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The latest update for this article was written by Lindsay Podolak.

It’s a warm, sunny day; you’ve got your swimsuit, sunblock, beach chairs, towels, water bottles, emergency snacks and Skee-Ball money. You’re all set for the beach. Then, you get on the road and sit in Garden State Parkway traffic for three hours.

But what if you didn’t have to? Maybe you’d like an alternate swimming option?

New Jersey has plenty of lakes and reservoirs that are open to the public, most charging per car rather than per person. Below, you’ll find a sampling of the best NJ lakes and reservoirs for swimming.

ATLANTIC COUNTY

NJ Lakes
Atison Lake

Locations: Atsion Lake, Wharton State Forest, Hammonton
Fees: $5 weekdays, $10 weekends
Description: Atsion Lake is in the Atsion Recreation Area on Route 206, Shamong Township. It is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm through Labor Day, while lifeguards are on duty. Picnic areas and concessions are also available. The Wharton State Forest is the biggest single tract of land in the state parks system, and is also home to Batsto Village, a re-created 19th-century village that offers programs and tours, and Harrisville, a “ghost town” abandoned in the late 1800s. The forest also offers hiking, fishing, camping, hunting and boating.
Why I like it: With cabins for rent right across the lake plus a playground nearby, this is a great place to do a family camping trip during the summer.
More information: www.njparksandforests.org


HUNTERDON COUNTY

NJ Lakes
Round Valley Reservoir

Locations: Round Valley Reservoir, Round Valley Recreation Area, Lebanon
Fees: $5 weekdays, $10 weekends
Description: Round Valley’s 180-foot-deep lake is the deepest in the state. Swimming is welcome in the day-use area only, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm while lifeguards are on duty. Picnic areas with grills, changing areas, restrooms, showers, first aid and concession stands are available, but there is no grilling along the beach. There are also playgrounds and volleyball nets. Scuba diving is allowed depending on the water conditions, though you must be certified, and the park also offers fishing, boating, hunting, camping and multiple trails for hiking.
Why I like it: Excellent water clarity and a rich variety of aquatic life make Round Valley Reservoir a top destination for freshwater snorkeling and scuba diving.
More information: www.nj.gov


NJ Lakes
Spruce Run Reservoir

Locations: Spruce Run Reservoir, Spruce Run Recreation Area, Clinton
Fees: $5 weekdays, $10 weekends
Description: Spruce Run offers 15 miles of shoreline for recreational activities. Swimming is allowed through Labor Day while lifeguards are on duty. The park is open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm through Labor Day, 8:00 am to 7:00 pm through September 30 and 8:00 am to 6:00 pm through October. Changing areas, restrooms, showers, first aid and concessions are available. There is a playground and open fields, with picnic areas and grills overlooking the reservoir; you can bring your own grill as long as it conforms to fire regulations. A larger picnic area can be reserved for big groups. The park also offers camping, trails, fishing, hunting, boating, and nature programs for families.
Why I like it: If you’re interested in checking out the boating scene, you can rent canoes, kayaks, motor boats and pontoon boats. Call for information about availability and pricing.
More information: www.state.nj.us


MIDDLESEX COUNTY

NJ Lakes
Cheesequake State Park

Locations: Hooks Creek Lake, Cheesequake State Park, Old Bridge
Fees: $5 weekdays, $10 weekends/holidays
Description: The Cheesequake State Park, bridging both North and South Jersey, offers a little of everything: saltwater and freshwater areas, fields, a swamp and the Pine Barrens. Swimming is permitted in the lake through Labor Day weekend while lifeguards are on duty. The lake has a changing area, restrooms, first aid, and concessions. Picnic areas with tables and grills are provided throughout the park; two reservable areas are available for large groups. The park also offers camping, fishing, boating and programs at the nature center.
Why I like it: Cheesequake offers a fun way to learn about different habitats due to the fact that it lies in a transitional zone between two different ecosystems. Enjoy a hike after your swim and see the vegetation change as you move from a coastal salt marsh to an upland forest.
More information: www.state.nj.us


MORRIS COUNTY

Locations: Lake Hopatcong, Hopatcong State Park, Landing
Fees: $6 weekdays, $10 weekends/holidays
Description: This nine-mile lake, which is the largest body of freshwater in New Jersey, was originally created as part of the historic Morris Canal system, and today is the central feature of Hopatcong State Park. The park is open sunrise to sunset with swimming permitted through Labor Day when there’s a lifeguard on duty. The park also has sand volleyball courts and playgrounds, plus a playing field for general use. Restrooms, changing areas, showers, first aid, and concessions are available. Picnic areas overlooking the parking lot feature grills and tables. The park also offers boating (rentals available) or fishing.
Why I like it: Large trees overlooking the lake offer a shady respite from the heat.
More information: www.state.nj.us

NJ Lakes
Sunrise Lake Beach

Locations: Sunrise Lake Beach Club, Lewis Morris Park, Morristown
Fees: Adults $6, $7 weekends/holidays; kids and seniors $5, $6 weekends/holidays
Description: The Sunrise Lake club, run by the Morris County Park Commission, offers an inflatable obstacle course for swimmers as well as beach volleyball, paddle boats, restrooms, showers and family campout nights. The lake is open on weekends only from May 26 through June 24, Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm through August 24. No pets are allowed.
Why I like it: Every Tuesday morning in July, check out Toddler Time, where toddlers and their parents get to have exclusive access to the water without the hustle and bustle of the daily crowds.
More information: morrisparks.net


OCEAN COUNTY

Locations: Lake Absegami, Bass River State Forest, Tuckerton
Fees: $5 weekdays, $10 weekends/holidays
Description: Lake Absegami was created in the 1930s by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. Swimming is permitted through Labor Day while lifeguards are on duty. The lake has a changing area, restrooms, showers, first aid and concessions. A picnic area with grills, shelter, athletic fields and a playground is near the beach. Boating, fishing, hunting, camping and hiking trails are also available.
Why I like it: Since Bass River State Forest is right off the Garden State Parkway, this is an excellent alternative for when your attempted beach trip hits a traffic snag. Head over to Lake Absegami for a swim, wait for the traffic to ease up, then hit up the beach for the evening!
More information: www.state.nj.us


PASSAIC COUNTY

Locations: Shepherd Lake, Ringwood State Park, Ringwood
Fees: $5 weekdays, $10 weekends
Description: This spring-fed lake offers 74 acres of recreational area, and is open for swimming from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm through Labor Day. There is a picnic area with grills and a playground. Boating (rentals available), fishing and plenty of hiking trails are available. Ringwood State Park also includes the New Jersey Botanical Garden, and the historic Ringwood and Skylands Manors, if you’d like to get a little education in along with your scenery.
Why I like it: The Shepherd Lake Loop is a nice, little 1.2 mile trail that is a great starter hike for kids, plus it starts and ends by the water.
More information: www.state.nj.us


SUSSEX COUNTY

Locations: Lake Marcia, High Point State Park, Sussex
Fees: $5 weekdays, $10 weekends/holidays
Descriptions: The spring-fed, 20-acre Lake Marcia is open for swimming from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm through Labor Day weekend, while lifeguards are on duty. There is a bathhouse, and concessions are available as well. High Point is a park worthy of its name; from High Point Monument, you can see farmland and forest views across three state lines (though the monument itself isn’t open to the public). Boating, fishing, hunting and more than 50 miles of trails are available.
Why I like it: Just outside the swimming area is the park’s Interpretive Center, where you will find special educational programs year-round. Check with the park to see what’s on tap during your visit.
More information: www.state.nj.us

NJ Lakes
High Point Swimming Beach

Locations: Swartswood Lake, Swartswood State Park, Swartswood
Fees: $5 weekdays, $10 weekends
Description: New Jersey’s first state park, Swartswood was established in 1915. Swimming in the glacial lake, surrounded by the Kittatinny Mountains, is welcome from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm through Labor Day while lifeguards are on duty. Changing areas, restrooms, showers, first aid and concessions are available. Trails, camping, boating, hunting and fishing are available, as well as a bird observation facility.
Why I like it: You usually never know what you’re going to get with a park concession stand, but Swartswood has its menu online so you can be sure there’s something you (and your kids) will eat!
More information: www.state.nj.us


  • Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Morris County Park Commission
  • Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
  • NJ Division of Parks and Forestry
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