15 Best Lakes in North Carolina

By Janet Benoir – October 17, 2023

North Carolina, a state graced with awe-inspiring lakes, offers a diverse range of aquatic experiences for everyone. Nestled between the majestic Appalachian Mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, you can revel in water activities such as fishing and waterskiing. Don’t forget to pack your summer skis and fishing rod as you embark on your adventure through nature’s finest.

Lake Norman

As you explore the best lakes in North Carolina, Lake Norman should be at the top of your list. This extensive reservoir provides an array of outdoor activities to satisfy any nature enthusiast. At Lake Norman, you can enjoy swimming, boating, and hiking opportunities that cater to visitors of all ages and interests.

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To make the most of your visit, head to the marina where you can rent a boat or take advantage of available campsites for an overnight stay. Don’t forget to check out the state park, where you’ll discover scenic overlooks, picnic tables, and additional hiking trails that showcase the beauty of North Carolina’s outdoors.

Lake Wylie

At Lake Wylie, you’ll experience some of the best lakeside enjoyment North Carolina has to offer. With its miles of shoreline and sandy beaches, it’s the perfect spot to unwind and soak up the sun. The shallow areas near the shore make it safe for kids to play and swim, while still offering a comfortable depth for adults to enjoy water activities.

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You can explore the lake on kayaks, paddle boards, or boats, enjoying its breathtaking beauty from various perspectives. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with nature as you encounter wildlife, quaint coves, and the serene atmosphere that Lake Wylie offers. Make sure to include this charming lake in your list of top North Carolina destinations for an unforgettable experience.

Lake Lure

Lake Lure undoubtedly stands as one of the most picturesque lakes in North Carolina. You might recognize this location from the movie Dirty Dancing, which was filmed on these pristine shores. Offering a serene and stunning experience, Lake Lure boasts of its crystal-clear waters, surrounded by scenic mountains and lush forests.

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This breathtaking body of water holds the title of the highest lake east of the Mississippi. While considering lakes in North Carolina, it’s hard not to mention Kerr Lake, a popular destination for water activities and a favorite among locals and visitors alike. When venturing to these incredible lakes, you’re not only surrounded by natural beauty but also immersed in unforgettable experiences that showcase the best North Carolina has to offer.

Nantahala Lake

Nestled within the heart of the Nantahala National Forest, Nantahala Lake is a stunning destination you can’t afford to miss. Surrounded by the majestic Smoky Mountains, this natural lake offers you an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich biodiversity that thrives in the area. As you explore the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll have a chance to encounter a diverse array of wildlife, making it an ideal retreat for nature enthusiasts.

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During your visit to Nantahala Lake, you’ll be captivated by its crystal-clear waters, perfect for various recreational activities. You can spend your day boating, fishing, or even venture out for some water sports. As you traverse the serene waters, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, making it a memorable experience. Whether you are a seasoned adventurer or a casual outdoor enthusiast, Nantahala Lake guarantees a delightful escape to nature’s splendor.

Lake James

At Lake James, you’ll find a variety of exciting activities to choose from. The clear waters provide an excellent habitat for fish, making it an ideal spot for anglers. You can try your luck catching catfish, bass, crappie, trout, and perch. The lake’s surrounding environment offers a multitude of outdoor adventures such as hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Don’t forget to explore the biking trails available within the Lake James State Park.

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Not only does the park offer a range of outdoor sports, but it is also a prime location for hunting opportunities. Be sure to take advantage of this outdoor haven and immerse yourself in the stunning beauty of Lake James. With its diverse range of activities and serene atmosphere, Lake James truly stands out as one of the best lakes in North Carolina.

Lake Fontana

Nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Fontana offers you a breathtaking escape into nature. Possessing a unique beauty, this expansive body of water is the largest lake in western North Carolina. Surrounded by lush forests, the lake presents picturesque views from every angle, making it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

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At Lake Fontana, you can immerse yourself in a variety of recreational activities. The surrounding mountains provide a perfect backdrop for hiking, fishing, and camping, with numerous campgrounds available for you to choose from. Explore the scenic shoreline by boat or kayak, and revel in the tranquility of this enchanting location.

Jordan Lake

Jordan Lake offers you various recreational activities to enjoy in the heart of North Carolina. You can relish the picturesque trails surrounding the lake, perfect for a leisurely walk or a thrilling hike. Jordan Lake is also a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts, with opportunities to catch largemouth bass, white bass, and other species.

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Besides fishing, Jordan Lake provides ample options for water sports such as wakeboarding. So, whether you’re an experienced wakeboarder or a beginner eager to learn, the lake has something for everyone. With many attractions like trails, fishing, and wakeboarding, Jordan Lake truly shines as one of the best lakes in North Carolina.

High Rock Lake

High Rock Lake is a fantastic destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a wide range of recreational activities. While visiting, you can immerse yourself in various water sports like water skiing and tubing. Rent a canoe or kayak, and explore the lake’s beautiful scenery at your own pace. Reel in the excitement of catching striped bass as the lake has plenty of fishing opportunities, with well-maintained boat ramps for easy access.

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As you traverse the shoreline, discover numerous hiking trails that offer stunning views and a chance to connect with nature. After working up an appetite from a day filled with adventure, treat yourself to delicious meals at nearby restaurants. High Rock Lake truly captures the essence of what makes North Carolina’s lakes so exceptional, offering a memorable experience for every visitor.

Lake Glenville

Lake Glenville is a hidden gem in North Carolina, perfect for you to explore and enjoy various waterfront activities. Nestled in the mountains, this lake boasts several marinas where you can rent boats and kayaks for a day on the water. As you paddle or boat across the lake’s serene surface, you’ll be amazed by the surrounding lush greenery and mountain views.

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Adding to experience, you’ll have the opportunity to discover breathtaking waterfalls around the lake. These natural wonders can be reached by kayaking or hiking, offering you a delightful adventure. As you explore the best lakes in North Carolina, make sure not to miss the striking beauty and recreational opportunities at Lake Glenville.

Belews Lake

When looking for the best lakes in North Carolina, don’t miss out on experiencing Belews Lake. This magnificent body of water, nestled in the state’s Piedmont region, encompasses over 3,863 acres, providing myriad opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts like yourself.

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Not only is Belews Lake a great destination for activities like boating and fishing, it also offers skiing adventures. Its ample size and calm waters create ideal conditions for honing your skiing skills or simply enjoying a thrilling day on the water. So, pack your gear and head to Belews Lake for an unforgettable experience in North Carolina’s majestic outdoors.

Badin Lake

Badin Lake, nestled in North Carolina, is an ideal destination for you to experience unforgettable outdoor activities. Offering various camping options, you can choose from multiple campgrounds to set up your tent and enjoy nature at its best. While camping, don’t miss the opportunity to witness the stunning views of the lake and the surrounding wilderness.

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For a unique experience on the water, rent a pontoon and explore the beauty of Badin Lake at your own pace. As you drift along, indulge in fishing or simply unwind with your loved ones. The serene lake surrounded by lush greenery will not disappoint and proves to be one of the best lakes in North Carolina for a memorable getaway.

Lake Mattamuskeet

When exploring the best lakes in North Carolina, Lake Mattamuskeet stands out as a must-visit destination for its unique features. This picturesque lake is not only the largest natural lake in the state, but it is also part of the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. As you delve into the serene environment, you’ll be captivated by the crystal-clear waters offering a peaceful and idyllic setting.

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While visiting Lake Mattamuskeet, your experience will be enhanced by its abundant birdwatching opportunities. The national wildlife refuge is home to numerous species, including the majestic bald eagles, making it a dream destination for birdwatching enthusiasts.

Hyco Lake

Hyco Lake stands out as one of the best lakes in North Carolina for many reasons. You will appreciate its 3,750-acre expanse that provides ample opportunities for various water activities like fishing, boating, and water skiing. If you enjoy fishing, this lake offers a good chance to catch catfish, largemouth bass, and crappie.

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Besides Hyco Lake, North Carolina boasts other amazing lakes such as Lake Santeetlah and Price Lake. Both provide picturesque settings for outdoor recreation or simply enjoying the serene views. Don’t miss the chance to explore these gems and create lasting memories while visiting the beautiful state of North Carolina.

Randleman Lake

Randleman Lake, located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, offers you an ideal spot for various recreational activities. You can indulge in fishing, boating, and picnicking as you enjoy the beauty of nature. The lake’s clean and calm waters make it perfect for a refreshing swim or a leisurely kayak ride. The surrounding parks and recreation areas offer amenities such as playgrounds, walking trails, and scenic views for you and your family to enjoy.

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While appreciating the beauty of Randleman Lake, don’t forget to try your hand at fishing since it’s home to numerous fish species like largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie. You can also immerse yourself in birdwatching, as the serene environment attracts various species of birds. Remember to bring your camera to capture those unforgettable moments and stunning sceneries.

Lake Tahoma

Situated in the western part of North Carolina, Lake Tahoma offers picturesque views and a serene atmosphere for your visit. You’ll find this hidden gem nestled within the Pisgah National Forest, making it the perfect destination for relaxation and outdoor exploration.

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While at Lake Tahoma, you can indulge in various activities such as fishing, boating, and paddleboarding. Additionally, the surrounding forest provides ample opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing. Don’t miss out on this enchanting lake, as it truly showcases the natural beauty that North Carolina has to offer.