Kentucky may not have tropical trees and fruits, but it has some amazing beaches bordering some beautiful lakes. You can enjoy swimming, fishing, camping or just relaxing in the serenity of nature of the Blue Grass State. Most of the beaches are surrounded by lush green forestry and colorful natural rock formations, and some have unique cave systems as well. Kentucky’s park system operates eight state parks that feature public beaches where swimming is allowed, so there are plenty of options for your beach vacation. Many of these parks also feature recreational pools and camping facilities, and resort-style parks offer additional lodging, dining, and recreation activities, giving you plenty to do after leaving the beach. Or, for the ultimate flexibility, stay in a Kentucky vacation rental. Find your dream Kentucky vacation rental today.
1. Carr Creek State Park
Carr Creek State Park sits in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. This 700-acre lake offers a marsh eco-system fairly unique to the area and has plenty of space for fishing, swimming or just sunning. The sandy beach is the longest of any in the Kentucky state park system, and there are plenty of fishing opportunities for bass, crappie, and walleye. Explore more of the lake by renting a pontoon or fishing boat at the nearby marina, or take advantage of this park’s rustic setting by camping in the 39-site campground. Just keep in mind that this beach has no bathhouses or restaurants.
2. Buckhorn State Park
Swimmers and sunbathers flock to the Buckhorn Lake State Park in Eastern Kentucky every summer. Take advantage of the lakeside beach house with restrooms, changing quarters, and showering areas. You can also rent a pontoon or fishing boat, or stay overnight in one of the rental cabins and rooms in the park lodge. If you’re staying at the lodge, you get access to the exclusive park pool which offers a nice escape when the beach becomes too crowded.
3. Pennyrile State Park
Dip into the gorgeous waters of Pennyrile Lake. The public sandy beach sits adjacent to the lake’s boat dock, which offers paddle boats, row boats, canoes and trolling motor boats. Enjoy some lake fishing, catching bluegill, channel catfish, crappie and largemouth bass. The area also offers hiking, equestrian and mountain bike trails, so you might want to extend your stay! Take full advantage of the park by staying at the full-service campground with 68 sites, or rent a room in the lodge or rental cottages.
4. Barren River Lake
Settle in for a comfortable and content day on the sandy beaches of Barren River Lake, located near the south-central Kentucky town of Lucas. This beach offers many opportunities for swimming, sunbathing and building sand castles along with a large marina and boat dock and plenty of fishing, as the lake features largemouth bass, striped bass, bluegill, channel catfish, crappie and rough fish. Make your visit to Barren River Lake an overnight stay by pitching a tent in the park’s 99-site seasonal campground, renting an on-site cottage or booking a room in the park’s lodge.
5. Lake Malone
Lake Malone State Park, in western Kentucky, has gorgeous hardwood forests Sandstone bluffs overlooking the designated swim area. This 788-acre lake is ideal for swimming and playing, and the beach features several amenities to help guests enjoy their stay. Lake Malone offers a public boat ramp, so bring along a fishing boat, and head out for some catfish, largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and redear sunfish. If you’re staying for the day, you can use the beachside showers, restrooms and refreshment stand, or you can extend your stay at one of the 30 sites for tent camping and 25 RV hookups. Staying for a few days? Laundry, showers, and restrooms are also available for campers.
6. Nolin Lake State Park
Sit back and relax on the sand, or better yet, explore the area by mountain biking the 9.2 miles of single track trails, or hiking the 1.6-mile trail to a waterfall. If you’re interested in wildlife, Great Blue Heron, Canada Geese, & Wild Turkey are abundant during the camping season, You might even see the occasional Bald Eagle! Make the most of your day by packing a picnic and enjoying lunch with a view at the accessible beachside pavilion.
7. Lake Barkley State Resort Park
This state park sits along the eastern shore of Lake Barkley, Kentucky’s largest man-made lake, and has some of the nicest cabins you will experience in an incredibly serene environment. People flock to this public beach for lake swimming and recreation. Challenge your friends to a game of beach volleyball on the available courts, take a tour of the 52,000-acre lake by renting an available pontoon, fishing, or ski boat, or just splash in the lake and clean up in the bathhouse.
8. Green River
The calm waters of Green River are perfect for swimming or fishing, and the park provides an excellent opportunity for beach side camping. This beach features a volleyball sand court, which commonly hosts pick-up games throughout the summer, or you can bring along the family boat for bass, crappie, bluegill, and muskie. Camp along the shores, with 157 sites with a grocery store, shower room, bathhouses and laundry facilities available for guests.
9. Rough River State Park
The Rough River Dam State Park is the place to go for grilling and chillin’ in the sunshine. Sitting along the shores of a 5,000-acre lake in western Kentucky, this park has a public beach for swimming along with a bathhouse for changing. Don’t be fooled by the name, because Rough River is ideal for family swimming as the water remains fairly gentle. In addition to relaxing on the beach, you can also embark on boating and fishing adventures from the marina, chow down at the picnic shelter, go bird watching or dominate the sand volleyball court. Extend your stay at Rough River by booking a stay in the lodge or renting a lakeside cottage. Cottage and lodge guests also have access to the swimming pool, which overlooks the beach.
10.Cherokee State Park
If you’re traveling with the family, you’ll want to check out Cherokee State Park. Located on Kentucky Lake, this is a great place for swimming, fishing, hiking, sunning, and other family friendly activities. Fun fact: Cherokee State Park opened in 1949 as a “colored only” holiday spot on the edge of Kentucky Lake. During a time of segregated parks, it was the Commonwealth’s only state-funded park solely for African-Americans.