12 Best Lakes To Rent A Cottage In North Carolina For An Awesome Family Vacation

A boat zooms past a lovely house nestled on the shores of Lake Gaston, one of the best lakes in North Carolina for a family vacation.
Photo Courtesy: Visit NC

Lakes in North Carolina are some of the most beautiful and serene places in the state, so it’s no wonder they’re perfect for a family vacation! Escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and enjoy some quality time together, whether it’s on the water or dry land. From swimming and boating to fishing and hiking, outdoor enthusiasts of all ages will find plenty to do in North Carolina’s many lakes. And at night, you can sit around a campfire under the stars, telling stories and laughing together. With over 300 lakes in the state, however, it may be hard to choose the best one for your kids. We’ve compiled this list of the best lakes in North Carolina for a family vacation to help you decide, including things to do and where to stay when you visit. Stay tuned to start planning your next summer vacation! 

Lake Norman 

An arial view of Lake Norman, one of the best lakes in North Carolina for a family vacation, on a sunny, summer day.
Photo Courtesy: Visit NC

A list of the best lakes in North Carolina for an awesome family vacation would be incomplete without a mention of Lake Norman! This massive lake is located just a short drive from Charlotte and is the perfect spot for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Its miles of shoreline and crystal-clear waters make it perfect for swimming, fishing, boating, and soaking up some rays. 

One of the best ways to take in the natural beauty of the lake is by boat. There are several marinas along the shores of the lake where families can find boat launches, rentals, repairs, and more. In addition to boats and pontoons, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards are also popular here. At Lake Norman State Park, families will also find calm waters to swim and a picnic area. And when you’re ready to take a break from the water, there are plenty of charming towns and villages to explore in the area. Destinations such as Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville each boast restaurants, boutiques, and other things to do with kids. Thanks to Lake Norman’s convenient location, it’s also a good home base for day trips to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, Boone, and Blowing Rock. 

Where to Stay near Lake Norman with Kids

Families looking for accommodations near Lake Norman for kids usually book home rentals from Airbnb or Vrbo

Choose this beautiful home on Lake Norman with a salt water pool for a multi-generational family vacation (sleeps 18) through Vrbo!

Lake Lure

A person and their dog row a rowboat across Lake Lure, one of the best lakes in North Carolina for a family vacation.
Photo Courtesy: Visit NC

If you’re looking for a stunning North Carolina lake to visit with your family, look no further than Lake Lure. Located just outside of Asheville, it’s one of the most beautiful lakes in the state. In fact, it’s surrounded by the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, making for a breathtaking view no matter where you stand. 

The lake itself is huge and perfect for swimming, fishing, boating, or just exploring. Along the shore, you’ll find certain areas with splash pads for kids to enjoy too. Other water sports include kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding. And there’s plenty to do onshore as well, from hiking and picnicking to playing golf or visiting one of the many nearby attractions. Kids who love biking will appreciate how the lake is well-connected to the Thermal Belt Rail Trail, which connects to other towns in North Carolina. Nearby, families can also go rock climbing at Chimney Rock State Park, for example. Or, visit Canopy Ridge Farm for a ziplining or UTV adventure! 

Where to Stay near Lake Lure with Kids

When it comes time to retire for the evening near Lake Lure, we suggest you snuggle up in your cozy cabin rental from Vrbo. With so many great family-friendly options, Lake Lure will surely be a hit with everyone in your crew!

Reserve this Amazing Lake Front Log Cabin at Lake Lure for your next family vacation through Vrbo!

Lake James

Two people canoe across Lake James with mountains in the distance.
Photo Courtesy: Visit NC

Lake James is one of the best lakes in North Carolina for a family vacation! Around 50 miles northeast of Asheville, the scenic views are a must-see, and there is always something to do, whether you’re looking to relax or have an adventure. 

At Lake James State Park, families will find two areas to access Lake James. This is the perfect place for swimming, fishing, and boating. Water sports such as kayaking and paddle boarding will also be a ton of fun for kids. You can find rentals available along the shore. If you’re looking for somewhere to camp, check out Catawba River and Paddy’s Creek. There are plenty of bike trails at Paddy’s Creek, including the kid-friendly Holly Discovery Trail. Plus, the lake is located close to many other great family-friendly attractions in the area, making it the perfect place to base your vacation. Check out the neighboring towns of Morganton and Marion for restaurants and shopping. 

Where to Stay near Lake James with Kids

Need somewhere to stay near Lake James with kids? What better way to experience all this natural beauty than by renting a cozy cabin from Vrbo? No wonder this is one of the best lake communities in North Carolina! 

Rent this luxury lakefront retreat with a private dock on Lake James through Vrbo now!

High Rock Lake

Three people talk in the back of a boat, while cruising the waters of High Rock Lake.
Photo Courtesy: Visit NC

For a fantastic lakeside getaway that the whole family will enjoy, check out North Carolina’s High Rock Lake! This sprawling man-made lake is one of the state’s most popular recreation spots, and it’s easy to see why. From swimming and sunbathing to fishing and boating, there’s something for everyone to enjoy here.

The lake itself is over 30 miles long and boasts over 300 miles of shoreline, so there’s plenty of room to spread out and find your perfect spot. Boating, and water sports, such as kayaking and canoeing, are two popular ways to see the water. If you’re looking for a little more adventure, take a hike up one of the many nearby trails or explore the surrounding towns. Check out the classic, small-town Main Street in nearby Salisbury or explore Lexington. Kids will definitely love a stop in The Candy Factory, a local candy store with all kinds of sweet treats! Families can also check out local parks such as Dan Nicholas Park, which offers fishing, playgrounds, mini-golf, a carousel, and more family fun. 

Where to Stay near High Rock Lake with Kids

Families looking for a place to stay near High Rock Lake with kids have plenty of options. With Vrbo, you can rent a cabin right on the lake, so you’ll have easy access to all the fun water activities! 

Reserve this Private Lakefront Log House with Boat Dock on High Rock Lake with Vrbo!

Lake Glenville

A long dock extends into Lake Glenville.
Photo Courtesy: Discover Jackson NC

There are so many reasons why visiting Lake Glenville should be on your family’s North Carolina bucket list! For one, it’s absolutely breathtaking – the lake itself is 26 miles long and fed by three waterfalls, making it one of the highest elevated lakes in the state. You can spend your days swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, or just relaxing on the shore with a good book.

Families who want to see the waterfalls up close can also take a boat ride around the lake to Norton Falls, Hurricane Falls, and Mill Creek Falls. At the Pines Recreation Area, there’s also a sandy beach, a swimming area, picnic tables, a fishing pier, and more. Plenty of hiking trails in the area offer stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Hike to the High Falls waterfall via the High Falls Overlook, which is around 2.8 miles and moderately challenging since it goes up in elevation. 

Where to Stay near Lake Glenville with Kids

If you need somewhere to stay near Lake Glenville with kids, plenty of cabins are available for rent through Vrbo, so you can have the perfect home away from home during your stay. You can find cabins of all sizes, so whether you’re looking for a cozy place for two or a large rental for the whole family, you’ll be able to find something that fits your needs. 

Rent this Secluded Lake Glenville Compound-Modern Rustic Prime Lake View through Vrbo here!

Badin Lake

A kayaker enjoys a lovely paddle on Badin Lake in North Carolina, one of the best lakes in North Carolina for a family vacation.
Photo Courtesy: Visit Badin

The lakes in North Carolina are some of the best in the country, and Badin Lake is no exception. Located in the Uwharrie National Forest right outside of Charlotte, it’s a popular spot for hikers, fishing enthusiasts, and everyone in between – not to mention pretty too! 

Badin Lake is the perfect place to spend a peaceful summer day with the family. You’ll find a swimming beach, four campgrounds, a picnic area, and various fishing piers along its shores. Kayaking, canoeing, and pontoon boating are often available, but keep in mind that the facilities at this lake are a bit more outdated than other lake communities in North Carolina. Families who want to go hiking can also check out the Uwharrie National Forest, which features various trails for all skill levels. This also isn’t a highly developed community, so if you want restaurants, shops, and more things to do, check out the nearby towns of Asheboro and Albemarle, which are around 30 minutes away. 

Where to Stay near Badin Lake with Kids

Searching for lake house rentals in North Carolina for families? Many rental cabins are available near Badin Lake, making it easy to find a place to stay. The cabins are typically very affordable and offer a variety of amenities, such as kitchens, laundry facilities, and porches with scenic views. Check out Vrbo for more options! 

Reserve this Water Front Playland at Badin Lake home on Vrbo!

Lake Wylie

A beautiful sunset over Lake Wylie.
Photo Courtesy: Madhan Karthikeyan

Looking for an exciting summer outing for your family? Why not visit Lake Wylie in North Carolina? Located on the border with South Carolina, this man-made lake is a haven for summer water sports, making it perfect for families looking to enjoy some fun in the sun.

Rent paddle boards, kayaks, or other watercraft from various local companies along the shore to explore the lake in style. Plus, the lake is teeming with fish, making it a great spot for some fun catch-and-release fishing. Or, you can even take a longer tubing excursion down the nearby Catawba River. If you’re looking for somewhere to stroll or have a picnic, check out Pitcairn Park or Ebeneezer Park, which feature plenty of green space and serene nature trails. A bit further out, families can also visit the McDowell Nature Center and Preserve. Or, cross the bridge into South Carolina and check out the Buster Boyd area. It has a waterfront with unique shops and even a bowling alley/bouncy house, Lake Wylie Bowl n Bounce.

Where to Stay near Lake Wylie with Kids

If you’re looking for a place to stay near Lake Wylie with kids, then look no further than Vrbo. Whether you want a rustic cabin in the woods or a more modern rental near the lake, there’s sure to be an option for your family!

Reserve and enjoy 180 degree views of Lake Wylie as well as a heated pool at this luxury home with Vrbo!

Click here to find out the 18 Best Things To Do In Greenville, South Carolina, With Kids!

Nantahala Lake

An aerial view of Nantahala Lake, with lush trees surrounding the lake during the summer.
Photo Courtesy: Nantahala Visitors Guide

Nantahala Lake is one of the best lakes in the North Carolina mountains for a family vacation! The lake is situated in the Nantahala National Forest and is surrounded by the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. With over 29 miles of shoreline, it’s also a fantastic place for swimming, boating, and more summer fun!

Families will find boat and watercraft rentals available along the lake at various marinas, including the Lakes End Marina. Fishing, including fly fishing, is also popular on the lake, since it’s teeming with trout, salmon, bass, and other species. Since there’s barely any silt here, it’s known as one of the cleanest lakes in North Carolina. For more adventurous travelers, the lake is also near the Nantahala River Gorge, which features class II and III rapids that are ideal for river rafting. There are also hiking trails for all skill levels in the Nantahala National Forest, like the 0.4-mile Dry Falls Trail or the 2.4-mile Glen Falls Trail. 

Where to Stay near Nantahala Lake with Kids

When finding the perfect place to stay near Nantahala Lake, you can’t go wrong with renting a cabin from Vrbo. Not only will you have access to all of the amenities that come with staying in a cabin, but you’ll also be close to all of the best activities that the lake has to offer. For a more unique stay a bit further from the lake, there’s also the River’s Edge Treehouse Resort in nearby Robbinsville. Kids can get the chance to stay in treehouse-inspired cabins! 

This Lakefront home on Nantahala Lake has a hot tub, decks galore, and is an outdoorsman’s paradise! Book here with Vrbo!

Hyco Lake

An empty chair rests on a dock on Hyco Lake, awaiting sometime to sit and take in the view.
Photo Courtesy: Person County Tourism Development Authority

Families looking for a fun-filled, yet affordable vacation will love Hyco Lake! Situated just a short drive from Raleigh and Greensboro, it’s the perfect spot for a summer getaway and one of the best lakes in North Carolina for a family vacation. 

With over 120 miles of shoreline, the lake itself is huge, making it perfect for all sorts of water activities like swimming, fishing, and boating. Families will particularly enjoy the family-friendly swimming beach, which has calm waters for swimming and lifeguards on duty. Around the lake, you’ll also find a nature reserve with paved walking trails and picnic areas. And if you’re looking for even more to do, the nearby town of Roxboro also has lots of great restaurants and shops, and you can also enjoy hiking, biking, and horseback riding in the area. One popular activity is disc golf, which is free of charge. 

Where to Stay near Hyco Lake with Kids

There are various cottage rentals available through the lake for large families. Or, you could stay at one of the campsites. Families can also rent a home in the area on Vrbo

Reserve this memory-making Hyco Lake Retreat for your next family vacation through Vrbo!

Lake Santeetlah

Lake Santeetlah, surrounded by mountains, at dusk.
Photo Courtesy: Visit NC

When it comes to family vacations, few destinations can compare to the natural beauty and endless activities of Lake Santeetlah. This lake is a hidden gem in the heart of North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains, around 100 miles west of Asheville. It’s less developed than other North Carolina lakes, making it more serene and less crowded.

Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, go for a swim, hike through the woods, or simply take in the stunning views, Lake Santeetlah is the perfect place for your next family vacation. There are 76 miles of shoreline, most of which are located within the Nantahala National Forest. Families can rent pontoon boats or kayaks to explore from the Santeetlah Marina. Or, check out some hiking trails in the nearby forest, like the 0.6-mile trail to Yellow Creek Falls. Though the lake is also located near a small town, Santeetlah, the nearest big city where families will find things to do is nearby Robbinsville. Don’t forget to visit Wehrloom Honey to taste fresh honey straight from a farm! 

Planning a trip to Asheville? Read this Asheville Family Vacation: 4-Day Itinerary With Things To Do!

Where to Stay near Lake Santeetlah with Kids

Need somewhere to stay near Lake Santeetlah with your kids? Several rental companies are situated around the lake, so finding a cozy cabin or lakeside cottage to call home for a few days is easy. We suggest checking Vrbo for more options.

Reserve AlpenHaus Large Family Retreat that sleeps 14 on Lake Santeetlah here through Vrbo!

Lake Gaston

Two people fish from a motorboat on Lake Gaston, one of the best lakes in North Carolina for a family vacation.
Photo Courtesy: Visit NC

If you’re looking for the best lakes in North Carolina for a family vacation, you’ll want to check out Lake Gaston. Straddling the border between Virginia and North Carolina, this massive lake boasts over 350 miles of shoreline and covers a whopping 20,000 acres! 

The lake is large enough to accommodate all sorts of activities, from swimming and sunbathing to fishing and boating. And there are plenty of scenic spots to relax and take in the beautiful surroundings. At the Lake Gaston Day Use Area, families will find a fishing pier, boat ramp, and public swimming area. Jet skiing, canoeing, and other water sports are also available through various local rental companies. Popular among anglers, the lake is also home to several species, including bass, catfish, and crappie. And when you’re ready to take a break from all the fun in the sun, there are plenty of restaurants and shops to explore in the nearby towns of Littleton and Halifax.

Plan your next summer vacation with this Mom’s Guide To The Perfect Family Beach Vacation In The Outer Banks!

Where to Stay near Lake Gaston with Kids

Looking for a place to stay near Lake Gaston that’s perfect for a family vacation? Then rent a cabin from Vrbo! You can rent a cabin right on the lake, so you’ll never have to leave the fun!

Reserve this home with a pool, hot tub and endless views of Lake Gaston here through Vrbo!

Fontana Lake 

Two people, in their own kayaks, paddle across Fontana Lake with mountains in the distance.
Photo Courtesy: Visit NC

It’s hard to find a more perfect vacation destination than Fontana Lake. Set in the stunning Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina, this lake is one of the best in the state for a family vacation. For one, the scenery is breathtaking, thanks to its magnificent emerald-green waters. And there are plenty of activities to keep everyone in the family entertained.

Fontana Lake is 29 miles long, making it perfect for swimming, fishing, boating, and just about any other water-based activity you can think of. Rent kayaks, canoes, or pontoon boats from Almond Boat Dock or other spots along the marina if you want to explore the water. Though there isn’t an official “beach area,” many families consider the water to be clean and safe. And when you’re not out on the lake, there are plenty of hiking trails and other outdoor activities to keep you busy. Families can hike The Lakeshore Trail, which runs the length of Fontana Lake, from near the Fontana Dam on the west side to Lakeview Drive on the east side. Nearby, Bryson City also features restaurants, boutiques, and other things to do with kids. 

Where to Stay near Fontana Lake with Kids

Accommodations near Fontana Lake range from camping and RV sites to cabin rentals and luxury resort hotels, so there’s sure to be something to fit every family’s needs. If you’re looking for an upscale hotel experience, check out Fontana Village Resort & Marina, which features one to three-bedroom rental cabins with kitchens and other amenities. There are also various rental companies in the area, such as Fontana Lake and Park View Cabins. Don’t forget to check your options on Vrbo too. 

Reserve this Lakefront Luxury 5 bedroom Log Home on Fontana Lake through Vrbo today!

Happy Travels!

A young woman stands in the waters of Badin Lake, one of the best lakes in North Carolina for a family vacation, at sunset.
Photo Courtesy: Visit NC

We hope you liked this list of the 12 Best Lakes to Rent a Home or Cottage in North Carolina for an Awesome Family Vacation! Whether you want to relax on the beach or go boating, North Carolina’s lakes are varied and offer a ton of family fun, especially in the summer. Enjoy your North Carolina family vacation! 

*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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The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.