BlogMay 2019

10 Best State Parks for Boating With Family This Summer

10 Best State Parks for Boating With Family This Summer

By Debbie Hanson

May 30, 2019

List of best state parks for boating this summer based on accessibility, amenities, camping opportunities. Best boating state parks popular with families.

Wondering about a few of the best state parks for boating this summer? If you want to know where to boat as family, check out this list that includes some of the best boating state parks in the country.

  1. Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Kaiser, Missouri. This summer haven for boaters has three paved boat ramps and family campsites. Take advantage of swimming beaches, woodlands, streams, and beautiful bluff-top views of the lake. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is perfect place for families who love boating and fishing, but who want the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and bicycling too.
  2. Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach, Florida. Rent a kayak to explore the 2.5-mile mangrove protected estuary, or trailer your boat and launch at the park for direct access to Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Paddling, shelling, hiking, and wildlife viewing are all options, but visitors often return time and time again to spend a day on the gulf waters at one of the best state parks for boating in Florida.
  3. Devils Fork State Park, Salem, South Carolina. The park is the only public access point for Lake Jocassee, a 7,500-acre reservoir lake with four launch sites. Mountain streams and several waterfalls feed into the lake, making it not only one of the best boating state parks, but also a prime South Carolina trout fishing spot.
  4. Lake Perris State Recreation Area, Perris, California. Located about 65 miles south of Los Angeles and 11 miles southeast of Riverside, Lake Perris covers 2,250 acres and offers boaters white beaches, blue waters, and stunning views of rocky Alessandro Island. This state recreation area attracts close to one million visitors from surrounding communities every year. There are multiple launch ramps and a marina, providing easy lake access.
  5. Cayo Costa State Park, Cayo Costa, Florida. Located five miles south of Boca Grande, and accessible only by boat or kayak, Cayo Costa State Park is the park to visit by boat when you want to get away from it all. This former fishing ground of the Calusa Indians has nine miles of undeveloped shoreline for swimming, shelling, fishing, birdwatching and family exploration along with several walking and bicycling trails through the island’s interior.
  6. Lake James State Park, Nebo, North Carolina. Families can enjoy boating, swimming and fishing in the beautiful, clear waters of 6,812-acre Lake James. There is even a remote boat-in campground on the Long Arm Peninsula that offers a true outdoor experience for families who wish to paddle or motorboat to their own secluded site. Boat ramps at Hidden Cove and Canal Bridge on NC 126 are located between the park’s two day-use areas. Canoe, kayak and paddleboard rentals are available at the Paddy’s Creek Area concession stand from May through September.
  7. Long Branch State Park, Macon, Missouri. Three ramps provide boaters with easy access to picturesque Long Branch Lake. This Show-Me State park is another favorite family spot. Wet a line for bass, catfish, walleye, and crappie, or the marina, swimming beach and day-use area next to the beach. A modern campground the park is a perfect place for overnight stays.
  8. Emerald Bay State Park, South Lake Tahoe, California. Emerald Bay State Park owes its spectacular scenery and dramatic alpine peaks, ridges, and crystalline lake to glaciers that scoured landscape 11,500 to 1,800,000 years ago. The entire bay is a no wake zone area, which makes for a relaxing day of boating surrounded by majestic views. If you want to stay for multiple days, there is a boat-in campground located on the north side of Emerald Bay.
  9. Birch Lake State Recreation Site, Fairbanks, Alaska. When you visit, you will understand why Birch Lake is so popular with anglers and boaters in the summer. Families can venture out by boat to fish for rainbow trout, king and silver salmon, grayling, or arctic char via the boat launch and courtesy dock with ADA access. Plan to stay at one of the campsites or cabins to make the most of your trip.
  10. High Falls State Park, Jackson, Georgia. Located northwest of Macon, this park is named for the rocky cascades on the Towaliga River. Boat rental facilities, launch ramps and fishing docks provide easy access to High Falls Lake. If your family wants to plan on fishing in state parks this summer, you may be interested in knowing that High Falls is often cited as one of Georgia’s top spots for hybrid and white bass.

Now that you know about ten of the best state park for boating, don't forget to make sure that your boat registration has been renewed before summer (and prime boating season) arrives.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.