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Top 5 Best Lakes for Boating in the Midwest

best lakes for boating in iowa

The kids are out of school, the temperature is heating up and the itch to get back out on the water is really real for a lot of us right now. 

Have you been going to the same lake every year since you were five? Do you visit a new lake every summer or even multiple times per summer? Or did you just buy your boat to start a new family tradition? Whichever boat you’re in, we have a list of the top 5 best lakes for boating in the Midwest for you: 

  1. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

    Over 5 million people visit the Lake of the Ozarks every year, and with good reason! Over 1,100 miles of coastline—more than California!—two big public access beaches, 2,500 boat docks, large marinas to launch from and great fishing all keep bringing people back.

    There are plenty of hotels to stay at in the surrounding area, or you can stay onsite in Lake of the Ozarks’ 8 Outpost Cabins, 2 Yurts or on their campgrounds.

    Lake of the Ozarks has been a top destination for both locals and tourists for years—from fishing to water sports to lounging in a tube all day, there’s something for everyone.

    If you choose to go offsite for any activities, you’re in luck: theme parks, a water park, go-karting, a winery—the list goes on! Lake of the Ozarks is in a great area with something everyone can enjoy.

  2. Lake Obokoji, Iowa


You’ve heard of the Great Lakes—but what about the Iowa Great Lakes? The Iowa Great Lakes in the Obokoji area are a chain of glacier-carved lakes on the Minnesota border. West Lake Obokoji is spring-fed and the centerpiece of the five lakes.

If you’re looking for a beautiful lake with plenty of things to do around it, the Iowa Great Lakes are the place for you! Beaches, an amusement park and water park, museums and more surround this area! There is something for everyone to do, even if you aren’t the biggest outdoorsman.

As for where to stay, there are campgrounds and areas like Elinor Bedell State Park and Emerson Bay State Park to camp, or you can go offsite to one of the many hotels and resort clubs in the surrounding area!

  1. Brainerd, Minnesota


Not one lake, per se, but what about 500? The Brainerd area in Minnesota offers over 500 lakes and beautiful scenery—an absolute dream for a serious boater! You, your family and your friends could boat here all summer for years and never run out of new places to see. There are varying sizes of lakes, but the larger ones are great for boating, tubing, skiing and more of the larger sports; the smaller lakes are great for smaller boats, kayaking and paddleboarding.

With plenty of restaurants on the shore, you don’t even have to go offsite for a lunch break in the middle of your day. For a longer trip where you have time to explore, you can go on a hike, go golfing, visit one of the many breweries and so much more.

  1. Table Rock Lake, Missouri

    Table Rock Lake has over 800 miles of shoreline—again, more than California!—and is perfect for all types of water activity! Boating, and everything that goes along with it, is one of the most popular things to do at Table Rock. If you’ve been boating your whole life, or are just starting out and don’t have your own boat, Table Rock has something for you!

    If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent one from one of their 14 public marinas. They offer a wide variety of boats to rent, such as fishing, pontoon and sports boats, along with others like stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and jet skis. With 24 boat launches around the lake, you won’t have any issues getting on the water!

  2. Lake McConaughy, Nebraska

    Lake McConaughy, or Big Mac, is the largest reservoir in three states! At its largest points, Big Mac is twenty miles long, four miles wide and 142 feet deep. The crystal clear water draws visitors in for every type of water activity—the most popular are boating and fishing! Boats of a wide range of sizes all share the water, and many visitors enjoy activities like sailing, windsurfing, water skiing while they’re out there as well!

    At Lake McConaughy, you don’t have to have your own vehicles. Rent a boat, jet ski, and other water sports equipment from one of their marinas—just make sure you have your reservation in place before your trip! You can even go on a chartered boat tour to see parts of the lake you’ve never visited. If you have a longer trip and want to see more of the area, you can visit nearby Ash Hollow State Park or the Sandhills for a completely different view!

    Outdoorsman or not, there are plenty of lodging options that range from camping and cabins onsite to hotels and resorts in the area. 

We know it’s impossible to choose only a Top 5 Best Lakes for Boating in the Midwest, but this list gives new and seasoned boaters alike new options to look into for your upcoming trips! Before you head to the lake, don’t forget to visit Discount Online Marine Oil for all of your fuel needs, so you can have a safe, worry-free, fun trip with your family and friends.