South Dakota may be landlocked, but don’t let that fool you. There are some amazing beaches here! The Mount Rushmore State actually features miles of beaches and acres of lake shores for your summer adventures. Even though South Dakota doesn’t have a lot of big cities, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to travel for miles to find a place to cool down. It does mean you’ll find a lot of charming, rural South Dakota vacation rentals perfect for your needs. All South Dakota Parks have a daily entrance fee, but you can buy a yearly entrance for only $23. So, save this list for your summer bucket list, and visit them all. They’re all unique and make for great weekend getaways or full on family vacations. Have fun!
1. Sylvan Lake Beach
Considered the crown jewel of Custer State Park, Sylvan Lake is a local favorite and an absolute hidden gem in South Dakota. This breathtaking site is absolutely beautiful and is a great beach for hiking, swimming, boating, and fishing. There are many cliffs for jumping, and you can rent paddle boats at the general store. There are several trailheads at Sylvan Lake, but the most rewarding is Trail 9 which takes you all the way to the top of Harney Peak for views of the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore only 5 miles away. You’re guaranteed a good time here!
2. Angostura State Recreation Area
Angostura State Recreation Area is one of the few large reservoirs in western South Dakota and has 36 miles of shoreline, meaning there’s plenty of sandy beaches perfect for a weekend of camping, fishing, and lounging in the sun. Other activities include volleyball, horseshoes, 9-hole disk golf course and a ski beach. The lake’s strong fishery makes it’s a dream for anglers, and the crystal clear waters average 66 degrees during the summer, perfect for cooling off. Just remember to stay safe because there are no lifeguards on duty.
3. Lewis & Clark Lake
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Locals and travelers alike love the stunning Lewis & Clark Lake, located six miles west of Yankton. The beach is the perfect place to play in the sun, go fishing, boating, and sailing. You can also camp right along the water, which is one of the reasons that the Lewis & Clark Recreation Area is the region’s most popular campground. There are three separate campgrounds featuring more than 400 paved campsites and 19 camping cabins. No matter what kind of vacation you’re looking for, we assure you that Lewis & Clark Lake will not disappoint.
4. Ravine Lake
This beach is extra special because Ravine Lake is located right in the middle of Huron, South Dakota. In addition to a perfect, sandy beach, it’s complete with picnic tables, and gazebos available for rent, making Ravine Lake the perfect place for weddings and other special occasions. There are also many walking trails that connect the different parks around the lake. If you’re traveling with kids, or you’re just a kid at heart, head to Memorial Park. This park has 2 basketball hoops, 8 sets of horseshoe courts, and a 9-hole disc golf course.
5. North Point Recreation Area
Just north of Fort Randall, on the Missouri River, is North Point Recreation Area with a beautiful beach. You’ll get a spectacular river view and the chance to see the natural phenomenon of “burning bluffs,” where the shale ignites and smokes. In addition to the beach, there are hiking and biking trails, opportunities for fishing, and a playground. If you decide to stay overnight at one of the campsites or cabins, there’s even a game check out!
6. Oahe Downstream Recreation Area
Oahe Downstream Recreation Area is one of the largest constructed reservoirs in the United States and offers three campgrounds and a variety of recreational opportunities from boating to hiking to disc golf. All of those regular beach activities are fun and all, but this South Dakota state park also offers visitors the rare opportunity to see the majestic bald eagle. During the winter, bird watchers can view eagles that roost in the treetops below the dam or perching within 50 feet of the riverbank in the tall cottonwood trees. Another fun activity is the interactive South Dakota prairie butterfly garden where you can find 17 species of native prairie plants and learn something new about butterflies.
7. Lake Vermillion Recreation Area
The word “vermilion” means vivid red color, and some people say that the stream got its name from the red quartzite along its bank. Either way, this lake is beautiful and offers a sandy beach in a secluded area, making it a great getaway. It’s known for its clear waters and abundant fish, and during the fall, hunters can find waterfowl and upland game only minutes away from the park.
8. Mina Lake
Mina Lake was one of the first man-made lakes in northeast South Dakota, and the Mina Recreation Area provides a water-lover’s haven with plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming. If you’ve had your fill of the water, there’s a spacious campground, hiking trails, and several picnic areas, providing your family with hours of fun.
9. Richmond Lake
Richmond Lake in Aberdeen has three separate areas to cater to the needs of campers, swimmers, naturalists, boaters, and anglers. Getting on the water is no problem with the boat ramp, which gives you easy access to this more than 1,000-acre lake. There are vacation rentals nearby, or you can reserve a camping spot online. Campsites are available with or without electricity, and the one-room camping cabin even has heating and air conditioning and can sleep four people. We recommend the South Unit, which is an excellent place for wildlife viewing.
10. Stockade Lake
Get ready to take a road trip because Stockade Lake can accommodate mid-sized RV’s along with tents. It’s the largest of the Custer State Park’s five lakes and boasts the most amenities for campers. It’s also the only lake in Custer State Park that allows boats. While you’re here, you can enjoy the swimming beach, hiking trail, playground, and abundant fishing. You’ll also be near some historical Black Hills points of interest like the nearby Gordon Stockade and the site of the first gold discovery in the Black Hills!