Known for its tourism and agriculture, the state of Tennessee is home to a wide variety of beautiful greenspaces and gorgeous lakes. From boating and fishing to hiking and water sports, Tennessee offers plenty of activities for water lovers and nature enthusiasts. When planning your next trip, book a stay at one of many Tennessee vacation rentals situated close to one of these 10 popular lake locations.

1. Cherokee Lake

sunset on cherokee lake
Source: Flickr / DM

Also known as the Cherokee Reservoir, the Cherokee Lake was formed by the Cherokee Dam along the Holston River. This lake covers approximately 28,780 acres and is located near Rogersville, White Pine, Morristown, and Jefferson City. All are small cities that provide plenty of eateries, shopping, and things to do in a friendly atmosphere. Rent a boat from the Mountain View Marina and go fishing, skiing, or simply cruise around on the open water and sunbathe from the deck. If you prefer to ride, sign up for an Apalachia Lake Tour and learn about all the major points of interest, including the Hiwassee Dam. Afterwards, dry your feet and mine for gems at the Salty Dog Gem Mine, or head to the WagonMaster Ranch Fun Park and go horseback riding through the forests.

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2. Norris Lake

norris lake
Source: Flickr / collectmoments

Norris Lake is located approximately an hour north of Knoxville and close to the small towns of Rocky Top and Norris. The lake extends 56 miles up the Powell River and 73 miles into the Clinch River. This quiet mountain community provides a wealth of recreational activities like boating, fishing, skiing, golfing, or simply relaxing. There are plenty of vacation rentals right on the water near Cove Creek and the Norris Dam which provide spectacular views. Sign up with Norris Paddling Adventures and take a guided tour, or head to the Cove Lake State Park for a picnic and hiking. Close by in Clinton, the Museum of Appalachia provides a peak into the past or stop by the Little Ponderosa Zoo and pet some camels. Oasis Watersports offers boats for rent for skiing, fishing, and other water-based activities.

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3. Old Hickory Lake

old hickory lake
Source: Flickr / Lisa Zins

Travel north towards Nashville and you’ll find the Old Hickory Lake that borders Sumner and Davidson Counties. Close enough to the city to enjoy a lively nightlife and amenities, Old Hickory also provides a quiet atmosphere for those who want to get away from it all. Rent a boat from Sweetwater Pontoon Rental and go fishing or lay on the deck to grab some sun. The lake is well-known for its bass and catfish. Hike at the Rockland Recreational Area, and then take the children to the Moss-Wright Park to play on the playground. At night, head to the Ryman Auditorium or the Grand Ole’ Opry for live music or during the day browse through one of the local antique stores.

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4. Percy Priest Lake

percy priest lake
Source: Flickr / Denise Mattox

Located in the heart of Nashville, the Percy Priest Lake is a popular spot for swimming. Sail away on one of the River Queen Voyages and enjoy the lights of the city or sign up to go fishing with Ed Martin’s Striper and Hybrid Guide Service. If you prefer to paddle, rent a paddleboard at the Nashville Paddle Company. When you’re ready to head inland, have fun with your group on a Sprocket Rocket Party Bike, or tour the city on the Honky Tonk Party Express. The lake provides a quiet location to enjoy the city from afar, while it’s close enough to downtown for fun.

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5. Reelfoot Lake

fishermen at reelfoot lake
Source: Flickr / Ian McKellar

Reelfoot Lake lies in the northwest portion of Tennessee near Union City, Portageville, and Hornbeak. This tiny lake community is most noted for its boating, fishing, and wildlife. The lake covers approximately 18,000 acres, much of which is actually swamp-like with large bald cypress trees dotting the landscape. The open bodies of water are called basins. The largest of which is the Blue Basin. Tiptonville is a popular spot for vacation rentals. From there, head to the Reelfoot State Park for a walk on the boardwalk or climb the observation tower and go birdwatching. Sign up for a Reelfoot Lake pontoon boat cruise or go swimming along. If you enjoy fishing, head to the northern part of the lake near the National Wildlife Refuge.

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6. Watauga Lake

watauga lake
Source: Flickr / Adam Sonnett

Enjoy the beautiful mountain backdrop and quiet community near Watauga Lake. Just east of Elizabethtown, this body of water is ideal for boating, fishing, swimming, or water sports. The area has more than 500 vacation rentals to choose from, many of which are directly on the water. Go kayaking with Watauga Kayak, or bring your own canoe and explore the Appalachian Underground. At night, enjoy a drive-in movie with the family at the State Line Drive-In, or head to town and explore the shops, like the Simple Blessings General Store.

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7. Nickajack Lake

nickajack lake
Source: Flickr / Bryce Edwards

Bordering Hamilton and Marion Counties, Nickajack Lake stretches from the Nickajack Dam to the Chickamauga Dam near Chattanooga. Vacationers can stay in Chattanooga near all of the action of the city or enjoy some peace and quiet near Jasper or Whiteside. Rent a boat at Hales Marina and fish for bass and catfish or go waterskiing and tubing in the middle of the lake. The lake offers beautiful views of the Tennessee River Gorge, which is sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon of Tennessee. Enjoy swimming or picnicking at the Marion County Park or dry off and head to the Chattanooga Nature Center to learn about the wildlife of the area. In Chattanooga, you can go to the Tennessee Aquarium or head to Rock City for scenic views.

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8. Chickamauga Lake

chickamauga lake
Source: Flickr / riverharbor

Located along the Tennessee River near the small towns of Birchwood and Georgetown, Chickamauga Lake is a beautiful and quiet place to visit. Locals flock to the area to fish for catfish and a variety of bass. Sign up for a Scenic City Fishing Charter and catch some catfish to take back to your vacation rental. If you like sightseeing, sign up for a Chattanooga Cycleboat tour and view the sites of the city from a different viewpoint. There’s swimming at the Harrison Bay State Park, or you can rent personal watercraft and have some fun on the water. The area is ideal for history buffs. Tour the Sixth Calvary Museum or stop by the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park for pictures.

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9. Kentucky Lake

kentucky lake
Source: Flickr / Land Between the Lakes KY/TN

In spite of its name, the Kentucky Lake also flows into parts of Tennessee about an hour to the west of Nashville near the towns of Camden and Waverly. These quiet communities offer beautiful views and are ideal for nature lovers. Rent a boat at the Paris Landing Marina and go fishing or skiing, or go on land and tour Fort Donelson, which lies along the water’s edge just 20 minutes east of Paris Landing. The Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area is one of the more popular spots on the lake. It is one of the largest undeveloped blocks of forest in the eastern United States. Here, you can go hunting, hiking, or birding, or step inside the observatory at night and view the stars.

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10. Lake Barkley

lake barkley
Source: Flickr / wbrentprice

Lake Barkley lies to the east of Kentucky Lake. Part of the lower part of the lake lies in Tennessee. There is a canal that connects the two bodies of water. Lake Barkley has over 134 miles of shoreline for swimming, fishing, sunbathing, and picnicking. Like Kentucky Lake, the area is quiet and family oriented. Most vacationers stay along the water near Camden and Waverly. Go hiking at the Fort Henry Trail Head or bring your kayak and put in at the Gatlin Point Lake Access area.

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