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16 of the Best Lakes in New Jersey

By | Last Updated : 24th June 2022

New Jersey is a popular beach destination, boasting 130 miles of sandy shoreline. However, the pristine lakes of the Garden State are no less behind. They offer one a calm and picturesque setting to spend a relaxing time. Even if you are looking for a day full of fun-filled activities, you can indulge in various water sports like water skiing and kite surfing. Do plan to arrive early before the lake area gets filled to its maximum capacity.

Lakes in New Jersey

Best Lakes in Northern New Jersey

1. Lake Hopatcong

Lake Hopatcong in Northern New Jersey

The state’s largest freshwater lake, Hopatcong Lake, lies within Hopatcong State Park. It attracts many visitors from the neighboring New York City as it takes less than an hour’s drive to reach. Apart from boasting stunning views, the lake’s 45-mile shoreline allows easy access to restaurants and marinas. With lifeguards patrolling the swimming area, you can have an enjoyable time in the water. On land, while you play a volleyball match on the volleyball court, your children can have fun sliding and running around at the playground. There’s also a picnic area with picnic tables and grills.

Fishing: The lake has an excellent stock of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, perch, crappie, bluegill, muskellunge, channel catfish, walleye, and chain pickerel. You can also visit the lake in winter to enjoy ice fishing.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, waterskiing, picnicking, camping, hiking

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2. Merrill Creek Reservoir

Merrill Creek Reservoir in Northern New Jersey

An excellent place to admire nature, Merrill Creek Reservoir boasts an underdeveloped shoreline that stretches more than 5 miles. The walking paths and hiking trails are highlighting features here, running parallel to the lake and traversing through pine forests and meadows. Swimming is a prohibited activity, but you can enjoy the water by hopping into your kayaks from the public boat ramp. Even on a summer weekend, you will not find this place overly crowded. 

Fishing: The lake holds excellent stock of largemouth bass, crappie, rainbow trout, brown trout, white bass, pike, perch, and sunfish.

Other Activities: Boating, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, hiking, wildlife viewing, birdwatching

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3. Swartswood Lake

Swartswood Lake in Northern New Jersey

Swartswood Lake is the centerpiece of Swartswood State Park, the first state park in New Jersey. There’s no fee to enter the park, and you would find several amenities like restrooms, showers, a concession stand, and boat rental shops. Besides, its calm water is ideal for enjoying various activities like swimming, kayaking, and boating. However, speedboats are not permitted to protect the water quality of the glacial lake. If preferring to stay on land, don’t miss hiking the adjoining trails through the woods from where you can enjoy glimpses of the lake.

Fishing: Popular species caught in Swarswood Lake include largemouth bass, bluegill, and chain pickerel.Ice fishing in winter is also popular in this lake.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, picnicking, camping, hiking

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4. Sunfish Pond

Sunfish Pond in Northern New Jersey

Sunfish Pond is a beautiful glacial tarn encompassed by the hardwood forests of Worthington State Forest. From here, you can also get spectacular views of Kittatinny Mountain. If you’re a hiking enthusiast planning a day’s adventure, you can consider visiting this lake. A 10-mile loop hike via Appalachian Trail and Dunnfield Creek Trail will lead you to it. Though it’s hard, it’s well worth the effort. Swimming or camping on its shoreline is strictly prohibited. However, you can enjoy staying overnight in the nearby areas.

Fishing: Fish species like largemouth bass, yellow perch, channel catfish, walleye, and smallmouth bass reside in the lake.

Other Activities: Hiking, nature gazing

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5. Ramapo Lake

Ramapo Lake in Northern New Jersey

Ramapo Lake is an artificial mountain lake flowing in the Ramapo Mountain State Forest. It’s a favorite place among hikers as they enjoy taking a respite after hiking along the multiple trails within the state forest like MacEvoy, Castle, and Cannonball Trail Loop. If you’re not into hiking, you can stroll around the lake to soak in the gorgeous views of the lake and the surrounding rock outcroppings. Though the pristine water may look tempting to plunge into on hot days, swimming is a prohibited activity here. Carry your binoculars to enjoy seeing various birds, including woodpeckers, orioles, and warblers.

Fishing: You can enjoy fishing for largemouth bass, chain pickerel, and black crappie.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, camping

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6. Tomahawk Lake

Tomahawk Lake in Northern New Jersey

A popular tourist destination, Tomahawk Lake sits within the Tomahawk Lake Waterpark in Sparta. Visitors of any age can enjoy the fun-filled water activities here, from water slides to exciting water rides. Attractive-looking boats of different types are available for rent, like paddleboats and swan boats. With other on-site amenities and nearby attractions, including a concession stand, an 18-hole mini-golf course, volleyball and picnic areas, and an outdoor beer garden that hosts live music every weekend, you will never feel bored for a second.   

Fishing: The lake is home to plentiful largemouth bass, chain pickerel, and rainbow trout.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, camping

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7. Greenwood Lake

Greenwood Lake in Northern New Jersey

This lake shares its water with New Jersey and its neighboring state, New York. Whether you want to enjoy a relaxing time boating or indulge in water skiing, the lake offers numerous opportunities for water activities. The encompassing Bearfoot Mountain Ridge and dense forest are awe-inspiring. If you visit the New York side of the lake, you will have access to two public beaches with lifeguards stationed at the swimming area.

Fishing: Walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and crappie are found in abundance in the lake.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, jet-skiing, water skiing, picnicking, camping

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8. Lake Marcia

Lake Marcia in Northern New Jersey

Lake Marcia is a well-visited site in Sussex’s High Point State Park. Its glistening, spring-fed water with lifeguards on duty and a nearby bathhouse add to the pleasure of swimming in the water. Also, with 50 miles of hiking trails, you could enjoy exploring the picturesque landscape. Hiking enthusiasts can tread on the 3.5-mile Monument Trail Loop to get stunning views of the lake and the surrounding from 1,803 feet height summit. For night’s accommodation, you’ll find many campsites and cabins in the vicinity. Remember that though dogs are allowed in the state park, they aren’t allowed to enter the beach area.

Fishing: Fish species include largemouth bass, chain pickerel, and bluegill.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, waterskiing, paddle boarding, jet-skiing, picnicking, camping

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Best Lakes in Central New Jersey

1. Atsion Lake

Atsion Lake in Central New Jersey

Atsion Lake is a well-known lake within Wharton State Forest. Visiting it is an ideal option for those seeking nearby attractions from Jersey Shore. The towering pine trees dotting the lake’s shoreline provide a visual treat. Under the supervision of lifeguards, you can enjoy a refreshing dip in its cool and calm waters. The adjacent historic Batsto Village area has many hiking trails to explore the scenic surroundings.

Do expect the summer weekends to be crowded. So, make sure to come before 10 in the morning. There’s a parking fee of $ 5 for in-state vehicles and $ 10 for out-of-state vehicles during the peak season.

Fishing: Atsion Lake has plenty of largemouth bass, chain pickerel, and black crappie.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, camping, hiking

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2. Round Valley Reservoir

Round Valley Reservoir in Central New Jersey

The state’s largest reservoir, Round Valley Reservoir, offers a plethora of recreational activities. Though swimming isn’t permitted in the main body of water, there’s a designated swimming beach where you can enjoy cooling off when lifeguards are on duty. The public boat launch allows easy access to the water with your kayaks. However, keep in mind that boats up to 10 HP are permissible here. Besides these, picnicking is a favorite activity for families visiting the reservoir. With three spacious picnic areas with grills and restrooms, you can enjoy your meals by the calm water and let your children run around in the adjoining playground area.

Fishing: The reservoir is mainly known for its impressive population of lake trout. Remember that you must catch and release the fish from September 16 through November 30 during their spawning season. Other fish species include largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, brown trout, and sunfish.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, picnicking, camping

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3. Manasquan Reservoir

Manasquan Reservoir in Central New Jersey

The quaint and calm Manasquan Reservoir is a chief attraction in Monmouth County Park System. Swimming is not allowed here because it serves as a source of drinking water for the locals. However, you can enjoy other water activities, including sailboating, kayaking, and fishing. Another sought-after activity here is hiking or biking along the 5-mile trail that winds the entire perimeter of the reservoir. The lush foliage on the other side of the path looks stunning in the fall season. Do keep your eyes peeled on the way for the nesting bald eagles.

Fishing: Anglers enjoy fishing for bass, crappie, catfish, chain pickerel, bluegill, and tiger muskie. You will have to acquire a state fishing license to fish here.

Other Activities: Boating, kayaking, sail boating, canoeing, picnicking, camping

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4. Deal Lake

Deal Lake in Central New Jersey

This artificial lake is one of the largest and best-kept secrets of the state. It is a paradise for birders as it provides the opportunity to spot ospreys, herons, egrets, and loons. As lily pads cover most parts of its surface, swimming is not a suitable activity. However, the calm water with public boat launches makes it a perfect spot to enjoy kayaking. Also, with the lake allowing unlimited horsepower, speed enthusiasts can enjoy jet and water skiing.

Fishing: The human-made lake offers various fish species, including white perch, largemouth bass, black crappie, and common carp.

Other Activities: Boating, kayaking, canoeing, jet skiing, water skiing, picnicking, camping

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5. Lake Carnegie

Lake Carnegie in Central New Jersey

This artificial lake is a privately owned lake within Mercer County. Initially created for the use of the rowing team of Princeton University, it now shares the water with the US Olympic rowing team. It is also open to the public for several recreational activities like boating and fishing. If paddling your boats, remember to give way to the rowing teams. Also, keep in mind that swimming and gasoline-powered boats are not permitted here.

Fishing: You can expect to catch largemouth bass, carp, pickerel, crappie, channel catfish, and sometimes rainbow and brown trouts.

Other Activities: Boating, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, camping, hiking

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6. Mercer Lake

Mercer Lake in Central New Jersey

Mercer Lake is a stunning attraction in Mercer County Park. With only non-gas motorized boats being allowed access to its water, the lake provides a relatively calm surrounding. There’s a free boat launch and a marina that offers boat rentals. Make sure to put on the life jacket before hopping into your boats. The county park is also home to picnic areas, volleyball courts, and several hiking trails for exploring.

Fishing: Largemouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch, white perch, channel catfish, black crappie, and white crappie populate the lake.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, camping

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Best Lakes in Southern New Jersey

1. Lake Absegami

Lake Absegami in Southern New Jersey

Lake Absegami is one of the most visited places in Bass River State Forest Park. The serene and peaceful surroundings make it a perfect place to camp by the lake. If you are seeking a cozier option, many cabins also dot the shoreline. With a public boat launch, you will not have to worry about accessing the calm water with your kayaks. Except for electric motors, other boats are not allowed to maintain the peacefulness and tranquility of the pristine water.

Fishing: Anglers often catch chain pickerel, largemouth bass, and bluegill in this lake.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, camping

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2. Union Lake

Union Lake in Southern New Jersey

Union Lake is a vast lake within Millville in Cumberland County. The quiet and calm setting is perfect for unwinding yourself after a stressful week. It is one of the ideal lakes for kayaking and canoeing. There’s a public boat ramp as well as many smaller access points to launch your boats. With the breeze blowing over the water, this lake also makes it an excellent place for sailing. There’s also a dog park inside Union Lake Park, where the lake sits.

Fishing: Fish mainly caught here include bass, crappie, sunfish, perch, catfish, and pickerel.

Other Activities: Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, camping

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TOP PICKS

Best Lakes for Swimming: Lake Hopatcong, Lake Marcia, Union Lake

Best Lakes for Fishing: Union Lake, Lake Mercer, Lake Greenwood

Best Lakes for Boating: Lake Atsion, Round Valley Reservoir, Deal Lake

Best Lakes for Camping: Lake Absegami, Round Valley Reservoir, Lake Marcia

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