The 8 Best Lakes Near Charlotte, North Carolina | Landing (2023)

If you’ve ever seen an aerial view of Queen City while taking off or landing at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, you’ll notice that there are many lakes near Charlotte, NC. It’s a blessing to have so much natural beauty at the city’s doorstep, whether you like boating, fishing, watersports, or simply enjoying a book shoreside.

Living in Charlotte and looking to spend some time near the water? Grab your swimsuit, a book, fishing gear (and fishing license!), or a picnic basket, and let’s explore the eight best lakes close to Charlotte, NC, including:

  1. Lake Norman
  2. Lake Wylie
  3. Badin Lake
  4. Lake Tillery
  5. Lake Lure
  6. Mountain Island Lake
  7. Lake James
  8. Belews Lake

Let’s get started!

1. Lake Norman

The 8 Best Lakes Near Charlotte, North Carolina | Landing (1)

Perhaps the most famous lake in North Carolina around Charlotte, NC, is Lake Norman. Its meandering 500 miles of shorelines are packed with large homes, private docks, and watersport fans all day long. Weekends, especially, get quite busy. Lake Norman is an aquatic fan’s dream where boaters, water and jet skiers, swimmers, and sailors alike spend hours on the water. Once a year, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra also hosts a concert on the lake.!

(Video) Top 10 Best Lakes to Visit in North Carolina | USA - English

Less than an hour from Charlotte, Lake Norman makes for a great day trip, but many people who work in Charlotte have homes around Lake Norman. If they make the daily commute into town, it’s easy to see what a quick trip this can be.

2. Lake Wylie

The 8 Best Lakes Near Charlotte, North Carolina | Landing (2)

Lake Wylie is actually a manmade reservoir, although you’d never know it from looking at it. This lake is actually just over the state line in South Carolina but is only about 20 to 30 minutes by car from the southern part of the city. Restaurants, bars, and picnic areas abound near the lake, including Pier 88 Yacht Club, where you can also rent a boat.

If you plan ahead, you can charter a boat and rent water equipment such as floating tubes and kayaks (or bring your own). A popular tubing adventure begins at the Lake Wylie Dam, where the two- to three-hour floating trip takes you down the Catawba River (be sure to plan accordingly so someone picks you up on the other end!). There are also places to camp by pitching a tent or bringing a camper vehicle, but advance reservations are required for overnight vehicles.

3. Badin Lake

The 8 Best Lakes Near Charlotte, North Carolina | Landing (3)

This is a popular weekend destination for Charlotteans since it takes just an hour by car to reach. Badin Lake is located within the Uwharrie National Forest and is a fishing paradise, as the lake is known for its game fish such as largemouth bass, spotted bass, and catfish.

Many enjoy camping on this North Carolina lake, so bring a tent and supplies. There is also a sandy beach for those that want to swim in the lake on a warm day and biking and hiking trails that run along the water’s edge. Dogs are permitted on a leash, and those with tents can set up a camping site without charge.

(Video) Best Places To Live in Suburbs of Charlotte NC (Lake Norman in Mecklenburg County)

4. Lake Tillery

The 8 Best Lakes Near Charlotte, North Carolina | Landing (4)

To the east of Charlotte by about 50 miles, this lake (it’s actually a reservoir!) benefits from more than 100 miles of shoreline. This means you’ll find many residential and vacation homes here, but that doesn’t mean people cannot visit to camp, swim, fish, or rent boats. Golfers stay active on one of the many 18-hole courses nearby, and budding golfers can practice on nearby putting courses.

A notable feature of this body of water is the Tillery Dam, which is responsible for generating hydroelectric power for the area on behalf of North Carolina-based Duke Energy.

5. Lake Lure

The 8 Best Lakes Near Charlotte, North Carolina | Landing (5)

Plan on a 1.5-hour drive west of Charlotte to reach this serene place, but once you’re there, your cares will melt away. Head to the water to fish, boat, or just relax, or get your heart pumping with a hike or bike ride up the spire at Chimney Rock State Park for a bird’s-eye view of the lake.

Those that want to relax on the water on Lake Lure can book one of the seasonal boat tours that leave from Lake Lure Marina, where there is plenty of free parking.

Fun fact: Hollywood buffs may like to know that the famous movie “Dirty Dancing” was filmed here decades ago!

(Video) Lake Norman vs Lake Wylie - Where to swim, boat and dine!

6. Mountain Island Lake

From Uptown Charlotte, this small lake is less than 15 miles away to the northwest by car. The gorgeous lake wanders alongside the Catawba River and is the smallest of the three manmade lakes around Charlotte. As beautiful as Mountain Island Lake is, there is an extra purpose for it, since it provides water and hydroelectric power to many parts of the city and is owned by Duke Energy. You can still swim in the lake and enjoy it for watersports like stand-up paddle boarding, boating, and fishing. Within the lake is a large island known as Mountain Island, which is how this North Carolina lake got its name!

7. Lake James

The 8 Best Lakes Near Charlotte, North Carolina | Landing (6)

Actually situated in the mountains, Lake James is in Linville, about two hours to the northwest of Charlotte. People love to fish for largemouth bass here, but it’s also possible to swim and boat here. What makes this setting particularly special is that it is at the base of Linville Gorge, often referred to as North Carolina’s very own Grand Canyon. The scenery is stunning, and the wildlife and flora surrounding the lake are quite eclectic. Mink, fox, rabbits, and deer abound here. This is one of the most diverse places to hike and bike given the mountainous terrain surrounding the lake.

8. Belews Lake

Also in the mountains, this reservoir lake was created as a cooling basin for the nearby power plant. For many years, it was considered contaminated, but over time, the ecosystem has healed itself. Its surrounding landscape, however, does not make it look as if it were manmade, and now it is a popular place for watersports and swimming. There are boating docks, and it’s typical to see people jet skiing, tubing, and sailing here.

Belews Lake is around two hours (or 100 miles) from central Charlotte. What sets this beautiful lake apart is that it is clear enough for scuba divers to practice their craft here since it can be as much as 130 feet deep in places. That also makes it an entertaining place to swim or boat. The trails around the lake are great for hiking, biking, and running, and given the distance from Charlotte, many visitors prefer to spend the whole day here or camp overnight.

Splash around the best lakes near Charlotte, NC

There are plentiful lakes around Charlotte, NC, of all shapes and sizes. While Charlotte is not far from the Atlantic Ocean, you needn’t drive more than an hour to enjoy a shimmering body of water on a sunny day. Depending on where you live, the drive may even be shorter. If you’re looking for a furnished apartment in Charlotte, Landing can be an essential time saver because it has taken the hassle out of the search. It features a range of furnished apartments with flexible leases and no need to deal with landlords or leasing offices. If you enjoy being on the water and want to move to Charlotte, Landing has some of the best options when it comes to where to live your best life close to the many lakes around Charlotte, NC. Learn more about what a membership can do for you today!

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The 8 Best Lakes Near Charlotte, North Carolina | Landing (7)

Looking for more fun things to do outdoors in the Charlotte area? Check out our blog post, “A Local’s Guide to the Best Parks in Charlotte.”

FAQs

What is one of the closest lakes to Charlotte? ›

5 Great Boating Lakes Within Driving Distance of Charlotte
  • Lake Lure. ...
  • Lake James. ...
  • Lake Norman. ...
  • Lake Jocassee. ...
  • Lake Rabun.
3 Jan 2016

How many lakes are in Charlotte? ›

There are 3 main lakes in Charlotte NC: Lake Norman, Lake Wylie and Mountain Island Lake. There are others lakes in the area but just not as close: Lake Hickory, Lake Badin, Lake Tillery & High Rock Lake to name a few.

What is the cleanest lake in North Carolina? ›

Lake Auman and its dam are wholly-owned by the community and are the community's most precious resources. The lake is the clearest lake in North Carolina and the second cleanest of all surrounding states.

What bodies of water are near Charlotte? ›

12 Most Beautiful Lakes to Visit Near Charlotte, NC
  • Lake Norman - Davidson. Credit: © Serge Skiba - Dreamstime.com. ...
  • Lake Wylie - Lake Wylie, South Carolina. ...
  • Lake James - Linville. ...
  • Lake Lure. ...
  • High Rock Lake - Southmont. ...
  • Badin Lake - Badin. ...
  • Belews Lake - Pine Hall. ...
  • Jordan Lake - Wilsonville.

Can I swim in Lake Norman? ›

The Lake Norman State Park has a GREAT swimming area. The swim area is roped off with a sandy beach that's 125 feet long. Amenities include a large parking area, bathhouse with warm showers, restrooms, concession stand, changing stalls, and lockers. The swim complex is open daily from April 1 through October 31.

What beach is near Charlotte NC? ›

15 Best Beaches Near to Charlotte, North Carolina for 2022
  • Lake Wylie — Rock Hill.
  • Wrightsville Beach.
  • Atlantic Beach.
  • Topsail Beach.
  • Outer Banks.
  • Emerald Isle.
  • Kure Beach.
  • Ocean Isle Beach.
28 Jan 2021

Are there mountains near Charlotte NC? ›

Yet another Appalachian foothills peak, the South Mountains are another great hiking destination in the mountains near Charlotte NC. With peaks ranging from 1100 to 3000 feet in elevation, you can be sure to find a variety of trails for every ability level.

Is Lake Norman a natural lake? ›

Lake Norman is a man-made lake created between 1959 and 1964 after the Duke Power Company built the Cowan's Ford Dam across the Catawba River.

Are there alligators in North Carolina lakes? ›

American alligators occur naturally in North Carolina, inhabiting bay lakes, rivers, creeks, marshes, swamps and ponds, with local populations distributed in patches along the entire coast. Alligators become less common in coastal NC as you move from south to north.

Are there alligators in Lake Norman? ›

Prior to 2000, there weren't many reports of alligators being found in Lake Norman. However, it seems that they are native to the area now – and it's not uncommon for there to be sightings of 5' or even 6' alligators within the lake.

Can you swim in lakes in North Carolina? ›

While North Carolina might be famous for its beaches, the lakes you'll find scattered throughout the state are equally as beautiful. Western North Carolina is especially renowned for its selection of mountain lakes that are perfect for swimming, hiking around, boating, and fishing.

Where is the bluest water in North Carolina? ›

Shackleford Banks is home to turquoise water that rivals the Caribbean. Here's more on how you can enjoy the bluest water in North Carolina.

Are there alligators in Falls Lake? ›

While alligators can be found along the coastal regions of the southeastern part of our state, it's unusual to find them this far north and inland. At least one local staff member at the Falls Lake State Park speculated that perhaps this was someone's pet that they let go in the lake.

Why is Lake Norman so warm? ›

Lake Norman provides a ton of power to the greater Charlotte area and with that power comes many power plants. These power plants use underwater steam vents as a part of the process, which creates unnatural hot "springs" in different areas of the lake.

Where does Charlotte get its water? ›

Our drinking water comes from Mountain Island Lake and Lake Norman, which are both part of the Catawba-Wateree River Basin, which provides water for more than 1.5 million people in our region.

Is Charlotte NC near water? ›

Charlotte is just 20 miles away from the closest lake beach on Lake Norman, and 176 miles away from the closest coastal beach.

Why is swimming prohibited in Lake Norman? ›

So, officials suspended weekend swimming because nearly 400 gallons of sewage have been spilled into the lake. Yuck, right? Besides it being not sanitary, sewage from plumbing systems can have bacteria that are really dangerous if ingested.

How warm is Lake Norman water? ›

Lake Norman's current water temperature is 77°F.

Does Lake Norman have blue algae? ›

August was the first time blue-green algae were found in the Mecklenburg County portion of Lake Wylie. Rozzelle says it's been found in Lake Norman north of Mecklenburg.

Is Lake Norman worth visiting? ›

Located 20 miles north of Charlotte, Lake Norman is the perfect place for a quick trip or small getaway anytime of the year. Stroll down the historic main streets lined with a fun mix of boutique shops, galleries and restaurants or experience the beautiful scenery by boating and fishing or hiking and biking.

How far is Charlotte from ocean? ›

How far is Carolina Beach: Charlotte is around 200 miles and a 3.5-hour drive from Carolina Beach. Another beach near Charlotte that is also located in the Wilmington area is Carolina Beach.

What is the prettiest beach in North Carolina? ›

5 Most Picturesque Beaches Along North Carolina's Coast
  • Topsail Island. Just south of the illustrious Outer Banks lies an island paradise known as Topsail Island. ...
  • Bald Head Island. ...
  • Wrightsville Beach. ...
  • Emerald Isle. ...
  • Ocracoke Island.

Is Charlotte good for hiking? ›

With the Appalachian Mountains nearby and several forests, rocky peaks, and lakes to explore, Charlotte is a totally underrated city for outdoor activities. Hiking near Charlotte is a fantastic, affordable, and accessible way to explore all of the beautiful nature that the area has to offer.

How is the drive from Charlotte to Asheville? ›

Driving from Charlotte to Asheville is quick and easy. The fastest route is via I-277 N to I-85 S, US-321 N, and I-40 W to downtown Asheville, and the trip takes approximately two hours and 10 minutes from Charlotte's city center.

What is the closest mountain town to Charlotte North Carolina? ›

(1) Asheville

The king of cool and crowd favorite mountain town, Asheville is a rite of passage for weekend travel from Charlotte. The city of almost 100,000 has supreme foodie spots, art galleries galore, dozens of breweries and a handful of nearby hikes.

Does Charlotte have alligators? ›

Most of North Carolina's alligators are found in the southeastern corner of the state, excluding the Outer Banks. A Carolina Coastal Review study suggests the farthest west they might appear would be Richmond County, though none have been recorded past eastern Scotland County. That's four counties away from Charlotte.

Are there snakes in Lake Norman? ›

One of the largest water snakes an expert has ever heard of was found in Lake Norman over the weekend. A FOX 46 Charlotte viewer sent photos of the snake after they found it near a relative's home on Lake Norman.

Are there bears in Lake Norman State Park? ›

Bears, raccoons, foxes, shrews, mice, deer, songbirds and many other kinds of birds are some of the many animals people have often found. The type of bears found around Lake Norman are all black bears and are generally attracted to food sources.

Are there alot of snakes in North Carolina? ›

There are a lot of snakes in North Carolina, including one of the largest varieties of rattlesnakes in any state in the country.

Do bears live in North Carolina? ›

Bears are abundant in the Mountain and Coastal regions of North Carolina, and increasingly common in the Piedmont. Bears live in an area (home range) of 5,000 to 50,000 acres, depending on their gender and the quality of the habitat.

Is there saltwater crocodiles in NC? ›

Crocodiles are not native to North Carolina, but two extremely rare Orinoco crocodiles are now living on one of the state's barrier islands.

How many people died in Lake Norman? ›

Officials say there were three total deaths on Lake Norman in 2021.

Can you eat fish from Lake Norman? ›

To guard against mercury exposure and potential PCB exposure, other people should not eat more than two meals a month of largemouth bass and one meal a week of striped bass from Lake Norman. A meal of fish is considered approximately six (6) ounces of uncooked fish. Please also see the statewide mercury advisory.

Is Lake Norman water clean? ›

The annual BestPlaces Water Quality Index for the Lake Norman of Catawba area is 60 (100=best).

How many alligators are in North Carolina? ›

While they've been spotted as far north as the Great Dismal Swamp, alligators generally don't live in Virginia. In fact, while South Carolina has an alligator population that's north of 100,000, it's estimated there are only about 1,000 alligators in North Carolina.

Can you swim in lakes in Charlotte? ›

Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wylie are all considered suitable for swimming.

Are there alligators in Raleigh North Carolina? ›

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — You may be surprised to learn some bodies of water here in North Carolina are host to alligators, although biologists say they are a bit of a novelty in some areas.

› lake-norman ›


Lake Norman Facts

https://lakenormanmonster.com › lake-norman
https://lakenormanmonster.com › lake-norman
Lake Norman is North Carolina's largest manmade lake, with a surface area of 32,510 acres. Lake Norman was created in the early 1960's when the Duke Pow...
The species was not known to exist in either Lake Norman or the Catawba River. Late in 2000, reports of alligators in Lake Norman began to surface. Later that y...
Located just 30 miles north of Charlotte, Lake Norman is nicknamed North Carolina's “Inland Sea” thanks to 520 miles of shoreline and a surface area of more...

Are there lakes near Charlotte? ›

Located 20 miles north of Charlotte, Lake Norman is the perfect place for a quick trip or small getaway anytime of the year. Stroll down the historic main streets lined with a fun mix of boutique shops, galleries and restaurants or experience the beautiful scenery by boating and fishing or hiking and biking.

What's the closest beach to Charlotte NC? ›

Closest ocean beach near me: Masonboro Island

Both public and private boat launches can be found around Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, along with additional boat ramps at the New Hanover County Trails End Park. Trails on the island offer access for visitors to reach the beach from the boat landing areas.

Is Lake wateree safe to swim in? ›

Is swimming allowed at Lake Wateree State Park? Yes, we have swimming in our Day-Use area. There are picnic tables, grills, and the lake stays primarily sandy and gently slopes out into the lake.

Can you swim in Lake Wylie? ›

Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wylie are all considered suitable for swimming.

What lake is south of Charlotte? ›

Lake Wylie
Max. depth25 m (82 ft)
Shore length1325 mi (523 km)
Islandsmany
SettlementsCharlotte, North Carolina Lake Wylie, South Carolina Steele Creek, North Carolina Tega Cay, South Carolina India Hook, South Carolina
11 more rows

Are there mountains near Charlotte NC? ›

Yet another Appalachian foothills peak, the South Mountains are another great hiking destination in the mountains near Charlotte NC. With peaks ranging from 1100 to 3000 feet in elevation, you can be sure to find a variety of trails for every ability level.

Is Lake Norman a natural lake? ›

Lake Norman is a man-made lake created between 1959 and 1964 after the Duke Power Company built the Cowan's Ford Dam across the Catawba River.

How far is Charlotte from ocean? ›

How far is Carolina Beach: Charlotte is around 200 miles and a 3.5-hour drive from Carolina Beach. Another beach near Charlotte that is also located in the Wilmington area is Carolina Beach.

Is Charlotte NC A good place to live? ›

Charlotte is ranked as the #14 best city to live in the U.S.in a recent U.S. News article. Also on the list is Raleigh, North Carolina which is the state's capital. Both cities are active participants in the top 10 lists of best places to live!

What's it like to live in Charlotte NC? ›

Living in Charlotte offers residents an urban suburban mix feel and most residents own their homes. In Charlotte there are a lot of restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. Many families and young professionals live in Charlotte and residents tend to lean liberal. The public schools in Charlotte are above average.

Are there alligators in Lake Wateree SC? ›

Alligators are common in South Carolina and definitely present in Kershaw County, but are unlikely to venture into Lake Wateree, say experts.

Does Lake Murray have alligators? ›

Officials with the state game and fish commission used to say there were none, but in 2021 they conceded that an alligator can occasionally be seen on one side of the lake. Also in 2021, the state parks department said there were no alligators at Lake Murray.

Does Lake Wateree have a beach? ›

LAKE WATEREE – The swim beach is now open at Duke Energy's largest access area to Lake Wateree. The Molly Creek Access Area at Lake Wateree opened in December 2021. It features two fishing piers, restrooms, trails, picnic areas and shelters, boat and trailer parking, boat ramps and a courtesy dock.

Are there alligators in Lake Wylie? ›

Lake Wylie, which does not have alligators, is a dammed section of the Catawba River, south of Charlotte.

What's the cleanest lake in the US? ›

Crater Lake, Oregon

Because Crater Lake isn't fed by any streams or rivers, scientists consider it to be the cleanest lake in the US and the entire world. It is also the clearest, with visibility up to 100 feet and sunlight pervading down some 400 feet.

Are there alligators on Lake Norman? ›

Prior to 2000, there weren't many reports of alligators being found in Lake Norman. However, it seems that they are native to the area now – and it's not uncommon for there to be sightings of 5' or even 6' alligators within the lake.

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