Known for year-round adventure, the Poconos in Pennsylvania has been a landing spot for adventure-seekers for decades. Gaining popularity with both outdoor enthusiasts and honeymooners in the early 1900s, folks flocked to the area to enjoy 2400 square miles of forest, mountains, lakes and rivers.
Where summer is concerned, recreation centers on the many lakes, streams and rivers provide a great variety of places to swim within the region. Whether you want to dive into a lake or wade in a river, the Pocono Mountains hold a host of freshwater locations for folks to enjoy and cool off during sunny summer days.
Many of the best beaches and lakes to swim in the Poconos lay within state and national parks, so if you’re looking to spend time waterside, many of the parks also offer camping, hiking and fishing.
The Poconos also have a few privately-owned lakes, which are more difficult to access, yet are worth the effort if you’re looking to relax at a short-term rental or resort for a few days.
Best lake for swimming
Like many other locations throughout Pennsylvania, the name of Lake Wallenpaupack pays homage to indigenous roots. Bearing the Lenape term for a slow-moving stream, this artificial lake was built in 1927 to produce hydroelectric power.
Lake Wallenpaupack is now famous for its almost 9 square miles of water, which provides all types of water-centric fun. Due to the variety, it’s often considered one of the best swimming lakes in the Poconos.
Visitors can rent a boat at one of the many marinas and spend the day swimming and jumping from the vessel. If you go this route, note that the lake reaches depths of 60 ft, so wear a life jacket as needed.
If you want to relax on the sand, the Palmyra Township Public Beach is the best beach at Lake Wallenpaupack for swimming.
Other local activities include shopping or taking in a round of golf at one of the nearby courses. For watersports, Lake Wallenpaupack often comes to mind first, which is why it’s among the best beaches and lakes to swim in the Poconos.
Promised Land State Park Beach
Best beach to enjoy a picnic
Promised Land State Park Beach provides two areas for your swimming enjoyment, and this location offers many companion activities. The Day Use Picnic Area near the main beach has a refreshment stand that sells food and beverages..
If you want to stay overnight, Promised Land is the perfect place for a rustic experience in the Poconos, as guests can stay in one of the park’s many camping areas or cabins. Afterward, make reservations to dine at the Promised Land Inn or order curbside to eat off-site.
Lake Harmony Beach
Best beach to stay overnight
Lake Harmony is a privately-owned, glacier-water lake that encompasses 114 acres and offers plenty of freshwater fun. Although there’s a marina, boat launch and multiple swimming areas, the only way to enjoy Lake Harmony beaches is to stay in one of the many vacation rentals or a resort.
Gouldsboro Lake at Gouldsboro State Park
Best lake for water activities
As one of Pennsylvania’s many designated natural areas, Gouldsboro State Park has boating, swimming, and fishing for outdoor enjoyment.
If you choose to swim on Gouldsboro Lake, you can enjoy a sandy beach with conveniently located restroom facilities.
Gouldsboro State Park is the perfect place to rent a kayak or canoe. For a bite to eat before, during or after swimming, head to Hammerjax Bar and Grill, which serves classics like wings, burgers and seafood daily from 8am to midnight.
Beltzville State Park
Best beach for lounging in the sand
Open from late May through early September, Beltzville State Park houses a 525-ft long sandy beach perfect for lounging. The park also has restrooms and shower facilities along with a concession stand, perfect for grabbing a bite to eat or a cool drink on a hot summer day.
Patrons can also rent paddle boats and kayaks. However, if swimming is your goal, you can rent a pontoon if you want to jump into the lake from a boat and spend a few hours exploring the water.
Tobyhanna State Park
Best lake for families
Like many of the state parks in the Poconos, Tobyhanna State Park is open from late May through early September and offers swimming, picnic areas, camping and wildlife viewing. The beach area has restrooms and changing rooms, but expect to pay a nominal fee if you want to shower on site.
Satisfy your post-swimming cravings at Lombardi’s Brookside Inn which serves up wings, tacos, quesadillas and seafood.
The Beaches of Delaware Water Gap
Best beaches for playing on the shore
Part of the National Parks system, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a popular spot within the Poconos for enjoying time in and near the water. Although the park has three beaches, only Smithfield and Milford Beaches are in the Poconos.
Neither location has a lifeguard, so exercise caution when in the water. Additionally, swimming in Delaware Water Gap involves being on the river, so deviating from designated areas isn’t advisable as there could be dangerous currents.
While you are at Delaware Water Gap, explore some of the area’s deep history. From Native American archaeological sites to structures left by early Dutch settlers, the park pays homage to earlier days.
Although you can’t stay there anymore, head to The Historic Castle Inn to grab a bite at Zoe’s Cafe & Ice Cream Emporium and learn about why folks in the early 20th century started flocking to the area to enjoy summers on the river.
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