The best lake vacations you’ve never heard of before
Offering a laid-back and endless summer vibe, a lake vacation pretends to have fun outdoors in the sun. But in addition to some of the big name destinations like Powell, Havasu, and the Finger Lakes, there are lesser-known lake shores that are great for summer vacations.
While the picturesque lakes are the main draw, each of these destinations offers a little something extra, from a spa on the shore to lend an extra dose of relaxation to a “floating green” that thrills golfers.
Here are three lake destinations to discover this summer:
For Spa Enthusiasts: Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Today, Elkhart Lake is so cute that it looks like a Hallmark movie set. But the lakeside village has a pretty sensual history. A century ago, it was a player’s paradise. (During one raid, a slot machine or two may have been hastily hidden at the bottom of the lake fed by a spring 120 feet deep – or rumored to be). In the 1950s, racing cars toured the lakeside town and village. Enjoy these types of tales as you take a boat cruise around the 300-acre lake lined with quaint boathouses.
This charming seaside resort is located on the shores of its namesake crystal clear lake, which in some places is a beautiful shade of emerald green. The award-winning Spa Aspira in the Osthoff Resort makes Elkhart Lake a destination for spa enthusiasts. The lakeside spa includes a sauna, meditation sanctuary, yoga classes and 22 treatment rooms.
Where to stay: The Shore Club, a lovingly restored lakefront resort, offers contemporary rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, hot tub, game room, well-organized gift shop, and water sports rentals. The hardest decision here is whether you should have a local beer at Cottonwood Social or a tropical cocktail at the lakeside tiki bar, where live music often defines the soundtrack. The correct answer is to explore the bars by the lake.
For National Park Enthusiasts: Grand Lake, Colorado
Grand Lake is geographically spoiled. Not only is it the western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, but it’s also perched on the shores of Colorado’s largest natural body of water, Grand Lake. Cradled by the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the lake was formed by glaciers. In the summer, tourists can rent paddleboards or kayaks in the morning when it’s not too windy, and then take the hiking trails (Rocky Mountain National Park has over 350 miles of trails that meander through the park) in the afternoon. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife; moose and moose make frequent cameos in the park. The town also has all the popular tourist amenities like ice cream and fudge shops, miniature golf, and the occasional fireworks or festival. Visiting the national park will require advanced planning in 2021: Rocky Mountain is testing a new timed entry system.
Where to stay: Grand Lake Lodge is on the porch of Rocky Mountain National Park, and the cabins here watch over the sprawling lake. The century-old lodge has 70 newly renovated cabins, ranging from double rooms to a spacious 25-person cabin. The best place to have a happy hour is at the lodge’s Huntington House Tavern (preferably on a porch swing) where you’ll have a high-elevation view of the quaint town and mountains that hug Grand Lake.
For golf enthusiasts: Coeur D’Alene, Idaho
Thank you to Ice Age glaciers for forming the dozens of scenic lakes that dot northern Idaho. But perhaps the most spectacular of all is Lac Coeur d’Alene, which boasts over 135 miles of shoreline and is home to a golf course that should be on any golf lover’s list of “must-see”. With a six concerts Strips on boats series (think: live music on a boat), Lac Coeur d’Alene is also a destination for music lovers.
Where to stay: Swap a golf cart for an elegant mahogany boat.Located on the north shore of the lake, Coeur d’Alene Resort has a remarkable golf course, home to the only “floating green” in the world. The famous 14th hole is a floating, mobile golf green that can change position via a complex system of submarine cables. The standard tee will generally play between 140 and 170 yards. For an extra luxury stay, book a room in the Hagadone Suite, a 2,500-square-foot suite that features a balcony Jacuzzi, glass-bottom pool, and waterfall shower.