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Outdoors

6 of America’s Prettiest Small Lake Towns

By Fiona Mokry
Read time: 5 minutes

Given their location, lakeside towns are naturally peaceful and scenic, and it’s no surprise that they often double as popular vacation spots. Indeed, with their recreational activities, thriving artisan communities, access to wildlife, and overall tranquil vibes, it’s difficult to find the negative side of a lakeside retreat. Nonetheless, certain lake towns stand out from the pack. Here are six of the most beautiful lake towns in the U.S. to visit this summer.

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

Aerial view of church and other buildings in lakeside town of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
Credit: Wangkun Jia/ Shutterstock 

The natural beauty of New England is no secret, and the small town of Wolfeboro showcases it spectacularly. Wolfeboro claims the crown of the “Oldest Summer Resort Town in America,” with a history dating to when the colonial governor of New Hampshire built his summer home on Lake Wentworth in 1763. A testament to Wolfeboro’s timeless appeal is the annual seasonal population increase — from around 6,500 permanent residents to a whopping 25,000 in the summer. 

On the opposite side of town is Lake Winnipesaukee, the biggest lake in New Hampshire. Visitors flock to this 72-square-mile body of water to swim off one of the many beaches, boat to one of the hundreds of islands, explore craggy coves, or embark on one of the many epic hikes in the foothills of the famous White Mountains that encompass the lake.  

Rangeley, Maine

Buildings reflecting on waters of Rangeley Lake in Maine
Credit: DenisTangneyJr/ iStock via Getty Images 

Located roughly 2.5 hours north of Portland, Rangeley is a backwoods country town flush with the rugged beauty Maine is known for. Rangeley’s 55 square miles are sparsely populated with around 1,200 residents, but the town’s location on its namesake lake has been drawing visitors to western Maine for decades. Rangeley Lake is a popular fishing hub for trout and salmon in the summer and a base for many avid skiers and snowboarders seeking fresh powder at Saddleback Mountain in the winter. 

If you’re not into casting a line or extreme downhill sports, there’s still plenty to pique your interest. Waterfalls beckon to be discovered, and kayak, canoe, and boat rentals are available to explore the lake. Meanwhile, wildlife such as loons and bald eagles abound, and the hiking is some of the best Maine has to offer.

Lakeway, Texas

Aerial view of Lakeway, Texas
Credit: RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/ iStock via Getty Images 

A welcome retreat for Austinites during the hot summer months, Lakeway is located 40 minutes northwest of the capital on the shores of Lake Travis. Lakeway was once a sleepy town that attracted retirees and second-home owners, but the lake’s golden sands, warm waters, and verdant surroundings have caught the attention of many more tourists in recent years. Boat tours, party coves, and plenty of amenities encircle the lake, but if you’re seeking peace and quiet, Lakeway offers cottage rentals, access to Lake Travis parks, and a welcoming, laid-back atmosphere.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Home with garden in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
Credit: wanderluster/ iStock via Getty Images 

If you’re looking for an introduction to Cajun country, look no further than Breaux Bridge. Located 5 miles from Lake Martin, the town of approximately 7,500 is known as the “Crawfish Capital of the World.” Breaux Bridge claims to have invented the crawfish etouffee and continues to host an annual crawfish festival. Needless to say, sampling crawfish while in town is a must. 

Breaux Bridge is also a great jumping-off point to explore the surrounding bayou landscape. Swamp tours on Lake Martin and Atchafalaya Basin offer excellent opportunities for spotting wildlife including heron, barred owls, turtles, osprey, and alligators. Meanwhile, you can admire the majestic cypress trees with moss-draped branches that grow straight out of the lake floor. In addition to water activities, nearby hiking and walking trails — such as the Lake Martin Loop Trail and the Cypress Island Nature Trail — are tranquil alternatives to soak up the beauty of the bayou.

Saugatuck, Michigan

Marina of Saguatuck, Michigan
Credit: William Reagan/ iStock via Getty Images 

Michigan lays claim to four of the five Great Lakes — Erie, Superior, Huron, and Michigan — plus around 11,000 other lakes. All that to say, if it’s a pretty lake town you seek, the Mitten State won’t let you down. Part of Michigan’s “Art Coast,” Saugatuck is an especially quaint lake town that earned Midwest Living’s Best Beach Town award in 2021. 

Saugatuck brims with beauty both natural and human-made, from the strip of art galleries and restaurants in old Victorian buildings that line the town’s historic main drag to the golden sandy shores of Oval Beach on Lake Michigan. Away from the water, Saugatuck offers a host of nature activities in Saugatuck Dunes State Park, such as swimming, wildlife viewing, and miles of pretty hiking trails that traverse the coastal dunes and adjacent forest. 

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Credit: Khairil Azhar Junos/ Alamy Stock Photo

Eureka Springs, a small town of around 2,200 people, may seem like a blip on the map, but it has long attracted droves of visitors in the summer months. Eureka Springs is nestled in the Ozark Mountains and located within a few miles of Beaver Lake and Lake Leatherwood. Both of these lakes offer visitors cottage or campsite rentals and a plethora of recreational activities such as kayaking, fishing, and hiking. 

However, the main draw here is the access to multiple natural mineral springs that encircle Eureka Springs and were discovered in the 19th century. Within walking distance of the town center, you’ll find bathhouses and spas supplied with the natural spring water, but the most popular is Palace Hotel and Bath House, the only one of the town’s former historic bathhouses still in use today. Whether you choose to spend time on the lake or in the healing mineral waters, a visit to Eureka Springs is a sure bet for a memorable summer getaway. 

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