Mountains and clouds reflect in the still water of a lake at the Ramapo Valley County Reservation in Mahwah, New Jersey.
Andrew Tuttle/Shutterstock.com

23 Best Lakes in New Jersey

Updated by Pat Dorri on June 23 2023

A popular beach destination, New Jersey is renowned for its sandy shores, vibrant boardwalk, diverse culture and bustling Atlantic City, however the lakes of the Garden State should not be overlooked.

In this list of 23 best lakes near New Jersey, you will find incredible lakes, peaceful ponds and reservoirs, so whether it's a scenic spot to relax, fun-filled water sports, or a hike with memorable views, you can be sure there is a lake for you.

Keep reading to see the best lakes to head to spend the afternoon on the beach or take to the waters for some adrenalin-filled fun. These lakes really offer something for everyone, and we are sure that once you arrive, you'll want to tick more than one off the list.

Best lakes in New Jersey for enjoying different recreational activities
ActivityOur favorite lakes in New Jersey
Best lakes for fishing

Lake Greenwood

Monksville Reservoir

Best lakes for swimming

Lake Hopatcong

Round Valley Reservoir

Best lakes for water sports

Speedwell Lake

Carnegie Lake

Best lakes for a weekend trip

Lake Marcia

Atsion Lake

Best lakes for camping

Hooks Creek Lake

Lake Absegami

The list below highlights the activities you can do at each lake and other useful information as well as the travel times and distances from Newark. Please click here to reach the table at the bottom of the article to see the travel times to each lake from major cities in New Jersey.

1. Echo Lake Park

20 minutes from Newark (10 miles)

View across lake in forefront of picture and lush woodlands surrounding Echo Lake Park In Mountainside, New Jersey
Stroll through the beautiful woodland surrounding Echo Lake Park and you can be sure the views will not disappoint.
Logan__123/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: This beautiful historic park has so much going on and is a firm favorite with locals and visitors from further afar.

Meander around the walking trail loop and you can be sure to get the best views of this beautiful lake from all angles before taking on some of the plentiful recreation activities at this park, including boating and fishing.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Kayaking
  • Picnicking
  • Playground activities

How to get there: Firstly, from Newark, head out on NJ-21 before taking US-22 West. Take County Route 577 from US-22, following the highway to Springfield Avenue and Mill Lane into Mountainside, arriving at Echo Lake Park shortly after.

Our highlights: If you enjoy hiking then make sure to take on the Echo Lake Loop, a fairly easy 5km trail which you can walk, or run, and enjoy the peaceful scenery. The park is also super dog friendly, so if you have one in tow then it's a great place for a leg stretch for both of you.

Head off of the beaten path by renting out a pedal boat, which proves to be a fun and scenic way to see the views and marvel at the pretty shoreline.

A great spot for fishing, there are two areas of this lake divided by a dam to try your hand at. Head here and you can pretty much guarantee a catch of the day, with the lake well stocked with trout and catfish each year.

Bonus: This historical parkland is teeming with lush woodland and flora, with a collection of trees that are over 200 years old known as ‘Oakwood Grove' a popular and interesting area to head to.

Opening hours: Open from dawn to dusk year-round

Other things to know: This popular park is accessible throughout the year, in fact, ice skating is a popular activity here come winter.

It's also a great spot to picnic or act as a rest stop, with plenty of restroom facilities, parking and picnic areas with tables and even grills, to use on site.

2. Speedwell Lake

30 minutes from Newark (25 miles)

Wide view of Speedwell Dam, with rushing water cascading down dam walls against blue skies and calm lake, New Jersey
The impressive Speedwell Dam is a highlight when you visit this scenic and historic lake in Morristown.
Mihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Located in Morristown, in Morris County, Speedwell Lake is a picturesque lake packed with interesting history and beautiful scenery.

Head to the locally famous ‘Speedwell Park Spillway' waterfall, which is a must-see when you visit and pays tribute to the 1800's Speedwell Ironworks.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking
  • Biking

How to get there: Head along Interstate 280 (I-280) west of Newark, before taking the I-287 south to Abbett Avenue in Morristown. From here head down Martin Luther King Avenue and Cory Road where you will reach Speedwell Lake.

Our highlights: Take your walking boots and head down the ‘Patriots Path' trail, which takes about an hour to complete, and you will be rewarded with a beautiful Speedwell Spillway waterfall en route. It is a great spot for a photo or two.

This lake is also particularly popular for fishing, with bass, trout and sunfish plentiful. Why not take a boat out on the water and try your luck for a catch of the day?

Break up the day with a visit to Speedwell, which is very close by and teeming with interesting historical sites. Make sure to visit Historic Speedwell, a landmark site where you can learn more about the early years of the Industrial Revolution, with the ‘Factory Building' is also worth a tour.

Bonus: Speedwell Lake is found in Speedwell Village Historic District, where Speedwell Ironworks was a part. The inventor of the telegraph and Morse code, Samuel F.B. Morse, also lived here, which makes the area particularly interesting to go.

Opening hours: Speedwell Lake is open all day, all year round.

Other things to know: If you want to take advantage of fishing then make sure to visit the Speedwell Lake Fishing Forecast page which will give you the latest info on which times are best to head out.

3. Farrington Lake

35 minutes from Newark (30 miles)

Autumn foliage along Farrington Lake from Bicentenial Park in East Brunswick, New Jersey.
Take a boat out on the calm waters of Farrington Lake and you can expect a particularly scenic fishing trip.
Thomas Kloc/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: This man-made freshwater reservoir spans over 290 acres, making this a popular spot for fishing and boating, so if you fancy your hand at either, this is the place for you.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Boating
  • Biking
  • Wildlife spotting

How to get there: From Newark take I-78 east, moving onto the I-95 to NJ-18 north in East Brunswick. Afterwards head along US-1 then US-130 S to Hardenburg Lane where you will arrive at Farrington Lake.

Our highlights: This lake is named after Edward Farrington, who was area mayor in 1915–1918. He came up with the idea of the dam and how it would help to provide water to the New Brunswick area.

The huge lake is a particularly popular angling spot, with a large range of fish species to hunt for including Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike and Yellow Perch. Take a boat out on the water and you can while away a day enjoying the beautiful fishing spot.

Stretch your legs by heading out on the Farrington Lake Trail which goes from Lawrence Brook at the start of Farrington Lake. This is a pretty walk, where you can explore and wildlife watch herons, egrets and waterfowl along the way.

A short drive from Farrington Lake is Rutgers Gardens, a pretty botanical garden and bamboo forest that you should head to afterwards, and enjoy a walk around the unusual grounds.

Opening hours: The lake is open all day and year-round.

Other things to know: If you head here in the fall then the grounds are particularly pretty. Arrive in the wetter months and you are also treated to water gushing down the side of the dam walls which makes for an impressive and interesting water display.

4. Lake Hopatcong

40 minutes from Newark (30 miles)

Boaters docking at the Main Lake Market, a convenience store and café, along the banks of Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey
You can be sure of plenty to keep you occupied at Lake Hopatcong. You can even grab a coffee en route as you head out on the water!
James Kirkikis/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: A hugely impressive freshwater lake, in fact the largest lake in New Jersey, it is absolutely teeming with things to do both on and off the water.

Located only 40 miles from NYC it brings a totally different vibe to any trip, and is great for all the family looking for some water fun across the 2,500 acres.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Jet-skiing
  • Fishing

How to get there: Jump on I-280 West from Market Street, following this highway until you reach I-80. Take exit 28 from I-80, before reaching Shippenport Road and Lakeside Boulevard to arrive at Lake Hopatcong.

Our highlights: Lake Hopatcong was created as a reservoir for the Morris Canal, a 19th-century transportation system.

Head to Bridge Marina if you fancy having fun on the water while you visit. This boutique marina has lots of options of what to take out to have fun, and is ideal for getting some of the best views of the area.

Take the boat out and you can enjoy a spot of swimming too at one of the bays such as Byram Cove, a lovely quiet spot for paddling. There are other lovely public beaches to use during a visit such as Howard Boulevard and Lakeside Boulevard.

If you fancy something fun with a competitive edge, then Lake Hopatcong has a mini golf course, where the 18 holes to complete are surrounded by the beautiful shoreline. If you are visiting between May and October then make sure to add this to the list of things to do.

Opening hours: The lake is open all year round from 8am to 8pm.

Other things to know: There are some activities restricted during the day. If you fancy a swim while you are there, then this is restricted to Wednesday to Sunday with varying times when lifeguards are on duty.

5. Hooks Creek Lake

40 minutes from Newark (30 miles)

A panoramic view of the waterfront across Hook's Creek Lake surrounding in woodland, in Cheesquake State Park in New Jersey
Head to Hooks Creek Lake and you can enjoy a swim in the beautiful and peaceful waters.
Andrew F. Kazmierski/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Located in Cheesequake State Park, this stunning lake spreads across 1,610 acres and seems to never get busy! If you want to enjoy a fuss-free swim and enjoy a stroll around the pretty lake and surroundings then it is ideal.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Canoeing

How to get there: Get on I-78 East from Broad Street, before driving along I-95 and taking exit 120 towards Morristown Road and Gordon Road before arriving at Hooks Creek Lake.

Our highlights: Hooks Creek Lake was primarily for flood control and to create a recreational area within Cheesequake State Park.

This secluded lake is an ideal swimming spot, where it never gets too busy and you can enjoy a paddle in relative serenity from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Hungry? Then this is the perfect place for a stop off as Hooks Creek Lake offers picnic areas and barbecue facilities. You can relax, eat and then enjoy the athletic fields and playgrounds also on site.

Visit in the winter and there are a host of other fun activities to enjoy such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, so don't be put off by a bit of cold weather as there is plenty still going on.

Opening hours: Open all day year-round, but the water activities on site have specific opening hours so check once you arrive, with restrooms open from 9.30am-5pm.

Other things to know: It is open throughout the year but there are some restrictions on swimming based on when lifeguards are on duty.

Park admission is $5 per car ($10 for those who don't live in New Jersey) on weekdays and $10 per car (and $20 for non-New Jersey residents) on weekends and holidays.

6. Round Valley Reservoir

45 minutes from Newark (40 miles)

Sailboat and a kayak on the Round Valley Reservoir known for its pristine clear blue waters, New Jersey
Take to the crystal-clear waters of Round Valley Reservoir, before arriving at one of the inviting beachfronts for some rest and relaxation.
Malgosia S/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: This crystal-clear reservoir spans over 2,350 acres, and is known as a popular place to take a dip, before heading to the shore for sunbathing, a picnic or more energetic afternoon hiking around the pretty wildlife-rich grounds.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Kayaking
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Picnicking
  • Diving

How to get there: Pick up I-78 West from Mulberry Street, all the way to exit 20A. From here take US-22 west and Round Valley Access Road into Clinton Township where you will arrive at Round Valley Reservoir.

Our highlights: There is so much to do here, however the inviting beach area is very popular where you can relax and sunbathe in between swimming. Facilities include changing rooms and showers so you can easily switch up activity come the afternoon.

If you fancy more than paddling then why not head out scuba diving and skin diving, which is possible from the start of April until end of October?

Some safety checks are needed before you head out, however it proves to be an amazing experience given the clear waters and abundance of fish within the reservoir.

As well as your swimmers, make sure to take your hiking boots, with plenty of trails to explore. The Pine Tree Trail is around a mile long, passing through pine trees and lush woodlands.

For those with more experience take The Cushetunk Trail which follows up the rocky Cushetunk Mountain, and is well worth the extra effort.

Not just for summer fun, head here in the winter and you can enjoy a range of alternative activities including cross-country skiing and ice boating.

Bonus: Round Valley Reservoir is very deep, around 180 feet in places, so those diving might discover submerged artifacts from the town of Clinton, which was flooded during the reservoir's creation in the 1960s.

Opening hours: The lake is open year-round, although there may be restrictions come winter and snowfall, so check if you are visiting during this season.

Other things to know: As a popular swimming hole, lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day until Labor Day from 10am until 5:30pm, the only permitted time to swim. There are also some restrictions on where you can swim, so make sure to check those out before you get going.

7. Carnegie Lake

50 minutes from Newark (40 miles)

Shea Rowing Center boat house on Lake Carnegie, with fall leaves in the foreground, and boats along waters edge, Princeton University, New Jersey
After visiting the stunning Lake Carnegie Lake go into Princeton to see what other historic sites renowned Princeton University has in the area.
EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Arrive in Princeton and a visit to Carnegie Lake should be on the cards, for the site is packed with outdoor pursuits to enjoy in a beautiful and tranquil setting.

This popular destination is fun for all the family to enjoy, just a stone's throw from the famous Princeton Town and University.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Fishing
  • Rowing
  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing

How to get there: From Newark take NJ-81 south, before picking up NJ-21. Shortly after follow I-95 south and US-1 south to Mapleton Road, where shortly after you will arrive at Carnegie Lake.

Our highlights: Though not one of the biggest lakes you might visit, spanning around 360 acres, it certainly packs a punch when it comes to water-based activities. You can enjoy boating, kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding here, with the lake's calm waters ideal for outdoor fun.

If you fancy a leg stretch, head on the popular trail encircling the lake, offering a scenic route for walkers and joggers. Take a leisurely stroll or go for a run while enjoying the serene views of the lake and the surrounding greenery.

Carnegie Lake is located near the famous Ivy League Princeton University. After visiting the lake, how about a tour around Princeton, taking in the historic sites here and the campus grounds?

There are also great spots to shop and dine during your visit. Also make time to visit Princeton University Art Museum, an impressive museum packed with artworks rivaling any in NYC. Great to cool down from the summer heat for an hour or two.

Bonus: A man-made lake, it is named after Andrew Carnegie, a philanthropist who paid much for the funds needed, which was built for the Princeton University rowing team at their request! It is still privately owned but can be used publicly now too.

Opening hours: Open year-round

Other things to know: Whilst you can enjoy the water you can't actually take a dip. Stay on dry ground or in the comfort of your boat to best enjoy this beautiful reservoir.

8. Monksville Reservoir

50 minutes from Newark (40 miles)

Vibrant fall foliage colors surrounding Monksville Reservoir and reflected in the lake, New Jersey
The beautiful calm waters and lush woodlands ensure that Monksville Reservoir is one of the most scenic lake stop offs around.
Mihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Created in 1985, Monksville Reservoir is known as a great fishing site, and popular with anglers both professional and starting out. In fact, there are two boat launches from both the north and south, so easy for boats to access for a great day on the water.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Kayaking
  • Hiking
  • Picnicking
  • Wildlife spotting

How to get there: Follow Interstate-280 (I-280) west from Newark, before heading onto the I-287 north until Exit 55. From here follow Ringwood Avenue and Greenwood Lake Turnpike to Stonetown Road, where you will arrive at Monksville Reservoir.

Our highlights: This is a great peaceful place to head for superb views. Hike the Monks Trail which takes around an hour, and you will enjoy beautiful views over the lake. Especially pretty if you head along the pathway at sunset.

The clear waters are ideal for any water sports, with paddleboarding and kayaking particularly popular. If you don't have your own vessel, then do not worry as you can hire on the day.

During the summer months, surfboard yoga is just one of many water activities you might want to check out!

Kayaking on the waters also reveals the two sunken forests both at the northwest and southwestern corners. It's exciting to explore and wonder about the underwater world.

The tranquil waters and woodlands make for an ideal bird-watching spot. The Great Blue Heron nestles in the lake surroundings, so if you are lucky, you might spot one of those on your water travels too.

Bonus: Created in 1987 by damming on the Wanaque River in West Milford, it is named after Monksville, the area which was flooded upon the reservoir being completed.

Opening hours: The reservoir is open year-round

Other things to know: If you are looking to head onto the water then there are shops such as The Flatwater Paddle Co. for boat rentals, kayaks and paddleboards, which you can find on the south launch of the reservoir.

9. Ramapo Lake

50 minutes from Newark (40 miles)

Panoramic view across Ramapo Lake within Ramapo Mountain State Forest in Northern New Jersey
Enjoy great views across Ramapo Lake from any angle, as you stroll through the wildlife-rich woodlands.
Renata Ty/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Situated inside Ramapo Mountain State Forest, Ramapo Lake is one of the best lakes in the city. It offers a great number of activities and is known for its natural beauty.

The scenic forest landscape, calm waters, and beautiful views make this a very picturesque and serene lake to visit.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Canoeing
  • Hiking

How to get there: Visiting from Newark you start out on I-280 heading west, before taking the I-287 and leaving at Exit 57. As you exit head along Skyline Drive, Deer Ledge Road and then Rye Cliff Road before arriving at Ramapo Lake.

Our highlights: If you are after spectacular views of the New York City skyline then this is the place or you. Head off on this trek with a picnic and you can certainly enjoy lunch with a view.

There are also plenty of other trails such as Ramapo Lake Trailhead which are interesting and fun. Here you can explore the ruins at Foxcroft, a mansion that was built on top of one of the hills in the area but destroyed by fire.

The 120-acre Ramapo Lake is teeming with ponds and streams as well as the main lake, which are ideal for birds and wildlife to exist. Make sure to take your binoculars and you can be sure of some impressive wildlife watching during your visit.

Bonus: Ramapo Lake's origin can be traced back to the Wisconsin Glaciation period, when a glacier advanced and then receded, leaving behind a dip deep into the ground that filled with water.

Opening hours: Open year round

Other things to know: This lake in the fall can be particularly pretty, where from mid to late October you can hike to the upper trails and enjoy the orange and brown-tinged views over Ramapo Valley

10. Deal Lake

55 minutes from Newark (50 miles)

A pink and purple sunrise over the ocean in Asbury Park, with a trail of rocks leading into the water
Deal Lake is located in Asbury Park, which features stunning a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, which is a great incentive to arrive early!

Why you should visit: This artificial lake is one of the largest in New Jersey but less popular than some of the others, so can be lovely and peaceful despite its size. With the serene environment you are also in for some fabulous birdwatching, with ospreys and herons pretty easy to spot.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Kayaking
  • Picnicking
  • Camping
  • Canoeing

How to get there: From Newark take the NJ-81 and then NJ-21 south. Travel along Interstate-95 (I-95) and NJ-18 to Neptune Township. After exiting NJ-18 at exit 10A follow NJ-66 and you will shortly then at Deal Lake.

Our highlights: The calm waters here make it a great spot for exploring via the water, with paddleboards and kayaks a great way to explore the peaceful surroundings.

Make sure to take your binoculars as Deal Lake and its surrounding areas are excellent for birdwatching and wildlife observation. The lake is a stopover and breeding ground for various bird species, including waterfowl, herons, and egrets, and you are also likely to spot turtles during the trip.

If you've had your fill of the lakefront then head into Deal itself, which is right on the fringes. Start off with a walk along the Deal boardwalk before heading on a historic tour around landmarks and buildings, such as the Deal Lake Tower and the Deal Lake Inn.

Bonus: Deal Lake is unusual as it is made up of lots of shallow pools and channels, with most of the top of the water covered in lily pads.

Opening hours: Open all day and year-round

Other things to know: There is a huge kayak circuit you can enjoy for 4-5 hours, where hidden coves and fallen tree bridges make for an interesting paddle. If you fancy this then make sure to take a map with you, ideally waterproof!

11. Mercer Lake

1 hour from Newark (50 miles)

Sunny summer view across Mercer Lake at Mercer County Park, with grassland in the front of the picture and expansive lake and woodlands, New Jersey
Meander around Mercer County Park and beautiful freshwater Mercer Lake is the key attraction.
Rita Francis/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: A beautiful lake set in Mercer County Park, it was created from dam construction in 1975. It claims to be one of the cleanest lakes in New Jersey and is popular for water-sport enthusiasts where kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and sailing are all enjoyed.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Swimming
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Camping

How to get there: From Newark get onto NJ-81 S in Elizabeth from Broad Street, before taking NJ-21. I-95 will then travel you the majority of the way before you reach Princeton Hightstown Road, moving to Old Trenton Road and Paxson Avenue, before arriving at Mercer Lake.

Our highlights: Mercer Lake is a freshwater lake with great fishing potential. Whether you are looking for black crappie, sunfish or yellow perch you are likely to find them in these clear waters.

As the home of one of the US Olympic Rowing Team's training centers, it has been heavily used for international rowing meets and training and if you are lucky, you might even get to coincide a visit with a regatta taking place.

Bonus: Home to many annual rowing events, the lakes are ideal for race meets given they reach the exact standards. Olympic trials are also known to be held here.

Opening hours: Mercer Lake is open throughout the day and year-round.

Other things to know: It's got plenty to enjoy throughout the year, so great to visit whatever the season, with pretty lake views and scenery.

12. Greenwood Lake

1 hour from Newark (55 miles)

View across expansive Greenwood Lake, with swimming platform in the waters
Unusually this lake reaches into both New York and New Jersey, but you'll need to head to the formers side of the Greenwood Lake if you fancy a dip in the water.
Ruben Martinez Barricarte/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: This is one of the largest lakes within the Highlands region of northern New Jersey, covering more than 1,900 acres, and along with Bearfoot Mountain Ridge and dense forest it is a breath-taking area.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Picnicking
  • Sailing

How to get there: Head onto I-280 before moving to I-287 north and exiting at 57. A short trip then through Skyline Drive, Greenwood Lake Turnpike and Lakeside Road will take you to Greenwood Lake.

Our highlights: Take your bike and explore this beautiful lake on two wheels. There is a 16.8-mile trail around the lake for any cycling enthusiasts, starting and ending at Brown's Point Park with plenty of lakeside stop-offs along the way.

The lake is considered to be one of the best places in New Jersey to fish for bass, with catfish and perch also on the menu. Enjoy a great fishing experience here in beautiful surroundings.

If you fancy something less strenuous it is dotted with designated swimming areas and public beaches. Take a refreshing dip in the water or relax on the sandy beach.

Bonus: Greenwood Lake has a two-state address, with half in New Jersey and the other half in New York.

Opening hours: The lake is open from dawn to dusk throughout the year

Other things to know: If you fancy a swim then you'll need to head to the NY side here. You will then be able to enjoy two public beaches including lifeguards on hand.

13. White Lake

1 hour from Newark (55 miles)

River cutting through grassy beaches, forested mountains and slices through Kittatinny Ridge on a partially sunny day
Start your back-to-nature adventure in the stunning Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which is a short drive from White Lake.
Hemangini Darji/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Well known for clear waters, sandy beaches, and various outdoor activities, White Lake is a must-visit. Popular for over 100 years, this peaceful destination is a real oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Wildlife watching
  • Canoeing

How to get there: Take Interstate-280 (I-280¬), before taking Garden State Parkway towards NJ-17 then I-87 before NY-17. From here continue along NY-17B west where you will shortly arrive at White Lake.

Our highlights: Take in the beautiful scenery and lake views with a walk around White Lake Short Trail. This 4.8-km loop near Hardwick Township takes around an hour to complete. Lovely and peaceful and a chance to enjoy solitude.

In such a beautiful setting it's great for a lunch stop. White Lake offers picnic areas where you can enjoy a meal or simply relax amidst nature. Pack a picnic basket, find a shady spot, and unwind.

Bonus: White Lake is a man-made lake, created by damming White Lake Creek. The dam was constructed early 20th century and served as a reservoir to the local area.

Opening hours: Open 8am to 5pm year-round

Other things to know: Although it's been around a long time it really is a hidden gem, so if you are seeking some solitude during your trip then visit White Lake and you'll likely find a real water retreat away from the masses.

14. Furnace Lake

1 hour from Newark (60 miles)

Reflection of trees with beautiful fall foliage on George Lake in Washington Township New Jersey.
Combine your visit to Furnace Lake with a stroll around the small, but incredibly scenic George Lake in the nearby Washington Township.
Andrew F. Kazmierski/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Although Furnace Lake is small it certainly packs a punch. Well located from the main cities (just an hour from New York City and Philadelphia), it is great to head to for a day of fishing, boating and relaxation.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking

How to get there: Head out of Newark on I-78 and take Exit 17 past Lebanon to reach Furnace Lake.

Our highlights: The lake is an excellent fishing destination year-round; the water is home to everything from perch to catfish, and ice fishing is popular in the winter when there are plenty of big bass.

Ideal for swimming, this is a beautiful spot for swimming in the secluded getaway. The shoreline is shallow, and there are plenty of swimming platforms a short distance in the water to swim to and jump from.

A short drive from Oxford Furnace Lake you can enjoy shopping and restaurants on the doorstep.

Bonus: The lake is named after the first hot blast furnace in America.

Opening hours: Open from 11am to 6pm from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day

Other things to know: This is a great spot for water activities so make sure to bring any water aids or head to the hire shack, as you'll be desperate to get on the water once you arrive.

15. Sunfish Pond

1 hour from Newark (55 miles)

Wide view of Sunfish Pond waters with woodland in the background circling the lake, New Jersey
The expansive Sunfish Pond and surrounding woodlands is the ideal spot for a challenging hike and wildlife spotting.
Not LostJust Wandering/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Sunfish Pond is a 44-acre glacial lake surrounded by lush forests. Once under threat, Sunfish Pond survived through to important efforts from New Jersey's environmental team, and is now often said to be one of New Jerseys Seven Natural Wonders down to its incredible beauty.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Hiking
  • Picnicking
  • Wildlife spotting

How to get there: Head off on I-280, before taking I-80 west which leads you to Sunfish Pond.

Our highlights: Sunfish Pond is well known for its hiking trails, including the popular Appalachian Trail that runs along the side of the lake. You can expect great views as you circle around the pathway.

For a moderate and long day hike, climb to the top of Mount Tammany via the Red Dot trail. Another great route that promises great views across the pond.

If you fancy staying a little longer then head to Leave No Trace campground nearby. This beautiful and peaceful pond is great to camp by for a night or two, star gazing and enjoying the peace.

Bonus: Bill Bryson writes about Sunfish Pond in his New York Times bestselling book about the Appalachian Trail ‘A Walk in the Woods'.

Opening hours: Open all day year-round

Other things to know: With high acidity in the water, it makes for low pondlife and water activity, so make the most of this beautiful site from the water's edge.

16. Manasquan Reservoir

1 hour from Newark (55 miles)

Manasquan Reservoir, with trees in the forest around a lake and reflections in the water, New Jersey
Head out on the beautiful waters of the Manasquan Reservoir and you might be lucky enough to spot some of the rarer local wildlife including bald eagles that circle in this area.
Nino Qasoshvili/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: This man-made reservoir has been around since 1990 and is counted as one of the busiest in New Jersey. Over a million people visit here every year, with fishing and boating top attractions for those arriving.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Boating
  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Horse riding
  • Biking
  • Swimming

How to get there: Firstly, head along I-78 from Newark, taking I-95 south and Garden State Parkway to NJ-66. Take exit 100B to follow NJ-33 then Asbury Road and Southard Avenue, before reaching Manasquan Reservoir.

Our highlights: Make sure to head to the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center where you can learn more about the amazing area, and learn about the wildlife and how to protect it. An informative and interactive center that is great for all the family, particularly kids.

A great way to see the area is hiking or biking the perimeter of the reservoir along the Manasquan Reservoir Loop. Covering 5 miles it is particularly pretty in the fall, and keep an eye out for the wildlife, even bald eagles have been spotted here nesting.

What a spot for fishing! It is well stocked with large and small-mouth bass, hybrid striped bass and bullhead catfish. You do need a state fishing license, so make sure to bring it along.

Bonus: Manasquan Reservoir stands out for its dual role as a vital water source and a recreational haven, making it an interesting landmark in New Jersey.

Opening hours: The park is open all year round, from 6am during the summer months and from 7am during winter.

Other things to know: If you don't have your own rowboat or kayak then pick one up from the visitor center, or wait it out for a boat tour come the weekend.

17. Wawayanda Lake

1 hour from Newark (55 miles)

Colorful boats tied to the dock along the edge of Wawayanda Lake, Wawayanda State Park, New Jersey
The quiet surroundings of Wawayanda Lake make it the perfect spot for a day of fishing in the pretty, calm, waters.
Ezume Images/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Prefer a smaller lake for a quieter getaway? Then Wawayanda Lake is perfect. Spanning 255 acres it is part of Highland Lakes, made up of a number of man-made lakes, this section is ideal for swimming in the lake's calm waters, enjoying beach activities, or fishing in the well-stocked waters.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Boating
  • Hiking

How to get there: An easy drive from Newark, take Interstate-280 (I-280) then I-80 west. Shortly after you will arrive at Wawayanda Lake.

Our highlights: Hike the Wawayanda Lake Loop and you can expect this 10.8-km circular trail near Highland Lakes. It takes around 2 hours and you can expect some great wildlife-spotting opportunities along the way.

There are also plenty of other trails to consider, with the top of Wawayanda Mountain offering unbelievable views.

Geared up for swimmers, you can take advantage of the onsite changing areas and restrooms, before heading to the beach for some rest and relaxation.

A great spot for fishing too, there are coves, points, drops, and rock formations with some spots as deep as 90 feet. It makes for an exciting angling spot.

Bonus: Considered to be one of the deepest natural lakes in New Jersey, it is reported to be around 85 feet in certain areas.

Opening hours: Open all year, from April 1-October 31 hours are 8am-8pm, from November 1-March 31 8am-6pm.

Other things to know: Ideal for swimming, you can only access it from Memorial Weekend to Labor Day, while lifeguards are on duty, you can dip your toe in the water.

18. Swartswood Lake

1 hour and 5 minutes from Newark (55 miles)

Stunning sunset across the waterfront in the background, and rocky shoreline across the forefront at Swartswood Lake in New Jersey.
After a day of fishing or paddling in the relaxing waters of Swartswood Lake, head to the shore to take in the breath taking views.
Skynteef/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Nestled within Swartswood State Park, the first state park in New Jersey, this area is packed with outdoor leisure activities to enjoy, with the calm water ideal for canoeing, kayaking and swimming across the 550 acres.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Boating
  • Canoeing

How to get there: Head out on I-280, then take I-80 and NJ-15 to NJ-94 in Lafayette. Continue on NJ-94 to Hampton Township, turn right onto US-206 before arriving at Swartswood Lake.

Our highlights: Fishing is popular all throughout the year, with and known as ‘one of the best walleye lakes in the State of New Jersey by many fishing fans. There are plenty of trout, channel catfish, and large and smallmouth bass to try and hook.

Excellent views of the lake can be had by hiking the Grist Mill Trail, a fairly challenging 1.5-mile loop that begins on the southern end of the lake.

Swimming is closed after Labor Day, however the beautiful shore makes for a lovely stroll and there are plenty of places to picnic along the way.

Bonus: Swartswood State Park, which includes Swartswood Lake, was established in 1915 and is seen as the first official state park in New Jersey.

Opening hours: Swartswood Lake is open all year round

Other things to know: There are great ice-fishing opportunities during the winter months.

19. Merrill Creek Reservoir

1 hour 5 minutes from Newark (60 miles)

Thousands of Snow Geese fly together during migration over Merrill Creek Reservoir, New Jersey, in on a late winter afternoon
Visit Merrill Creek Reservoir in the winter and you might experience the incredible sight of snow geese migrating.
Rabbitti/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: This man-made reservoir covers 650 and is ideal for any fishing and boating fans. Nestled in a picturesque setting, surrounded by rolling hills and woodlands, the reservoir offers stunning views, especially during the fall.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Fishing
  • Wildlife spotting
  • Boating
  • Kayaking
  • Wildlife watching

How to get there: Head on I-78, then US-22 in Greenwich Township. Take exit 3 from I-78. From here take County Road 519 to Fox Farm Road where you will arrive at Merrill Creek Reservoir.

Our highlights: The walking paths and hiking trails are highlights here, with the Merrill Creek Reservoir Perimeter Trail covering a 9.3-km loop taking around 2 hours. This is a great route to see some of the local wildlife and birds.

Head to the Visitor Center and you can enjoy the different wildlife on display. A wildlife viewing area is located outside the windows, with a butterfly and hummingbird garden also to see – kids will love it

Bonus: Merrill Creek Reservoir has a storage capacity of approximately 3.2 billion gallons of water – that's some water being housed!

Opening hours: Open all year round from 7am

Other things to know: While you can't swim here you can enjoy the water by hopping into your kayaks from the public boat ramp.

20. Lake Marcia

1 hour and 15 minutes from Newark (60 miles)

View across Lake Marcia, with High Point war veterans monument in Kittatinny mountains in the background, New Jersey
As well as a beautiful Lake Marcia to enjoy, you can also catch some of the best views of High Point, the highest elevation in New Jersey.
Mihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Found within High Point State Park and part of the Appalachian Trail, this great spot has a beach and crystal-clear lake, including he tnearby bathhouse.

This lake is ideal for families, where kids can spend the day on the sandy shoreline, dipping their toes in the water.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Picnicking
  • Camping

How to get there: Leaving Newark head along I-280, I-80 and NJ-15 to Ross Corner Sussex Road before arriving at Lake Marcia.

Our highlights: Take a swim in Lake Marcia from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The clear waters are beautiful for a dip. There is also a visitors' center, food stands and playground, so there is plenty to entertain for a full day!

Head out on Monument Trail at High Point State Park and this moderate loop trail takes you by the High Point obelisk, the New York border and views of Lake Marcia. It is one of the most popular trails and with views like this it is easy to see why.

Want to stay longer? Bring your tent, and there are lots of camping options you can book ahead.

Bonus: At a height of 1,325 feet, Lake Marcia is seen as the highest natural body of water in New Jersey.

Opening hours: The lake is open year-round from 10am to 6pm.

Other things to know: Although the lake is free to visit, there is a small charge for vehicles entering High Point State Park, where Lake Marcia is found.

21. Atsion Lake

1 hour and 30 minutes from Newark (80 miles)

A wide panorama Autumn scene on Atsion Lake in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey
You can easily while away an afternoon paddling across the scenic and serene Atsion Lake.
Andrew F. Kazmierski/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Located deep in Wharton State Forest, swimming is permitted when lifeguards are on duty and there is a wonderful sandy beach to enjoy.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Swimming
  • Sunbathing
  • Picnicking
  • Camping
  • Boating

How to get there: From Newark head along NJ-81, before following I-95 and taking exit 7 towards US-206. Shortly after you arrive at Atsion Lake.

Our highlights: Wharton State Forest, where Atsion Lake is located, offers a network of hiking trails. Explore the surrounding woodlands and scenic landscapes, which you can enjoy by hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The natural beauty of the Pine Barrens is stunning.

Atsion Lake is great for water fun and ideal for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Bring your own watercraft or rent one from nearby outfitters and explore the calm waters of the lake.

Away from the lake a visit to Atsion Village, located within the state forest, offers a glimpse into the area's historical past. Explore the restored 18th-century buildings, including a sawmill and a mansion, and learn about the village's significance.

Bonus: The lake is part of the historic Batsto Village, originally founded in 1766. In the village, you can find shops and galleries to wander in this well-preserved 19th-century village

Opening hours: Open all day, year-round

Other things to know: The entrance fee to Atsion Lake is $5/$10 per car on weekdays and $10/$20 on weekends for New Jersey residents or non-residents.

22. Lake Absegami

1 hour and 30 minutes from Newark (95 miles)

Sunrise splashes across the wetlands near Tuckerton, New Jersey
If you have time, visit the scenic grasslands of Tuckerton and grab a bite at this charming town after visiting Lake Absegami.
cwieders/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Located in Bass River State Forest, an hour from Philadelphia, this lake is a perfect getaway for your family. This pristine lake is set within 2,000 acres of lush forest, ideal for plenty of water activities as well as memorable hikes and wildlife watching.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Wildlife spotting

How to get there: Firstly, head out on NJ-81, follow I-95 South and Garden State Parkway. Taking exit 52 from Garden State Parkway you will shortly arrive at Lake Absegami.

Our highlights: You'll find over 10 miles of hiking trails leading through this Civilian Conservation Corps-era forest. If you are feeling particularly energetic then you can link them for the 50-mile-long Batona Trail. Not for the faint-hearted.

It is irresistible to take a boat out onto the water and try your hand at fishing, or head out on a kayak. You can take in the best views of the pine tree-packed shoreline, while you try to get a catch of the day. Afterwards head to one of the sandy beaches for some rest and relaxation.

Make sure to take your binoculars. The lake and its surrounding woodlands are home to a variety of wildlife species, including waterfowl, turtles, and fish you can enjoy watching.

Bonus: During the Great Depression, the CCC was a program implemented by the U.S. government to provide employment which in part was to create a dam at Bass River State Forest – resulting in Lake Absegami.

Opening hours: The lake is open year-round from sunrise to sunset.

Other things to know: If you are planning to stay a little longer, there are North Shore and South Shore camping grounds or lakefront cabins you can book from April to October.

23. Lake Garrison

1 hour and 40 minutes from Newark (100 miles)

A vintage fire engine at the Annual Fire Muster & Fire Fighter’s Family Day in Millville
If you are visiting Lake Garrison in late summer, you can drive north to Millville and explore tens of vintage firetrucks at Annual Fire Muster & Fire Fighter's Family Day.
Jana Shea/Shutterstock.com

Why you should visit: Known as a fantastic family destination, in fact referred to as ‘The Family Playground' it attracts thousands of families every summer, the clean beach and clear waters make for a beautiful spring and summer day.

Main activities you can enjoy at this lake:

  • Swimming
  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Playground activities

How to get there: Firstly, head along NJ-81 before following I-95 and then NJ-55 to County Road 553. Take exit 45 from NJ-55 and then you will arrive at Lake Garrison.

Our highlights: Ideal for a lunchtime stop-off, there is a huge picnic grove packed with picnic tables and open space. For families, the playgrounds and game fields are bound to keep younger family members entertained.

You are able to take to the water with boats, canoes and paddleboards all popular. Whilst you are not able to take your own boat along with you there are lots to choose from at the rental site. How about heading out on a double kayak for some added family fun!

Bonus: Lake Garrison was originally created as an amusement park and resort in the early 1990s.

Opening hours: It is open year-round, although spring and summer are when most activities are available.

Other things to know: It costs $12 for children (4 and over) and $16 for adults, but if you live closer then there is an annual pass option.

*All of the prices are calculated at the time of writing.

Distances from major cities in New Jersey to our favorite lakes in the state
LakeNewarkJersey CityTrentonAtlantic City
Echo Lake Park20 minutes30 minutes1 hour1 hour 50 minutes
Speedwell Lake25 miles30 miles60 miles130 miles
Farrington Lake30 miles35 miles25 miles105 miles
Lake Hopatcong30 miles40 miles55 miles150 miles
Hooks Creek Lake30 miles35 miles50 miles95 miles
Round Valley Reservoir40 miles50 miles35 miles135 miles
Carnegie Lake40 miles45 miles15 miles100 miles
Monksville Reservoir40 miles40 miles80 miles155 miles
Ramapo Lake40 miles35 miles90 miles150 miles
Deal Lake50 miles55 miles50 miles80miles
Mercer Lake50 miles55 miles10 miles95 miles
Greenwood Lake55 miles50 miles95 miles165 miles
White Lake55 miles60 miles70 miles165 miles
Furnace Lake60 miles65 miles50 miles150 miles
Sunfish Pond55 miles70 miles65 miles175 miles
Manasquan Reservoir55 miles60 miles35 miles75 miles
Wawayanda Lake55 miles50 miles100 miles160 miles
Swartswood Lake55 miles60 miles75 miles170 miles
Merrill Creek Reservoir60 miles70 miles50 miles155 miles
Lake Marcia60 miles70 miles120 miles175 miles
Atsion Lake80 miles90 miles35 miles40 miles
Lake Absegami95 miles100 miles55 miles25 miles
Lake Garrison100 miles105 miles55 miles45 miles