A visit to these family-friendly beaches in The Catskills will impress any child! Besides, what kid doesn’t love dipping their toes in the water? As part of my summer in The Catskills with kids, I checked out a few local beaches, lakes, and swimming holes for my family to experience. Since there’s nothing quite like cooling off on a hot summer day, here are my recommendations for 6 Stunning Beaches and Swimming Holes in the Catskills with Kids. From Belleayre Beach, where you can rest easy with lifeguards on duty, to Otter Falls, where kids will love the plunge pools, my list includes the very best places to swim, soak up the sun, and enjoy time together as a family in the Catskills. Finding a sandy beach and taking a dip is definitely one of the best things to do in the Catskills with kids!
Belleayre Beach is simply perfect for a relaxing day with children. If you want to spend time wading in clear, warm waters with vigilant lifeguards, this is definitely the one! Ideal for parents with toddlers, there’s also a roped-off swim area separated by lanes to denote depth. Plus, a platform to jump off of with its own dedicated lifeguard. Families will definitely enjoy the inexpensive boat rentals, which include kayaks, paddleboards, and water bikes ($15/hr for a 4-person pedal boat). Though the sandy beach area is small, there are lots of grassy areas to enjoy, as well as picnic tables. A snack stand sells hot dogs, drinks, chips for hungry kids. Familles will also find access to clean bathrooms. With so many amenities, it’s no wonder that Belleayre Beach is one of the best family-friendly beaches in the Catskills.
Note: Belleayre Beach is observing a 50% capacity, so you need to go online to buy a ticket to ensure entrance to the beach. In addition, we heard a lot of social distance announcements, but no one was wearing masks on the beach.
Colgate Lake is a big, beautiful, mountain-top lake! Take the scenic route through Tannersville, up the mountainside on Platte Clove Road. After parking in the Colgate Lake lot, walk up the road and take the worn footpath on your right. At the top is Colgate Lake, one of our favorite places to swim and spend the day! Rather than sand, you’ll find grass surrounded by wildflowers, and flanked by footpaths to explore. Plus, the water is warm and shallow. (Bring water shoes anyway.) On the lake, families can swim, float on inflatable rafts, fish, and paddle boats (my kids love catching frogs), but it doesn’t feel too crowded. Much like any place, it’s less crowded on weekdays and earlier in the morning. Colgate Lake tops my list of the best family-friendly beaches in the Catskills because of its beauty and shallow waters.
Note: there are no food vendors or bathrooms here. On your way home, stop at Mama’s Boy Burgers in Tannersville for delicious ice cream!
Pro Tip: Don’t sit on Colgate Lake’s immediate grassy area. The water entry here is a bit rocky for kids. Instead, walk over the footbridge to find a grassy spot with lots of room, and where the water entry is shallow and sandy. A little further along the lake, through a bushy path, there are also small “cut-outs” that offer lots of privacy and swimming spots without the crowds. But you’ll need to arrive super early for this prime real estate! Another option, if it’s available, is to settle in Colgate Lake’s left-hand side on sand cut-outs, not grass. (You need to wade through ankle-deep water to reach it, but the views from this angle are perfect. Plus, the sandy beach is unique on this lake.) My son also found some new friends not too far from this spot: frogs and newts, which became our temporary Catskill pets!
Otter Falls is tricky to find, always empty, (likely because it’s a hidden gem) and so much fun for families! It’s a perfect stop after hiking the nearby Giant Leap Trail, or even as a destination on its own. But where exactly are these falls? Right under a white bridge on Rte. 47, a half-mile before the Giant Ledge Trail Parking Lot. Here, there is a small parking area, big enough for about three cars. A tiny, steep path leads you down to the glimmering cascading waters. You can also figure out how to walk to the top of the cascade for another pool, and to the very bottom for yet another! If you’re still lost, though, here’s how to reach it: go to the Giant Ledge Trail parking lot, then do a U-turn. Keep your eyes out for that little pull-off lot on your left-hand side.
Don’t be too discouraged if you get lost heading to Otter Falls with your kids. Actually, the first time we went there, I initially parked in the Giant Ledge Trail lot, then started hiking Giant Ledge. (Keep in mind I had my bags of towels, floats, a gallon of water, and picnic lunches!) I misguidedly thought that Otter Falls was a half-mile up the trail, not a half-mile down the road. Fortunately, we ran into some hikers coming down who assured me that there was no water/waterfall/swimming anywhere on the trail (even after schlepping ¾ mile up!) So, we went back down, and by luck, found the right spot. Keep in mind the weather, however. The waterfall’s flow is different depending on recent rainfall. For example, certain times are better for a quick splash, while on others, you’ll find the current too unruly.
On one perfect day at Otter Falls, my kids found the pools perfect for a little dip. The water was warm, and the plunge pool only went up to my 10-year old’s waist. These spectacular conditions meant they even learned to slide down the waterfall. After this, Otter Falls permanently became Waterslide Falls to them! On another day, however, it had recently rained hard, which made the falls a totally different beast! Rocks and small pools were now submerged under rushing water, temperatures were frigid, and the cascade too forceful to slide down. They were so disappointed since this visit was their reward for hiking Giant Ledge! Luckily, I decided to walk back up and around so that we were on top of the big cascade and directly under the bridge. Here, we discovered kinder currents where the kids could finally “slide” down using inflatable tubes after all!
Peekamoose Blue Hole
Next, Peekamoose Blue Hole is truly one of the most pristine family-friendly beaches in the Catskills. This natural, turquoise, and crystal clear pool is sure to delight travelers of all ages. Swimming here is as unique as it is beautiful! It’s now rated as a top Catskill destination, though, attracting huge and rowdy crowds. If you visit on the weekend (which I don’t recommend!), a permit is required. Park past the Buttermilk Falls lot and pull into the next official parking lot on your right-hand side. If this lot is full, park in the next one. (Don’t worry, the walk isn’t too bad!) There are “No Parking” signs all along the road, but when we left Blue Hole at mid-day, people seemed to be ignoring these. I’m not sure if they were ticketed, but I would arrive early to ensure parking and avoid crowds.
We also initially thought Blue Hole stood across from the official parking lot, behind the dumpster, because the water here is so blue! But this isn’t it. To reach the legit Blue Hole, walk on the side of the road in the direction you came from. There, you’ll see an info kiosk, followed by a path leading to the Blue Hole. When you see it, you’ll know you’ve reached paradise! Though the path itself is flat, you’ll have to go down a few steep steps to sit on the rocks surrounding the pool. To get to the jumping platforms, stay on the path, and circle around to the ledge for one. Afterward, cross over to the other side of the hole. This way, kids can have their pick from two 10-feet jump-offs. Be aware, the water is freezing, you’ll likely feel numb after a short dip!
Saugerties Beach doesn’t hold a candle to Belleayre Beach or any of the others mentioned. But, if you’re looking for more family-friendly beaches in the Catskills, it’s a perfectly fine spot to cool off and relax. Here, there’s a small sandy area, lifeguard on duty, roped-off swim area, two docks to jump from, and public bathrooms. There are also picnic tables, as well as old-school swings, monkey bars, and a jungle gym! Perhaps because this is a creek, the water here isn’t especially clear, with some algae outside the swim area. My kids didn’t seem to mind this. It’s also right up the block from adorable, historic downtown Saugerties, which is surely worth a visit within itself! Explore a few restaurants, ice cream shops, cute boutiques, and a wonderful independent book shop for families. Inquiring Mind Bookstore and Cafe is a great stop for lunch or a snack.
East Beach @ Lake Taghkanic
East Beach is an awesome day trip to take with kids! Located on Lake Taghkanic, this warm-water area has everything you need for a successful beach outing: shallow, calm waves, space to sprawl out, and lots of lifeguards. East Beach is also sandy, so it’s easy to plop an umbrella, relax, and let the kids roam. Of course, there’s no need to worry since four to five separate roped-in swim areas each feature their own lifeguard! Of all the family-friendly beaches in the Catskills, I can’t recommend this one enough for families. At the end of our time upstate, my kids rated it one of their favorite beach days! This is likely because it’s the most similar to the big, sandy beaches they’re used to back home. Only this time we experienced a crystal clear, gentle lake, rather than an unruly ocean!
Happy Swimming in the Catskills!
We hope you’ve enjoyed top contributor Stephanie Feingold’s 6 Stunning Beaches and Swimming Holes in the Catskills with Kids! Regardless of how you spend your summer with kids, though, what’s important is spending time together! For more travel recommendations on vacationing with children, be sure to join our Facebook group Families Who Love To Travel! It’s a community of dynamic families who love adventure and exploration through travel. Plus, follow us on Instagram (@families.love.travel) to connect with other families who love the unique experiences travel has to offer, as well as updates about our upcoming articles!
Written by Families Love Travel Contributor, Stephanie Feingold. Find more about Stephanie, as well as her other articles here. Plus, find her on Instagram @stephaniesheminfeingold. In her writing and her travels, Stephanie prioritizes authentic experiences, delicious meals, impressionable moments, and balancing the iconic with the path-less-traveled.
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