When you take a lake trip to North Carolina, look forward to family fun and many outdoor activities such as swimming, boating, kayaking, and fishing. From High Rock Lake to Lake Norman, North Carolina is home to a variety of refreshing swimming spots. Of course, there are many North Carolina vacation rentals situated close to these fantastic lakes. This may make it difficult to choose just one place to visit. That said, check out the 10 best lakes in North Carolina to help you narrow down your search.

1. Lake James

Lake James
Source: Flickr/-ted

In the mountains of western North Carolina, Lake James offers everything you want from a family vacation, including the location of several major films. Hiking trails around the lake weave through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and gorgeous scenery. Take small kids on the Holly Discovery Trail to enjoy the kid-friendly activities along the way. Bear Creek Marina offers a small restaurant for a family dinner before stocking up on supplies for your next day on the lake, including snacks and fishing gear.

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2. Lake Norman

Lake Norman
Source: Flickr/David Saunders

With more than 500 miles of shoreline and close to Charlotte, Lake Norman offers an amazing family trip and numerous vacation rentals. Bring your own boat to launch from one of the numerous public ramps or keep it docked at one of the two yacht clubs. Cannon Board Co. offers paddleboard rentals so you can try this cool sport or explore the more remote shoreline. Captain Gus’ Lake Norman Laugh Liner can take your family out for a day of fishing at all the best spots.

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3. High Rock Lake

High Rock Lake
Source: Flickr/Jeff Gunn

High Rock Lake has a significant largemouth bass population so your family can while away its days fishing from the dock behind your vacation rental or from a boat on the water. This lake welcomes personal watercrafts and doesn’t limit motor sizes so it’s a great spot for water skiing and tubing. Stop by Kitty Hawk Kites in nearby Duck to pick up a kite or some beach towels. Max and Mortiz Restaurant and Bakery is a great place for a quick lunch or pick up some pastries for breakfast.

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4. Badin Lake

Badin Lake
Source: Flickr/Melissa Wilkins

Badin Lake provides a variety of fish types to make your fishermen happy with their catch of the day, including white bass, catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and striped bass. After a morning on the lake, book a tee time at Mountain Brook Golf Club to keep your swing from getting rusty on vacation. Take older family members to the Stoney Mountain Vineyards for a tour or younger family members to Cotton Patch Gold Mine for a tour and the chance to pan for gold.

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5. Lake Wylie

Lake Wylie
Source: Flickr/Charlie Cowins

Sitting in both North Carolina and South Carolina, Lake Wylie features two public boat launches and a variety of small communities to find a vacation rental. Spend your days exploring the more than 300 miles of shorelines or fishing for dinner. Long Cove Marina and Yacht Club offers rentals and docking services to keep your boat in the water during your stay. Stop by B and B Antique & Artisan Mall and High Cotton Antiques to find something unique for your home.

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6. Nantahala Lake

Nantahala Lake
Source: Flickr/anoldent

Nantahala Lake is a manmade lake that was originally created to provide electricity for the war effort. It’s popular for swimming, boating, and tubing; however, its location in a valley means that it gets deep very quickly so keep an eye on young children. If you’re traveling with older kids, then take a white water rafting trip on the river below the lake with Nantahala River Rafting. Test your courage as you climb over obstacles through the tops of trees with Wildwater Nantahala Falling Waters Resort and Canopy Tours.

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7. Lake Mattamuskeet

Lake Mattamuskeet
Source: Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region

Lake Mattamuskeet is North Carolina’s largest natural lake, and it sits close to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also very shallow with a depth of two to three feet in many places. Bring your binoculars and field guide since this lake is home to a great many bird species. Once a pumping station, Mattamuskeet Lodge has an observation tower that resembles a lighthouse where you can enjoy stunning views. Bum’s Restaurant might sound a little offensive but the mouth-watering barbecue more than makes up for it.

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8. Belews Lake

Belews Lake
Source: Flickr/Luke Wisley

Close to Greensboro and Winston-Salem, Belews Lake has two marinas for stocking up on supplies, getting fresh bait for fishing, and renting a boat for an afternoon or your entire trip. This large lake is popular for water skiing and tubing. One afternoon, take the family for a hike through the Knight Brown Nature Preserve to see the local wildlife, including raccoons, deer, and other cute critters.Hillbilly Hide-A-Way Restaurant offers a buffet with country favorites for your hungry family.

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9. Lake Lure

Lake Lure
Source: Flickr/D’Angelo Reyes

Your family will love Lake Lure almost as much as filmmakers. This large lake appears in five movies, including the 80s classic “Dirty Dancing.” Find many vacation rentals in the numerous small towns that line the lake. Close to Chimney Rock State Park, this lake offers many hiking opportunities. While away the day floating on the water with Green River Cove Tubing. Meander around the lake on horseback when you book a tour through Cedar Creek Stables.

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10. Kerr Lake

Kerr Lake
Source: Flickr/bobistraveling

In northern North Carolina, Kerr Lake is so large that it extends into Virginia, where it becomes known as Buggs Island. While you can take motorboats out on this lake, many days you see the brightly colored sails of sailboats dotting the water. Spend your days boating, fishing, and swimming. One afternoon keep your golf swing from becoming rusty at the Kerr Lake Country Club. If you’re faced with a rainy day, take the family to Marketplace Cinema in Henderson to catch the latest blockbuster.

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