There's nothing quite like spending your vacation besides a shimmering, blue lake, and few better places to do exactly that than in the Golden State. California boasts a ton of gorgeous lakes, each with their own character and appeal but all serving up a memorable vacation destination. If you're in need of a few tips on where to find your own lakeside retreat in California, you'll find five of the very best destinations coming up. Whether you're hoping to spoil the other half to a romantic weekend away, want to enjoy a spot of downtime with friends, or are looking for the best lake vacations for families in California, you're sure to find inspiration here.
Bass Lake vacation rentals
A pine-fringed reservoir that's often compared to Lake Tahoe, Bass Lake sits about a half-hour's drive from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park. It's small in comparison to some of the California greats but proves a memorable vacation destination, nonetheless. Cabins, cottages, and vacation house rentals with private docks mean it couldn't be easier to enjoy the water, whether that means swimming, fishing, and kayaking in sheltered coves or heading out a little further for fast-paced fun on jet skis and wave runners. Time on land can be spent exploring the trails that lead from the lake into the surrounding Sierra National Forest.
Big Bear Lake rentals
Tucked into the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake is one of the most popular lake resorts in Southern California. The Big Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski resorts make it a popular winter vacation destination, though there's loads of fun to be had over the summer too. That's when attention turns firmly toward the lakefront cottage and cabin rentals, each offering a perfect base for on-the-water fun or on-land adventures. You might rent a boat from one of the six marinas that dot the lake's 22-mile shoreline, squeeze in a spot of retail therapy at Big Bear Village, or soak up the views from the summit of the Scenic Sky Chair.
Lake Almanor rentals
Lake Almanor is one of California's under-the-radar vacation destinations, for sure – but fans will tell you that its tranquil vibe, postcard-perfect mountain vistas, and proximity to Lassen Volcanic National Park mean it's one that's not to be missed. Sitting three hours from Sacramento in California's north-eastern corner, the lake boasts more than 50 miles of coastline – leaving plenty of room to find a lakefront vacation home. Cabins, houses, and luxury villas are among the options on the menu when it comes to Lake Almanor rentals, many adding a few deluxe extras like pools, private decks, and hot tubs to make your stay even more memorable.
Clear Lake vacation rentals
Boasting more than 100 miles of shoreline, Clear Lake is California's largest freshwater lake. It's a haven for water sports of all kinds and renowned for bass fishing. Anglers can try their hand at landing one of the lake's big boys right from the dock of a lakefront rental at Clear Lake or head out into deeper waters courtesy of boat rental from the Clear Lake Marina. Kayaks, pedal boats, and stand-up paddleboards are also available. At night, remarkable stargazing awaits in Clear Lake State Park, though you might just pour a glass of your favorite tipple and soak up the sights from your private deck instead.
Lakefront rentals at Shasta Lake
Boasting 400 miles of pretty shoreline, 30,000 acres of brilliant, blue water, and look-at-me views of the towering Mt. Shasta, there's plenty to like about Lake Shasta – not least the 250-million-year-old Shasta Caverns and the magnificent Shasta Dam. California's largest reservoir is well-known as a carefree destination for houseboat vacations, though that's not to say lakefront rentals at Shasta Lake are any less appealing. The selection of lakefront rentals is small but satisfying, ranging from simple waterfront cabin rentals to luxurious vacation house rentals with space enough for 14 family and friends.