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10+ watering holes near Raleigh, NC

Lake Raleigh | Photo by Om Dubey

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After a longer and milder spring than usual, summer is really starting to hit its stride. July is expected to be our hottest month of the season — and boy are we feelin’ it, with these 90° temps and high humidity levels. Raise your hand if you’re ready to cool off. 🙋

We’ve rounded up 10 watering holes within a 90-minute drive so you can make plans for this weekend, or anytime. Plus, we’ve included info on everything you need to know, from camping + vacation rentals to boating, swimming + fishing options.

Note: Since COVID-19 restrictions are still in place at several area parks, we recommend double-checking amenities and availability before you head out.

Caution: Some of these locations are “swim at your own risk,” so take care, consider flotation devices + use your best judgement.

Pullen Park | 520 Ashe Avenue, 5 minutes from downtown

🛶 Pedal boats seat four and are available for 30 minutes. Tickets cost $1.50 per person. Bonus: they also have kiddie boats available for riders 30-54 inches tall.
🏊 The aquatic center features lap lanes, a diving area + a therapy pool, and is currently open at reduced capacity. Visit the website for availability and scheduling.

Lake Raleigh | 2300 Main Campus Drive, 10 minutes from downtown

Lake Raleigh | Photo by @stateviewhotel

🛶 The boat ramp allows non-motorized watercraft, such as canoes and kayaks, to enjoy 75+ acres of water along the southern edge of NC State’s Centennial Campus.
🎣 The fishing pier is open to the public + the lake is home to species such as largemouth bass and catfish.

Lake Johnson Park | 4601 Avent Ferry Road, 15 minutes from downtown

🛶Although wading and swimming are not permitted, fishing is allowed from the boardwalk or boats. BYOB (bring your own boat) or take advantage of seasonal rentals. Note: only motorless or electric trolling boats are permitted.
🥾In addition to 150 acres of waterway, the park features 300+ acres of paved greenway and natural surface trails.
🏊 The pools are currently open with limited capacity. Check hours for the lap and recreation areas here.

Lake Crabtree County Park | 1400 Aviation Parkway in Morrisville, 20 minutes from downtown

🛶The 520-acre flood-control reservoir provides ample opportunities for sailing, rowing, and paddling + the park offers a public boat ramp, two-lane launch area, and rentals May through September.
🎣 Fishing is permitted under the NC Wildlife Resources Commission regulations, however there is a consumption advisory in effect due to elevated PCBs in the lake’s water.

Falls Lake State Recreation Area | 14600 Creedmoor Road in Wake Forest, 25 minutes from downtown

🛶The park boasts multiple boat ramps and launch sites for various types of craft. Bonus: the Rollingview Marina also offers boat slips + paddleboard, canoe, and kayak rentals.
🎣 The lake is home to bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, and more. Regulations from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission apply.
🩱Swimming is permitted at Sandling Beach, Beaverdam, Rollingview. The beach at Holly Point is also available to campers.
🥾There are more than 50 miles of hiking trails and 14+ miles of trails for biking. ProTip: be sure to check the list before you go for any areas that might be closed due to wet weather conditions or construction.

Jordan Lake | Photo by @cleanjordanlake

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area | 280 State Park Road in Apex, 35 minutes from downtown

🛶Each recreation area has boat launching ramps + some are even open 24 hours a day. Windsurfing and sailing are also popular activities, particularly at Vista Point and Ebenezer Church.
🎣 The lake is home to bass, catfish, crappie, panfish, and more. Regulations from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission apply.
🦅Did you know Jordan Lake supports the largest concentration of bald eagles in the Eastern US? Visit in the morning or early evening for the best chance of a sighting + check out our bird watching guide for more inspo.

Eno River State Park | 6101 Cole Mill Road in Durham, 35 minutes from downtown

🛶 Canoes and kayaks are permitted on the river, but can be difficult in several areas due to shallower water. ProTip: Rainstorms can raise the water levels, creating class I, II, and III rapids for those seeking a challenge.
🎣The river is a great spot for fly-fishing or bank fishing. Chubs, bullheads, redbreast sunfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, and the rare “red-eye” or Roanoke bass can all be caught from the Eno’s waters.
🩱Swimming in the river is permitted throughout the park, but recommended where the water pools into slower swimming holes.
🥾The park features ~28 miles of trail, many of which are located within view of or alongside the river. Take the Bobbitt Hole Trail for one of the most scenic water views.

Taylor Street Park Sprayground | 416 N. Taylor Street in Wake Forest, 40 minutes from downtown

💦 Featuring a combination of water jets, aqua dome, split streams, and other water-interactive perks, this park is free and open to the public daily — in two-hour sessions and with 30 minute sanitation cleanings between each session. Staff are currently limiting each admission period to 16 people. Find out more on the website.

Sennett’s Hole | 5101 North Roxboro Street in Durham, 45 minutes from downtown

🩱This deep, rock-lined swimming hole is popular among swimmer-seekers and recreational hikers alike. There is also a rope swing to add to the fun. Caution: diving is strictly prohibited, as there can be unexpected boulders and rocks 5 to 10 feet below the surface of the water.
🥾Accessing this spot requires a bit of a trek. Choose from different routes like this one or this one, 1 to 2 miles long.

Occoneechee Mountain Natural Area | 625 Virginia Cates Road in Hillsborough, 45 minutes from downtown

🎣 The park features two ponds formed and multiple streams, part of the Neuse River Basin. Most of the water is wading depth (use caution) + there are areas for fly and bank fishing. Chubs, bullheads, redbreast sunfish, bluegill, and largemouth bass are commonly caught here.

Cliffs of the Neuse State Park | 240 Park Entrance Road in Seven Springs, 1.5 hours from downtown

🩱The 11-acre swimming lake features a bathhouse, grass-covered lawn, sandy beach, and diving platform + is a perfect day trip or weekend camping destination — offering a 32-site family campground and 3 reservable cabins.
🎣 Fishing is not permitted in the lake, but you can head over to the nearby banks of the Neuse River to find bluegill, largemouth bass, and several species of catfish.

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