Lake Norman Aerial Shot

15 Great Lakes near Charlotte NC

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Nestled in the heart of North Carolina, the vibrant city of Charlotte boasts a plethora of natural treasures, including its beautiful surrounding lakes. From tranquil oases to thrilling water sports destinations, these lakes offer a diverse range of recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike.

Whether you’re seeking a serene retreat or an adrenaline-filled adventure, the lakes near Charlotte have something for everyone. So let’s dive in!

15 Lakes near Charlotte NC

Let’s dive into the lakes near Charlotte, NC; this list is organized based on the distance from Charlotte, starting with the closest and moving to the furthermost away.

1. Mountain Island Lake

Distance from Charlotte: 12 miles away

Nestled just a short drive from Charlotte lies the hidden gem of Mountain Island Lake. Surrounded by lush forests and serene landscapes, this picturesque lake offers a tranquil escape for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Spanning approximately 3,281 acres, Mountain Island Lake is situated on the Catawba River. It was created in 1924 with the construction of the Mountain Island Hydroelectric Station; the lake serves as a vital water source for the Charlotte region. With over 60 miles of picturesque shoreline, Mountain Island Lake offers ample opportunities for exploration and relaxation. 

Adjacent to Mountain Island Lake lies the Latta Nature Preserve, a vast expanse of over 1,400 acres. This nature preserve is a haven for wildlife and features miles of scenic trails, meandering through forests, fields, and along the lake’s edge. 

Visitors can spot a variety of wildlife, including deer, foxes, turtles, and an array of bird species. The preserve also offers educational programs and guided nature walks, providing an opportunity to learn about the region’s natural history and conservation efforts.

Mountain Island Lake boasts several waterfront parks and amenities that cater to visitors’ recreational needs. The Mountain Island Park and Cowans Ford Dam Public Access Area offer picnic areas, fishing piers, and boat ramps, providing easy access to the lake’s waters. 

These parks are ideal for family outings, picnics, and leisurely strolls along the shoreline. Whether you want to bask in the sun, enjoy a lakeside picnic, or launch a boat for a day of water adventures, these parks offer the perfect setting.

2. Lake Norman

Distance from Charlotte: 18+ miles away

Lake Norman, where we reside, is the largest man-made body of water in North Carolina, and it does not disappoint. Lake Norman has 520 miles of shoreline and a surface area of 32,475 miles. 

Sunset on Lake Norman

Boating, jet skiing, swimming, paddling boarding, kayaking, and water surfing are all very popular activities on the lake itself. Surrounding the lake, you can find lots of beautiful hiking trails, shops, museums, and dining spots. Boat rentals are available through several rental companies. You will find a bunch of wonderful waterfront restaurants on Lake Norman to enjoy as well. 

Hello, Sailor Restaurant Boats

Lake Norman was created between 1959 and 1964 when the Duke Power Company completed construction of the Cowan’s Ford Dam across the Catawba River.

This massive lake feeds tons of water to help generate the energy to power the surrounding region. It’s a powerful and beautiful lake with a very interesting history.

There are many areas for free access to Lake Norman, including free boat launches, and to 2 public beaches found at Lake Norman State Park Beach as well as Ramsey Creek Park. In the area surrounding Lake Norman, you can find many different campground options, including RV sites at Lake Norman State Park

Lake Norman Aerial Shot

3. Lake Wylie

Distance from Charlotte: 20 miles away

Nestled on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina, Lake Wylie stands as a picturesque gem that offers a serene escape from bustling city life. Known for its scenic views, tranquil waters, and abundant recreational opportunities, Lake Wylie has become a beloved destination for locals and tourists alike.

Lake Wylie

Lake Wylie spans an impressive 13,400 acres and has over 325 miles of picturesque shoreline. The lake was formed in 1904 with the construction of the Catawba River Hydroelectric Station, and it has since become a beloved destination for boating, fishing, and water sports enthusiasts. The lake is named after Dr. Walker Gil Wylie, an influential leader in the Catawba Power Company, which is the predecessor company of Duke Power.  

Today, Lake Wylie not only provides a source of hydroelectric power but also offers a wide array of recreational opportunities for visitors of all ages. Surrounding Lake Wylie, a network of parks and trails invites visitors to explore the area’s natural wonders. There are two public beaches on Lake Wylie you will find one at Ebenezer Park in Rock Hill, SC, and one at Windjammer Park in Tega Cay, SC.

One such gem is the McDowell Nature Preserve, which covers over 1,110 acres of park and offers hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and camping facilities. Carved out of a dense forest, the park provides a peaceful retreat for nature lovers. 

McDowell Nature Preserve Area

You will also find Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, which showcases stunning displays of flora and fauna, with breathtaking gardens and tranquil ponds that create a serene ambiance.

Throughout the year, Lake Wylie hosts a vibrant calendar of events and festivities that celebrate the lake’s rich heritage and foster a sense of community. The annual “Lights on the Lake” holiday boat parade is a highlight, where families gather to enjoy a dazzling spectacle over the water. 

Lake Wylie

4. Moss Lake

Distance from Charlotte: 39 miles away

Moss Lake has 57 miles of shoreline and is situated in Kings Mountain, NC. The lake was created in the 1960s with the construction of the Moss Lake Dam on the Broad River. It serves as a reservoir for water supply, flood control, and recreation. You can stop by and enjoy the John H. Moss Lake Recreation Park. 

The park has amenities such as picnic areas, playgrounds, hiking trails, and a swimming area. There are also ten public boat ramps and docks for easy lake access. The lake is about 50 ft deep on average. The park is managed by the City of Kings Mountain and offers a scenic environment for outdoor enjoyment.

5. Lake Hickory

Distance from Charlotte: 53 miles away

A whopping 4,223 acres, Lake Hickory stands out from a lot of other lakes in North Carolina. It has pristine emerald waters and sandy bottom making it an excellent place for swimming. Lake Hickory is located in the mountain foothills of North Carolina about an hour and a half from Asheville. Many claim it’s a fantastic place to live and visit.

You can enjoy swimming, boating, jet skiing, fishing, sailing, water skiing, and more on Lake Hickory. Bald eagles and osprey can be sighted in the area.

Lake Hickory Aerial shot

On the lake, you’ll find 16 boat access locations, all of which can be accessed for free. There are many boat rentals in the area where you can rent anything from canoes and kayaks to pontoon boats and party barges. There is also boat storage and trailer storage available here. 

6. Lake Tillery

Distance from Charlotte: 53 miles away

Lake Tillery is a picturesque reservoir located near Charlotte, North Carolina. Created by the damming of the Pee Dee River, it spans Montgomery, Stanly, and Richmond counties. Lake Tillery covers an area of approximately 5,000 acres and features over 100 miles of shoreline. Nestled amidst the rolling hills of the Piedmont region, it offers stunning views and a peaceful atmosphere. The lake is easily accessible from Charlotte, with a convenient drive of approximately one hour.

Surrounding Lake Tillery, several parks and recreation areas provide access to the lake’s beauty and recreational opportunities. Morrow Mountain State Park, situated on the eastern shore, offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and camping facilities.

It also features an observation tower that provides breathtaking panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding landscape. Other public access areas, such as Swift Island Park and Lake Tillery Park, provide boat ramps, swimming areas, and opportunities for lakeside picnics.

For you history buffs, there is a WWII B-25 bomber that crashed and has been at the bottom of the lake now for over 70 years.

7. Badin Lake

Distance from Charlotte: 60 miles away

Badin Lake is surrounded by the scenic Uwharrie National Forest, which provides opportunities for hiking, camping, hunting, and wildlife viewing.  It was created in 1917 with the construction of the Narrows Dam on the Yadkin River. It serves as a reservoir for hydroelectric power generation and water supply.

The lake is popular for swimming, boating, campers, hikers, and anglers.  You can find primitive campsites as well as paid-for sites that are more developed.  These sites are available near Badin Lake.

Badin Lake

8. High Rock Lake

Distance from Charlotte: 63 miles away

High Rock Lake is the second-largest lake in North Carolina, spanning approximately 15,180 acres with 365 miles of shoreline. 

It is situated primarily in Davidson and Rowan counties. The lake offers a variety of recreational activities. Fishing is particularly popular, with the lake known for its excellent largemouth and striped bass populations. Other fish species include catfish, crappie, and white perch. Boating, water skiing, kayaking, and canoeing are also enjoyed on the lake.

There are several public access points and marinas around High Rock Lake, providing opportunities for boaters, anglers, and recreational enthusiasts. Amenities such as boat ramps, fishing piers, picnic areas, and campgrounds are available for visitors.

9. Rhodhiss Lake

Distance from Charlotte: 67 miles away

Rhodhiss Lake covers over 3000 acres and was created with the construction of the Rhodhiss Dam on the Catawba River.  The lake is found between Lake James and Lake Hickory and is known to have a sandy bottom.  

Rhodhiss Lake is surrounded by scenic landscapes, including forested areas and picturesque views of the surrounding mountains. The natural beauty of the area makes it a great location for photography, nature walks, and birdwatching.

There are public access points around Rhodhiss Lake, providing amenities such as boat ramps, fishing piers, and picnic areas. Some areas also offer camping facilities.  There are several public boat ramps and marinas for easy access.

Rhodhiss Lake

10. Lake Lucas

Distance from Charlotte: 82 miles away

Lake Lucas spans approximately 238 acres and is equipped with boat docks to accommodate private boats and provide convenient access to the water. If you don’t have a boat, no worries; a fishing pier is available, offering a designated spot for anglers to fish from the shore.  Please note swimming is not permitted

Lake Lucas also features a 1/4 mile walking trail, allowing visitors to enjoy a leisurely stroll while taking in the scenic surroundings.

Some regulations and rules to follow include, it is required that all boats be off the lake 30 minutes prior to sunset. Additionally, the maximum boat motor size allowed on the lake is 15 hp. Boats, canoes, kayaks, and sailboats are welcome on Lake Lucas, allowing visitors to enjoy a variety of watercraft activities. 

However, please note that jet skis, personal watercraft, windsurf boards, and waterskiing are not permitted on these lakes. These restrictions are in place to ensure a peaceful and safe environment for all visitors enjoying the lakes’ recreational opportunities.

11. Lake Adger

Distance from Charlotte: 86 miles away

Lake Adger is a small undeveloped lake in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was formed with the construction of the Turner Shoals Dam on the Green River in 1925.  This lake is very popular for non-motorized boating, such as kayaking and canoeing.

There is an 80 horsepower limit for pontoon boats and a 60 horsepower limit for other types of watercraft. They do not allow jet skis or water skiing on this lake.  You can actually see a couple of waterfalls as well from the lake.  

12. Randleman Lake

Distance from Charlotte: 89 miles away

Randleman Lake spans approximately 3,007 acres and was created in 2003 with the construction of the Randleman Dam on the Deep River. Randleman Lake offers various recreational activities. It serves as a drinking water reservoir for the cities of Greensboro and High Point.

Boating is allowed on the lake; there is a speed limit of 25 mph for all boats. To protect the lake’s water quality, there are no boats allowed overnight and limits on where you can fuel near the area as well. Non-motorized boating, such as kayaking and canoeing, is also permitted. 

Randleman Lake has public access areas and boat ramps, providing convenient entry points for boaters and anglers. 

The lake features amenities such as picnic areas, fishing piers, and a walking trail along the shoreline. However, swimming and camping are not permitted at Randleman Lake.

13. Lake Lure

Distance from Charlotte: 91 miles away

Have you ever seen Dirty Dancing? Well, Lake Lure is featured in the movie multiple times, including the famous lift scene. There is even a Dirty Dancing festival held every summer in the town! Besides its Hollywood moment, Lake Lure is gorgeous.

It has a perfect little beach to lay out on, it’s one of the best lakes in the area for swimming, and the scenery is just beautiful. You can see incredible views of the Blue Ridge mountains, including Chimney Rock.

Lake Lure Beach near Asheville NC

Lake Lure is a small clear lake that is man-made and covers about 720 acres. It has less than 27 miles of shoreline, with a maximum depth of 104 feet. All watercraft, both motorized and non-motorized, must obtain and display a permit issued by the town, which must be renewed annually.

This includes any kind of stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes. There are limits on the number of annual permits they issue as well. They also allow you to purchase a daily or weekly permit too.

Resident Annual over 10 hp –  1,000 total permits available
Resident Annual weekday only – 250 total permits available
Non-resident Annual over 10 hp –  75 total permits available
Non-resident Annual weekday only –  75 total permits available

The town of Lake Lure, NC, itself is a great little town filled with marvelous hiking trails, mountains, and pretty views of the lake from above. It’s a popular town for getting outside and exploring nature. 

You will also find the Rocky Broad River Bridge, which was built in 1925 and closed to traffic in 2011. They reopened the bridge in 2013 as Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, with gardens that span across the 155 ft bridge.

Lake Lure Flowering Bridge

You will find numerous garden beds with more than 200 species of plants. The bridge has been recognized by The National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Admission is free, but they are sustained by donations. Leashed dogs are allowed

The address for Lake Lure Flowering Bridge is 3070 Memorial Highway, Lake Lure, NC 28746. There is free parking at the Bridge and at the Lake Lure Welcome Center nearby.

Lake Lure Beach and Water Park include 100 yards of clean, sandy beach for swimming and is owned by the Town of Lake Lure, but they have an agreement with Lake Lure Tours. They also have a water park with slides and water games. You’ll find picnic shelters on the beach, or you can enjoy individual picnics as well on the tables provided. Please note that grills are prohibited.

Lake Lure Beach

Lake Lure is open from Memorial Day till Labor Day. Admission is $10 per adult, $9 for seniors, and $8 for ages 4-12. Kids under 4 are free. Dogs are not allowed.  Parking for 70 vehicles. Admission to the water park is included in the beach admission price.

Lake Lure, one of the beautiful Lakes Near Charlotte

14. Lake James

Distance from Charlotte: 91 miles away

Some may argue that Lake James is one of the prettiest lakes in North Carolina. Lake James has over 150 miles of shoreline and has a surface area of 6,000 acres. The lake is a great lake for boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Add it to your list of Lakes Near Charlotte, NC, to visit!

Lake James near Asheville NC

Lake James State Park has many miles of beautiful hiking trails as well. The best part? Lake James has complete public access and is 100% free to all visitors. Picnic tables are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Lake James isn’t too far from Asheville either, at about an hour away.  Fun fact, Lake James State Park is North Carolina‘s largest waterfront State Park.

Closest beach to Asheville NC Lake James State park

Don’t have a boat? Don’t worry! You have many options with Lake James Boat Rentals. You can rent anything from a pontoon boat to a fishing boat to a boat that is perfect for water skiing. There are also pet-friendly boat options. You can also consider renting a kayak or a jet ski with Noah’s Landing.

Aerial of Lake James

15. Jordan Lake

Distance from Charlotte: 132 miles away

Jordan Lake is a stunning reservoir that offers a scenic retreat for outdoor enthusiasts. Spanning over 13,900 acres, Jordan Lake is situated in Chatham County and parts of Durham County. The lake is formed by the impounding of the Haw River and New Hope Creek and serves as a vital water source for the region.

Jordan Lake provides an ideal playground for boating and water sports. Whether you prefer sailing, powerboating, waterskiing, or jet skiing, the lake’s expansive waters offer ample space for all types of water-based activities.

Numerous boat ramps and marinas are available for launching and docking boats, and designated swimming areas provide opportunities to cool off on hot summer days.

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area encompasses multiple parks and access points that provide recreational facilities and nature trails for visitors to enjoy. The parks offer picnic areas, campgrounds, and hiking trails that wind through scenic woodlands and along the lake’s shores.

Popular spots such as Ebenezer Church, Parker’s Creek, and Seaforth provide opportunities for outdoor activities, wildlife observation, and nature photography. You may even spot a bald eagle!

Lakes Near Charlotte include Jordan Lake

Lakes Near Charlotte NC: FAQs

📌 What is the biggest lake near Charlotte?
Lake Norman is the biggest lake near Charlotte and the largest man-made body of water in the state.

📌 What lakes are within an hour of Charlotte NC?
Mountain Island Lake, Lake Norman, Lake Wylie, and Moss Lake are each less than one hour from Charlotte.

📌 Can I swim in Lake Norman?
Yes, you can swim in Lake Norman.

📌 What is the closest body of water to Charlotte NC?
Mountain Island Lake, followed by Lake Norman. 

📌 What is the largest man-made lake in Charlotte NC?
Lake Norman is the largest man-made lake in NC, with over 520 miles of shoreline.  

📌 Can you swim in Lake Wylie?
Yes, you can swim in Lake Wylie; they have two public swimming areas as well.

📌 How deep is Lake Norman in Charlotte North Carolina?
The deepest part of Lake Norman is around 112 ft. The average depth is around 33.5 ft.

📌 What is the largest artificial lake in NC?
Lake Norman is the largest man-made, artificial lake with over 32,000 acres of surface.

📌 Are there alligators on Lake Norman?
Today there are no known alligators in Lake Norman.  There have been reports back in 2000 that alligators were found in Lake Norman but were removed by wildlife officers.  

Lake Norman State Park view of Lake Norman from Lake Shore Trail

Final Thoughts

The lakes near Charlotte offer a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, providing residents and visitors with ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, relaxation, and stunning natural beauty. Whether you’re a water sports enthusiast, an avid angler, or simply seeking a tranquil spot to unwind, these lakes have something to offer everyone.

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