So, when Covid-19 canceled my family’s planned trip to Florida to lounge on the beach we pivoted and decided to head to the lake for a few days of rest and relaxation. If you didn’t know, there are lakes located all around Iowa that have beaches where you can set up camp and spend some time with your family.
Please keep in mind lakes are often unsupervised, so make sure you and your family have the water safety supplies, like life jackets, you need before you hit the beach. I have provided links to all of the beaches featured that give lots of details about availability, hours, and other amenities. Beaches can also be closed with little warning based on a variety of reasons so check the links provided! Many of these beaches also have camping available. Also, remember the amenities mentioned here may not be available every day.
It wouldn’t be a post about Iowa lakes without mentioning Iowa’s Great Lake region. This area in Northwestern Iowa is often referred to as simply Okoboji but it is really an area made up of several connected lakes that include West Okoboji, East Okoboji, Upper Gar, Lower Gar, and Minnewashta. If you have never spent time in this area of the state it is worth a trip!
Beaches in the Des Moines Area
Saylorville Lake in Saylorville Township
Saylorville Lake is just north of Des Moines and has two beaches that are open for lake access. Living in the metro, Saylorville is a quick enough drive letting you enjoy the beach for just an hour or two!
Big Creek State Park in Polk City
Follow the signs inside Big Creek State Park to get to a popular beach of Saylorville Lake. Big Creek is also a popular fishing spot in the metro. You can also swim and boat.
Lake Ahquabi State Park in Indianola
Lake Ahquabi is a man-made lake with a beach for swimming as well as a pier for fishing. You can also rent water equipment like paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, and boats.
Located on the south side of Des Moines, this lake was refilled in 2019 and offers a great beach, several playgrounds and picnic shelters, water rentals, and great trails.
Beaches in Other Parts of Iowa
Honey Creek/Rathbun Lake in Moravia
Just a two-hour drive from the Des Moines metro is Honey Creek State Park, home to Rathbun Lake. Access to a public beach is smaller than some of the other beaches mentioned here. Honey Creek Resort is managed by the DNR and has lake access, indoor waterpark, and a marina if you are looking for an overnight getaway.
Lake Red Rock in Marion County
Lake Red Rock has two beautiful beaches for sunning and swimming. When you go to Lake Red Rock consider bringing a change of clothes and hiking shoes to see some unforgettable scenery.
Coralville Lake in Coralville
Coralville Lake has two public beaches to enjoy and around 5,000 acres of water for boating or other recreational activities.
Lake McBride in Solon
Lake McBride is another great beach option in Eastern Iowa. Since it is a state park there are a few more amenities. You can rent boats along with kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards.
Kent Park near Tiffin
Kent Park has a public beach for boating, swimming, or fishing.
Lake Manawa in Council Bluffs
Lake Manawa is a great park that is full of fun things for the family to do including swimming, boating, and paddleboarding.
Spirit Lake is a beautiful large lake for swimming, boating, and fishing. Spirit Lake is another area to check out in Northwestern Iowa with ample beach area and lots of amenities!
Close enough to Des Moines for a day trip (less than 2 hours north) or perfect for a longer stay, this lake is in a cute small town and a great spot for boating, swimming, and camping.
Don’t forget to pack the things you need to have a great, stress-free day. Water, sunscreen, a hat, snacks, and a good book are a must for me! For our latest trip to Lake Rathbun, I ordered some cool water hammocks from Amazon for the family. Water hammocks let you recline in the water to get some sun or you can use them as a chair and be mostly submerged when it gets too hot. They were a real hit for us this summer.