11 Best Lake Vacations in the Midwest

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Are you an RV traveler looking for your next great adventure for spring or summer 2023? Well, the Midwest is home to some of the most beautiful lakes and stunning scenery in the country, making it the perfect destination for a warm-weather RV road trip

From cities on the crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan to small island towns in Lake Huron, the lakes of the Midwest have something for everyone. Whether you're looking for outdoor activities, family-friendly attractions, or a peaceful retreat in nature, you can be sure that the best lake vacations in the Midwest offer it all.

It's almost time to hit the road and explore 11 of the best lake vacations in the Midwest you can enjoy in spring and summer 2023. You'll come to see why RV travelers like you should add them to your travel bucket list!

Why the Best Lake Vacations in the Midwest?

Why visit the Midwest in spring or summer instead of the Southwest or California (which tend to be more popular as the seasons warm up each year)? Sure, you can go to Lake Havasu or camp along the Southern Cal coastline, but at some point, the weather gets too hot for the former...and a trip to California might break the bank!

On the other hand, the Midwest in spring and summer is far more affordable than elsewhere and also more comfortable; until the weather cools off with the arrival of fall, you have several months that are simply perfect for family-friendly outdoor activities at a gorgeous lake.

The 11 Best Lake Vacations in the Midwest for 2023

When you go on the best lake vacations in the Midwest in an RV, you're creating memories that'll last a lifetime. Are you ready to venture out and discover the beauty and adventure of the Midwest's great lake destinations? Let's go!

  1. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island is a car-free island in Lake Huron that offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the charm of a bygone era. You might think it's strange to recommend a car-free island to RV travelers, but once you park your rig and take a ferry on over to Mackinac Island, you'll come to understand why it has been automobile-free (with only a few exceptions for emergency vehicles) since 1898!

What's to see on Mackinac Island? It's famous for its Victorian architecture, horse-drawn carriages, and delectable fudge shops. You have your choice of exploring the island by foot on hiking trails, biking and taking it in on two wheels, or going really old-school and seeing it on horseback. Of course, what island trip would be complete without a bit of fishing, too? Cast a line before heading back on the ferry to your RV!

  1. Traverse City, Michigan

Situated on the east shore of Lake Michigan, Traverse City is a popular vacation destination offering visitors a variety of activities, from the National Cherry Festival (2023 marks the 96th year it has been held) to relaxing on Clinch Park Beach to tours of (and tastings at) one of the region's many vineyards. Outdoorsy types can enjoy the area's hiking and fishing options, while watersport enthusiasts may want to go kayaking.

In addition to wineries, visitors to Traverse City are encouraged to pay a visit to nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which covers a 35-mile stretch of the Lake Michigan shoreline. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of Michigan's most popular camping destinations, making it stand out as one of the best destinations for lake vacations in the Midwest.

  1. Saugatuck, Michigan

Looking to explore a charming small town on the shores of Lake Michigan? Look no further than Saugatuck! One of Saugatuck's biggest claims to fame is the town's beaches, renowned not only as some of the best in Michigan but also ranks amongst the best beaches in the world!

The town is also known for its art galleries, which visitors can explore along with the many studios of Saugatuck, the bulk of which can be found in the downtown area.

While in Saugatuck, you owe it to yourself to visit Saugatuck Dunes State Park. This state park is largely undeveloped, and you can explore its unspoiled beauty on 14 miles of hiking trails or grab a good view of the 2.5 miles of lake shoreline from the top of a 200-foot sand dune.

  1. Grand Haven, Michigan

If you're heading to Grand Haven, Michigan, it's probably because of the city's many sandy beaches. Unsurprisingly, visitors come to Grand Haven to swim, sunbathe, and relax on the beach and also enjoy water activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing. The great beaches (ranked amongst the 25 best beaches in the U.S.) aren't the only thing Grand Haven, located at the mouth of the Grand River, is known for, though.

Grand Haven is also home to many historic landmarks and bears the nickname of "Coast Guard City, USA" — the only city in America with that honor. Grand Haven is the home of the Coast Guard’s National Memorial Service, and the city also holds an annual Coast Guard Festival that attracts more than 350,000 visitors each year, including high-level Coast Guard officials from DC.

  1. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva is a charming resort town located on the shores of the freshwater-filled Geneva Lake, a bit less than 80 miles from bustling Chicago, Illinois. RV travelers visiting Lake Geneva will be able to enjoy a variety of activities, including golfing, boating, and swimming. If you're keener on a lazy stay, you can also just relax in one of the town's many spas.

Lake Geneva also hosts many beautiful and historic mansions, some of which are open for tours. And, when exploring the lakeside homes of the area, be on the lookout for postal workers jumping off a boat, collecting and delivering mail, and then jumping back on the boat and heading to the next mailbox down the shoreline.

This is known as "mail jumping," and you can't see that sort of thing anywhere else in the world but at Geneva Lake!

  1. Door County, Wisconsin

Door County is not a single destination but a series of them on a Wisconsin peninsula jutting out into Lake Michigan. A popular vacation spot that offers visitors a chance to relax and unwind in a beautiful setting, there's actually lots to see and do there. Explore the Door Peninsula's charming towns at your leisure, snap photos of picturesque lighthouses, and enjoy the region's bountiful cherry orchards.

Visitors can also enjoy biking, hiking, fishing, and boating or simply relax on one of the area's many beaches. Better yet, embark on a peninsula tour; you can start in Southern Door County, make your way up to Sturgeon Bay, and continue up and around to the natural beauty of Baileys Harbor, keep on towards Ellison Bay, and then wind things down in Carlsville.

There are many small towns along Door County's 300 miles of shoreline, so get out there!

  1. Bayfield, Wisconsin

Bayfield is a small Wisconsin town located on the shores of Lake Superior and is known as the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, where visitors can explore 21 islands and their unique landscapes, beaches, and sea caves.

Visitors keen on experiencing its stunning natural beauty can head out for some hiking, biking, kayaking, and fishing to really take it all in. If you feel the need to head indoors, why not make an educational stopover at the Bayfield Maritime Museum, the Bayfield Heritage Center, or the Madeline Island Museum (to learn about the area's Native peoples)?

  1. Duluth, Minnesota

On the western tip of Lake Superior, you'll find Duluth, Minnesota, a vibrant port city that is home to a bustling waterfront, as well as many museums and galleries; while there, be sure to visit the Glensheen Historic Estate and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. While in Duluth, you can't miss the Aerial Lift Bridge, one of the city's landmarks.

RVers who visit Duluth may consider the area as one of the best for lake vacations in the Midwest thanks to the North Shore Scenic Drive and the city's proximity to two of the most popular outdoor recreation destinations in northern Minnesota, the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The Superior National Forest is home to several campgrounds and picnic areas, as well as numerous lakes and rivers for fishing and boating. Meanwhile, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing, along with wildlife watching: Be on the lookout for black bears, wolves, and moose!

  1. Put-in-Bay, Ohio

Put-in-Bay is a small village located on South Bass Island in Lake Erie. The village is known for its lively atmosphere and is a popular vacation spot for families, young adults, and retirees (in short, practically everyone!).

Common activities visitors to Put-in-Bay can engage in include boating, fishing, and swimming; those interested in the local culture can also explore Put-in-Bay's many unique shops and restaurants.

American history buffs will especially love Put-in-Bay's Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, a 352-foot monument (the world's tallest Doric column) that commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie, which took place during the War of 1812. Today, Canada, Britain, and the US are steadfast allies, but that wasn't always the case. Learn more about it when you visit Put-in-Bay!

  1. Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

Not to be confused with Wisconsin's Lake Geneva (on the shores of Geneva Lake), Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio is located on the shores of Lake Erie. Visitors to this little resort town can enjoy a variety of activities while there, but one of the most popular for adults is a tour of the region's wineries, of which there are many.

Which wineries to hit up? There's the Ferrante Winery & Ristorante, Laurello Vineyards, and South River Vineyard to name a few; thanks to the Geneva on the Lake's shuttle services, you don't have to worry — you can drink up and let others do the driving!

Wining and dining aren't all there is to do at Geneva-on-the-Lake. Other activities include fishing, boating, swimming, and shopping in the town's antique stores. As with other lakeside towns, you may end up wanting to take some time to just sit and relax on a beach, and who could blame you for thinking one of the best lake vacations in the Midwest involves doing just that?

  1. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Located in central Missouri, Lake of the Ozarks, in central Missouri, offers visitors the chance to go boating, fishing, and swimming along its 1,150 miles of shoreline.

Lake of the Ozarks is not a natural lake (Missouri does have proper lakes), but is instead a man-made reservoir. You wouldn't really know it, though, whether you're sipping beer or enjoying a feast at one of the many bars and restaurants situated on Lake of the Ozarks' waterfront.

If you're so inclined, you can go hiking along 13 different trails at Lake of the Ozarks. Alternatively, you can get in a few rounds of golf at one of the dozen courses situated along the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail. Either way, there's plenty to keep you active at Lake of the Ozarks!

Go on the Best Lake Vacations in the Midwest with Cruise America

Now that you've been introduced to 11 of the best lake vacations in the Midwest, it's time to plan your next trip to one (or all) of them! How you get to them will make a big difference in the quality of your vacation, and there's no better way to travel to these lakes than by RV. And, when it comes to RVs, it's best to stick with the best — you need to go in a Cruise America RV!

For more than 50 years, Cruise America has been helping RV travelers like you explore the natural wonders and beauty of North America. As spring and summer vacation time kicks into high gear once again, Cruise has the fleet and knowledge to help you plan a lakeside vacation you and your family will never forget.

Campgrounds and RV reservations can fill up fast as the weather warms up, so don't delay; contact Cruise America today!