If you think Florida is all about its award-winning beaches and amusement parks, you’re definitely wrong. Whether you’re into fishing, boating, or camping, the many beautiful lakes in Florida and their surrounding towns are guaranteed to surprise and delight.
With so many natural and man-made Florida lakes to choose from, you might be puzzled to narrow down your choices. No worries — you’ve come to the right place. Here we have created the list of the best lakes in Florida that can be enjoyed throughout the summer months and some even in winter.
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Do you know how many natural lakes are there in Florida? The Sunshine State has more than 8000 natural lakes which are not only ideal for a weekend vacation in Florida but also perfect for people looking to live in a relaxing location near the Florida lakes.
Some people like to visit lakes for swimming, some for fishing and boating and some to enjoy the natural scenic views. We have split the list in such a way so that you can choose the best Florida lake as you wish.
Best Lakes in Florida for Swimming
If you are looking for the best lakes to swim in Florida, these are the best options.
Located in the Lake Kissimmee State Park, this popular Florida lake is the best option when it comes to swimming or fishing to wildlife watching. It is heaven for bass fishing in Florida. Bluegill, catfish, crappie, and chain pickerel can be found in this lake.
There are several boat ramps around the lake. Kayaking and canoeing are also allowed in Kissimmee Lake. Wildlife lovers can find Bald eagles, ospreys, bobcats, white-tailed deer, alligators, and more.
Visitors can explore the hiking trails winding the lake. The park features picnic tables, and playgrounds making it a perfect family-friendly place.
If swimming is your topmost priority, you must visit Wakulla Springs, the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs that boast manatees, alligators, and different marine lives.
You can see the marine without getting wet by the Glass Bottom Boat. The water is so clear that you don’t even need the glass bottom boat to appreciate the views. There is a diving platform at the top of the spring. Experienced scuba divers are allowed to explore the underwater wonderland.
You may also like to know where to kayak with manatees in Florida.
Madison Blue Spring State Park
This picturesque first magnitude spring is one of the most beautiful springs in Florida. Madison Blue Springs is just 82 feet wide and pours out into the Withlacoochee River. If you want to take a plunge in a spring lake in Florida, this is a beauty. The clarity of the water is amazing that made it a compelling place to swim.
Cave diving is allowed but only for certified divers. Don’t worry. You’re welcome to launch a kayak, canoe, or tube. From the bluffs overlooking the River Withlacoochee, you’ll be able to see the waters of the spring mingling with the waters of the river in the riffles across the rocks.
The park features three large picnic pavilions where families can enjoy a fantastic weekend picnic in the woods in a quaint atmosphere.
Located in Marion County, Rainbow Springs is one of the best swimming lakes in Florida. The clear, cool water of the spring is incredibly refreshing. The water temperature remains 72- degrees year-round.
It is one of the most beautiful springs near Tampa area. You can see the turtles, and different types of fish while swimming and snorkeling. Kayak and canoe rentals are available there. Or you can just relax on a tube and enjoy the natural flow out of the spring.
You can go for a two-mile hike through the park and witness the beautiful man-made waterfalls that were built when the area was a privately-owned attraction.
Best Fishing Lakes in Florida
Do you like fishing? Check out these Florida fishing lakes where you can catch largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, chain pickerel, and other fishes as well as enjoy the beauty of the lakes.
Blue Cypress Lake
The average depth of the Blue Cypress Lake is 8 feet that have made it home for chain pickerel, bluegill, catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, and shell crackers.
The low depth of the lake is ideal for water vegetation(lily pads, sawgrass) to grow and it attracts all the lake’s fish. Although it is not ideal for swimmers but certainly a paradise for fishermen.
Undoubtedly, Blue Cypress Lake is one of the best bass lakes in Florida. You will be surprised to know that the largest largemouth on record at the lake weighed in at a whopping 18 pounds, 2 ounces.
The view of the lake is absolutely stunning. Drooping cypress trees spread their branches over the blue azure water, stretching their roots along the pristine shoreline. In addition, you can hire boats to explore the lake. Ospreys soar overhead, alligators peek out from behind long grasses, and turtles mosey along with lily pads.
Blue Cypress Lake also has campgrounds, cabins, and a picnic area. It is a perfect place for a weekend getaway far from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Known o many as “Lake O” or the “Big O” Lake Okeechobee is not only one of the best freshwater lakes in Florida but also the second-largest freshwater lake in the US covering more than 700 square miles.
This lake is famous for being a popular fishing spot in Florida, especially for Large Mouth Bass and Speckled Perch. The name Okeechobee has come from the Hitchiti word that means big water. It is one of the most popular bass destinations in the world.
Visitors can also enjoy hiking and cycling in The 110 mile Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) that runs along the shorelines. It features cabins for rent and campgrounds for pitching tents.
Read Also: 15 Best Campgrounds in Florida
Located just 41 miles northwest of Orlando, Lake Dora is a part of the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida. If you are on a weekend vacation in Orlando and looking for some relaxing experience to avoid the busy theme parks, Lake Dora is the place for you.
The lake is full of fish. Rent a pontoon and enjoy a full day of fishing in Lake Dora. You can catch bass, black crappie, catfish, and bluegill. Apart from fishing, the lake is great for boat cruising, water skiing, canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing.
Rent your kayak, canoe, or boat from the nearby small towns(Tavares and Mount Dora). Lake Dora is also a great spot for bird-watching in Florida.
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Located just 19 miles west of Tallahassee, Lake Talquin is one of the best lakes in North Florida. Surrounded by deep ravines and stunning hills, this popular Florida lake is a great place to spend a day with your family.
If you love fishing, here you can easily catch largemouth bass, speckled perch, crappie, and pickerel. If you don’t love fishing, no worries as Lake Talquin State Park offers various outdoor activities for all ages.
Wildlife is very common here. You can witness squirrels, ospreys, wild turkeys, alligators, bald eagles, and whitetail deer. If you don’t have any binocular, check out our list of the best compact travel binoculars.
Bring your kayak or canoe or rent from the nearby stores and explore the 10,000-acre Lake Talquin. The surrounding view of the lake is quite spectacular.
The park features a boardwalk, a picnic area with tables along with a pavilion that is perfect for a family gathering, or private parties.
Lake Seminole is the third biggest lake in Florida, located in Pinellas County, and shares the border with Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. Technically, this 37,500 acre Seminole Lake is a reservoir which is also known as the Jim Woodruff Reservoir.
This picturesque lake is popular for a healthy population of striped bass, crappie, and bluegill fish. Families and nature lovers often flock to this lake as the place boasts natural scenic views, hiking trails, picnic tables, playgrounds, and washroom facilities.
The surrounding area of the lake is filled with pines and hardwood, making it a quaint place to enjoy mother nature. Water skiing, canoeing, fishing, and boating can be enjoyed at Lake Seminole.
Best Lakes in Florida for Boating
This is the best part while visiting any lake. A Florida lake vacation is incomplete without boating. Here is the list of the best boating lakes in Florida.
Located near the Ocala National Forest, Lake George is a shallow brackish lake on the St. Johns River and one of the most famous lakes in Florida. If you are looking for the best lakes in Florida for vacation, go for it. This is the second-largest freshwater lake in Florida but the average depth is only 8 feet.
The water of the lake is rich with minerals and salts that come from multiple springs and flow into St. George. It created a perfect underwater environment for blue crabs, Atlantic stingrays, mullet, and striped bass.
Rent a pontoon boat, kayak, or canoe and explore its open waters and surrounding areas. Lake George has an abundance of activities that you never get bored of. Hikers love to hike the Lake George Trail in the Ocala National Forest. The lake also boasts a wide variety of wildlife ranging from bald eagles, migratory waterbirds to alligators and a number of marine animals.
‘Istokpog’ means ‘people have died here’ in Seminole language. In the early 1800s, when the native Americans tried to cross this shallow lake, they became victims to whirlpools and alligators.
The lake is shallow like other Florida lakes with an average depth of 6-8 feet. But the shallowness of the lake doesn’t cause any issue boating. In fact, pontoon boats are very popular here to cruise around the lake. Fishing is popular as well with 5 on-site boat ramps and several campsites surrounding it.
The surrounding scenery of this rectangular-shaped lake is impeccable. Lake Istokpoga attracts many photographers for its scenic views and versatile wildlife such as turtles, frogs, fish flying out of the water, and waterbirds including herons, egrets, turkeys, ducks, bald eagles, osprey, and buzzards.
Lake Harris(21.54 square miles) is the largest lake in the Harris Chain of Lakes located just at the north of Lake Apopka. People who are looking for a weekend break from nearby Orlando often visit this popular waterway.
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From boating, fishing, and bird watching to several water sports, hiking, and camping, Lake Harris is full of recreational activities. When it is about natural scenic views, Lake Harris is one of the prettiest lakes in Florida. The surrounding sandhills and the lush cypress trees create a mesmerizing backdrop which is why Lake Harris is more than beautiful.
The southeast part of Little Lake Harris is ideal for swimmers as the water is calm there. If you are planning for a night stay, you can stay near Yalaha. It is located at the southern shore of Big Lake Harris where you will find many luxurious waterfront hotels.
Best Lakes in Florida to Live on
Who doesn’t love to live near a lake with an expansive view of the glittering lake? If you are a nature lover and looking for a serene place to move, here is a list for you of the best Florida lakes to live on.
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Clermont is a picturesque Florida town located just 25 miles west of Orlando. There you will find several free things to do in Orlando. If you’re looking for a quiet place with natural beauty, visit Clermont lake.
Clermont has a population of 35,000. You will find several private homes located near the lake with direct lake access. People love to live in Clermont not only for its peacefulness but also for the stunning Clermont lake and other recreational activities.
There are lots of walking and biking paths along the lake and plenty of toilets and picnic tables and tree-covered benches to stop for a rest. There is also a fishing pier to catch fish or you can just enjoy the view. Clermont lake is one of the best lakes in central Florida. If you have kids, there’s a cute white sand beach with lots of water features.
Related Post: 9 Best Fishing Piers in Florida That are Worth Visting
Located in Lake County, Eustis is the central lake of the Harris Chain of Lakes. Eustis itself is a small town that is a part of the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area.
This area’s main claim to fame is its stellar location on Lake Eustis. It is a great choice for people who are planning to live near a lake in Florida. Lake Eustis is a popular public lake in Florida and is surrounded by several lakefront homes and boat docs making it a great lake for people who love the waterfront lifestyle.
Fishing, sailing, and gator watching are popular pastimes on Lake Eustis. The Buzzard Beach ramp is the most popular public boat ramp located between Tavares and Leesburg. Lake Eustis is an excellent choice for bass and crappie fishing in Florida.
So, these are the top Florida lakes that you must visit whether you like swimming, fishing, or boating. Florida has numerous natural lakes. Apart from these lakes, there are some other beautiful lakes that you can consider for a weekend vacation. These are Crescent Lake, East Lake Tohopekaliga, Lake Apopka, Lake Griffin, and many more.
FAQ on The Best Lakes in Florida
1. Are there any lakes in Florida without alligators?
A: Most of the lakes in Florida have alligators. Enough of them do that this is a safe and probably right assumption. But there are some artificially created lakes that don’t naturally have alligators. But wherever a body of water happens to be sooner or later alligators and snakes are going to find their way to it.
2. Where to find the best lake camping in Florida?
A: Blue Cypress Lake and Lake Okeechobee are the best lakes with campgrounds in Florida. Grayton Beach State Park is also a great option for camping near a lake where you can launch your kayak and canoe.