8 Refreshing Swimming Holes Worth Exploring Near Philadelphia

Escape the humidity in these natural swimming spots close to Philly.


All under a three-hour drive from Philly, these eight swimming holes are the perfect place to cool off. / Photograph by Dan Jeffrey via Flickr.

Philly summers are always dynamic. With tons of outdoor activities, from pop-up beer gardens to kayaking adventures, the city seems to radiate vibrant energy this season. When temps soar, though, it’s so satisfying — and much-needed — to take a dip in refreshingly cool water. While Philly has its fair share of public pools, there’s something fun about tapping into your adventurous side and taking a mini road trip to swim in natural water. We’ve rounded up eight swimming holes within a three-hour drive of Philadelphia that are guaranteed to help you cool off and have a splashin’ good time.

Atsion Recreation Area

Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour (715 Route 206, Shamong, NJ)

Part of Wharton State Forest, Atsion Recreation Area boasts canoeing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and even horseback riding. But the biggest draw in the summer is its 100-acre lake, beach included. Swimming hours are from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m., when the lake’s lifeguards are on duty. It’s also a great place to take the kids, as there are picnic areas, barbecue grills, concession stands, and ball fields. Entrance fees, which are only charged from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, cost $5 (weekday) or $10 (weekend) for New Jersey residents, and $10 (weekday) or $20 (weekend) for non-residents.

 

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Bellmawr Lake

Drive from Philadelphia: ~25 minutes (850 Creek Road, Bellmawr, NJ)

Why deal with all that Shore traffic when you can enjoy the sun, sand, and sea right across the bridge? Less than 30 minutes away, Bellmawr Lake is open seven days a week, with areas to picnic, play beach volleyball, chill at the beach bar, and host a group event with an on-site catering option. If it’s your first visit, admission will cost you $10 on a weekday or $12 over the weekend. Included in that total is a $2 fee for an entrance card, similar to a park pass. For the rest of the season, you’ll pay $8 during the week and $10 on Saturday or Sunday.

Beltzville State Park

Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour and 40 minutes (2950 Pohopoco Drive, Lehighton, PA)

Nestled in the southern foothills of the Poconos, Beltzville State Park features a 949-acre lake surrounded by a sand beach. From late May to mid-September, you can swim at your own risk from 8 a.m. through sunset. There’s also a food and drink stand open daily until Labor Day, in case you need some post-swim fuel.

 

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Fenwick Island State Park

Drive from Philadelphia: 2 hours and 40 minutes (DE-1 South, Fenwick Island, DE)

Delaware beaches are a *bit* tamer than those at the Jersey Shore, but if you’re looking for a truly serene spot, follow Route 1 all the way down to Fenwick Island State Park. With 344 acres of ocean and bay shoreline, Fenwick Island is a peaceful place to swim and sunbathe as well as rent sailboats, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards. Unique to Fenwick is the designated surfing area where you can catch some big waves. The beach is also ADA accessible, thanks to its Mobi-Mat equipment.

Lake Absegami

Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour and 25 minutes (762 Stage Road, Tuckerton, NJ)

In the heart of the first state forest in New Jersey, Lake Absegami is a picturesque dream. Swimming is permitted 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. Friday through Tuesday as the lake is closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. Entrance fees, which are the same as Atsion Recreation Area, are charged per car, so carpooling is definitely the most cost-savvy option. After your swim, explore the area by canoe, kayak, or rowboat, or hike one of the eight nature trails.

 

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Locust Lake

Drive from Philadelphia: 2 hours (220 Locust Lake Road, Barnesville, PA)

Located in a state park, Locust Lake is situated between two campgrounds and has some serious mountain views. Open from May through September, the 5.5-foot sand beach is perfect for early morning, mid-afternoon, or dusk swims. Locust Lake also features a boat rental, campsite, picnic area, and fishing. With no lifeguards on duty, make sure you stay within the section marked by buoys for safe swimming. Plus, if you’re looking to go lake hopping, Tuscarora State Park’s sand beach is only 15 minutes away (687 Tuscarora Park Road, Barnesville, PA).

Union Lake

Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour (608 Carmel Road, Millville, NJ)

Dating back to the 1790s, Union Lake is the largest freshwater lake in southern New Jersey. There’s a public sand beach area perfect for swimming as well as a concession stand, playground, beach volleyball court, and softball field. Union Lake is also known for its smallmouth bass, so bring along your fishing rod for some good ol’ catch and release.