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Although Texas borders the Gulf Coast, it’s often thought of as a land-locked state. But as a southern state with a warm climate, summers can be especially brutal, which means you have to find creative ways to cool off. That’s why lakes in Texas are such a popular type of recreation to play around, get active and socialize.
There’s a huge lake culture across the state that’s fun, friendly, and carefree. So today, we’re highlighting the best lakes to get outside and enjoy a little nice weather and sunshine. Whether you’re a local looking to relax or a tourist interested in exploring the local scene, there’s a lot waiting for you at Texas’ lakes. Of note, natural lakes are rare in Texas, so many of these destinations are actually reservoirs. Regardless, now’s the time to hop in a boat, get in a kayak, or grab a fishing pole, because these are some of the best recreation lakes you’ll find anywhere in America.
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Lake Travis is one of the best places to visit in Austin, making it a premier lake destination in the state. This is a reservoir on the Colorado River and a popular hangout spot. This Central Texas lake is the largest one in the Highland Lakes Region and known for swimming, fishing, and even scuba diving. Hippie Hollow Park awaits if you if you’re interested in nude sunbathing, and camping and picnicking areas are scattered around other areas surrounding the lake.
A great weekend getaway from Houston is Lake Conroe because it’s only about 60 minutes north of the city. Jet skiing, wakeboarding, and water skiing are popular here, and equipment is available for rent nearby. If you don’t want to spend all your time on the water, there’s plenty of other things to do around Lake Conroe as well. For example, there are some great golf courses nearby, as well as amazing restaurants for traveling foodies. There is a nice La Quinta Inn and a Baymont Inn in Conroe.
Toledo Bend is another lake/reservoir area that’s located on the Sabine River. It’s on the border of Texas and Louisiana and makes for an excellent day trip destination. This is a manmade body of water that’s perfect for boating, swimming, wakeboarding, and water skiing. Fishermen often catch largemouth bass in this lake. On land, visitors come here for picnics, camping, and hunting. The surrounding scenery is lush, green, and quite beautiful. One of the best places to stay nearby is the Cypress Bend Resort.
For peace, quiet, and an excellent campground, visit Inks Lake State Park this year. This Burnet-area lake has nice campsites where you can leave your kayak out and paddle to tiny islands nearby. You can also rent a paddleboat at Inks Lake, which is fun for the kids. One of the best things about Texas State Parks, like Inks Lake, is that you can rent out fishing poles for free. One of the best places to stay in Burnet is Comfort Inn & Suites.
Located in the Denison area, Lake Texoma was created in the place where the Red River and the Washita River meet. This is a very large and well-developed lake that is quite popular in the summer. The most fun things to do here are wind surfing, water skiing, and sailing. Fishermen also love this lake because there are dozens of species of fish that call Lake Texoma home, including bass, white crappie, and catfish. Take your pick of about a dozen marinas here and lots of campgrounds to call your home base when you visit. Because of all of the exciting things to do here, Lake Texoma is actually a popular spring break destination for local college students as well. If you’re home base is the Denison area, you can stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Denison or the Best Western Plus Texoma Hotel & Suites for your lake trip.
About 30 minutes from the attractions in Waco, Lake Whitney is actually a reservoir on the Brazos River. Sailing, fishing, jet skiing, and water skiing are all popular here. And for land activities, there is golf, hunting, and camping as well. Another great reason to come here is the birdwatching opportunities because visitors have been lucky enough to see everything from wild turkeys to egrets and bald eagles here. White-tailed deer, coyotes, and foxes are also common. It’s easy to pamper yourself when you visit Lake Whitney because there are lots of resorts and lodges nearby. Visit this park and lake in the spring to see the bluebonnet flowers blooming in the fields. If you want to stay in nearby Whitney, the Arrowhead Resort is a good option.
You’ll need to head a bit north of Jasper to reach Lake Sam Rayburn, which is another popular Texas reservoir. Expect to find green, lush woods and a tranquil spot that’ll ease your troubles away. This East Texas destination isn’t too far from Beaumont, but it is the largest lake that’s solely contained in the state of Texas. Come here to go swimming, water skiing, and fishing. Bass, catfish, and crappies are often caught by fishermen in this lake. To make a weekend out of it, you can stay at one of the nearby campsites and launch your boat from one of the marinas in the area. There’s also a nice golf course here, and the Sabine National Forest is an excellent hiking spot if you want to spend a little time on land.
You’ll only need to travel about 40 miles from San Antonio to reach Canyon Lake. But once you get there, you’ll feel like you’re a world away. This is a deep lake that has many miles of shoreline, providing a scenic getaway that’s not far from all the tourist attractions you want to scope out. Come here for boating on the water or camping, biking, hiking, and horseback riding on the land. Take your pick between the campgrounds and resorts nearby, depending on your travel style. Recommended places to stay in this area are The Lodge at Turkey Cove, the Holiday Inn Club Vacation Hill Country Resort, the Lakehouse Bed and Breakfast, and Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort Hill Country for camping.
Like Lake Travis, Lady Bird Lake is a popular water sport destination in the Austin area. This is a place to come for kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding. But what makes this lake so significant is its convenience and city views. Austin’s large city park sits next to the lake, and there are tons of hotels, restaurants, and trails nearby too. Just keep in mind that motorized water crafts aren’t allowed here. But the benefit is that the water remains calm and peaceful for paddlers. This lake was named after the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, who lived in Austin and was dedicated to beautification projects here.
Although this Palo Pinto County lake is a little less known than some of the others on this list, it is definitely a unique lake destination. That’s because you can actually scuba dive here! But if going deep isn’t your thing, boating, swimming, and fishing are also popular pastimes. Something else unique about this park is that you may even see free-roaming longhorns wandering around the park. It’s conveniently only about 40 miles north of Fort Worth. Another big draw to this lake area is Hell’s Gate Cliffs, which are nothing short of picturesque and spectacular. The cliffs and surrounding hills make this one of the more beautiful lake regions in the entire state. Places to stay in the Caddo area include the LaQuinta Inn & Suites Eastland and the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Eastland.