learning discovery-related experiences. View interactive exhibits, multi-media presentations, and educational activities—and good to know, it’s a great place for a birthday party too.
311 Windeler Road, Howell, NJ 07731
Lakes in South NJ
This park has everything, from a gorgeous beach, full recreation center, bbq grills, trails, ball fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a snack bar, as well as rentable cabins for an overnight “glamping” experience. Swimming facilities are available at Atsion Recreation Area from Memorial Weekend to Labor Day, while lifeguards are on duty.
715 Route 206, Shamong, NJ 08088
Located in Bass River State Forest, this lake is a perfect getaway for your family. With a designated swimming area, fishing, tons of trails, as well camping and rental cabins, you can find enough here for a day trip, overnight, or even a week-long vacation. Daytrippers will appreciate the beach complex containing changing areas, restrooms, showers, and stand to grab lunch and supplies.
762 State Road, Bass River Twp., NJ 08224
With a name like Lake Nummy, how could you go wrong? Located in Belleplain State Forest, you’ll find everything you need for an action-packed day of fun, including a beach area, rec center, areas for paddle boarding, canoeing, fishing, and plenty of trails to take a hike. Pack a picnic and set it up at one of the picnic tables near the beach (charcoal grills are nearby if you want to cook out). Like it enough to spend more time? Check out the cabins and campsites within the park.
1 Henkinsifkin Road, Woodbine, NJ 08270