The Best Swimming Spots in Connecticut: Lakes, Rivers, and More

Written by Kaleigh Moore
Updated: August 12, 2023
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While indoor arenas and pools are preferred swimming spots, swimming in the open and cold water promises many additional benefits. For instance, research has shown that these activities enhance sleep, boost the immune system, and increase a person’s overall happiness. 

Connecticut’s many lovely swimming holes provide a fantastic retreat in the sweltering summer months. The state has much to offer water lovers, whether serene lakes or winding rivers with clear waters. Take a plunge and explore Connecticut’s top swimming holes to unwind, cool down, and create priceless memories. Besides swimming, the lakes, rivers, and swimming holes are remarkable day trip destinations. Thus, you can pack a picnic and spend your entire day enjoying clear and pristine waters.

Planning your next outdoor swimming adventure in Connecticut requires careful planning, as not all spots allow swimming. To help you make an informed decision, we have compiled a comprehensive guide featuring Connecticut’s best lakes, rivers, and waterholes. Get ready to explore and discover the perfect destinations to satisfy your swimming cravings in scenic landscapes.

Check out these 9 great swimming spots in Connecticut!

Indian Well State Park — Shelton

Indian Well State Park is our first entry on our list of Connecticut’s best swimming spots. Hike the scenic falls and dive into the refreshing splash pool at the lower end. In addition, the water’s edge forms a shaded picnic grove that offers respite during the hot days, while the sandy beach is the ideal relaxation and recharging spot.

Established in 1928, Indian Wells State Park derives its name from a captivating Native American legend akin to the tale of Romeo and Juliet. The park’s enchanting waterfalls and the tranquil pool formed at their base serve as the backdrop for this legend. Intriguingly, the local Native Americans did not utilize the area as an actual well.

Although the falls exhibit undeniable beauty, the primary charm of the park lies in its position on the western side of the Housatonic River. With delightful waterfalls and a shaded picnic grove along the riverbank, it becomes an idyllic spot for a leisurely summer day.

Whether you prefer fishing or hiking, this park caters to various outdoor activities. Entry is free for state residents, but it’s important to note that the authorities strictly prohibit alcohol within the premises of Indian Well State Park.

A scenic and peaceful state park located on the Housatonic River offering hiking trails, swimming areas, and camping sites.

Indian Well State Park was first established in 1928 and is located along the Housatonic River.

©LBSimms Photography/

Day Pond State Park — Colchester

Ranked as our second-best swimming spot in Connecticut, Colchester’s Day Pond State Park offers a historical charm with its iconic stone walls—a testament to its colonial past when the pond’s water-fueled a nearby sawmill. The pioneering Day family meticulously designed the central attraction, Day Pond. Its waters once propelled a massive overshot waterwheel, providing power to the family’s traditional “up and down saw” sawmill.

Visitors can only see the remnants of colonial times through the stone foundations found in the park. Day Pond, established as a park in 1949, attracts fishermen with its stocked trout. The pond, bordered by a sandy beach, offers a refreshing swimming experience and is an excellent spot for trout fishing. The park also provides facilities for hiking and picnicking, making it a versatile destination. State residents can enjoy free entrance to the park.

Aside from Day Pond, there are other nearby state recreation areas worth exploring. Devil’s Hopyard State Park, located three miles north of the intersection of Route 82 and 156 in East Haddam, offers activities such as camping, hiking, picnicking, and stream fishing.

Gay City State Park in Hebron, situated three miles south of Bolton on Route 85, provides opportunities for picnicking, swimming, hiking, field sports, fishing, youth group camping, cross-country skiing, visiting historic sites, and mountain biking. Finally, Haddam Meadows State Park in Haddam, located three miles south of Higganum off Route 9A, offers opportunities to picnic, hike, and boat.

Day Pond State Park offers hiking trails, fishing spots, picnicking areas, bird watching opportunities, and more.

Discover the stunning beauty of nature at Day Pond State Park.

©Jeff Holcombe/

Bantam Lake – Morris, Connecticut

Bantam Lake is another highly sought-after swimming destination in Connecticut. Its most attractive feature is the beach accessible to the general public. The renowned swimming spot attracts diverse visitors, including day-trippers, second homeowners, campers, and residents.

Sandy Beach is its major attraction, providing a delightful setting for swimming. This spot also offers a shaded picnic area where you can take a break from the sun and enjoy an outdoor picnic. Additionally, there is an open concession stand for refreshments, and lifeguards ensure safety.

The Litchfield area surrounding Bantam Lake offers numerous opportunities to engage in watersports such as fishing and boating, allowing visitors to enjoy the water thoroughly.

Although there is a small entrance fee, it is well worth the cost, considering the abundance of fun and recreational activities. Furthermore, Bantam Lake even offers season passes for those who plan to visit frequently.

Bantam Lake is tranquil and surrounded by lush, green trees in rural Connecticut.

The Litchfield area surrounding Bantam Lake offers numerous opportunities to engage in watersports such as fishing and boating.

© Hanscom

Lake Waramaug – New Preston

New Preston’s Lake Waramaug ranks among Connecticut’s most beautiful spots all year round. The massive lake spans 656 acres, serving multiple towns within Litchfield County. This scenic location has remained popular for its stunning fall foliage, but its numerous swimming spots make it a summer favorite. 

Lake access is available at Lake Waramaug State Park, located at the northwest end of the lake. Residents of Warren and Washington, with the appropriate permits, can also access the lake at their respective town beaches. Lake Waramaug offers swimming, picnicking, and non-motorized boating opportunities.

Visitors to the park have to abide by specific rules. For instance, authorities advise swimmers to stay close to the shore and within designated swimming areas to ensure their visibility for boat drivers to spot them. But suppose your exploration instinct is active, and you feel like swimming further away from the shore. In that case, a spotter boat must accompany you to divert other watercraft.

Boating on Lake Waramaug provides a range of recreational possibilities, but it also carries the risk of introducing invasive weeds and safety concerns.

There’s more good news for those seeking the best swimming spots with overnight camping; Lake Waramaug State Park offers over 70 campsites with scenic lake views. You can access amenities like pumping stations, bathrooms, and showers here.

However, remember that pets are not allowed, and campsite reservations are required. Fortunately, you can organize all these at the 30 Lake Waramaug Road campground office in New Preston, located at the lake’s northwest corner.

Lake Waramaug is a beautiful lake located in Litchfield County, which covers 845 acres.

Lake Waramaug is a massive lake spanning 656 acres and serving multiple towns within Litchfield County.

© Hanscom

Stratton Brook State Park – Simsbury, Connecticut

If you prioritize accessibility, consider Stratton Brook State Park among your must-visit swimming spots in Connecticut. This region is near the greater Hartford area, hence easily accessible whether you’re traveling from within or far.

Originally known as Massacre State Forest, local authorities initially established this site to showcase forest fire control methods alongside railroads. However, in 1949, it was designated as a state park, and since then, significant transformations have taken place, shaping its current form and purpose.

For instance, the former railroad tracks have been replaced with a great bike trail adorned with white pines, offering shade and a view of picturesque brooks. In 1996, this park achieved the distinction of being Connecticut’s first fully wheelchair-accessible state park.

The lake at the park provides a delightful setting for families to spend quality time. Kids can have a blast at the nearby private beach, which offers a close encounter with wildlife and a size that allows for easy supervision. You can explore the biking trails, enjoy a picnic in the shaded area, or try your luck with fishing.

Additional recreational activities include biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, and field sports. Stratton Brook State Park is also designated as a Trout Park, making it a haven for fishing enthusiasts. Please note that non-residents are charged a parking fee at the park.

Those seeking nearby state recreation areas can visit American Legion and Peoples State Forests in Barkhamsted, offering camping, cross-country skiing, hiking, hunting, picnicking, snowmobiling, and stream fishing. In addition, you can visit the Penwood State Park in Bloomfield for some ski touring and scenic vistas.

Stratton Brook State Park is a public recreation area located in the towns of Simsbury and Canton, Connecticut.

In 1996, Stratton Brook State Park achieved the distinction of being Connecticut’s first fully wheelchair-accessible state park.


Salmon River – Colchester

If you’re among those who fancy a more secluded location to cool off in the summer heat, consider Salmon River among your favorite swimming spots. The river and surrounding conservation areas offer one of the best spots for outdoor fun, with the Comstock-covered bridge offering lots of fun activities for water enthusiasts.

At this spot, you’ll find a clear, excellent swimming hole right under the bridge between Colchester and East Hampton. It’s less crowded, unlike most swimming holes in this region. Even better, there’s a lot of space to explore.

Understandably, the area below the covered bridge can get crowded due to its accessibility. However, you can claim any of the numerous additional places along the river’s blue route and find your tranquil spot.

For a more exciting outdoor experience, you can hike along the nearby loop trail that connects Salmon River State Forest and Day Pond State Park. Day Pond, conveniently located in the vicinity, is an excellent swimming spot to cool off during your hike. Interestingly, no fee is charged for parking at Salmon River State Forest.

The fun doesn’t end at Salmon River, as other state recreation areas are worth your attention. For instance, Day Pond State Park in Colchester, situated about six miles west of Colchester off Route 149, is fascinating. You can enjoy hiking, picnicking, pond fishing, and swimming here.

Salmon River flowing beneath the Comstock Bridge

Salmon river and surrounding conservation areas offer one of the best spots for outdoor fun, with the Comstock-covered bridge offering exciting activities for water enthusiasts.

©Jennifer Yakey-Ault/

Squantz Pond State Park – New Fairfield, Connecticut

New Fairfield’s Squantz Pond State Park is among Connecticut’s most beautiful sights all year round. The spot promises four seasons of enjoyment and features wooded, steep slopes, colorful foliage, and a cool, blue pond that delights visitors throughout the year.

Squantz became a state park in 1926 and has maintained its reputation as one of the best swimming spots in the state. Visitors to Squantz Pond can enjoy various activities such as picnicking, pond fishing, hiking, swimming, boating, and even scuba diving.

Squantz Pond offers a picturesque setting that resembles a mountain landscape. The steep, forested slopes create a scenic backdrop as they descend into the serene, blue pond below. But something even more amazing happens during the fall season, making the park a favorite spot for photographers. During this season, you can capture the vibrant colors of the foliage reflecting on the water’s mirrored surface.

However, you must be aware of some Squantz Pond State Park rules—for instance, the spot charges separate parking fees for non-residents. The amount may vary depending on the date and season. Also, once the park reaches its capacity, it will be closed for the remainder of the day.

Located in New Fairfield, Connecticut, this day-use park offers picnicking, fishing, and swimming opportunities as well as hiking trails for all skill levels.

Squantz Pond State Park became a state park in 1926 and has maintained its reputation as one of the best swimming spots in the state.


Candlewood Lake — Danbury Location

If you’re looking for one of the best swimming spots in Connecticut for a family fun day, then Candlewood Lake features among the best options. Here, you and your loved ones can sink your toes into the refreshing currents of the largest lake in the state or sprawl out enjoying the soft sand.

Candlewood Lake lies inside an eleven-acre park with a picture-postcard beachfront for relaxation and swimming. You also have the opportunity to feast at the nearby picnic tables, visit the concession stand for a sweet treat, row off the boating dock, or create lifetime memories at the playground.

Brookfield Town Beach is a popular destination that offers more than just swimming. Visitors can enjoy picnic areas, a concession stand, and basketball and volleyball courts. The beach is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but swimming is restricted to town residents and their guests. Resident families can obtain season passes from the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Office. Please note that entrance fees are applicable for the beach.

For alternative swimming options, consider the Danbury Community Center or Wings Over Water, which offer swimming pools and lessons. Walnut Beach is a beach location with swimming pools, and the Riverwalk Athletic Club is also worth considering.

Candlewood Lake is a beautiful lake located in western Connecticut. It covers 8.4 square miles and stretches over 20 miles long.

Candlewood Lake lies inside an eleven-acre park with a picture-postcard beachfront for relaxation and swimming.

©Csouthard / Creative Commons – License

Tom State Park — Litchfield

Tom State Park ranked among the oldest parks in Connecticut’s park system and was named after the mountain range that encloses the park. The spot attained its state park status in 1915, and the mountain’s summit stands 1325 feet above sea level. Famous among hikers and bikers, the park offers one of the best swimming spots in the state.

The beach area at this lake is slightly larger than the average pond beach in Connecticut and maintains a decent amount of sand. The beach is well-maintained, and the water appears relatively clear. Swimming underwater is quite comfortable, with minimal scum or plant life. Lifeguards are present, especially on weekends, and a good picnic area with grills is available.

Here, you can enjoy non-motorized boating, fishing, picnicking, scuba diving, and hiking. You can also explore the lookout tower.

Interestingly, state residents can enter the park without any admission fee. But there’s one setback. The parking area is limited and fills quickly, so ensure you arrive early to avoid inconveniences.

Tom State Park is located in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia. With its lush forests, pristine streams, and stunning vistas.

Tom State Park ranked among the oldest parks in Connecticut’s park system.

©Ritu Manoj Jethani/

Summary of The Best Swimming Spots in Connecticut

NumberBest Swimming SpotLocation
1Indian Well State ParkShelton
2Day Pond State ParkColchester
3Bantam LakeMorris
4Lake WaramaugNew Preston
5Stratton Brook State ParkSimsbury
6Salmon RiverColchester
7Squantz Pond State ParkNew Fairfield
8Candlewood LakeDanbury Location
9Tom State ParkLitchfield
Summary Table of The Best Swimming Spots in Connecticut

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jeff Holcombe/

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