8 Virginia Lakes For An Awesome Family Vacation With Kids

Three kids sit together at the edge of a dock, looking out onto one of the best lakes in Virginia.

Lake life is well represented in Virginia! Undoubtedly, families love spending summer months making memories at lake house or cabin rentals for a Virginia vacation with kids! Providing a range of activities on the water and on land, they promise an unforgettable family trip inspired by the great outdoors. Whether your family seeks the thrill of boating, the stillness of fishing, the rejuvenation of hiking, or the “relaxation” of a beach day, there are many fun options! And, of course, don’t forget the beautiful scenery and photo ops! So, if you’re looking for a fun and relaxing opportunity, read on to determine your favorite option for the best lakes in Virginia for a summer getaway with kids! For each lake destination in Virginia, with kids on this list, we share basics about the area, activities for families, and lodging designed with families in mind. 

Bear Creek Lake

A child plays on the shores of Bear Creek Lake in Virginia, while dad brings in a kayak and a long stretch of beach rests behind them.
Photo Courtesy: Virginia State Parks Staff via Wikimedia Commons

Just west of Richmond, in the heart of Cumberland State Forest, Bear Creek Lake is the perfect getaway for families looking to get outdoors and enjoy time on the water. Hundreds of acres of forest surround the 40-acre lake, making it an ideal place for families to escape into nature and one of the best lakes in Virginia for swimming! 

Bear Creek Lake State Park has a small entry fee and is ground central to the area’s activities. Boat rentals are available daily, barring inclement weather, with a beach area open for swimming. The Lakeside Snack Bar provides food and beverage amenities in season. Families can try their luck fishing for their next meal, too!

Plus, there are hiking trails within the park too. Families also have access to the adjoining 16,000-acre Cumberland State Forest. Don’t miss the 14-mile Cumberland Multi-use Trail, which is available for hiking, biking, and horseback riding: an archery range and playgrounds round out the options for families to enjoy the area. You can see why this is one of the best Virginia lakes to visit with kids!

Where To Stay Near Bear Creek Lake With Kids 

Bear Creek Lake is one of the best places to find cabin rentals near Richmond, Virginia. Within the state park, and thus closest to the lake, cabins, lodges, bunkhouses, and campsites offer various lodging options available to families. During the summer, cabins have six-night minimum stays. Meanwhile, the lodges range from two to six bedrooms and have more flexibility.

There are also plenty of Virginia lakefront rentals near Bear Creek Lake too, including fun farm stays and cozy cabins. And for families who still want waterfront living, consider lodging along the nearby James River, such as the James River Inn, about 40 minutes from the lake. 

Buggs Island Lake/John H. Kerr Reservoir

A boat fishes near a bridge on Buggs Island Lake/John H. Kerr Reservoir, one of the best lake destinations in Virginia with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Virginia.org

Virginia’s largest lake is so expansive that it covers two states (running into North Carolina)! Families can find 800 miles of shoreline to explore across 50,000 acres of fresh water. The lake can go by Kerr or Buggs Island Lake, but one thing is sure: it’s one the best lake destinations in Virginia with kids!

Families looking to get on the lake have four private marinas. Clarkesville Marina and Rudd’s Creek Marina sit on the Virginia side of the lake, offering spots to fuel up your boat and set sail. Buffalo Park, Grassy Creek, Rudds Creek, Staunton, Tailrace, and Longwood facilities all offer swimming areas, along with other amenities that range from picnic shelters to tubing and water rentals. Kerr (Buggs Island) is also well known for fishing, with one of the best spots to catch largemouth bass and crappie fish in the country, among other species.

Where To Stay Near Buggs Island Lake With Kids 

The lake and much surrounding land are owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which manages multiple campsites, reservable in advance. Alternatively, bed and breakfasts seem more common than hotels right on the lake. Families can try Quality Inn – On The Lake Clarksville-Boydton and Clarion Pointe on the lake Clarksville-South Hill West, which offer traditional hotel rooms and the bonus of a pool! Don’t forget to check out the cabin and lake house rentals on Vrbo. Some of the best Virginia vacation rentals even offer private docks and fun amenities like game rooms and hot tubs.

Cave Mountain Lake

Several people mill about the shores of Cave Mountain Lake, one of the best lake destinations in Virginia with kids.
Photo Courtesy: US Forest Service

A fun adventure awaits your family at Cave Mountain Lake! This seven-acre lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains dates back nearly 100 years. Its southwest Virginia location offers a quaint family getaway surrounded by other natural attractions.

Cave Mountain Lake Recreation Area offers swimming, sand play on the beach, and fishing for such varieties as trout and bass. Non-motorized boats, such as kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, are allowed on the lake. Steps away, the Cave Mountain Lake trail offers a moderate 3.2-mile hike. Meanwhile, the Wildcat Mountain Trail offers a nearly four-mile challenging hike that boasts vistas and wildflowers along the way.

A local highlight beyond the lake is Natural Bridge State Park, a National Historic Landmark. The 215-foot tall Natural Bridge is a limestone gorge carved out by Cedar Creek, surrounded by forests and meadows; park programming is often available on the weekends – check the Visitor Center or website for details.

Where To Stay Near Cave Mountain Lake With Kids

Looking for somewhere to stay near one of the best lakes in Virginia for a family vacation? In addition to daily use, Cave Mountain Lake is open to overnight camping. There are many cabin and home rentals near Cave Mountain Lake for those interested in other lodging options. Some nearby Virginia vacation rentals even come with features like a hot tub, screened-in porch, and a full kitchen.

In addition, Jellystone Park™ at Natural Bridge offers cabins for rent near Cave Mountain Lake, as well as tent sites, and RV sites from March until November. These rentals include amenities like a pool, splash park, mini golf, playground, and its own small lake.

Lake Anna

People dot a sandy beach at Lake Anna in Virginia on a sunny day, one of the best lake destinations in Virginia with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Virginia State Parks

Lake Anna offers 200 miles of shoreline between Washington, DC, and Richmond. It’s a popular destination for mid-Atlantic visitors looking to experience a little “lake life.” Plus, it’s Virginia’s second-largest lake, spanning three counties and offering year-round activities. Of course, summer on the lake is undoubtedly a highlight for visitors of all ages. No wonder it’s one of the best lakes in Virginia with kids! 

Lake Anna State Park offers a wide range of attractions for adventurers, young and old, including 12 family-friendly hiking trails, a beach, fishing, swimming, boating, playgrounds, and more. Want to strike it rich? Park programs like Stampmill Sam’s Gold Adventure bring kids and parents alike to the Goodwin Gold Mine and discover how gold was mined in Virginia in the late 1800s.

End your days on the small boardwalk, with several restaurants, mini golf, and an arcade. If that’s not enough excitement for you, Kings Dominion, with Soak City Water Park, is just 30 minutes away.

Where To Stay Near Lake Anna With Kids 

Families can stay in Lake Anna State Park, with many lodging choices, including cabins, yurts, bunkhouses, and campsites. This “public side” of the lake is where you’ll find waterfront marinas, restaurants, public launch sites, and other businesses.

Lake house rentals near Lake Anna are also available on the “private side”. These are accessible only to homeowners and renters. It’s across from the public beach and park areas, with amenities available to renters, such as swimming pools, waterslides, and non-motorized boats. Certainly, this is a great option for families looking for lake house or lakeside cabin rentals near Washington, DC.

For more suggestions, check out these 6 Best Lake Getaways Near Washington DC For Families!

Lake Arrowhead

Two empty canoes rest along the shore of Lake Arrowhead in Virginia.
Photo Courtesy: Virginia Tourism Corporation

One of the best lake getaways near Washington, DC, for families is undoubtedly Lake Arrowhead. Spanning 39 acres at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Page County, Virginia, it is just two hours from Washington, DC. Lake Arrowhead is also well situated to all the attractions in and around the town of Luray.

Activities on the lake are focused on swimming and fishing. Here, you can reel in species such as largemouth bass, channel catfish, and northern pike. There’s also a beach, accessible for a small fee in cash, where families can access canoe and kayak rentals. Beach volleyball courts, playgrounds, and picnic shelters are also available.

Families can take advantage of the many area attractions, including Massanutten water park, Shenandoah National Park trails and scenic driving along Skyline Drive, Luray Caverns, and more when not on the lake.

READ NEXT: 9 Best Water Parks Near Washington DC For Families

Where To Stay Near Lake Arrowhead With Kids

As the Cabin Capital of Virginia, home rentals are the draw for lodging in the area. In fact, you’ll find some of the best Virginia vacation rentals in this area! While there are no lakefront rentals, families can find homes on the Shenandoah River nearby. And closer to the lake, cabins among the trees offer amenities like hot tubs, playscapes, screened-in porches, and all the comforts of home. Certainly, if you’re looking for cabins for rent near Washington, DC, you’ll find an array of family-friendly options on Vrbo.

If your family prefers a hotel, look at The Mimslyn Inn in the heart of downtown Luray. It has a pool for the kids and a spa for the adults! 

Lake Moomaw

A buoy rests quietly on Lake Moomaw, one of the best lake destinations in Virginia with kids.
Photo Courtesy: SchuminWeb via Wikimedia

Near the border of West Virginia, Lake Moomaw offers one of the best lake destinations in Virginia for kids. Its location in George Washington National Forest makes it a nature lovers’ destination without being too isolated from major thoroughfares like I-81 and I-64.

There are two beach areasColes Point and Bolar Mountain – that provide jumping-off points for all the lake fun families can take in. Coles Point has fishing docks, boat ramps, and picnic shelters in addition to the beach area. A couple of trails, Morris Hill and Forney Loop, offer biking and hiking options for families. Bolar Mountain is a bit more developed, adding a volleyball area and playground to the lake-area activities to enjoy with kids, plus 11 miles of hiking trails.

Where To Stay Near Lake Moomaw With Kids

Camping is a fun option for families that want to stay right at the lake; reservations are available up to six months in advance for the Bolar Mountain campsites. Home and cabin rentals near Lake Moomaw are also popular options. Even better, find one with fun amenities like hot tubs and movie rooms. If you’re looking for lakeside cabin rentals near West Virginia, you’re sure to find one that suits your family!

If a resort is more your style, The Omni Homestead Resort is a real treat for families, with plenty of outdoor and indoor activities, a kids’ club on the weekends, traditional rooms and suites, and a spa and golf course for parents!

Sherando Lake and Lake Monocan

A did road leads to Sherando Lake flanked by lush trees.
Photo Courtesy: US Forest Service

Sherando Lake offers another lake option in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 25-acre spring-fed lake sits among the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, making it a great jumping-off point for lake activities, hiking options, and other forest fun. And less than a half hour away is Lake Monocan, a 20-acre lake. Both rank highly amongst the best lakes in Virginia for families! 

The Sherando Lake Recreation Area keeps families busy with traditional lake activities, like swimming, sand play along the beach area, and picnicking. Weekend evening campfire programs at the amphitheater, typically Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, add some extra family fun. Activities at Lake Monocan include rental kayaks, paddleboats, paddleboards, a trampoline in the middle of the lake, a beach, fishing, and a picnic area.

Click here to read more about the 8 Best US Lakes For Families to Visit During Summer!

Where To Stay Near Sherando Lake Or Lake Monocan With Kids

For families who want to stay right near the lake, camping – either traditional or with an RV – is the primary option for Sherando Lake, and there is no on-site lodging at Lake Monocan.

However, there are plenty of home rentals in the surrounding area of both lakes. And for a resort with amenities, families can’t go wrong with the Wintergreen Resort. Lodging options range from traditional hotel rooms to condos and full homes of up to six bedrooms. Plus, resort guests have exclusive access to Lake Monocan on Saturdays, and free entry on other days.

Smith Mountain Lake

Photo Courtesy: Jay White

Smith Mountain Lake, less than an hour outside of Roanoke, is Virginia’s second-largest freshwater lake, offering 500 miles of shoreline and acres of fun for families looking to enjoy a lake trip. The facilities and range of activities make this one of the best Virginia lakes to vacation with kids!

Smith Mountain Lake State Park boasts a 500-foot beach with a snack bar, fishing, and boating – and plenty of rental options if you don’t have your own supplies. Families can rent and partake in tours involving jet skis, fishing charters, kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats, pontoon boats, and more. In addition, there are 13 hiking trails, ranging from a half mile to three miles, for families looking to stretch their legs and enjoy wooded areas, lake vistas, and secluded coves.

The local chamber of commerce also promotes various fun events for families, like local theater shows, nature events, and annual celebrations like Pirates Weekend. The local visitor guide offers maps and additional selections – from dining to off-water fun like mini-golf, an alpaca farm, and more!

Where To Stay Near Smith Mountain Lake With Kids

Smith Mountain Lake State Park has several lodging options managed by the park, including cabins, bunkhouses, and campsites; cabins are open between Memorial Day and Labor Day, while camping is more widely available in three seasons of the year. This is a great place to find cabin rentals near Roanoke for families.

For a hotel stay, Westlake Waterfront Inn, Unwind and Reel’ Em Inn, and Halesford Harbour Resort offer lakefront stays. Then, The Virginian at Westlake offers a family-friendly resort a short drive away. Of course, lakefront home rentals near Smith Mountain Lake give families a home away from home – from quaint wooded cabins to waterfront chalets.

Next, read our list of the Best Lake Resorts in the Northeast Families Will Love!

Enjoy the Virginia Lakes with Kids!

A dad and his young son paddle board on a lake in Virginia.
Photo Courtesy: Megan Tucker

We hope you enjoyed this list of the Best Lake In Virginia To Take A Vacation With Kids! Whether your family enjoys spending time on the water or on shore, a relaxing pace, or a more adventurous thrill, there’s an option for each lake-loving family. Enjoy your lake getaway with your kids!

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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Megan Tucker

Megan Tucker is a public relations professional, wife, mom and lover of all things travel and travel planning, based in Arlington, Virginia. While she grew up in New England, she's lived in the Washington, DC area, London and Abu Dhabi, and has traveled across the United States, the Caribbean, Western Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania with and without her husband and two sons.