The Best Lakefront Escapes in the U.S.

Dan Koday
·9 min read

For generations, lakefront hotels and homes have been at the forefront of American travel. From sea to shining sea, our country is blessed with shimmering, crystal-clear lakes in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own spellbinding view that only nature can produce. With many lakes located in remote locales, lakefront retreats have become the de rigueur choice of late for domestic travelers who are venturing to spread out spaces and keeping social distancing guidelines in mind.

From historical, national park lodges to a hip, freshly minted hotel in the Finger Lakes and a grand estate on Lake Michigan's shores, these are the best lakefront hotels and vacation rentals around the U.S. right now for year-round fun and memory-making.

Lake House on Canandaigua — New York

At this contemporary lakefront retreat, a long, private dock filled with Adirondack chairs sits adjacent to a small marina overlooking the entirety of Canandaigua Lake. It's here that hotel guests congregate each morning and night to catch spectacular sunrises and sunsets that glitter off the lake.

A recent opening in a popular New York State region, the Lake House on Canandaigua sits on one of the more private, monied, and exclusive Finger Lakes where guests at the family-owned property can expect a friendlier, Hipster-like communal vibe. Bathed in white and cream colors both inside and out and with guest rooms that feature four-poster beds in weathered woods, The Lake House proves it has an eye for design.

Within a few feet of the doors off the main lobby, you can be perched around two separate gas-fired fire pits, at the on-site restaurant and seasonal bar, the timber-framed barn event space, or the large pool and year-round hot tub — each with its own mesmerizing view from the North End of the lake.

Lake Quinault Lodge — Washington

Surrounded by thick forest and mountains, this picture-perfect lakefront hotel built in the '20s is located in Washington state's secluded Olympic National Park. Reminiscent of an old-timey lodge, a large fireplace outfitted with taxidermy greets visitors inside. Outside, a grand lawn overlooks the lake, and remains very much the way it did when President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the area prior to making it protected land. Today, picture windows at a celebrated dining room named in his honor reveal exquisite views from every angle.

Limited Wi-Fi, cell reception, and a lack of television and phones encourage visitors to digital detox and get out into nature. Biking, paddle boarding, boat tours, fishing, and hiking trails — which lead to a 1,000 year old Sitka Spruce Tree and nearby waterfalls — accomplish just that, but nothing beats curling up with a good book overlooking the lake or in front of the fireplaces of the well-appointed guest rooms.

Grand Beach Estate — Michigan

A massive estate that brings a bit of New England's charms to Michigan, Inspirato's Grand Beach Estate is a whopping 9,000-square-foot vacation dream home surrounded by forest with sweeping panoramic views over Lake Michigan, arguably the most pristine of the Great Lakes.

Staying on theme, nearby to this Southwestern Michigan vacation rental are quaint towns with idyllic, picture-perfect lighthouses and marinas that one might expect to find in Cape Cod or Nantucket, as well as perfectly planted vineyards and wide, sandy beaches that excel in calm and quiet.

Family-friendly by design, the large home boasts seven bedrooms, a gourmet kitchen, a huge terrace to stretch out on, ping pong and foosball tables, and a seasonal heated pool. There's even a Peloton bike available for health-inclined guests.

Suttle Lodge — Oregon

With eleven guest rooms — each outfitted with a custom Pendleton blanket — and a mix of fourteen deluxe and rustic-style cabins, this Oregon log charmer is where hip meets comfy, cozy lodge vibes.

The property's operating boathouse doubles as a place for renting boats, canoes, and kayaks in the summer and is the ideal place to take in a lakefront meal. Year round, as a highlight of the main Lodge, you'll find Skip, a restaurant and lounge helmed by Chef Jarrot Moonitz.

After a day filled with everything Deschutes National Forest has to offer — hiking, biking, rafting, horseback riding or skiing — guests at Suttle Lodge come together to stargaze on a large deck filled with socially-distanced Adirondack chairs and nearby picnic tables.

The Inns of Aurora — New York

Driving into the tiny, Cayuga lakefront town of Aurora, NY, it's hard to miss the cluster of historic buildings — each masterfully restored with their own individual charms — that make up The Inns of Aurora. A dominating and stately presence, the set of buildings include a Queen Anne mansion, an 1840s era bank, an often-Instagrammed Greek temple overlooking the water, and the original Inn. Built in 1833, it has continuously received guests ever since and is today home to an innovative menu at the elegant and aptly 1833 Kitchen & Bar restaurant.

One of the great little joys when visiting this storied property, though, is simply sitting on the dock in front of its most impressive building, the Italianate-style E.B. Morgan House. The dock is submerged directly into the lake and surrounded on all sides by glistening water for easy access to swimming, and is completed by chairs that lean far back with pocket cup holders that cordially invite guests for a wine and cocktail hour with the backdrop of a spectacular sunset.

Each guestroom is unique in size and range in decors from traditional to contemporary, many with in-room fireplaces and private balconies, but all with access to the property's private kayaks and paddle boards, plus activities like painting lessons, restorative yoga, and meditation sessions. But it's the warmth of the resident innkeepers that truly set this boutique waterfront property apart, acting as a greeting party and concierge who are available to aid guests in everything from serving light snacks and refreshments to building and lighting the many wood-burning lakefront fire pits.

Lake Austin Spa Resort — Texas

A private speed boat water taxi picks guests up from downtown Austin, TX and whisks them through the splendor of the Colorado River, which in this more exclusive part of the city, is fed by Lake Travis and lined with grandiose homes. Upon arrival, those in need of some R&R emerge to a Nirvana-inducing resort and wellness spa with just forty guest rooms and carefully landscaped to evoke a sense of calm through nature. As an added bonus, it has plenty of room to spread out and make social distancing a breeze.

During the recent lockdowns and travel lulls, Lake Austin Spa finished a major property transformation by updating guest rooms and common spaces to be filled with art, custom furnishings, English fabrics, and decor details that, like the grounds, focus on infusing a sense of calm. The resort and spa has also been busy revamping their menu options to become more plant-forward, offering guests picnic basket meals that can be enjoyed al fresco along the shores of the lake, and focusing on new treatments that address anxiety, stress, immunity and rest.

Grand View Lodge — Minnesota

This majestic property features ample options in regards to lodging — from private cabins to cozy villas — and occupies more than 750 acres of stunning land along Minnesota's Gull Lake. The resort is an attraction all of its own, first and foremost for its adorable on-site chapel, but also for the 2,500 square feet of sandy beaches and camp-like experiences that can keep entire families and friend groups occupied for days.

If sitting back and being pampered is more your style, Grand View Lodge is also home to the award-winning Glacial Waters Spa, which is still open and offering an array of treatments with COVID-19 precautions and safety in mind. There is also a handsome indoor pool with a vaulted wood-planked ceiling, which proves to be a friendlier way to take a dip during Minnesota's cold winters.

Half Mile Farm — North Carolina

No town epitomizes bucolic mountain quaintness quite like Highlands, NC, and in addition to easy access to the stunning town, Half Mile Farm is surrounded by 14 acres of pristine land that backs up to the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

This little inn is exclusive to adults, and completely amplifies the idea of your typical bed and breakfast by featuring swoon-worthy guest rooms and cottages that are adorned with rustic-luxe decor. Accommodations all include tranquil views of the mountains, the property's stunning courtyard, or the sparkling Apple Lake — the latter of which can be enjoyed by complimentary canoe, too.

Keystone Lodge & Spa — Colorado

Travelers looking for a breathtaking, high mountain winter escape with lakefront views will find Keystone Lodge & Spa tough to beat. The property perfectly fuses rustic accents with first-class amenities and services and offers easy access to ski slopes, plus plenty of opportunities for R&R.

One of our favorite said relaxation moments: Escaping to the on-site spa's balcony after a relaxing treatment to take in sweeping views of the snow-dusted Rocky Mountains and Keystone Lake.

Camp Wandawega — Wisconsin

Reminiscent of the old-school camp experience you likely had as a kid, this Elkhorn, WI retreat set across 25 acres has access to private beaches and fishing, and the best canoeing and S'mores-filled campfires you've been daydreaming about well into adulthood. The property boasts plenty of accommodation options, including vintage side-by-side cabins which are available on Airbnb, as well as a bunkhouse, A-frame cabin, and more.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Camp Wandawega has been receiving visitors (of all kinds) since the '20s — first as a speakeasy and hideout for Chicago mobsters, then as a brothel, and later cleaning up its image as a popular resort and, eventually, as a Latvian Church Camp. Today's owner came to said camp as a kid, purchased it in 2003, and has been tending to its 60-some guests ever since.

Kenoza Hall — New York

A soulful, all-seasons lakefront hotel located in the Western Catskills near the tiny, trendy retreats of Narrowsburg and Calicoon — popular respites for New Yorkers — Kenoza Hall is located on Kenoza Lake and has roots as an early 20th century boarding house. Today, the brand new hotel is a feast for the senses, with pops of rich colors, textures, and playful details juxtaposed by Victorian-era architecture.

Further Highlights of Kenoza Hall include an enclosed relaxation lounge with wood burning fireplace at the on-site Hemlock Spa, the Map Room filled with historic guide books of the local area, and the Lake Room, a curated collection of vintage photos, paintings, glassware, and other fun tchotchkes.