Florida boasts a multitude of lakes ranging from the marshy, brackish wetlands in the southern region where swimming is considered dangerous — thanks to alligators — to the freshwater reservoirs in the Panhandle where swimming and boating are popular activities. Whether you want to kayak among cypress trees or catch an award-winning bass, these are several of the best lakes in the state. Book a cozy Florida vacation rental, then head to one of these lakes for an exciting lakeside getaway.

1. Lake Kissimmee

Located in central Florida, Lake Kissimmee lies in the middle of lake country. With so many lakes from which to choose, this one makes the grade for its multitude of vacation rentals, especially along the southern end, and many recreation areas. Get a lakeside rental here and be within a few minutes of Grape Hammock, a family-owned marina where you can sign up for an airboat tour. When you’re not boating, take part in the living history demonstrations that harken back to 19th-century cow camps that used to exist along the lake. Take one of the many hiking and biking trails, and keep your eyes peeled for deer, bald eagles, ospreys, and even bobcats. You can even rest your feet and opt for a segway tour through Back Trail Adventures or a horseback riding tour through Horse World Riding Stables.

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2. Lake Tohopekaliga

Lake Tohopekaliga is located just north of Lake Kissimmee on the southern boundaries of the Orlando metropolitan area. There are several vacation rentals located on or near the lake for easy water access. Even if you don’t get a lake house, you can still have water access via the Lakefront Park. The park has everything from walking paths and a playground to a marina and fishing pier complete with a miniature lighthouse. In fact, bass fishing is a popular activity, as is bird watching and wildlife viewing. If you want urban fun, head north to Orlando where you can go to Medieval Times and Disney World with the kids or indulge in some adult fun at one of the many bars or clubs such as Murphy’s Arm Pub and Mango’s Tropical Cafe. If you want to stay closer to home, there are airboat tours and boating on the lake.

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3. Lake Harris

Lake Harris lies northwest of Orlando, the perfect place to grab a lake house where you can have a little solitude while still being close enough to the city to pop by if you feel the need. Go kayaking beneath the towering cypress trees or try catching some largemouth bass, bluegill, or redear sunfish. The town of Tavares lies along the east side of the lake where you can visit a few eateries and parks. The Tavares Nature Park and Hickory Point Recreation Park both offer nature trails, water access, boat docks, and picnic shelters.

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4. Lake Eola

Lake Eola, in the middle of Orlando and not far from the downtown area, is an oasis of beauty in the city. You get a charming mix of palm trees and willows with tons of swans that nest there. While water activities are limited, you can rent a swan boat, feed the swans, and enjoy the surround Lake Eola Park. Relax Grill, World of Beer, and Stardust Lounge all sit around the lake. There are plenty of vacation rentals located in the neighborhoods around the lake, well within walking distance of the lake, more restaurants, and the downtown area.

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5. Lake Monroe

North of Orlando lies Lake Monroe and the Lake Monroe Conservation Area. The cities of Sandford, Deltona, and DeBary sit around the lake, offering several vacation rental options and a range of activities for those times that you aren’t exploring the lake. Lake Monroe Wayside Park and Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens both lie on the west side of the lake. The park has a fishing dock and boat ramp; plus, you can pick up the Gemini Springs South Trailhead for an easy nature walk to the Gemini Springs Park. The zoo and gardens boast nature trails, ziplines, splash grounds, a train and carousel, and animals. The Lake Monroe Conservation Area lies on the east side of the lake has hiking and horseback riding trails, fishing and kayaking areas, and wildlife viewing habitats.

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6. Lake George

Lake George, on the east side of the Ocala National Forest in north Florida offers fishing and boating as well as a ton of land-based activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and biking. Georgetown, where the St. John’s river meats Lake George, has a few eateries and several vacation houses from which to choose. You can also go explore in the nearby Lake George Conservation Area. Head a few miles west to soak in the Salt Springs, natural mineral springs in the Ocala National Forest.

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7. Lake Talquin

Lake Talquin lies in Florida’s Panhandle with several lake houses for rent along the shores. While people do swim in it, it has been known to host alligators, so parents should be cautioned. Otherwise, it offers great boating, kayaking, and fishing options. There are also several beautiful parks surrounding it where you can go exploring on foot (or bicycle). These include the Joe Budd Wildlife Management Area, Lake Talquin State Park and Forest, Talquin Wildlife Management Area, and Pat Thomas Park. Take the Ford Braden Trails for hikes that meander down ravines and through forests.

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8. Crescent Lake

Crescent Lake is just northeast of Lake George in northeast Florida. While there are some lake houses around it, the area is relatively undeveloped, giving you plenty of space and breathing room. It’s a great location for catching catfish, striped bass, and black crappie. It’s also popular for birding; you’ll see osprey, herons, and even bald eagles. If fishing isn’t your thing, go kayaking around the lake, making sure to stop at the sunken steamboat, Alligator, or kayak along the waterways of Haw Creek Preserve State Park. Crescent City, which lies on the west side of the lake, is more of a town, but it does offer a few eateries and the Fat Boys Saloon.

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9. Lake Eustis

Lake Eustis is located just northeast of Lake Harris, connected to the bigger lake via the Dead River. Get a vacation rental on the west side where you’re within spitting distance of Lake Harris and an easy stroll to the Hurricane Dockside Grill or Angelo’s Italian restaurant. This lake is popular among boating and sailing crowds with annual sailing regattas, lessons, and sailboat rentals. It’s also a great fishing spot for bass and the habitat of the Lake Eustis pupfish, a threatened fish.

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10. Lake Seminole

Lake Seminole lies on the border of Florida and southwest Georgia. This lake has sand beaches, swimming, boating, and fishing. You can also go hiking at the Apalachee Wilderness Management Area. The various waterways in this wetland habitat is ideal for kayaking and birding. The Three Rivers State Park, which lies along the lake not far from the small town of Sneads, has nature trails, a boat launch, and a fishing pier. Chattahoochee is the biggest town in the area with a few historic sites worth seeing and some eateries.

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