Great Lakes: Where to Make a Splash in NJ

Looking for some freshwater fun? Here’s our take on 20 New Jersey lakes.

At Lake Marcia, swimmers enjoy the view of High Point Memorial.
Photo by Robert Yaskovic/Agency New Jersey

Swartswood Lake
Swartswood (Sussex County)

New Jersey’s first state park, Swartswood is highlighted by its 550-acre namesake lake. Carved out by glaciers, the secluded lake is cradled by 10,000 acres of its watershed Kittatinny Mountains. Open year-round, Swartswood boasts a sandy beach; 73 campsites; wide, grassy picnic areas; volleyball and basketball courts; boat rentals; and what the Division of Fish and Game calls “one of the best walleye lakes in New Jersey.” In the winter, avid anglers can ice fish; on summer days, colorful sailboats dot the lake during regattas. —DAS

Thundergust and Parvin Lakes
701 Almond Road
Elmer (Salem County)

Located within Parvin State Park, Thundergust and Parvin Lakes embody South Jersey seclusion. Both lakes and their immediate surroundings offer a variety of activities, including boating, bird watching and hiking. The state park contains miles of trails and more than 200 varieties of flowering plants. Swimming is confined to Parvin Lake, which has a lifeguarded swimming beach (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day), with a bathhouse, first-aid station, canoe rentals and concessions. A public boat launch is available from sunrise to sunset year-round. There are several picnic areas throughout the park with tables and grills—plus 56 tent and trailer sites with flush toilets, showers and laundry facilities that can be reserved between April 1 and October 31 ($20 per night for New Jersey residents; $25 for non-residents).—ND

Tomahawk Lake
155 Tomahawk Trail
Sparta (Sussex County)

This privately owned 20-acre recreation area is more water park than swimming hole, with seven waterslides descending from the surrounding hills (including three for novice swimmers). The lake boasts Sussex County’s largest white sand beach, plus a shallow play area with sprinklers and inflatables to keep the young ones busy. Swan boats, bumper boats, paddle boats and more are available for rent ($1 to $7), and the 20-seat Gitchee Gumee paddlewheeler makes regular transits across the lake. Landlubbers can partake of mini-golf, horseshoes and arcade games. There are ample concession stands, plenty of shaded picnic tables in the surrounding woods and an outdoor beer garden. The scene is decidely retro and politically incorrect (bathrooms are marked for “squaws” and “braves”; the kiddie area is dubbed “Papoose Land”). But who can argue with old-fashioned fun? Weekend admission is $13 per person; $11 for 8 and under (no credit cards).—DI

Union Lake
Carmel Road (County Route 608)
Millville (Cumberland County)

Covering almost 900 acres, Union Lake is the largest freshwater lake in South Jersey. Tucked within a state-owned, 5,000-acre wildlife-management area in Millville, it has a lifeguarded public beach from dawn to dusk between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day (beach tag purchase is required). There are also concessions, recreation fields and miles of hiking trails. One of the few state-owned lakes that allow gas-powered motorboats (up to 10 horsepower), Union Lake attracts scores of boaters and fishermen. Canoes, kayaks and rowboats are also welcome.—ND

Lake Wawayanda
885 Warwick Turnpike
Hewitt (Passaic County) 973-853-4462

Hikers, campers, swimmers and boaters can find plenty to do in Wawayanda State Park. A quiet getaway in busy North Jersey, the park occupies more than 35,000 acres in the rugged Highlands region. Smimming is allowed from Memorial Weekend through Labor Day, and canoes, rowboats and paddleboats are available for rent. For those who fish, Wawayanda Lake and Wawayanda Creek are stocked with trout and landlocked salmon. Electric motors are allowed on the lake, but gasoline-powered boats are prohibited. —DI

Got a favorite lake we missed? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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    Hospitality Creek is NOT a good camp/swim at all. After having our own camp site for 2 years my nephew was attacked by a dog and 911 was called and he had to be taken to Cooper. They let the dog stay at the camp site when the dog should have been kicked out that day. They also play favorites and let some people break drinking rules and allowing loud music and people all night long. It’s over priced and we found a way better camp site then HC. Also be warned, even though they have 2 pools and a lake, it’s ALWAYS so crowded. We now belong to Kandle and it’s 100x better.