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

Written by Kaleigh Moore
Updated: June 13, 2023
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In the heart of Minnesota, summer memories are made in the refreshing waters of its lakes and rivers. Countless adventurers embark on an annual quest to discover the best swimming spots, from hidden gems in lush forests to bustling beaches with golden sand. 

This guide is here to share some of the most breathtaking swimming destinations that Minnesota has to offer. Gather the swim gear and sunscreen, and prepare to dive into the aquatic paradise of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. 

Let’s navigate these stunning locations together and uncover the ideal spots for an unforgettable summer adventure. It’s time to make a splash.

1. Lake Harriet – Minneapolis

Nestled just south of Bde Maka Ska, Lake Harriet’s beaches are the talk of the town in Minneapolis. Two designated swimming spots make it double the fun for water enthusiasts.

The northern side boasts Lake Harriet North Beach, featuring a roomy sandy area and buoy-marked waters to keep swimmers safe. Meanwhile, the southern side offers Lake Harriet South Beach, a smaller yet equally charming sandy spot. 

Both beaches cater to swimmers and grant easy access to surrounding walking trails and Wheel Fun Rentals for those itching to kayak or paddleboard.

A picture of  a sailing activity on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis Minnesota

Nature’s serene masterpiece: Lake Harriet, a tranquil gem nestled in the heart of Minnesota, offering serenity and scenic beauty in every season.


2. Cedar Lake – Minneapolis

Part of Minneapolis’s famed Chain of Lakes, Cedar Lake is a swimmer’s dream come true. It’s situated in the city’s southeast corner and is connected to Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet via picturesque canals and channels.

There’s no shortage of aquatic fun in Cedar Lake, given the three beaches scattered around its shores. Though small, Cedar Lake Beach offers sandy stretches and meandering walking paths. On the western side, Cedar Lake Point Beach boasts a larger sandy expanse on a peninsula, perfect for relaxing dips and sunbathing sessions.

Don’t forget Cedar Lake South Beach, where southern shores are graced with a lovely sandy area for beachgoers. Dive into Cedar Lake’s refreshing waters and discover why it’s a top swimming spot in Minnesota.

A Tight Long Exposure Shot of the Minneapolis Skyline over Cedar Lake on a Windy Spring Twilight

Cedar Lake in Minneapolis is situated in the city’s southeast corner and is connected to Lake of the Isles and Lake Harriet via picturesque canals and channels.

©Sam Wagner/

3. Lake Minnetonka – Minnetonka

If you’re looking for the ultimate swimming spot in Minnesota, look no further than Lake Minnetonka. It’s the largest lake in the Twin Cities metro area and boasts numerous lovely beaches perfect for a refreshing swim.

First up, there’s Deephaven Beach in Saint Louis Bay which is accessible from Wayzata. This beach offers a relaxing sandy spot to soak up the sun. With numerous docks nearby, it’s also a boat lover’s paradise; you’ll be surrounded by stunning vessels as you dip.

Next, we have Crescent Beach, situated right along Lake Minnetonka’s shores. This beach features a cozy sandy area adjacent to a public parking lot, making it a convenient choice for those eager to jump into the water without venturing too far from their car.

Last but not least, there’s Wychwood Beach. Located on Cooks Bay and reachable from the city of Mound, this popular public beach is another fantastic option for swimmers.

Beautiful sunset over Minnetonka lake, Minneapolis Minnesota.

Lake Minnetonka is the largest lake in the Twin Cities metro area with numerous beaches perfect for a refreshing swim.

©Nikolay Donev/

4. Camden State Park – Lynd

Camden State Park in Lynd is an idyllic spot for families seeking a refreshing swimming experience. The park’s scenic beach along the Redwood River is perfect for little ones to splash and wade, making it a top regional swimming destination.

What sets Camden State Park apart is not just its sandy beach but also the nearby shallow spring-fed pond, which is a delightful treat for young swimmers. It’s an aquatic paradise, offering a safe and enjoyable environment for kids to dip their toes in.

Swap out your usual lake swim for a river escapade and embrace the thrill of something new. Feel free to bring a tube or kayak and let the river’s gentle flow carry you downstream. 

If you love fishing, check out the numerous piers dotted around the park, where you can cast a line and reel in some memories. When hunger strikes, take advantage of the ample picnic areas, perfect for a family feast. And, if you’re planning to stay overnight, the spacious campgrounds provide a cozy retreat under the stars.

Swimming pond at Camden State Park, Lynd, Minnesota.

Dive into nature’s embrace at Camden State Park’s refreshing swimming pond, where cool waters and lush surroundings create the perfect oasis for summer fun.


5. Zippel Bay State Park – Williams

Head north, almost brushing the Canadian border, and you’ll uncover the hidden gem of Zippel Bay State Park, located along Lake of the Woods’ captivating shores. Swaddled in dense forests, Zippel Bay State Park is a tranquil refuge from the bustling southern Minnesota beaches. It’s the perfect spot to unwind and soak in nature’s beauty.

Picture this: sandbars reaching hundreds of feet from the beach, beckoning you to meander and explore the mesmerizing waters. This idyllic location has something for everyone, whether you’re a far Northern Minnesota native or a curious visitor itching for a refreshing swim.

Zippel Bay is a state park in far north Minnesota on the Canadian Border and Lake of the Woods

Swaddled in dense forests, Zippel Bay State Park is a tranquil refuge from the bustling southern Minnesota beaches.

©Jacob Boomsma/

6. Thomas Beach – Minneapolis

Thomas Beach – Minneapolis makes for a fantastic swimming spot in Minnesota and is located on the picturesque Bde Maka Ska in the heart of the Twin Cities. As you venture to the southern shores of the lake, you’ll find Thomas Beach, perfect for a day of fun under the sun. The expansive grassy patch invites you to lounge while the sandy playground offers endless entertainment for kids eager to build sandcastles.

The beach buzzes with lively crowds on warm summer days, offering a vibrant atmosphere. Its prime Minneapolis location means no need for long drives from the city center. Head to the north shores of the lake, and amp up your adventure with the Wheel Fun Rentals that offers kayaks and paddleboards for extra fun.

A Shot of the Minneapolis Skyline Rising Above Lake Bde Maka Ska in South Minneapolis during a Summertime Dusk

Thomas Beach makes for a fantastic swimming spot in Minnesota and is located on the picturesque Bde Maka Ska in the heart of the Twin Cities.

©Sam Wagner/

7. Park Point Beach – Duluth

Discover the magic of Park Point Beach in Duluth, Minnesota’s top swimming spot. Feel the excitement build while watching the Aerial Lift Bridge rise and fall as majestic ships navigate below, all against the backdrop of the refreshing waters of Lake Superior.

When hunger strikes, Canal Park is just a stone’s throw away, ready to warm your soul with its enticing array of shops and eateries. Satisfy your cravings, then return to Park Point Beach and take a refreshing dip in the lake.

Park Point Beach with driftwood on Lake Superior with Duluth, Minnesota in background under cloudy sky

Discover the magic of Park Point Beach in Duluth, Minnesota’s top swimming spot.

©Edgar Lee Espe/

8. Tioga Beach – Grand Rapids

Tioga Beach is a fantastic swimming spot in Grand Rapids, particularly for families with young children. It features a spacious sandy area perfect for soaking up the sun or playing with sand toys. For added fun, a nearby playground ensures kids stay entertained and active. If you want a more unique and secluded experience, venture across the street to Tioga Pit. This striking teal-blue mine pit filled with refreshingly cold water offers a breathtaking view.

Located along the shores of Pokegama Lake, Grand Rapids’ largest lake, Tioga Beach, is surrounded by amazing resorts and many activities. So pack your swimwear, gather the family, and get ready to create lasting memories at Tioga Beach – where fun and excitement are just a dive away.

Tioga lake outlook on the side of Tioga Road on the way to Yosemite National Park

Tioga Beach is a fantastic swimming spot in Grand Rapids, particularly for families with young children.


9. Pelican Lake – Crosby

Get ready to plunge into Pelican Lake – Crosby, a prime swimming location in Minnesota, just a stone’s throw away from the enchanting small town of Crosby. Famed for its mountain biking, Crosby exudes undeniable allure.

Stumble upon the sandy utopia of Pelican Lake Public Beach, tucked away along the lake’s southern edge. The perfect swimming oasis awaits you and your family, including the little ones.

Fishing enthusiasts can cast their lines all year round at Pelican Lake. When relaxation calls, Breezy Point Resort is the ultimate lakefront haven that will melt away your worries.

Pelican Lake in Minnesota

Pelican Lake is a prime swimming location in Minnesota, just a stone’s throw away from the enchanting small town of Crosby.


10. Lake Itasca – Park Rapids

Embark on a thrilling adventure at Lake Itasca – Park Rapids, one of Minnesota’s most exhilarating swimming spots within the captivating Itasca State Park. This hidden gem not only boasts jaw-dropping landscapes, but it’s also the birthplace of the mighty Mississippi River.

Dive headfirst into the inviting sandy beach, where a playground awaits the little adventurers. The beach volleyball nets promise friendly competition among fellow thrill-seekers. There’s never a dull moment in this action-packed destination!

Unleash your inner explorer as you traverse the miles of paved and unpaved trails, conquer the waters with rented bikes and boats, and stand in awe at the legendary Headwaters. And when you think you’ve seen it all, the charming town of Park Rapids lurks nearby, offering a quaint Main Street and mouthwatering restaurants to satisfy your hunger for more.

Itasca Lake held behind a man made dam at the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca Lake State Park. Tourist enjoy walking across this manmade dam to say they have walked across the river.

Lake Itasca, Park Rapids, a picturesque playground where pristine waters and scenic trails beckon explorers of all ages

©JB Manning/

11. Sand Point Beach – Prior Lake

Minnesota’s hidden gem, Sand Point Beach in Prior Lake, is calling your name for a refreshing dip and some fun under the sun. As one of the best swimming spots in the state, it’s truly an oasis for water lovers and beach enthusiasts alike. 

You can also use the canoe and kayak rentals for a leisurely paddle around the lake. If you’re feeling sporty, challenge your buddies to a volleyball game on the courts or try your luck at the fishing dock. Don’t forget to explore the picturesque walking trails surrounding the beach.

While this popular spot can buzz with activity on sizzling hot days, it only adds to the lively atmosphere that makes Sand Point Beach so special. Therefore, gather your beach gear, and dive into the excitement at this fantastic Minnesota swimming destination.

 Beach at Lower Prior Lake in Minnesota, USA

As one of the best swimming spots in the state, Sand Point Beach is truly an oasis for water lovers and beach enthusiasts alike.

©Osama Salem/

12. Brighton Beach – Duluth

Unearth the hidden gem of Brighton Beach in Duluth, a premier swimming location in Kitchi Gammi Park, just around the corner from the renowned Glensheen Mansion. The beach’s distinctive rocky edges beckon you to experience the awe-inspiring Lake Superior.

A mere 30-minute drive from Canal Park and Duluth positions Brighton Beach as an ideal launchpad for exploring the stunning North Shore. So, why not seize the day?

When you get hungry, the park has picnic tables and grills, ensuring a delightful barbecue amidst the scenic backdrop. Combining natural splendor with convenience, Brighton Beach undoubtedly ranks among Minnesota’s finest swimming spots. Immerse yourself in the charm and allure that this captivating haven has to offer.

Sunset at Brighton Beach, Duluth, Minnesota

Brighton Beach, with its distinctive rocky edges, is a 30-minute drive from Canal Park and Duluth making it an ideal launchpad for exploring the stunning North Shore.


13. Iona’s Beach – Two Harbors

Discover the hidden gem of Iona’s Beach – Two Harbors, nestled along Minnesota’s North Shore, a serene alternative to crowded swimming spots. Adorned with pale red rocks, this fabulous beach comes alive as Lake Superior’s waves gently crash into the shore, creating a soothing melody in tranquil moments.

Brave the refreshing chill of the lake as you wade or stroll through its waters. Although the beach is perfect for a revitalizing dip, watch your step, for the rocks can be deceptively sharp. With its enchanting allure, Iona’s Beach proudly stands among the best swimming havens in Minnesota.

The Rocky Headlands at The  Shoreline of Iona's Beach State Natural Area, Two Harbors, Minnesota, USA

Although the beach is perfect for a revitalizing dip, watch your step, for the rocks can be deceptively sharp.

©Billy McDonald/

14. Father Hennepin State Park – Onamia

What’s better than a refreshing swim on a scorching summer day? Father Hennepin State Park – Onamia offers the perfect spot on Lake Mille Lacs, with its stunning sandy beach.

Despite its colossal size of over 200 square miles, this lake has a shortage of sandy beaches. This park offers volleyball, a grassy area for relaxation, and refreshing water swimming.

And if that isn’t enough to entice you, the park also offers picnic tables and a playground. Pack lunch and prepare for an unforgettable day at Minnesota’s finest swimming spots.

Sandpipers in Father Hennepin State Park at Sunset

Nature’s graceful performers: Sandpipers dance along the shores of Father Hennepin State Park, Onamia, adding a touch of elegance to the scenic tapestry.

©Jessica Brouillette/

15. 12th Street Beach – Duluth

Are you craving a thrilling and memorable aquatic adventure in Minnesota? 12th Street Beach – Duluth is where excitement and serenity blend seamlessly.

Located just a stone’s throw away from Park Point Beach, this hidden gem is tucked within the charming Franklin Square. Young explorers will be over the moon as they conquer the playground before diving headfirst into the refreshing waters of Lake Superior.

Don’t let its popularity fool you. Although 12th Street Beach is conveniently close to Duluth, it remains a well-kept secret with significantly fewer crowds than its bustling counterpart, Park Point Beach. If you yearn for a more peaceful and intimate swimming experience, this beach is your ticket to aquatic bliss.

Relax in Duluth Minnesota at Park Point Beach in Canal Park

Located just a stone’s throw away from Park Point Beach, 12th Street Beach is a hidden gem tucked within the charming Franklin Square.


Best Time for Visiting Beaches in Minnesota

As the saying goes, make hay while the sun shines. Summer (June through August) offers ideal beach conditions with warm temperatures and longer daylight hours. So, pack your sunscreen and catch some rays during this peak season.

Early birds can relish in the tranquility of Minnesota’s beaches during late spring (May) or early fall (September). While the weather may be slightly cooler, you’ll enjoy less crowded shores and picturesque sunsets.

Plan your beach escapades between May and September for an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a sun-worshipper or a peace-seeker, Minnesota’s beaches are waiting to welcome you with open arms.

Can You Swim in Minnesota Lakes?

Minnesota boasts picturesque beaches across the state, from quaint northern lakes to bustling city shores. Enjoy a refreshing dip all summer long, but remember to follow these safety tips:

  • Stick to designated swimming areas.
  • Stay alert for swimmer’s itch warnings or water bacteria advisories.
  • Always have a swim buddy and keep an eye on children.
  • Sport water shoes to shield your feet from rocks and debris.
  • Avoid swimming during lightning storms.
  • Be cautious of motorized and non-motorized watercraft.
  • Don’t underestimate currents and waves – they’re not just ocean phenomena!
  • Bring your vehicle permit for state park visits.

Are Minnesota Lakes Warm Enough to Swim In?

Although they may not be as toasty as a soothing bath, these lakes warm up just enough for enjoyable swims. Typically, temperatures rise to a comfortable level by late June or early July, allowing you to take a refreshing dip on hot summer days.

Of course, the warmth varies from lake to lake and depends on factors like depth and location. While some lakes offer a more refreshing swim, others may provide a gentler experience. Regardless, Minnesota’s beautiful lakes are perfect for cooling off and creating unforgettable memories during the summer season. Just dive in and relish the crisp, rejuvenating waters.

Is it Sanitary to Swim in a Lake?

While lakes are not as sanitary as chlorinated pools, many still offer clean and safe swimming environments. Being natural bodies of water, they lack artificial cleansers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a dip. To ensure a pleasant experience, choose well-maintained beaches known for their cleanliness.

It’s always a good idea to shower after swimming in a lake to rinse off any potential contaminants. By taking these simple precautions, you can revel in the refreshing embrace of nature without compromising your health.

When Can You Start Swimming in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, the prime swimming season usually kicks off in late June and lasts until the end of August, offering the warmest waters for a delightful dip. However, some brave souls might venture into chillier waters during September, but these cooler temperatures may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you plan a swim in Minnesota’s beautiful lakes, mark your calendar for those balmy summer months and enjoy the refreshing experience.

Plunge into Paradise, Minnesota’s Ultimate Swimming Destinations

With hundreds of places to choose from, Minnesota has undoubtedly earned its nickname as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. From fast-moving rivers to calm lakes, everyone can explore and enjoy Minnesota’s amazing aquatic ecosystem throughout the state. 

Whether you choose one of the many beaches or a more secluded location, swimming in Minnesota is a great way to cool off during the hot summer months. 

With crystal-clear waters fed by natural underground springs and vibrant scenery, there’s no doubt that the best swimming spots in Minnesota are something special. Ditch your subscription pool pass this summer and take a weekend trip to see all Minnesota has to offer as far as great swimming spots go.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Edgar Lee Espe/

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