Lake We’ll Be Gone: Check into a lake resort to cool down this summer’s heat

Published on Thu, 08/07/2014 - 4:55pm

Summer is a perfect time to enjoy the sun, have some fun, and get away from just about everything—including the heat. And the best way to do all of the above is by getting out on the lake. We’ve identified some of the best lakes to relax and enjoy being a tourist. 

Lake Vermilion, Minn.

There is no official record that the National Geographic Society once declared Lake Vermilion one of the Top 10 most scenic lakes in the country, but there should be.  With its 40,000 acres of water, 365 islands, and 290 miles of shoreline, the lake stretches 30 miles across the heart of northern Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region on the south edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe area with Canada. The air is crisp, the sunsets legendary, and the rugged granite cliffs edging the lake have left the area, until recently, largely undeveloped. Numerous resorts and lodges offer vacation possibilities ranging from “roughing-it” to “swanky.”

Things to do:

  • Get hooked on fishing in a true Northwoods fishing experience
  • Go sightseeing for moose, eagles, and other wildlife
  • Explore a mine at the Soudan Underground Mine State Park, where iron ore mining has given way to a high energy physics lab
  • Take in the July Blueberry Arts Festival in nearby Ely

Top resorts:

Pehrson Lodge Resort – This classic Minnesota resort has 26 cottages nicely spaced on 2000 feet of Vermilion’s lakefront shoreline?. Cabins have sundecks, full kitchens, and lake views, and many have fireplaces and dishwashers. A broad sandy beach, playground, campfire ring, nature trail, and private library help fill the hours. Available activities include a comprehensive children’s program, sailing, hydro-bikes, sea kayaks, wind surfers, canoes, and paddle boats at no charge. Powerboats are available in the resort’s full-service harbor. 

2746 Vermilion Dr. • Cook, MN 55723
(218) 666-5478 •

Bay View Lodge – Choose from one, two, or three bedroom rustic cabins; a duplex; or motel units, all trimmed in authentic Northwoods décor of knotty pine and reclaimed wood. A sand beach and playground occupy the younger set. Bay View Lodge is known as the “hot spot” of the area for the resort’s three-tier deck and full service tiki bar. Live music is often heard late into the long summer evenings.

Bay View Lodge • 2001 Bay View Drive
Tower, MN 55790 • (218) 753-2500

Fortune Bay Resort Casino – Modern and comfortable, the Bois Forte band of the Chippewa has built a full-service resort on the shores of Lake Vermillion. Championship golf, scenic nature trails, and fabulous fishing are all within minutes of the resort. In addition to offering Las Vegas-style gaming, the indoor pool, sauna, and fine dining offer reasons to stay inside, but you can rent pontoon boats, fishing boats, and mountain bikes when you’re ready to move outdoors.

1430 Bois Forte Rd • Tower, MN 55790
(218) 753-2611 •

Okoboji, Iowa

The Iowa Great Lakes are one of the largest tourist destinations in the state, attracting more than a million visitors annually. The area, known collectively as Okoboji, is located in Northwest Iowa and has been a vacation destination for families since the late 1800’s. The spring-fed, “blue water” West Lake Okoboji is the center of water recreation, along with East Lake Okoboji and Big Spirit Lake. Historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park, The Queen II excursion boat, vast trail systems, golf courses, shopping, unique dining, and a thriving arts and entertainment scene are just a few of the things that draw visitors back year after year. 

Things to do:

  • Ride the 1927 Legend wooden roller coaster at the Arnolds Park Amusement Park
  • See the lake from The Queen II, any number of other excursion boats, or rent a boat for your own fun
  • Hit the links at any of the six golf courses in the area
  • Take in a play or musical at the Okoboji Summer Theater
  • Dip your toes for free at any of the public sand beaches

Top resorts:

The Inn – Highlighting traditional charm in a West Lake Okoboji lakefront setting, The Inn has 156 guest rooms with many featuring stunning lake views; indoor and outdoor pools; an adjacent par three, nine-hole golf course; tennis courts; sand volleyball; and children’s playground. Another plus: the casual and fine dining at The Inn has set the standard in this area for decades.

3301 Lakeshore Drive • Okoboji, IA 51355
712-332-2113 •

Bridges Bay Resort – Featuring the year-round ’Boji Bay indoor water park as well as an outdoor pool with swim-up bar, this new resort offers hotel-style rooms as well as privately owned condominium and patio homes for rent. Bracco Waterfront Grill and Island Bar serves up open-air dining, perfect for sunsets over East Lake Okoboji.

630 Linden Drive • Arnolds Park, IA 51331
(712) 332-2202 •

Fillenwarth Beach Resort – This family owned waterfront resort on West Lake Okoboji offers an outstanding location buoyed by numerous complimentary activities like water ski lessons, lake cruises, and countless summertime recreation programs. Canoes, paddleboats, and sailboats are available for rent. Stay at lakefront cottages, apartments, or studios where amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, sand volleyball, tennis courts, and docks for sun worshiping.

87 Lakeshore Drive • Arnolds Park, IA 51331
(712) 332-5646 •

Lake Geneva, Wis.

Nestled on the shores of Geneva Lake in Southeast Wisconsin, Lake Geneva has been a resort destination since 1871 when the Midwest’s wealthy settled here following the Great Chicago Fire. This is when the elegant, one-of-a-kind historic estates first popped up along the shoreline, setting the scene for rest, relaxation and romance. These homes still ring the 5500-acre spring-fed lake and can be viewed from the area’s many tour boats. Watersports, golfing, boat cruises on the lake, unique shopping, and the University of Chicago’s world-renown Yerkes Observatory help make Lake Geneva one of Wisconsin’s most popular summer destinations.

Things to do:

  • See the lake’s many “cottages”—or mansions and country estates for the Budweiser set—from one of the many boat tours
  • Tour the unique 1888 Black Point Estate
  • Take a dip at one of the area’s four sand beaches
  • Rent a kayak, powerboat, pontoon boat, or personal watercraft
  • Work on your golf skills on any of the area’s nine golf courses

Top resorts:

The Grand Geneva Resort – This luxury resort and convention center has earned AAA’s Four Diamond rating for its amenities and 355 guest rooms. Available activities include two golf courses, a spa and fitness center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and waterparks, seasonal biking, and horseback riding. Dining options range from the urban steakhouse-style Geneva Chophouse, to café dining, pizza, and gelato.

7020 Grand Geneva Way • Lake Geneva, WI 53147
(262) 248-8811 •

The Abbey – Following a complete refresh in honor of its 50th anniversary, this resort is as well known for it’s unique A-frame main building as its new AVANI spa facility with indoor adult pool and fitness studio. Guest options include deluxe guest rooms and suites, with villas available for larger groups. Lakefront dining, on-site boat and bicycle rentals, and temperature-controlled pools complement available services.

269 Fontana Blvd • Fontana-on-Geneva Lake, WI 53125
262) 275-6811 •

The Baker House – Live like royalty—or Jay Gatsby—at this 1885 Queen Anne-style cottage. The Baker house has four decadent, over-the-top rooms and suites for relaxation or romance. Harkening back to the Gilded Age when grand entertaining was considered a competitive event, The Baker House is the only downtown Lake Geneva site with a lakefront lawn and garden that is often the scene for murder mystery cocktail parties, dinners, and private events. The Baker House is a one-of-a-kind destination for both lodging and dining.

327 Wrigley Dr. • Lake Geneva, WI 53147
(262) 248-4700 •

Lake of the Ozarks, Mo.

Missouri’s premier lake destination is just 75 years old, formed by the construction of the Bagnell Dam on the Osage River. The resulting lake covers 54,000 acres with over 1100 miles of bays, coves, and shoreline. Today, the area’s attractions include two waterparks, lots of action-packed arcades, three popular “show caves,” go carts, petting zoos, trap shooting, float trips, musical entertainment, and aerial tours—it’s no wonder the local convention and visitors bureau has the website Available accommodations range from mom-and-pop cottages to full-blown five star luxury hotels.

Things to do:

  • Be a high roller at the Isle of Capri Casino
  • Explore a 20th Century castle in Ha Ha Tonka State Park
  • Test your putting skills at Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
  • Charter a yacht for a lake tour
  • Rent a boat to explore on your own or hang out at Party Cove
  • Take a parasail ride

Top resorts:

Camden On The Lake – This time of year, Camden On The Lake is rockin’—especially on weekends. This large resort boasts the area’s leading entertainment complex with performances that include local, regional, and national acts. Sunday through Thursday is more subdued, with time available for lakefront activities at the yacht club or a visit to the hotel’s day spa. Amenities include a fitness center, two hot tubs, a pool with swim-up bar, a movie theater, a covered sand volleyball court, two restaurants, retail shops, and even an espresso bar right in the lobby.

2359 Bittersweet Rd. • Lake Ozark, MO 65049
(573) 365-5620 •

Lake Breeze Resort – “Peaceful as a summer night’s breeze” might describe the Lake Breeze Resort. With 10 cottages and single rooms, this setting is designed for families and friends to come together for lake activities such as sunset parties, swimming pool fun, lake swimming, fishing, boating, and pure lakeside relaxation. Amenities include boat rentals, swimming pool, clubhouse/game room, vending, laundry, and a playground. 

91 Breeze Drive • Camdenton, Missouri 65020
(573) 873-5343 •

Robin’s Resort – A quiet getaway centrally located on Osage Beach, Robin’s Resort has 36 rooms catering to families. The resort’s waterfront access, outdoor pool, spa tub, marina, and rec room give everyone a chance to relax and enjoy lake activities. A frequent venue for fishing tournaments, the resort has undergone recent remodeling and updating. Guests frequently comment on the screened porches—handy this time of year to deal with summer insects—and quick access to shopping or local entertainment.

4935 Robins Circle • Osage Beach, MO 65065
(573) 348-2275