Is there anything more rewarding and quintessentially “summer” than spending time outside under the sun, looking out over an expanse of glittering water? From flowing rivers to bustling lakes to an expanse of clear blue ocean, water lovers have their choice of destinations and vacation spots across the U.S. Whether you’re hauling the kayak, packing fly rod, or planning to spread out the beach towel and bask in the sun for the entire trip, you’ve got lots of choices in this big country. Here are six excellent options, including a nearby KOA campground that can serve as your home base for the fun.
1. Madison, Wisconsin
Closest KOA: Madison KOA
Water skiing, jet skiing, water parks, swimming…Madison and the surrounding area is one of the top destinations for lake life in the Midwest. The area around Madison is home to five different lakes, all packed with options for summer activities. Visitors can paddle themselves around in rental boats or stand-up paddleboards, or the family can take a guided tour on a private charter boat (or a larger cruise ship) ideal for a full day on the water. Beaches, parks, and trails around the lakes round out the activities. The Madison KOA keeps plenty of information on hand for local activities, and weekend events are hosted right on site throughout the summer. You’re also about an hour’s drive from the Wisconsin Dells, the self-proclaimed “waterpark capital of the world.” If you’ve kids who enjoy a good water slide, they’ll be in heaven.
2. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
Closest KOA: Strafford / Lake Winnipesaukee KOA Holiday
This part of New Hampshire is as perfectly “lakes region” as it gets. Bobbing docks invite canoeing and kayaking excursions around calm inlets, and rustic lake houses tucked back among the trees are part of a classic summer weekend. The Strafford KOA Holiday sits on 46 wooded acres, and it is close to Lake Winnipesaukee and all of the lake culture that comes along with it. This lake is 21 miles long and offers options for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, tubing, and more. When you’re ready for a break from the water, there’s plenty to do in this prime New England vacation spot.
3. Paradise Valley, Montana
Closest KOA: Livingston / Paradise Valley KOA Holiday
Bust out the fly rod and the drift boat, some of the most iconic blue-ribbon trout streams are found in this 50-mile stretch between Livingston and Gardiner, Montana. The mighty Yellowstone River flows through the valley surrounded by peaks so tall they only have a few weeks each year without snow dusting their upper reaches. Fish the tributaries and spring creeks along the banks, heading back each night to the Livingston / Paradise Valley KOA situated right on the Yellowstone River. Next to the historic town of Livingston and close to the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
4. Monterey, California
Closest KOA: Salinas / Monterey KOA
Traveling to this part of California? Don’t miss the Elkhorn Slough Tours, where guests can rent a kayak and paddle out to visit playful otters splashing and basking at the wildlife refuge. Other popular regional options include stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking around the bay in a rental boat, taking a paddling class, a guided tour, or simply enjoying a stroll along the iconic stretch of coastline. The Salinas / Monterey KOA is located just a few miles from the coast, and the seafood restaurants in town are top-notch.
5. St. Petersburg, Florida
Closest KOA: St. Petersburg / Madeira Beach KOA Holiday
Options for enjoying the water around St. Petersburg range from major adrenaline rushes to the chance to spend all day on the beach with a book. Thrill-seekers can look no further than the opportunity to try parasailing or windsurfing on the Gulf of Mexico with one of many outfitters and guides. Calmer options include paddleboarding in the perfectly temperate water, snorkeling off the coast, exploring Honeymoon Island State Park, or relaxing on a stretch of glimmering white-sand beaches that make the Florida Gulf Coast famous. The St. Petersburg / Madeira Beach KOA Holiday is just a few minutes from the beach and offers activities all summer long.
6. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Closest KOA: Mackinaw City / Mackinac Island KOA
Get your fix of history, woods, and water on Mackinac Island, which sits at the top of Michigan’s lower peninsula, close to where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. Take a sunrise or sunset kayak tour, explore the island by bike or horse-drawn carriage—there are no cars allowed on the island. Check out one of the fascinating museums if the sun gets too hot. Boating tours on a classic sailboat will take visitors around the island, and there’s even the option for parasailing for the more adventurous visitors. The Mackinaw City / Mackinaw Island KOA has bikes to rent, access to the best attractions on the island, and is located just a few miles from a charming Lake Michigan beach.
Written by Matcha for Kampgrounds of America.