Morning coffee on the dock. Fishing, swimming, and paddleboarding out your door. Sunset waterfront views. Lake living sure sounds nice. But the price tag can be hefty. Here’s how to get a taste of summer lake life—staying in cabins, tents, yurts, and lodges with direct access to a dock or a shore—without dumping your savings into a second mortgage.
Migis Lodge, Sebago Lake, Maine
From the porch of your private, well-appointed cottage at Migis Lodge, southern Maine’s Sebago Lake spreads out at your doorstep like a calm emerald pool. Borrow a canoe or sign up for crack of dawn waterskiing—all activities and meals are included here, like summer camp for adults. Cocktails are served on the lodge’s deck each night before dinner, when fresh Maine lobster is always on the menu. From $199.
Meek’s Bay Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Lakefront hotel rooms or house rentals on Lake Tahoe don’t come cheap, but there are a few choice campgrounds scattered around the lake. At Meek’s Bay Resort, on Tahoe’s peaceful west shore, you can pitch a tent or rent a knotty pine cabin steps from the water. A trailhead across the street from the resort leads to stunning high-alpine lakes. Camping from $20, cabins from $225.
Blue Water Manor, Lake George, New York
Blue Water Manor is a historic resort on upstate New York’s Lake George, with roots dating back to 1923. Now under new ownership, it’s been undergoing renovations to update the property. Stay for the night in a lakefront cabin with views of the Adirondacks and enjoy free paddleboat or canoe rentals, live music from a thriving local music scene, and a well-loved tavern serving up dishes like crab cake sandwiches and fish and chips. From $99.
Big Arm State Park, Flathead Lake, Montana
Score a lakeside campsite under a forest of ponderosa pines or one of the park’s two rustic yurts at Big Arm State Park on Montana’s Flathead Lake. Nestled into Big Arm Bay, the campground is a gateway to Wild Horse Island, a 2,163-acre wilderness area on the lake’s west shore. You’ll be treated to plenty of wildlife spotting (picture wild horses, bighorn sheep, and bald eagles), plus trout fishing, swimming from the pebble beach, and hiking trails. Camping from $14, yurts from $50.
Northern Lights Resort, Kabetogama Lake, Minnesota
There really are over 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Check out Northern Lights Resort on the shores of Kabetogama Lake, which sits near the Canadian border within the boundaries of Voyageurs National Park. Rent a boat to fish for walleye, borrow a free canoe for an evening paddle, and sleep in one of 12 lakefront wooden cabins with names like Moose or Muskie. The place is built for families and requires week-long stays during peak summer months. From $155.
Sleep’s Cabin, Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho
Sleep’s Cabin is a family-owned landmark on Idaho’s biggest lake, Lake Pend Oreille, and a lovely spot to post up for a few nights. Five cozy cabins steps from the water include options like a one-bedroom log bungalow or a 2,000-square-foot family lodge, with access to a dock, an outdoor fire pit, and barbecues. Some of the cabins are historic properties dating back to the 1940s, but several have been updated with more modern amenities. From $95.