Would you like to spend some time enjoying nature, relaxing on or by the water?
These lake options within 3 hours of Cincinnati are perfect for a day trip or for an extended getaway.
I highly recommend calling ahead and visiting the website for your lake of choice prior to your visit.
It’s important to know each lake’s individual 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.
Ohio Lakes Around 3 Hours or Less From Cincinnati
36 Minutes from downtown Cincinnati
2160 acre lake with a 1,200-foot swimming beach, 6 launch ramps for boating, and a campground.
While you are 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.
50 minutes from downtown Cincinnati
Caesar’s Creek has a 2830 acre lake 1,300-foot public beach and there is another small beach located at the campground for registered campers.
56 Minutes from Cincinnati
59 minutes from downtown Cincinnati
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 and there are campsites and cottages available to rent on site.
47 Minutes from Cincinnati
Aqua Adventures at Land of Illusions isn’t a typical “lake” but it’s still worth mentioning because it’s a great option if you want to relax on the beach, swim, stand up paddleboard, and have fun on an inflatable obstacle course.
Cincinnati has several local parks that also offer watercraft rentals for guests to enjoy time on the water.
21 Minutes from downtown Cincinnati
10245 Winton Rd, Cincinnati, OH
24 Minutes from downtown Cincinnati
Sharon Woods Lake Bike and Walking Path, Sharonville, OH
25 Minutes from downtown Cincinnati
10174 Loveland-Madeira Road, Loveland, OH
Lakes In Kentucky Around 3 Hours or Less from Cincinnati
30 minutes from downtown Cincinnati
Aj Jolly park has a 200 Acre Lake. This isn’t a swimming lake but you can kayak, canoes, paddleboats, fishing by boat, and stand up paddleboard on the water.
Aj Jolly Park also has a campground on site, hiking trails, and horse trails.
47 minutes from downtown Cincinnati
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.
57 minutes from downtown Cincinnati
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 is a swimming pool at the state park and the campgrounds will reopen mid-June.
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 some form of floatation device (pool noddle, float, etc) to be in the water because the water is so deep.
2.28 hours from downtown Cincinnati
Cave Run Lake is an 8,270-acre in Eastern Kentucky.
2.35 hours from downtown Cincinnati
Laurel River Lake is a 5600 acres 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 very deep and clear.
(Check their sites for specific limitations)
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.
Indiana Lakes Around 3 Hours or Less From Cincinnati
53 Minutes from downtown Cincinnati
1hr 11 min from downtown Cincinnati
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 really helpful for your first visit.
2.35 hours from downtown Cincinnati
Patoka Lake is an 8800-acre lake with lots of bald eagle habitats and freshwater jellyfish. Don’t worry the freshwater jellyfish are very small and won’t sting you.
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 lake you want to visit first.
Check out where to rent kayaks and canoes in Cincinnati if you are looking for another outdoor adventure on the water.
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