The Best Lakes Near Cincinnati, OH (Around 3 Hours or Less)

Are you looking for a lake where you can enjoy nature, spend time at the beach, or relax on or by the water? 

I’m sharing the best lakes near Cincinnati that are perfect for a day trip or an extended getaway. 

sunset at Caesars Creek in Ohio

I highly recommend calling ahead and visiting the website for your lake of choice before your visit.

Check each lake’s safety procedures, opening dates, available facilities, entry fees, and operating hours before you go. 

Travel times can vary depending on where you are located in the Cincinnati Metro and your lake access point for the larger lakes. 

beach at East Fork Lake in Ohio
Beach at East Fork Lake

Ohio Lakes Around 3 Hours or Less From Cincinnati

East Fork Lake

36 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

Park Rd 2, Bethel, Ohio

2160-acre lake with a 1,200-foot swimming beach, 6 launch ramps for boating, and a campground.  

While in the area, stay and enjoy a drive-in movie at Star-lite drive-in located in Amelia 4 minutes away. Use these packing tips for the drive-in before you go.

beach at Caesars Creek

Caesar’s Creek State Park 

50 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

8570 OH-73, Waynesville, OH

Caesar’s Creek has a 2830-acre lake with a 1,300-foot public beach. There’s another small beach located at the campground for registered campers.

Acton Lake at Hueston Woods State Park

Acton Lake at Hueston Woods State Park

56 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

College Corner, OH 45003

Acton Lake is a 625-acre lake with a 1,500-foot swimming beach during the summer. The lake has a 10 HP limit on motors and canoes with motors have a limit of 4HP.

Hueston Woods State Park has a campground, a lodge, and cabin rentals

Cowan Lake

Cowan Lake

59 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

Wilmington, Ohio

*Enter Cowan Lake Public Beach in the GPS

Cowan Lake is a 692-acre lake with a public beach for swimming, fishing, and three boat launches.

Motorboats have a 10HP limit and sailing is also very popular on this lake. The South Shore Marina concession offers boat, canoe, and motor rental and also sells fishing and picnic supplies. 

This is a popular area for bird watchers year-round. There are campsites and cottages available to rent on-site. 

This is a great lake to go stand-up paddleboarding.

inflatable obstacle course at Aqua Adventures at Land of Illusions

Aqua Adventures Inflatable Obstacle Course

47 Minutes from Cincinnati

8762 Thomas Rd, Middletown, OH

Aqua Adventures at Land of Illusions isn’t a typical “lake” but it’s still worth mentioning because it’s a great option to relax on the beach, swim, stand up paddleboard, and have fun on an inflatable obstacle course. 

inflatable obstacle course at Kirkwood Adventure Park

Kirkwood Adventure Park

45 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

5719 OH-73, Wilmington, OH

Kirkwood Camp and Adventure Park has a lakeside beach, a water obstacle course, a splash pad, a canopy trail, Dutch Valley tubing, and more!

Lake at Winton Woods
Lake at Winton Woods

Southern Ohio Parks with Kayak, Boat, or Canoe Rentals

Cincinnati has several local parks that also offer watercraft rentals for guests to enjoy time on the water. 

Winton Woods Boathouse

21 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

10245 Winton Rd, Cincinnati, OH

(513) 931-1849

Sharon Woods Boathouse

24 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

4631 E Kemper Rd, Sharonville, OH

(513) 769-4326

Lake Isabella Boat House

25 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

10174 Loveland-Madeira Road, Loveland, OH 

(513) 791-1663

Miami Whitewater Forest in Ohio

Miami Whitewater Forest

26 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

9001 Mt Hope Rd, Harrison, OH 

Boathouse: 513-367-9632

AJ Jolly Lake
AJ Jolly Lake

Lakes In Kentucky Around 3 Hours or Less from Cincinnati

Aj Jolly Park

30 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

1501 Race Track Rd, Alexandria, KY

Aj Jolly Park has a 200 Acre Lake. This isn’t a swimming lake but you can kayak, canoe, paddleboat, fish by boat, and stand-up paddleboard on the water. 

Aj Jolly Park also has a campground and trails for hiking and horses.

Williamstown Lake in Dry Ridge Kentucky

Williamstown Lake

47 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

290 Boat Dock Rd, Williamstown, KY

Williamstown Lake is 330 Acre Lake for recreation with a public self-serve boating ramp on Summer Drive or you can pay to launch at Williamstown Marina on Boat Dock Rd.

Williamstown Marina also offers primitive campsites and kayak & pontoon rentals. 

Kincaid Lake State Park

57 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

565 Kincaid Park Rd, Falmouth, KY

Kinkaid Lake is a 183-acre lake in Pendleton County, KY.

This is not a swimming lake but you can rent a pedal or motorboats.  There’s a swimming pool at the state park. The campgrounds will reopen in mid-June.

Falling Rock Park (FRP) LaGrange Quarry

2201 Fendley Mill Road, LaGrange, KY 


1hr 15 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

The FRP LaGrange Quarry is an 18+ and up entry-only park where you can swim in a former rock quarry. Paddleboards and kayaks are welcome and there is no fishing.

No alcohol is allowed and all guests must have a floatation device (pool noodle, float, etc) to be in the water because it’s so deep.

Cave Run Lake in Kentucky

Cave Run Lake

2.28 hours from downtown Cincinnati

5195-KY-801, Morehead, KY

Cave Run Lake is an 8,270-acre in Eastern Kentucky.

There are primitive campsites at Claylick Boat-in Campground and Twin Knobs Recreational Campground (both opening Mid-June) and Zilpo Campground.

Laurel River Lake in Kentucky

Laurel River Lake

2.35 hours from downtown Cincinnati

89-98 Robert E. Blair Memorial Highway, Corbin, KY

Laurel River Lake is a 5600-acre lake with seven boat launch ramps. There is a permanent beach area at the spillway of the Laurel River Dam. Laurel Lake is also very popular for scuba diving because the water is clear and deep.  

Holly Bay Campground and Laurel Lake Camping Resort, with mid-June openings, and Corbin/Laurel Lake KOA Campground (located 12 minutes from the lake) are options for an overnight stay.

(Check their sites for specific limitations)

While you’re in the area, check out Cumberland Falls and the Harland Sanders Museum and Cafe. 

Learn more things to do around Cumberland Falls.

Lake Cumberland in Kentucky
image courtesy of Motherhood Support

Lake Cumberland

3.14 hours

1200 State Hwy 3189, Nancy, KY

Known as the “Houseboat Capital of the World” Lake Cumberland is THE place to rent a houseboat. The 65,530-acre lake offers plenty of outdoor recreation on the water. 

There is camping onsite and cottage rentals at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park

White Rock Park
White Rock Park

Indiana Lakes Around 3 Hours or Less From Cincinnati

Brookville Lake

53 minutes from downtown Cincinnati

14108 State Rte 101, Brookville, IN

5260-acre lake with two beaches and a campground with 400+ campsites.  

White Rock Park

White Rock Park

1hr 11 min from downtown Cincinnati

7080 S 750 E, St Paul, IN

This former rock quarry has cliff diving, swimming, scuba diving, floating platforms, and two additional lakes dedicated to fishing. There are campsites available at White Rock Park too. 

A First Timer’s Guide to White Rock Park in Indiana will be helpful for your first visit. 

Patoka Lake in Indiana

Patoka Lake

2.35 hours from downtown Cincinnati

County Rd 1100 W, French Lick, IN

Patoka Lake is an 8800-acre lake with plenty of wildlife including bald eagle habitats and freshwater jellyfish.  Don’t worry the freshwater jellyfish are very small and won’t sting you.

While you are at the lake, make sure that you check out the Patoka Lake Winery and visit Frech Lick, Indiana located only 30 minutes away. 

Lake Monroe 

S Fairfax Rd, Bloomington, IN

Lake Monroe is a 10,750-acre lake in Bloomington, Indiana with 3 swimming beaches and camping.

While you are in the area check out these things to do in Bloomington. 

Now the hardest part is deciding which of these lakes near Cincinnati you want to visit first.

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The Best Lakes Near Cincinnati, OH (Around 3 Hours or Less)

3 thoughts on “The Best Lakes Near Cincinnati, OH (Around 3 Hours or Less)”

  1. Hi Nendra,

    It was a great share! I have been planning a trip to Cincinnati and I will definitely check out these lakes. I love water bodies, and lakes will definitely be a great part of my trip. I love exploring nature, and so does my sister. I think these lakes will be the perfect place to relax and unwind. Thanks a lot for this recommendation, I will definitely check it out.

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