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Olivia Hudak

By: Olivia Hudak on November 28th, 2022

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Top 5 Lakes in North Carolina

North Carolina is known to have a little bit of southern charm to it. It’s known for its small towns and hometown feel. What better place to visit when looking for an escape from the everyday hustle and bustle? North Carolina is full of hidden gems so be sure to research things to do before heading to the tar-heel state. 


There are many adventures and activities available in North Carolina. How do you choose what to do with so many different opportunities? I can’t help you figure out everything, but I can help show you what lakes are worth the trip. North Carolina has a total of 22 natural lakes. Of those 22 lakes, I am going to highlight the top five. 


These top five lakes have earned their spot on this list because of their beauty, amenities, popularity, and activities. I do not doubt that all of these lakes will have something for everyone in the family to enjoy. Now, let’s discuss the top five lakes in North Carolina and how they earned their spot on the list. 


1. Lake Norman

To start us off, Lake Norman holds the number one spot on the list, and understandably so. Lake Norman is the biggest lake in the state of North Carolina. It has an average depth of 33 feet, but it does reach a maximum depth of 110 feet. The combined size of the lake and depth make it a hot contender for many boaters. 


Lake Norman is known as a watersport paradise because of the sheer size of the lake and its depth. These factors provide perfect conditions for any boater. Whether you are tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, or surfing, this lake is perfect. With all the coves and inlets, there’s a way to escape choppy waters to find your private oasis.


Since the lake has no restrictions (no speed limit and no motor restrictions), you are not limited to what you can do on this lake. You can rock some hot laps, or you can take a leisurely cruise. No matter your preferred speed on a boat, you’ll be able to enjoy the lake however you please.


If you don’t own a boat, no need to fret because of the numerous marinas around the lake offer boat rentals. Many offer anything from pontoons to jet skis, to kayaks. You are also able to rent houseboats if you want to spend extended time on the water. 


For those interested in spending some time with a cast and reel in their hands, you won’t be disappointed. Lake Norman hosts several national fishing tournaments annually. You can find record-winning Catfish, Crappie, Largemouth bass, Striped bass, and Yellow and White perch. Fishing will not disappoint on this North Carolina Lake. 


To sum it up, Lake Norman doesn’t have many downsides. It is popular yet large enough to escape the busy areas. All activities are welcome on this body of water. With many beautiful, large homes on the lake, you won’t run out of sights to explore. Lake Norman is most definitely a must-visit lake you should include on your bucket list. 


2. Jordan Lake

Next on the list of the top lakes in North Carolina is Jordan Lake. This lake is known for being off-the-grid and more excluded than most lakes. If this intrigues you, I suggest you keep reading to learn more about this secluded lake in Central North Carolina.


There are a few campsites around the lake that are great for those who enjoy spending some time in the wilderness. Most of the campsites are primitive, meaning you’ll be sleeping in a tent. However, there are a few that have electrical hookups. Depending on your level of extremity when it comes to camping, you may want to research what spot will work for you.


Now to focus on the lake itself. It is a fairly shallow lake as it only has a maximum depth of 30 feet. However, it is deep enough for water skiing and tubing without any issues. I recommend taking a look at a depth map before dropping your boat in, so you don’t unexpectedly find any shallow spots. 


Fishing is another very popular activity on Jordan lake. You will find Striped bass, Largemouth bass, White perch, Sunfish, Catfish, Bluegill, and Crappie. Some of these species are not quite as common in North Carolina lakes making this lake a hotspot for fishing. If you enjoy fishing and are a bit more secluded from cities, Jordan Lake might just be perfect for you.


This lake is very unique and for some, the most perfect getaway. You can launch your boat with ease as there are a total of 11 boat launches around the lake. While cruising around the lake, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounds the lake. Don’t miss out on this hidden gem if you visit North Carolina in hopes to spend some time on a lake.


3. Lake Lure

In the number three spot on the top lakes in North Carolina, we have Lake Lure. Known for its small mountain town feeling, this lake is a fan favorite. The Blue Ridge Mountains can be seen surrounding the lake which provides the most picturesque place to take a boat cruise. 


Around the lake, activities, and amenities are not lacking. There are beautiful sandy beaches and high-class golf courses all around. The maximum depth found in this lake is 104 feet making it great for any watersports or boating activities you care to take part in. Rental boats are also available on this lake making it easy and convenient to take a trip here. 


A fun fact about this lake that may draw a select crowd to visit is that parts of the movie “Dirty Dancing” were filmed here. For those who are big fans, this is an exciting area to check out.


There are so many adventures to be had around Lake Lure. Anything from river rafting to water skiing to paddle boarding, there’s something for the whole family. And, while off the lake, you can enjoy some time in the small towns that surround the lake. It is worth a trip to visit this unique lake located in southern North Carolina.


4. Lake Glenville

We now come to Lake Glenville which can be found in southwestern North Carolina. If you’re looking for a lake with some magnificent views, this might be the winner. There’s not just one waterfall, but three waterfalls that can be seen on this lake. 


You’ll also find clear blue water with sandy beaches surrounding the lake. Talk about a nice place to take a sunset cruise. While Lake Glenville is popular for the waterfalls and sandy beaches, it is also plenty deep for any watersports you care to do. 


The lake is known for its great fishing as well. You will find Small and Largemouth bass, Walleye, Trout, and Bream in this lake. Great for those looking to fish for these species in particular. 


On the shores of this lake, you’ll find world-class golf courses. Start your morning with a round of golf and then hit the water. You won’t be disappointed if you're looking for a well-rounded on-water experience. 


5. Lake James

The final lake on this list of special lakes found in North Carolina is Lake James. This lake is perfect for families looking for a relaxing vacation away from the stress and hustle of everyday life. It is a secluded lake away from the big cities that can be found in North Carolina. It is the perfect escape.


Lake James is the ideal lake for anything boating related. It has an average depth of 65 feet making it plenty deep for any watersports you care to do. However, if watersports don’t interest you much, a cruise around the lake in your pontoon will not disappoint. It is a boater's dream location, no matter what kind of boating you care to do. 


Lake James is also very popular for sailing. Many people explore the lake in a sailboat to enjoy a different way of boating. You’ll find that fishing is popular as well. You can find an abundance of Walleye and Muskie in Lake James. 


Lake James may not be for everyone considering it is fairly secluded. Though if you are looking to escape to a gorgeous lake that is conducive to all kinds of boating, Lake James should be considered. It is the perfect place to spend some quality time with family on the water. 


North Carolina Lakes

North Carolina holds a certain sense of beauty when it comes to the unique lakes found here. Whether you like a more popular lake or a hidden gem, there is a lake for you. Every single one of these lakes, plus others, is recommended for different reasons. 


The common denominator between all these lakes is that they are all great for boating. If you don’t own a boat, a number of these lakes have marinas that rent boats out to those who are visiting. 


Before heading to one of these lakes, make sure to do a bit of your research. Make sure you understand the boater’s safety before heading out on any new body of water. Practice safety measures whenever on a boat and it will make your trip easy and enjoyable. Visit any of these lakes to relax on an activity-filled vacation.

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About Olivia Hudak

Avid boater and Barletta Boats team member, Olivia is no stranger to the water. She was on the MSU wake team through college and continues to ride the wake in her spare time.