Lakes and Beaches Near Cincinnati
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21 Lakes and Beaches Near Cincinnati, Ohio

Pack your swimsuits, a cooler, and towels because we have compiled the top lakes and beaches near Cincinnati, Ohio, to help you plan a perfect beach getaway. While downtown Cincinnati may have fabulous Ohio River views, many of us long for a sandy beach to stick our toes in.

Cincinnati may lack in lakes, but Ohio does not! Ohio has quite a few lakes that are drivable from Cincinnati. In this article, we will highlight lakes that make a perfect day trip, weekend getaway, or even oceanside beaches you can reach within a day of travel.

Lakes and Beaches Near Cincinnati Ohio

As with any lake travel, please check websites and heed any toxic algae warnings in lakes. Check the Ohio DNR website for any updates or closures for lakes in Ohio. Swimming at the lakes is often at your own risk, as lifeguards are not on duty. This site contains affiliate links.

Lakes and Beaches Within Two Hours Of Cincinnati

Caesar Creek Lake

A short drive north of Cincinnati is Caesar Creek Lake. The lake is a part of Caesar Creek State Park and is one of the closest beaches near Cincinnati. The park features a 1,300-foot public beach and various other recreational activities. The 2,830-acre lake is perfect for a day of boating with a marina available.

The beach area offers restrooms, picnic areas, and a small playground. Caesars Creek State Park also offers plenty of hiking trails, a nature center, and camping options.

Ceasar Creek Lake

There is also a Pioneer Village which is free to visit and consists of historic buildings from the Ceasar Creek area. The historic buildings are only open during events. The events are educational, showcasing how things operated and were created back in the day.

Local Tips

  • This lake has portions that are unlimited horsepower for boaters. Please swim only in designated areas to keep safe. It is not recommended that boaters swim in the lake off their boats.
  • The Caesar Creek Flea Market is open on weekends, only a short drive from the park.
  • Pets are permitted in certain areas.

East Fork Lake

Venture to the east of Cincinnati to plan an afternoon exploring East Fork Lake. East Fork Lake is one of Ohio’s largest State Parks at 4,870 acres. The beach area offers a 1,200-foot swimming beach that features changing booths, showers, and restrooms (including men’s, women’s, and family). Swimming is permitted in designated areas during daylight hours.

East Fork Lake is another one of the closest beaches near Cincinnati. There are picnic areas and picnic shelters found throughout the park. East Fork Lake is a great place to bring a kayak, a mountain bike (they have over 12 miles of trails), or your boat.

Local Tip: The Starlite Drive-In is close to East Fork State Park. If you are camping at the park or looking for a fun evening activity, the drive-in is the place to be!

Acton Lake

To the northwest of Cincinnati is Acton Lake in Hueston Woods State Park. We often love pairing a visit to Acton Lake with a stay at the Hueston Woods Lodge. The lodge offers a great outdoor swimming pool along with an indoor pool. The lodge has excellent pizza as well! It is worth ordering and bringing to the beach!

The beach at Acton Lake offers guests a 1,500-foot public swimming beach. There is a huge playground next to the beach and picnic areas. A bit of honesty, the few times I visited this beach, there was a lot of goose poo. I know the park does comb the beach occasionally, so maybe I came at a bad time.

The marina does offer boat rentals of kayaks and canoes for guests to enjoy. They are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Hueston Woods is one of my favorite state parks because there is so much to do. There is a fossil area for fossil hunting, a great nature center, disc golf, and beautiful hiking trails.

Local Tips:

  •  Hueston Woods Lodge offers cabins rentals around the lake. It makes an excellent base for exploring more of nearby Preble County.
  • Hueston Woods State Park has a dog park available.

Rocky Fork Lake

Rocky Fork is one Ohio lake that makes a great weekend getaway! This particular lake is in southwest Ohio, which is popular with boaters. There are two beach areas found at Rocky Fork offering 800 ft of lake access for swimming. Pets are not permitted on the beaches.

Playgrounds are at both the north and south beaches and picnic tables.

Rocky Fork offers a marina with boat rentals that includes pontoon boats. Boat rentals are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

There are not many hiking options available at this park, as the main feature is the massive 2,080-acre lake. Fishing is another popular activity to do at Rocky Fork.

Local Tips:

  • Rocky Fork Lake is an unlimited horsepower lake, making it popular with water skiers. Keep swimming limited to designated swimming areas.
  • The world’s largest effigy mound, Serpent Mound, is nearby! Serpent Mound is worth a visit if you are in the area.

Deer Creek Lake

Another great park for outdoor recreation is Deer Creek State Park. Here visitors can enjoy the gorgeous Deer Creek Lake. The lake is a one-hour drive from Cincinnati in Mt. Sterling, Ohio. A huge 1,700-foot public beach greets guests and includes picnic tables, swings, and a sand volleyball court.

There are restrooms near the beach. The nearest playground is at the dam pull-off.

Deer Creek Lake: Lakes and Beaches Near Cincinnati

Deer Creek Lake is home to Deer Creek Lodge, which offers lodge rooms, cabin rentals, and a restaurant. The lodge provides kayak, canoe, paddleboats, and paddleboard rentals for a fee. A marina offers boat rental that includes pontoons.

Local Tip: 

  • Pack a picnic. The closest restaurant is 20 minutes away; this does not include the lodge restaurant.
  • There is an 18-hole golf course at the park.

Cowan Lake State Park

A great day trip for a lower-key beach area is to Cowan Lake State Park. A 1,000-foot public beach is located on the south lakeshore. The lake is surrounded by mature trees giving it a calmness. Changing houses and restrooms are available for public use.

IMPORTANT: This beach is Carry In/ Carry Out, which means no trash cans are available. Please bring your own trash bags and take your trash with you.

The lake offers boating, with it being quite popular for kayaks and canoes. Fishing is a popular sport with many great spots along the lake’s edge to set up. There are also over 8 miles of hiking which yields scenic views of Cowan Lake.

Indian Lake State Park

A great lake north of Cincinnati is Indian Lake in Lakeview, Ohio. Indian Lake is in Indian Lake State Park. It offers two public beaches, Old Field Beach and Fox Island Beach, which provide 1,400 feet of access to the lake. Sand volleyball courts are on the beach, along with picnic areas.

The park offers a variety of recreation activities, including fishing, disc golf, dog park, camping, and more.

The 5,100-acre lake offers unlimited horsepower boating. Boating facilities include three marinas, the Lakeview Harbour, and Cranetown Island. This massive lake has a few restaurants nearby, including a concession stand at the marina.

Natural Springs Resort

A quick getaway roughly 90 minutes from Cincinnati is Natural Springs Resort, located in New Paris, Ohio. Snorkel in the crystal clear waters, snag the perfect fishing spot, then end the day with a marshmallow roast over a campfire. Natural Springs is one place that the family will want to come back to year after year with so much to do.

Natural Springs Resort in Ohio

Natural Springs is a campground encompassing a sparkling freshwater lake with a stunning rock quarry backdrop. This spring-fed lake offers tons of family fun activities such as snorkeling in the clear waters and relaxing on the beach to rent a boat. They even offer an inflatable wibits obstacle course.

Day passes are available for purchase on select days. However, many guests choose to camp or rent or cabin for the weekend to enjoy all that Natural Springs Resort offers.

Brookville Lake

Northwest of Cincinnati, right across the Indiana border, is Brookville Lake. This 5,000-acre lake is a popular destination for tourists with public beaches, boat rentals, hiking trails, fishing, and endless outdoor recreation.

The beaches can get crowded at times, especially on hot days when folks take advantage of the lake’s cool waters. Boats come by frequently, making the water choppy, but that is expected.

You can rent a pontoon or boat at Kent’s Harbor at Brookville Lake.

Local Tip:

There are no campgrounds near Brookville Lake, but nearby Mounds State Recreation Area offers camping.

Lakes and Beaches Within Three to Four Hours Of Cincinnati

Salt Fork State Park

Known as Ohio’s home for bigfoot sightings, Salt Fork State Park in eastern Ohio is more than a hot spot for bigfoot fans. It is a gorgeous park full of forested hills, rolling meadows, and scenic valleys. Salt Fork Lake has one of Ohio’s most extensive inland beaches, with a 2,500-feet beach for public swimming. Take a dip in the 2,952-acre lake. Then rent a boat for even more fun. 

Beachgoers can find a concession stand, changing rooms, restrooms, and outdoor showers.

A variety of boats are available for rent at the marinas. They have eight boat launch ramps on the lake.

A full-service lodge is available at Salt Fork State Park that offers deluxe cabins, hotel rooms, a restaurant, conference room, indoor/outdoor swimming pool, and more.

Salt Fork State Park is known for its scenic hiking trails. There are 14 different trails throughout the park, many under two miles.

Lake Cumberland

Venture south into Kentucky for a lakeside getaway to Lake Cumberland. Known as the houseboat capital of the world, renting a houseboat for a week comes highly recommended. You can even get houseboats with built-in slides to make your dip in the lake more fun.

Lake Cumberland is 66,000 acres making it a playground for boaters and water sports. Cabin rentals line the shore, with cute hotels scattered between. Bring a boat or rent one and enjoy an afternoon of fishing, tubing, waterskiing, or simply relaxing out on the lake.

There are plenty of activities nearby, including mini-golf, restaurants, hiking, and more.

Headlands Beach State Park

Lake Erie is a great vacation spot for those looking for a beach vacation without driving to the ocean. It offers many wonderful beaches near Cincinnati that are perfect for a weekend getaway. Cleveland offers a wide variety of sandy beaches, boating, and outdoor recreation. One of our favorite spots is Headlands Beach State Park.

headlands beach state park

Headlands Beach State Park offers a half-mile of beautiful beaches ideal for sunbathing and swimming. In addition, Headlands Beach also offers unique beach glass hunting and phenomenal Lake Erie sunset viewing.

At the far end of the beach is the old Fairpoint Harbor Lighthouse that sits in Fairpoint Harbor. Because of the unique interaction with the lake, the beach has become a rare lakeshore dune habitat that supports rare and unusual plants. It also makes it a top birding location in Ohio. Additional wildlife viewing opportunities include nesting bald eagles, snakes, red foxes, and an incredible monarch butterfly migration.

Headlands Beach State Park is one of Cleveland’s many Things To Do Outdoors.

Edgewater Beach, Cleveland

Bask in the sun while enjoying scenic views of downtown Cleveland at Edgewater beach. Offering a 2400 foot beach with 1000 feet of swimming access makes this a beach worth exploring. The westernmost portion of the beach is dog-friendly.

Edgewater Park is a 240-acre park consisting of Edgewater Beach, Perkins Beach, the Marina, and Yacht Club. The park is easy to access with plenty of parking. Go fishing off the pier, take your bike on the Bikeway, or do yoga on the beach.

Lakes and Beaches Near Cincinnati: Cleveland

Rent water sports equipment at the Nature Shop or grab a bite to eat at the Edgewater Beach House during the summer months. Don’t forget to snag a photo by the iconic Cleveland sign!

Maumee Bay State Park

On the outskirts of Toledo, along the shores of Lake Erie, is Maumee Bay State Park. The park features two sand beaches, one on the Lake Erie shore and another along the park’s inland lake. Maumee Bay is known for its lodge and cabin rentals. The cabin rentals can be rented a year in advance.

Many trails are found throughout Maumee Bay State Park that takes visitors through marshes, meadows, wet woods, and Lake Erie.

Maumee Bay is roughly an hour away from Cedar Point, a famous amusement park known for thrilling roller coasters and attractions.

Lakes and Beaches Within Five Hours Of Cincinnati

Holland, Michigan

A wonderful week or long weekend escape is to the beaches of Holland, Michigan. Situated on Lake Michigan, Holland offers beautiful sandy beaches, especially at Holland State Park.

The state park has a vast beach that is perfect for watching the boats or sunsets. The Big Red Lighthouse sits proudly at the shore, signaling to nearby ships. Many tourists flock to the beach for family fun, sunbathing, and watersports during the summers months.

Tunnel Park in Holland Michigan

Tip: Depending on the weather, this can be ideal for a bit of relaxation or a picnic. Springtime weather can be fickle with strong winds and chilly temperatures closer to the lake.

A huge bucket list item in Holland is the Tulip Time Festival, when millions of tulips burst into bloom.

Norris Lake, Tennessee

Norris Lake is a sprawling lake in Tennesee with over 800 miles of shoreline waiting to be discovered. It offers typical watersports but is close enough to the Great Smoky Mountains for Whitewater Rafting, Ziplining adventure, and more.

Cabins are scattered throughout the region, giving tourists an option to stay close to the lake or further in the Smoky Mountains.

A few of the top things to do in Norris lake are boating, tubing, fishing, enjoying waterfront dining at the marinas, and hiking.

Bay City, Michigan

Hit the beach with a visit to Bay City State Park. This is a 2,389-acre state park that can be found on the shore of Saginaw Bay near Bay City in Bay County, Michigan, United States. The beach area offers swimming, a playground, picnicking and more!

The Tobico Marsh, one of the most extensive remaining freshwater coastal wetlands on the Great Lakes, is located in the park. Take time to enjoy the walking trails throughout the wetlands.

Bay City Michigan: Lakes and Beaches Near Cincinnati

Bay City is one of the many beautiful places to visit while visiting the Great Lakes Bay Area. I would also recommend making a trip to Frankenmuth, Michigan’s Little Bavaria.

Indiana Dunes State Park

The tranquility and beauty of the Indiana Dunes will have you questioning if you are actually in Indiana. Soft sand, massive dunes, and the waves rolling in from Lake Michigan made me feel as if I was along the coast of the ocean.

The Indiana Dunes State Park offered concessions, a shower house, restrooms, and picnic areas.

Indiana Dunes

 The Indiana Dunes is an incredible National Park with many excellent hiking trails and activities to explore. They also have a campground for those who enjoy camping. Known for its massive dunes, Indiana Dunes is one of the top beaches near Cincinnati.

Check out other great things to do in Northern Indiana, such as a day trip to South Bend or even a side trip to Chicago for a few days.

Grand Haven, Michigan

Another destination that many tourists rave about is the beaches of Grand Haven, Michigan. Lake Michigan offers plenty of sand and sun opportunities without the saltiness of ocean water. Venture to one of the most extensive beaches, such as Grand Haven State Park, to enjoy the waves, then stroll the piers to see the Grand Haven lighthouses.

For a small beach that is a hidden gem, explore Rosy Mound. After taking a hike through the stairs, trails, and boardwalks, you’ll end up at the Rosy Mound beach free of crowds. Make sure to take the extra time to stay for the beautiful sunset! Keep in mind it does take a little doing to get to.

Grand Haven is known for its unique eateries, trendy boutiques, and one of our personal favorites, the Grand Armory Brewery.

Ocean Beaches Closest To Cincinnati

When the urge to navigate to sandy beaches and salty sea breezes takes hold, only a visit to the ocean will suffice. Luckily, you can stick your toes in the sea with only a full day worth of travel. There are few beaches across the United States that Cincinnatians can reach within a day.

Ocean City, Maryland

The closest ocean beach to Cincinnati is Ocean City, Marland, at roughly 10 hours and 8 minutes long. As one of the nation’s top beaches, Ocean City offers 10 miles of sandy shoreline and plenty of family-friendly activities. Their three-mile boardwalk is known worldwide.

Check out this list for more great things to do in Ocean City, MD.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

One of the most popular beaches within driving distance from Cincinnati is Myrtle Beach. At roughly ten and half hours, Myrtle Beach makes the ideal vacation with only one full day of travel. Endless activities are available for families from Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Ripley Museums, Go-Karts, Amuseument Parks, etc. This is all in addition to the fabulous beaches.

Garden City, South Carolina

Not far from Myrtle Beach is Garden City, SC. It is only 20 minutes from Myrtle Beach but offers fewer crowds. We often choose to vacation here and drive into Myrtle Beach for the activities and attractions. If you venture to Garden City, be sure to check out our Things To Do In Garden City, SC.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

At roughly 10 hours and 13 minutes away, Virginia Beach sits where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. As a vibrant seaside town, Virginia Beach offers a rich culinary scene, lively entertainment, and plenty of rich history.

Virginia Beach has a variety of beach town districts, each with its unique flare. From the touristy Oceanfront to the farmlands of Pungo, there is an adventure waiting for every type of traveler.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

There are endless fun things to do with kids in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The sugar-white sandy beaches, the warm breeze coming off the sea, and the calming lullaby of the waves make visiting Gulf Shores an ideal vacation.

Gulf Shores Alabama

Whether you are planning a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or a girlfriend retreat, we have a great list of things to do during your next visit to Gulf Shores.

To find even more beaches near Cincinnati, we recommend hopping on the Ohio DNR website to see all the state parks that have lakes. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the nearest beach is closer than you think.

21 Lakes and Beaches Near Cincinnati, Ohio

Lakes and Beaches Near Cincinnati
Lakes and Beaches Near Cincinnati