No beach? No problem. We’ve found five of the best lakes for a sun’n’swim break, without the saltwater. So, kiss goodbye to the coastline and head inland for a picturesque waterside trip, with none of the seaside crowds.
1. Lake Michigan, USA – fly to Chicago from £248
Perhaps one of the world’s most famous lakes, Lake Michigan is so big it gives four different states a waterfront. Standing on the shore, with the waves lapping at your feet, you’d be forgiven for thinking you really were staring out to sea. On the eastern shore, you’ll find plenty of lakeside destinations, from Sheboygan to Milwaukee to Chicago – the Windy City alone has 24 beaches to choose from. Take the short walk from the Magnificent Mile to Ohio Street Beach for a paddle, or, for something a little quieter, Kathy Osterman Beach is popular with locals thanks to its swim-friendly shallow waters.
2. Lake Geneva – fly to Geneva from £54
Crescent-shaped Lake Geneva, AKA Lac Léman, spans both France and Switzerland, giving you two holiday destinations for the price of one. In the east, you’ll find the glossy Swiss city of Geneva where you can swim at either the stony Bains des Pâquis beach (entry for adults is only 2 Swiss francs, 11 May – 11 September) or the smaller (free), sandy Baby Plage on the opposite bank. Alternatively, hire a car and take a scenic tour of the Swiss Riviera on the northern shore, between Lausanne and Montreux. For your French fancies, drive south for a stay at the waterfront spa town of Évian-les-Bains – the same Evian of bottled mineral-water fame.
Stay: in the lakeside Hotel Restaurant Kutchi to escape the bustle of the city. From around £116 a night, you’ll be just 50m from the edge of Lake Geneva. Money no option? Get even closer to the lake – as in, right on it – and board the Floatinn Boat BnB, a luxury catamaran docked in the port. From around £244 a night.
3. Lake Garda, Italy – fly to Verona from £25
Italy’s largest lake might just be more beautiful than any beach destination you’ve ever visited. With impeccably clear, clean waters backed by the majestic Alps, not only is it a picturesque place for a dip, it’s an enticing way to cool down during the hot summer months with water temperatures lingering in the mid-twenties. The beauty of Lake Garda is no secret, but you can avoid some of the crowds by heading to the Bay of the Sirens, a private beach tucked away in a waterfront park. Pretty Sirmione is a busy resort town, but worth a visit for the archaeological ruins, castle and flat-rock Jamaica Beach at the tip of peninsula. Base yourself in the slightly quieter town of Lazise where the golden sands have a proper seaside feel.
Stay: in the boutique Hotel Alla Grotta right in front of the old harbour of Lazise, with rooms from £99 a night. Dine at the adjoining, lakefront restaurant, serving fresh fish from the lake itself, washed down with Italian wine.
4. Lake Hiller, Western Australia – fly to Perth from £456
Why fly to the opposite side of the world to see a tiny lake on an inaccessible island? Err, because this lake is bubblegum pink, of course. Looking like a dollop of strawberry ice-cream spilt on the edge of Middle Island off the southern coast of Australia, it’s at its pinkest photographed from above, no filter needed. No one can pinpoint the exact cause of this natural wonder, but it’s thought to be some mix of science-y things like micro-algae and carotenoid pigments (also found in carrots). While swimming in the pink lake would be safe, the island is only used for research, so you’ll have to make do with an eagle-eyed view from the daily helicopter rides (running from October to April) and save your swimming for the ocean instead.
Stay: Make Esperance Island View Apartments your base, with apartments from £115. Scenic flight services leave Esperance airport several times a day, allowing you to admire the naturally beautiful coastline as well as Middle Island.
5. Alice Lake, British Columbia, Canada – fly to Vancouver from £264
Seeing as Canada contains more than 60% of the world’s lakes, it’s probably one of the best places going for a lakeside holiday. If anything, there’s too much choice. When it comes to swimming, the easily accessible Alice Lake is just an hour’s drive north from Vancouver, in the pleasingly named municipality of Squamish. Surrounded by mountains and forests, Alice Lake Provincial Park contains four freshwater lakes, a campground, and opportunities for canoeing, fishing, cycling, hiking, and stand-up paddle boarding too. Its eponymous lake also happens to be a favourite swimming hole among locals thanks to its pleasant beach and water temperatures that pass the toe-dip test with flying colours. If you fancy a lake-hopping trip, pine-fringed Cat Lake is just a 15-minute drive away. It’s another great spot for swimming, complete with rope swings and wooden rafts.
Stay: If you don’t fancy camping under canvas, stay in Sunwolf Riverside Cabins instead. It’s just a few miles north of Alice Lake Provincial Park. These cosy cabins come with pinewood furniture, hardwood floors and a gas fireplace. From £83 a night.
Feeling inspired for a lakeside holiday? Choose your favourite waterside destination and browse flights now.
All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 19 August 2019.