Tucked up against the Atlantic Ocean, New Jersey has no shortage of beautiful beaches. However, it also boasts a large number of freshwater inland lakes that offer the opportunity to enjoy activities like swimming, fishing, boating, and even ice skating in the winter. If you love to be outdoors, a trip to the Garden State isn't complete without taking the time to explore at least a few of these lakes. Whether you're trying to beat the heat in the summer or find the perfect ice fishing spot for the winter, here are the best lakes in New Jersey.
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Privately owned by the Normanoch Association, Culver Lake is an exclusive destination with plenty of recreation opportunities. The lake's 7 miles of sandy shore are great for sunbathing, while the water is perfectly suited to activities like windsurfing and water-skiing. The water is always well stocked with fish, and there are multiple boat ramps for visitors to use. Only members and their guests are permitted to access the lake, but the parks and hiking trails around the lake are open to everyone. A wide variety of clubs can be found at the lake, and amenities include lifeguards, a clubhouse, and several dining options.
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Unlike most other lakes in New Jersey, Deal Lake is made up of a series of shallow pools connected by water-filled channels. Most of the lake is extremely shallow and covered in lily pads, so while it's not well suited to swimming, it's an excellent habitat for a wide variety of fish and other aquatic life. Fishing is popular here in the spring, summer, and fall, but winter fishing is not recommended because of possible unstable ice. There is no limit to the horsepower permitted on the lake, but many people also come here to canoe and kayak.
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Straddling the border between New York and New Jersey, Greenwood Lake covers more than 1,900 acres and features excellent views of the nearby Bearfoot Mountain Ridge. The lake is considered to be one of the best places in New Jersey to fish for bass, but it's also home to other species of fish including catfish, perch, and pickerel. The depth of the lake varies greatly, but it's suitable for both swimming and boating. Visitors who head over to the New York side of the lake will also be able to enjoy two public beaches with volleyball courts and lifeguards.
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The Highland Lakes consist of a large number of manmade lakes and large ponds, only a few of which are larger than 100 acres in size. Most of the lakes are privately owned and accessible only to members; many of these communities have private beaches and parks, and some offer private guest rentals that allow visitors to enjoy the lakes and their amenities. However, the 265-acre Lake Wawayanda is open to the general public; it's regularly stocked with salmon and trout, and it also offers the opportunity to swim, canoe, boat, and hike the 60 miles of trails in Wawayanda State Park.
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Nestled in beautiful Kittatinny Valley State Park, Lake Aeroflex is the deepest natural lake in the state. The water here is exceptionally clear, and although there are no swimming beaches on the lake, there are two long docks on the south side of the lake and a beautiful picnic area with grills. The lake is one of only two in New Jersey to be stocked with landlocked salmon; electric and trolling motors are permitted on the water, but many fishermen choose to paddle out to the deeper parts of the lake in kayaks. Ice fishing is permitted during the winter months.
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Named in honor of businessman Andrew Carnegie, Lake Carnegie was built on the campus of Princeton University to provide the rowing team with a convenient place to practice. A shady pathway runs along the lakeshore; visitors are welcome to use the path to access fishing spots on the bank. The lake is privately owned, but everyone is welcome to come here to fish, boat, and enjoy the scenery. Gas-powered boats are not permitted on the water, but other private boats are allowed. Visitors can also rent canoes and kayaks, but paddlers are required to give way to the rowing team.
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Located in Passaic County, Lake Erskine is privately owned by an active community of people with homes on the lake and a love of life on the water. Tucked away in the Ramapo Mountains and surrounded by dense forest, the 90-acre lake provides an excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The community regularly hosts all sorts of activities, including potlucks, softball games, and holiday celebrations, and it boasts a beach club, an aquatic club, and a sailing club. Boats are permitted on the lake, and it's an excellent place to fish for bass.
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Approximately 9 miles in length and 4 square miles in area, Lake Hopatcong is the biggest lake in the state. The lake has been a popular tourist destination for almost 150 years, and it offers a wide range of excellent restaurants, guest residences, and other tourist amenities. Some of the bars and restaurants on the lake are accessible by boat; all types of boats are permitted on the water, and many of the lake's marinas offer boat rentals. Another highlight of the park is the state park on the southwest end, which offers a beach, several picnic areas, and plenty of other amenities.
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Found inside High Point State Park, Lake Marcia is a peaceful 20-acre lake surrounded by beautiful hiking trails. The refreshing spring-fed waters of the lake are ideal for swimming, and the beach is carefully monitored by lifeguards during the daytime in the summer months. Pets are not allowed on the beach, but is are a variety of amenities including showers, restrooms, and a concession stand selling snacks and beverages. There is also a designated swimming area for visitors to enjoy; inner tubes and rafts are not allowed here, but they can be used on the rest of the lake.
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Constructed in the late 1920s, Lake Mohawk is a large artificial lake that serves as the hub of an active private community. Things to do here include catch-and-release fishing, swimming or relaxing on one of the lakes eleven beaches, and golfing on the course that surrounds the lake, but most of these activities and amenities are reserved for residents of the lakeside community. However, there is an excellent selection of restaurants and shops open to the general public; many of these businesses sit along the boardwalk that runs alongside the lake and through the gardens that surround it.
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As part of Hopatcong State Park, Lake Musconetcong offers no shortage of opportunities for recreation. The water is ideal for boating and swimming, and there are plenty of excellent picnic spots to be found on the shore. The lake is stocked with several types of trout; fishing is permitted by boat, canoe, and kayak, all of which can be rented from several of the marinas on the lake. Ice fishing is popular in the winter, and the park surrounding the lake offers miles and miles of trails that can be used for hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter.
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Formerly known as Long Pond, Lake Owassa is a 275-acre freshwater lake fed by runoff from Kittatinny Mountain. The lake is owned by a private community association that regularly hosts boat races, picnics, canoe and kayak trips, and other special community events. Only members and residents are permitted to use the lake, but there are a number of lake cottages that can be rented for the week or for the season by anyone who would like to enjoy the lake and its amenities. The lake is stocked with bass and trout, and fishing is permitted but carefully monitored.
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Created to provide drinking water to the residents of New York City, Lake Tappan is a man-made reservoir that straddles the border between New York and New Jersey. The lake is still used for drinking water, and so activities like swimming, boating, and otherwise making contact with the water are prohibited. Fishing is permitted from the shore; permits are required for fishers over the age of 16, and the lake is home to perch, catfish, bass, and more. The reservoir is open to visitors between the start of April and the end of November, and there is plenty of parking available.
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Constructed in 1990, the Manasquan Reservoir is a source of drinking water as well as a popular destination for fishing and boating. Electric motor boats, sailboats, and rowboats are permitted on the lake, but many anglers prefer to fish from the shore. Rowboats and kayaks can be rented from the visitors center, and boat tours of the lake are available on weekends. Another highlight of the area is the 5-mile trail that runs around the reservoir; it offers plenty of opportunities to view wildlife, and group nature walks can be arranged through the visitors center.
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15.Merrill Creek Reservoir
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Tucked away in a 290-acre environmental preserve, Merrill Creek Reservoir is a secluded lake ideal for fishing and boating. Swimming is not permitted in the reservoir, but visitors can fish from rowboats, electric motor boats, or the shore. The lake is stocked with trout and bass, and there are plenty of coves and inlets that can be explored by canoe or by kayak. Six nature trails of varying difficulty can be found around the lake, and hikers will have the chance to spot a wide variety of wildlife including bear, deer, foxes, and bald eagles.
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16.Oxford Furnace Lake
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Despite being only 53 acres in size, Oxford Furnace Lake is a peaceful man-made lake ideal for swimming, kayaking, and canoeing. It's located only an hour away from both New York City and Philadelphia, making it an easy day trip for anyone staying in either city. The lake is an excellent fishing destination year round; the water is home to everything from perch to catfish to bluegill, and ice fishing is popular in the winter when big bass are plentiful. There are no established trails around the lake, but many visitors enjoy simply strolling through the woods.
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17.Pine Barrens Lakes
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Situated inside the 1.1-million-acre Pinelands National Reserve, the small, shallow Pine Barrens Lakes are some of the most popular lakes in the state. The water in most of the lakes is too acidic for fish to thrive, but recreation activities include hiking, camping, swimming, and simply enjoying the pristine nature in the reserve. Some of the lakes have boat launch facilities, including Big Pine Lake and Little Pine Lake, but most lakes permit only electric motor boats or no motorboats at all. Day trips out to the lakes are possible, but many visitors choose to stay in one of the many available lakeside accommodations.
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18.Round Valley Reservoir
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Occupying the valley formed by Cushetunk Mountain, Round Valley Reservoir is known for its clear waters and its excellent fishing. The clarity of the water means that the lake is popular with divers and snorkelers, many of whom come to marvel at the 19 different species of fish found in the lake. Of course, the diverse fish population also draws fishermen from all over the state; fishing is permitted both from the shore and by boat, but engines must under ten horsepower. A public beach is open during the summer, and it offers amenities like showers, snack shacks, and even a children's playground.
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As part of Ringwood State Forest, Shepherd Lake is surrounded by an extensive trail system that provides wonderful views of the Ramapo Mountains. Boating, canoeing, and kayaking are permitted; the spot offers good fishing, and boat rentals are available to visitors who don't bring their own. The lake is open to swimmers during the summer months between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and tubes and rafts are not allowed in the designated swimming area. A small admission fee is charged per vehicle during the summer, and dogs and other pets are not allowed on the beach.
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Nestled up against the Atlantic Ocean, Spring Lake is surrounded by a small but pleasant village that shares its name. The Victorian town has been a popular tourist destination for more than a century, and there is no shortage of shops, restaurants, and other amenities for visitors to enjoy. A beautiful nature walk runs around the lake, offering the opportunity to see the swans, geese, and other birds that make the lake their home. No outboard motors are permitted on the lake, but the water is stocked with trout and fishing is permitted by canoe or by kayak.
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21.Spruce Run Reservoir
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Built in the 1960s, Spruce Run Reservoir was one of the first reservoirs in the state and is still one of the largest. A public swimming beach is open during the summer months, and there are several picnic areas that offer excellent views of the reservoir. The waters are home to almost 30 species of fish, and it's widely known as one of the best bass fishing lakes in New Jersey. The lake's irregular shoreline is perfect for exploring by canoe or by kayak, but boats are permitted as well as long as their engines are under ten horsepower.
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22.Sunrise Lake Beach Club
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Conveniently located in Lewis Morris County Park, the Sunrise Lake Beach Club offers a wide range of activities for all ages during the summer months, including children's day camps, morning swims for toddlers and their parents, and overnight campouts designed for the whole family. Hours of operation vary according to the time of year, and an admission fee is charged to everyone who wants to access the beach and the swimming area. Two-person and four-person paddleboats are available for rent, and visitors over the age of seven can use the onsite Wibit for an additional fee.
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As the main attraction in Swartswood State Park, the first state park in New Jersey, Swartswood Lake is an ideal venue for a wide range of outdoor leisure activities. Fishing is popular all throughout the year, and boating and swimming can be enjoyed during the summer months. The park is open every day between dawn and dusk, and visitors are kindly asked to pack out all their garbage. Excellent views of the lake can be had by hiking the Grist Mill Trail, a moderately difficult 1.5-mile loop that begins on the southern end of the lake.
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Sitting on a beautiful 200-acre property, Tomahawk Lake boasts the biggest white sand beach in the state as well as a waterpark with plenty of fun slides and rides for all ages. There are plenty of other attractions to keep visitors entertained as well; highlights include an 18-hole mini golf course, an open-air beer garden that occasionally hosts live music, and a large picnic area. A variety of boats are available for rent, including bumper boats, paddleboats, and swan boats. Catering is available for groups of between 50 and 2,000 people, and food and beverages are available at several on-site refreshment stands.
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Formed by the damming of the Maurice Rive, Union Lake is one of the biggest lakes in the state. The lake boasts particularly good bass fishing; bass tournaments take place here regularly, and it's one of the only places in the southern part of the state that you can find smallmouth bass. There are two boat launches for visitors to use, and motorboats under ten horsepower are permitted. The water is quite warm and well-suited to swimming during the summer, and Union Lake Park offers a sandy swimming beach with amenities like a volleyball court, a snack shack, and a playground.
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25 Best Lakes in New Jersey
- Culver Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Ruth - Fotolia.com
- Deal Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Wilfred - Fotolia.com
- Greenwood Lake, Photo: Courtesy of rmbarricarte - Fotolia.com
- Highland Lakes, Photo: Courtesy of DESIGNOSAURUS. - Fotolia.com
- Lake Aeroflex, Photo: Courtesy of lom742 - Fotolia.com
- Lake Carnegie, Photo: Courtesy of eqroy - Fotolia.com
- Lake Erskine, Photo: Courtesy of gdvcom - Fotolia.com
- Lake Hopatcong, Photo: Courtesy of schankz - Fotolia.com
- Lake Marcia, Photo: Courtesy of mandritoiu - Fotolia.com
- Lake Mohawk, Photo: Courtesy of nreina - Fotolia.com
- Lake Musconetcong, Photo: Courtesy of Simon - Fotolia.com
- Lake Owassa, Photo: Courtesy of sofia30 - Fotolia.com
- Lake Tappan, Photo: Courtesy of Pascal Halder - Fotolia.com
- Manasquan Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of Jin - Fotolia.com
- Merrill Creek Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of eyepark - Fotolia.com
- Oxford Furnace Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Aleksei - Fotolia.com
- Pine Barrens Lakes, Photo: Courtesy of Norm - Fotolia.com
- Round Valley Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of Michael - Fotolia.com
- Shepherd Lake, Photo: Courtesy of mandritoiu - Fotolia.com
- Spring Lake, Photo: Courtesy of yak_olesya - Fotolia.com
- Spruce Run Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of Jin - Fotolia.com
- Sunrise Lake Beach Club, Photo: Courtesy of LUGOSTOCK - Fotolia.com
- Swartswood Lake, Photo: Courtesy of frank1crayon - Fotolia.com
- Tomahawk Lake, Photo: Courtesy of schankz - Fotolia.com
- Union Lake, Photo: Courtesy of john raffaghello II - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of garytog - Fotolia.com