Nothing is more peaceful than a day spent relaxing by the lake. North America is chock-full of beautiful lake towns—some of the best in the world, if you ask us—each boasting its own unique attributes and dazzling beauty. Whether you want the stunning backdrop of a Canadian mountain range, the liveliness of a city center, or the charm of Small Town, USA—the destinations on our list are sure to please. But the best lake towns aren’t just about relaxation – that’s why we’re also featuring locales with plenty of adventure, both on the water and on land. Think sightseeing cruises, tubing, and kayaking, or vineyard tours, hiking, and waterfront restaurants. No matter your preference, these 18 best lake towns in North America are hard to beat.
When planning your lakeside getaway, consider booking a rental property as your accommodation! Rentals offer travelers a superb level of peace, privacy, and comfort, along with all the convenient amenities of home (such as a full kitchen and laundry). Each destination on our list has several amazing rental homes, cabins, and apartments to choose from. So whether you’re looking for lakeside solitude or to be steps away from downtown, you can choose a rental that fits your needs perfectly.
Once you’ve settled on one of these gorgeous North American lake towns, you can book your rental property, tours, activities, and other travel experiences right on TripAdvisor!
From the sandy shores of Lake George to the astonishing scenery of Lake Louise, read on for 18 of North America’s best lake towns!
Door County, WI
Door County is a picturesque peninsula bordering both Lake Michigan and Green Bay. It’s known for its many parks and stunning natural beauty. One of the best ways to experience the lake is by kayak, where you’ll paddle through ancient caves and waterways. Check out the Maritime Museum to hear fascinating tales of historic ships, captains, lighthouse keepers and more. Then, see it all up close on a Shoreline Charter—including a real shipwreck!
Lake George, NY
Tucked among New York’s stunning Adirondack Mountains, Lake George has earned its title as one of America’s most beautiful lake towns. Relax and enjoy the scenery on a Dinner or Sightseeing Cruise aboard the Lac du Saint Sacrement, or grab your hiking boots and head off on an enjoyable trek to Shelving Rock Falls, a peaceful waterfall you’ll want to bring the camera for. Wind down afterwards with a serene afternoon or evening spent sampling the award-winning local wines at Adirondack Winery.
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Jaw-dropping beaches, nearby ski resorts, and a vibrant downtown make South Lake Tahoe one of the USA’s best lake towns. An unforgettable way to take in the gorgeous scenery of the lake and its surroundings is the Emerald Bay Tour, a helicopter tour that won’t break the bank. Rent a kayak from South Lake Tahoe Kayak Rental to explore the lake at your own pace with your friends or family. If you’re visiting during the winter months, it’s super easy to rent the gear you need to get out on the slopes.
Southern Ontario is home to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a charming and historic town on the shores of Lake Ontario known for its wineries, tree-lined streets, and quaint 19th-century architecture. Venture out on a Wine Tour and Tasting, where you’ll sample prized wines at four local wineries. This is just one of many wine tasting experiences available to you here. While you’re in town, don’t miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime tour of nearby Niagara Falls, like this awesome half-day tour with cruise.
On the shores of Lake Pend Oreille is Sandpoint, a scenic lake town surrounded by stunning mountains perfect for winter sports lovers and summer sun seekers alike! Check out Schweitzer Mountain for unspoiled ski trails or even a snowmobile tour for the whole family. During warmer months, you can experience the beauty of the lake up close on a Lake Pend Oreille Cruise. Take a peaceful drive up the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway, the perfect way to enjoy the stunning foliage of the autumn months.
Saugatuck, settled on the pristine shores of Lake Michigan, is often regarded as a hidden gem coastal getaway, making it a worthy addition to our list of best lake towns. One of Saugatuck’s main attractions is Oval Beach, where the water is crystal clear and the sunsets are seemingly endless. For an adrenaline-pumping adventure, venture out on a Dune Ride on the lake’s scenic sand dunes! Stroll down Saugatuck’s main street, Butler Street, for great shopping and a delicious meal at one of the many local restaurants.
Known for warm water, beautiful beaches, and surrounding vineyards, Osoyoos is a majestic lake town not to be missed. On a Kelowna Afternoon sightseeing and wine tour, you’ll experience the town’s abundant scenery during a guided journey to four vineyards with exquisite wines to taste and enjoy; one of many wine tours available in Osoyoos. Drive or hike up to Anarchist Mountain Lookout, where you’ll enjoy spectacular, uninterrupted views of the Okanagan Valley and parts of Washington state.
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this beautiful lake town is surrounded by ski areas, trails, and natural landmarks like Devils Postpile National Monument, a stunning formation of basalt columns in the midst of the roaring Rainbow Falls. There is so much natural beauty to take in here, and you can experience it all on the trip of a lifetime if you’re up for it—this 4 Day Sierra Nevada Tour led by a professional guide is the perfect start. For winter visitors, Mammoth Mountain is an awesome ski and snowboard location for beginners all the way up to black diamond pros.
Branson is one of our favorite American lake towns, and an ideal destination for family vacationers. The vibrant culture here is contagious. Don’t miss a night at the famous “Legends in Concert,” held at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre, where you can see nightly live performances and historic rock and roll memorabilia. Consider a relaxing Main Street Lake Cruise to see the lights of Branson from the water. Branson is also home to the Titanic Museum, an exact replica of the “unsinkable” ship complete with its iconic grand stairway.
The beautiful lake town of Chelan is an ideal spot for vacationers seeking a peaceful escape with stunning natural beauty. For adventurous visitors, head out on a rafting trip down the Spokane River. Another great outing for groups is to explore the town on an electric bike tour, with the option to stop at local wineries along the way. Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area is an awesome spot for skiers and snowboarders, as well as those just seeking an incredible vantage point of the lake below.
Traverse City, MI
Traverse City is a perfect blend of city and nature, located on Michigan’s Gold Coast. Take in the natural scenery with family and friends on a Platte River and Lake Michigan Tubing Tour. For a relaxing adventure, sip the afternoon away at peaceful boutique winery Bowers Harbor Vineyards. Be sure to check out The Village at Grand Traverse Commons; what was once a state asylum is now a bustling center for local cuisine, shopping, wineries, and more.
Coeur d’Alene, ID
A trip to Coeur d’Alene is perfect for adventure-loving vacationers. This alluring lake town is well known for its water sports. Consider a rafting trip, fishing excursion, or kayak expedition with Coeur d’alene Adventures. Back on land, soar through the canopy on one of seven ziplines at Timberline Adventures. After all these thrills, relax and enjoy a wine tasting at Coeur d’Alene Cellars, a local vineyard with scenic views.
On the shores of Lake Champlain is Burlington, a friendly and charming college town with tons to do. Craft beer is popular here, and you can try over twenty varieties on a Burlington Brew Tour. The Saturday farmer’s market is not to be missed; in the bustling town center you’ll find artisan foods, drinks, crafts, and great people-watching opportunities. Enjoy a trip out on the water on a Lake Champlain Ferry, complete with an informative guide, food, drinks, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Grand Lake, CO
For those seeking a peaceful lake retreat, the tiny town of Grand Lake will do the trick. Spend a day relaxing at The Beach at Grand Lake or head out on the water for a stand up paddleboard excursion with Rocky Mountain SUP. Consider joining a Headwaters Marina Scenic Lake Tour for a guided kayak trip around the lake.
Located in New York’s Finger Lakes Region, Ithaca is a scenic city on the shores of Cayuga Lake. At Robert Treman State Park, you can swim, play, and even stand underneath a waterfall—the perfect way to spend a summer day. For food lovers, there’s no better choice than an Ithaca is Foodies Tour, a guided tour to five of the city’s best restaurants. If you prefer to catch your meal, you can fish for salmon, lake trout, and rainbow trout on an impressive 29-foot yacht during an In-Depth Fishing Adventure.
Banff, Alberta, Canada
As far as natural beauty goes, Lake Louise in Banff National Park is tough to beat. Take in the stunning beauty of the lake, mountains, and ancient glaciers on a Banff National Park Guided Hike. A fun and unique way to explore the area is on a Scenic Snowshoe Tour, an experience even young children can enjoy. For the curious and not-so-faint-of-heart, venture out on a day trip to grizzly country with Discover Grizzly Bears. This unbelievable journey also includes a gondola ride up to 7,700 feet with unparalleled panoramic views.
Lake Geneva, WI
Lake Geneva is a resort town that has earned its spot on our list of best lake towns for its history, beauty, and family-friendly attractions. Big Foot Beach State Park is a 271-acre park with a pristine sandy beach, wooded campsites, and endless picnic spots. Explore the town on a Lake Geneva Ghost Walk, where you’ll learn the paranormal legends and haunted history of the town.
Surrounded by pine forests, orchards, vineyards, and mountains, Kelowna is a beautiful lake town—last on our list but far from least! Kelowna is well known for its stunning vineyards, and there is no shortage of wine tours available to experience it all. Try this West Kelowna Wine Tour for a guided excursion to some of Kelowna’s best and most picturesque wineries. For a scenic stroll in Kelowna, visit Kasugai Japanese Gardens, Gyro Beach, or Knox Mountain Park.