Did you know that the word ‘Connecticut’ is derived from the Algonquian word for ‘long tidal river?’ That makes perfect sense since the state was named after the Connecticut River.
The Connecticut River runs right through the center of the state, making up the Connecticut River Valley. So, even though Connecticut is the Nation’s 3rd smallest state, its geography is a beautiful array of sea-level beaches, rolling mountains, and incredible lakes.
Since Connecticut borders the Long Island Sound, it isn’t right along the ocean, but there are many great lakes within Connecticut that are highly accessible.
The best lakes in CT have something to offer everyone, whether you just want to sit under the sun, be nestled in the woods, or kayak along the lake, one of the 10 best lakes in CT is ready to have you!
The 10 Best Lakes in CT
1. Squantz Pond- Fairfield County, Connecticut
It’s like stepping inside of an antique photograph! Squantz Pond is a great place to spend the day and relax since it’s so close to New Fairfield, it’s right by the west end of New York State, and is open year-round!
2. Candlewood Lake- Litchfield County, Connecticut
The manmade lake is right by the County of Fairfield and is super popular for locals during the summer months.
Candlewood Lake is bordered by five towns, so people come from all around to enjoy the picturesque surroundings.
It is one of the most popular lakes in Connecticut since they have amazing recreational activities like swimming, boarding, fishing, and boating!
The tourists who visit also partake in some scuba diving to explore the underwater habitats, and old roads from the 18th century.
Chicken Rock is a popular diving point, it’s over 7 meters high!
3. Bantam Lake- Litchfield County, Connecticut
Wow, Bantam Lake is over 700 acres! Bantam Lake is located in the western region of Connecticut, so residents of Litchfield and Morris are frequent visitors.
At the north end of the lake, you can relax and enjoy a safe day out since it is protected in order to preserve the many bird species that reside here.
Bird lovers from here and abroad even visit Bantam Lake to see all the different species of birds.
Bantam Lake even has 2 public beaches!
4. Lake Zoar- New Haven County, Connecticut
Lake Zoar is also a huge one, with over 700 acres, its proximity to the Housatonic River makes it easily accessed by 4 bordering towns.
It is a manmade lake as well, made by the Stevenson Dam in 1919.
Lake Zoar has hosted multiple boat launches, nearly one in each town, and has an 11 kilometer Zoar Trail that goes around the whole lake. You can get some pretty spectacular views here.
You can come to relax on your boat, or fish and catch some trout, bass, or perch–you could even try out some jet skis!
5. Lake Lillinonah- Fairfield, Connecticut
Lake Lillinonah is the 2nd largest lake in Connecticut and has been around since 1955 after the Shepaug Dam was created. The lake is near the Housatonic River and touches 6 surrounding towns.
The shoreline of Lake Lillinonah is about 70 kilometers, and sits along a really pretty wooded area, making it the perfect place for peace and tranquility.
Bald eagles can also be found traipsing around! It is also a top fishing destination, and makes for a great day of camping, hiking, or biking, too!
6. Lake Waramaug- Litchfield County, Connecticut
This lake is named after Chief Waramaug, from the Native American Potatuck tribe.
The lake is fully natural and is over 500 acres. The Sucker Brook Dam feeds the lake as it meets the East Aspetuck River.
The shoreline also has some residential homes on it, like boathouses and cottages, so it’s pretty serene and calming for a nice vacation.
The state park is nearby, and Lake Waramaug is open for swimming or fishing, while you can take a break at the park for a picnic!
7. Lake Hayward- Middlesex County, Connecticut
Lake Hayward is a natural spring lake that is located by East Haddam, a town in the eastern half of Connecticut. The lake is huge, and has 4 beaches!
The lake is actually named after Nathaniel Hayward, who founded the Goodyear Tire Company, which is a pretty cool fact!
Lake Hayward is also fairly quiet since powered engines are not allowed. Many have taken up private residences here, and some shops and businesses are nearby, practically making it its own small town!
8. Crystal Lake- Tolland County, Connecticut
The gorgeous Crystal Lake is in the northern part of the state and is east of the Connecticut River.
It also houses Sandy Beach, making it a super popular summer destination. You can sunbathe or swim here, and there is a low admission fee.
With residential properties along the lake, it makes for a family-friendly place to come and meet new people.
You can boat here too, so it’s definitely a great weekend destination!
9. Saugatuck Reservoir- Fairfield County, Connecticut
If you love fishing, then you should definitely check out the Saugatuck Reservoir!
They have plenty of trout, and some other fish like bluegill, bass, and crappie!
The Samuel P. Senior dam feeds the lake, and provides water to the surrounding towns, so the water is fairly clean as well.
It is an awesome place to come relax, hike, or just bask in the fresh air!
10. Gardner Lake- New London County, Connecticut
This quaint, small lake sits between Montville, Salem, and Bozrah. Its namesake comes from the family that once owned much of the land surrounding the lake.
Gardner Lake has plenty of space for canoeing and kayaking, or check out the marina and 4 campgrounds nearby!
The Hopemead State Park and Gardner Lake State Park are also close enough to take a breather and maybe have a picnic!
It is definitely easy to finally take that lake trip you have been thinking about, or bring the family along for a new and exciting break.
Lakes don’t often get too crowded, so it is the perfect, quiet place to take some time away to relax at.
We’re lucky that Connecticut has some of the best lakes!