10 Refreshing Swimming Holes Worth Exploring Near Philadelphia
Escape the humidity in these not-too-far natural swimming spots.
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When temps soar, 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 10 swimming holes within a three-hour drive of Center City that are guaranteed to help you beat the heat and have a splashin’ good time.
Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour (744 Route 206, Shamong, New Jersey)
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. There are no entrance fees this summer.
Drive from Philadelphia: 20 minutes (850 Creek Road, Bellmawr, New Jersey)
Less than 30 minutes away, Bellmawr Lake is open seven days a week (swimming’s allowed from 10 a.m. til 5 p.m.), with areas to picnic, play beach volleyball, chill at the beach bar, and host a group event with an on-site catering option. Admission will cost you $12 Monday through Friday, or $17 over the weekend and on holidays.
Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour and 45 minutes (2950 Pohopoco Drive, Lehighton)
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. There is no cost to swim at the lake.
Drive from Philadelphia: 1 hour and 30 minutes (1268 Palisades Drive, Leesport)
Located northwest of Reading, Blue Marsh Lake features a small swim beach called the Dry Brooks Day Use Area that’s open from 8 a.m. until dusk 365 days per year. There are picnic tables and grills for public use, plus a concession stand in case you don’t want to BYO food. While there is no fee to enjoy the lake, be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty, so swim at your own risk.
Drive from Philadelphia: 2 hours and 40 minutes (DE-1 South, Fenwick Island, Delaware)
If you’re looking for a truly serene spot, follow Route 1 all the way down to Fenwick Island State Park, about a half-hour south of Rehoboth. With three miles of ocean beaches, 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. Entrance costs $5 for Delaware residents and $10 for out-of-staters.
Drive from Philadelphia: 2 hours and 40 minutes (220 Locust Lake Road, Barnesville)
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). There are no entrance fees to visit Locust Lake or Tuscarora State Park.
Drive from Philadelphia: 50 minutes (701 Almond Road, Pittsgrove, New Jersey)
Just outside the Pine Barrens is Parvin State Park, home to 15 miles of trails for exploring by foot or bike, two lakes for kayaking and canoeing, and a swimming beach right on Parvin Lake. Splashing around in the water is only allowed in the summer months, when lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Entrance is free for the summer season.
Drive from Philadelphia 2 hours and 30 minutes (100 Lower Lake Road, Greentown)
While the park itself is open year-round, the two sand beaches at Promised Land State Park permit swimming only from Memorial Day through Labor Day. You can go any day of the week between 8 a.m. and dusk to enjoy the natural water for free, at your own risk.
Drive from Philadelphia: 55 minutes (608 Carmel Road, Millville, New Jersey)
Dating back to the 1790s, Union Lake is said to be the largest freshwater lake in southern New Jersey. There’s a free 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 small-mouth bass, so bring along your fishing rod for some good ol’ catch and release.