Spring weather not only means that lakes are thawing and boats are coming out of hibernation, it also means real estate season. If you couldn’t get enough of the lake last year, or find you couldn’t stay away even during the cold months, you might find yourself dreaming of living life on the lake all the time.
You might wonder though-- do you have to choose between affordable, rural lake towns without much in the way of cultural amenities nearby? Or will you be stuck with a steep asking price that takes a lot of the fun out of the fantasy or your future plans?
Five Affordable Lake Towns In the U.S.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of lake towns out there where you can live your best life year round and have the best of both worlds. Here are a few of our top picks:
This beautiful sport is just three hours from Seattle, but you’d never know it from the abundant sunshine and high desert climate. The lake itself is fed by the Stehekin River and Railroad Creek, it holds the distinction of being both the largest lake in Washington State and the third deepest in the country.
In fact, the name itself comes from a Native American word meaning “deep water.” Around the lake, there is plenty of fishing to do for trout and shiner. There are also over 80 running trails nearby, hiking in the North Cascades National Park Complex, proximity to a small wine region, a golf course, and a variety of restaurants from road houses to fine dining.
Despite being so close to Seattle, prices aren’t astronomical. You can still find lots with lake views for under $200,000 and homes average around $500,000. Townhouses and condos can be found for about half that and plenty of nature all around.
Fairfield Glade, Tennessee
Just under two hours from Nashville and about an hour from Knoxville, Fairfield Glade is a hidden gem. With lakes Catherine, Saint George, Canterbury and Dartmoore nearby there’s plenty of opportunities for fishing and boating. It’s also just outside the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, which boasts 82,000 acres where you can hike, hunt, and even go whitewater rafting.
The Druid Hills Golf Course has eighteen holes and a nice restaurant overlooking the links. There are eleven other courses in easy driving distance as well. And just twenty minutes from Fairfield Glade is Crossville, Tennessee, home to the Merrimack Canoe Company and plenty of restaurants, from meat-in-threes to a wine bistro.
Best of all, Tennessee has a mild climate without losing four full seasons, and the cost of living is quite low. You can find a house in Fairfield Glade for under 200,000 without having to look very hard, and a lot of luxury can be had for just a little bit more.
Lake Lure, North Carolina
Tucked away in the Smoky Mountains just 30 minutes from Asheville, two hours from Charlotte, and three from Atlanta, Lake Lure might look really familiar to you because of how many movies it’s been featured in. Whether you stay for a weekend or to settle down, you might start to notice locations used in films including Dirty Dancing and Last of the Mohicans.
Like much of this midsection of the South, summers don’t get too hot and winters don’t get too cold, though you’ll certainly have a chance at a little snow. Kayak, canoe, or paddle board on the lake, enjoy the beach, Plus, the homes for sale in the area are at almost every price point in almost every style, from family homes on wooded lots to big, splashy lakeside cabins.
Lake Granbury, Texas
Just an hour outside of Forth Worth in the sprawling Dallas metro area is Lake Granbury, known for its lakeside communities, fishing, and boating. It’s home to plenty of bass, catfish, and crappie, and with 1000-plus boat docks and piers off the lake, it’s not hard to find a good angling spot. Sunsets are usually tropical and fantastic and there is a sandy beach from which to enjoy them that also includes a spray park, SUP and kayak rentals, a bicycle valet, and volleyball.
Granbury tends to be family oriented and there’s no shortage of kids, grandparents, pontoon boats, and picnics, especially in the summer. Homes right on the lake tend to run into the 200-300 mark, but more affordable options can be had as well. And being so close to Dallas-Ft. Worth, there is plenty of fun to be had off-lake, too, with vibrant arts districts, live music, shopping, and tons of restaurant offerings.
Grand Marais, Minnesota
A list of lake towns wouldn’t be complete without an entry from Minnesota, land of a thousand lakes. Ostensibly Grand Marais sits on Lake Superior, but plenty of homes in the area sit on or near smaller, quieter lakes a little inland from that big kahuna. There’s a wealth of outdoor opportunities nearby, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the Gunflint Trail, and the Superior Hiking Trail.
In late summer, the town hosts a Fisherman's Picnic with batter-fried herring served up on the shores of Superior. Grand Marais also hosts the Le Grand Du Nord climbing race and a variety of other festivals throughout the year. It’s the kind of town where something is always going on.
Between shindigs and potlucks, you can make you own fun at nearby restaurants, antiquing, or (of course) on the lake. Plus homes are quite reasonable and range in not only price, but stylies from vintage A frames to modern cottages to sprawling summer places.