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 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: @livinglifetwointow)
15 Of The Best Lakes in NJ For Families
Lakes in North NJ
While it’s known for boating, NJ’s largest lake, Lake Hopatcong, has plenty of other options for the family, 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. If you plan 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
Located within High Point State Park (and part of the Appalachian trail), this location is perfect for new summer memories with the kids. With a beach and crystal clear lake, littles can spend the day on the water’s edge playing in the sand and dipping their toes in the shallow water. Swimming is permitted in Lake Marcia from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, and there is a bathhouse and food concessions on site. Want to stay longer? Bring your tent, sleeping bags, and s’mores to one of the campsites you can reserve ahead of time.
1480 Route 23, Sussex, NJ 07461
Pompton Lakes has two recreational lakes and three rivers, all with public access, allowing for shoreline fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. Spend the day renting a paddleboat, canoe, or kayak by the hour on Pompton Lake during summer, or launch your own boat or personal watercraft year round. There are 10 parks with waterfront access, a dog park, five refurbished tennis courts, and hiking trails, plus there is a new multi-use (bicycle and pedestrian) greenway path that follows the route of the former Morris Canal. There is a newly redone Rotary Park and walkway along the shoreline of Pompton Lake too.
Pompton Lakes, NJ 07442
Although no swimming is allowed, you can spend the day on a kayak, canoe, pedal board, and stand-up paddleboard at the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve. There are also trails (including a handicapped-accessible one) at this 120-acre passive recreational facility around a beautiful 75-acre lake. Off the water, you can go walking, hiking, jogging, fishing, bird watching, and picnicking. And if you don’t have any equipment, no worries—Ramsey Outdoor has an onsite spot to rent boats and boards
1 Nature Preserve Way, Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417 (Entrance off High Mountain Rd)
When your kids are looking for action, head to Tomahawk Lake. With 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, featuring twisty and thrilling body and coaster slides that plunge into the lake.
155 Tomahawk Trail, Sparta, NJ 07871
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 lake’s calm waters or enjoy picnicking on the gorgeous beach nearby. It’s also convenient, with 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 excellent option for a gorgeous beach, hiking trails, and even a famous botanical garden. The 74-acre lake is perfect for a swim—beyond that, you can hang out on the beach, fish, kayak, canoe, and walk on one of the fantastic 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, kayak, paddleboard, sail, and more at this Skyland 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 an inflatable obstacle course on the water, beach, beach tent rentals, and options for private lake use reservations, this hits all the marks when you’re trying to appeal to everyone. And if you’re a mom to little ones, Sunrise Lake runs a “Tiny Tot” event every Monday in June through August, 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 sandy shore makes this a must for swimmers—you can find a roomy spot and relax in the sand after a dip. With a 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. This Monmouth County Parks System spot has over 1,200 acres of land and water. Kids can visit the playground or take a trip out on the water with an adult 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 also an excellent place for a birthday party.
311 Windeler Road, Howell, NJ 07731
Lakes in South NJ
This park has everything, from historic Batso Village within Wharton State Forest to tent camping for an overnight experience. Swimming facilities are available at Atsion Recreation Area from Memorial Weekend to Labor Day while lifeguards are on duty. And you’ll find plenty of rivers and streams for canoeing, hiking trails, unpaved roads for mountain biking and horseback riding, plus areas to observe birds and other native wildlife.
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, trails, 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 a stand to grab lunch and supplies. For the summer of 2023, Bass River State Forest will not have swimming available as the NJ Department of Environmental Protection will start construction on the new beach recreation complex.
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
Which of these lakes in NJ are on your bucket list this summer?
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