Living in Florida has many benefits, one of which is that summer is almost practically year round. We aren’t called the Sunshine State for nothing! Our weather makes enjoying the many lakes in Central Florida an ideal option for a date day. The Winter Park Chain of Lakes is one of our favorite destinations. And there are many other options too.
To help you plan your next outdoor adventure, we put together a Guide to Orlando's Best Lakes where you can enjoy swimming, fishing, kayaking, or just simply having a lovely day with someone special. Plus, we share an introduction to the best natural springs near Orlando.
Updated April 2023 by Dani Meyering
Winter Park Chain of Lakes
There are plenty of Orlando lakes for a great date or activity with friends. And a magnificent collection of lakes in one spot is the Winter Park Chain of Lakes. This group is connected by navigable canals.
- Lake Virginia
- Lake Mizell
- Lake Osceola
- Lake Maitland
- Lake Nina
- Lake Minnehaha
Residents of the area tend to take full advantage of the beauty and recreation these Orlando lakes offer. But visitors to Orlando would be remiss to overlook the Winter Park Chain of Lakes.
A fun way to explore the Winter Park Chain of Lakes is in a clear kayak with Get Up and Go Kayaking. They have locations all around the state of Florida, including Winter Park.
Our favorite way to explore the Winter Park Chain of Lakes is with an experience that has been offered in Central Florida for many decades. The Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour is a must-do. You'll cruise along Lake Osceola, Lake Virginia, and Lake Maitland, navigating narrow canals between each lake while learning about numerous estate homes, Rollins College, and Winter Park history.
Boat tours run hourly from 10am-4pm, and are first come, first served. The cost is $16 per person. Dress comfortably and bring water, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
Lake Virginia – Location: Winter Park
Besides being a popular launch spot for Paddleboard Orlando tours (they do a $45 beginner-friendly paddle board tour of the nearby chain of lakes every Saturday), Lake Virginia is also home to Winter Park Beach (a.k.a. Dinky Dock). Here you can set out a beach chair under the shade of a live oak, soak up some rays or take a swim.
Be aware,that it's not always safe to swim here in the summer months due to an increase in harmful bacteria in the water. This area is sampled bi-weekly for bacterial contamination. The beach is posted with a ‘no swimming' warning when bacteria counts exceed State of Florida guidelines for swimming areas.
Lake Maitland – Location: Maitland
While Winter Park's Lake Virginia gets most of the attention, another sparkling gem is Lake Maitland. This lake is part of most tours and experiences involving the chain, however, it is lovely enough to explore on its own.
Many residents love to launch their boats and other watercraft from Fort Maitland Park. Fort Maitland Park now offers a new playground, restrooms, and picnic areas as of April 2023.
Other Orlando Area Lakes
Lake Eola – Location: Downtown Orlando
While many people might not think of Lake Eola as a typical “lake,” it is one of the most popular options for Orlandoans looking to have a good time. You can even bring your furry friends, too.
Known for its white and black swans, the lake is located in the middle of Downtown Orlando and features restaurants, the Disney Amphitheater, swan boats to paddle around the lake and a fountain that illuminates at night in the middle of the lake.
Every Sunday from 10am-4pm, there is the Orlando Farmers' Market. Held in the southeast corner of Lake Eola, the market features local vendors who sell homemade crafts, food and art.
Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho) – Location: Osceola County
Lake Toho is one of Florida's largest lakes. It is renowned as one of the best fishing places in Florida for catching trophy bass. The lake’s tributary streams headwaters to the Everglades ecosystem. The lake has multiple RV/camping sites and is home to Big Toho Marina. Scenic Brinson Park sits on the shore and has a fishing pier, BBQ grills, picnic tables and access to the Florida Trail.
Lake Toho is also home to Makinson Island, which is situated on the northern third of the lake. This 132-acre island offers approximately 3.5 miles of hiking trails and wildlife viewing opportunities. The island is only accessible by boat or kayak.
Lake Kissimmee – Location: Osceola County
Lake Kissimmee has it all when it comes to marine life to sink, hook and catch: bluegill, largemouth bass, catfish, crappie and chain pickerel. The best part is you don’t even need to have a boat.
While the lake boasts a boat ramp with direct access to Lake Kissimmee, budding anglers can fish from the marina, dam and canal banks. They also allow kayaking and canoeing on the lake.
Sprawling over 35,000 acres, Lake Kissimmee and its neighboring lakes and creeks of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes is the place to go to catch some fish. You can also see some wildlife and just relax on the open waters.
RELATED: Natural Parks Near Orlando's Theme Parks
Harris Chain of Lakes – Location: Lake County
Lake County residents got lucky because instead of just having one option of a lake for fun in the sun, they have eight. The Harris Chain of Lakes are a part of the Upper Ocklawaha River Basin, which is a sub-basin of the St. Johns River.
The lakes that make up this chain include: Lake Eustis, Lake Harris, Little Lake Harris, Lake Dora, Lake Beauclair, Lake Griffin, Lake Yale and Lake Carlton.
Lake Harris is the largest of the lakes, measuring 13,788 acres with an irregular shape. Fisherman’s Cove Marina is one option for enjoying Lake Harris; it has a marina, RV sites, lodging and recreational areas.
Lake Harris and all the other lakes are go-to places for sailors, boaters and even water-skiers alike. Not to mention, there are plenty of bass to go around.
READ MORE: Explore the BEST Natural Springs Near Orlando
Come swim in the crystal clear waters of Wekiwa Springs. The water is 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round and always beautifully clear. With the springs holding 42 million gallons of water, there are so many water-related activities to engage in.
Wekiwa Springs and Wekiva River can be explored via canoe or kayak, which can be rented onsite by visiting or calling the canoe rental stand at 407-884-4311 or by visiting www.canoewekiva.com. There are also several trails available at Wekiwa Springs State Park, ranging in length from .8 of a mile to 13.5 miles.
While you're in the area, consider visiting Wekiva Island.
Kelly Park/Rock Springs
Rock Springs is home to Kelly Park/Rock Springs Run, one of the go-to places for tubing in Central Florida. Kelly Park has a free-flowing natural spring that is 68 degrees year round. It's perfect for just relaxing in the sun inside an inner tube. They also have areas to kayak and canoe in. Admission to the park is $3 per vehicle and tubes can be rented outside of the park for a nominal fee.
Got lucky in life LO
Looking for an area that films were done with I think
Esther Williams. There was a big lodge there. Presidents were. There
New Port Richey, I believe … with the old home still there located on the Cottee River (Pithlachascotte). Call New Port Richey Chamber of Commerce and confirm it, before you make the trip. I know the home, I think but no 100% sure it was Ester Williams; but it was some famous star back in that era. Good Luck.
Pretty sure Esther Williams did a film – Easy to Love – at Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven Florida. Sadly it is now LEGOLAND. She was on the very large Lilly Pads.
Are there any spring fed lakes in Highlands county, Fl?
I just did a quick search but wasn’t able to find anything. Bummer!
your information on Lake Toho is incorrect, it is nowhere near 42 miles in diameter. Nor is EAST Lake Toho which have the beautiful park you are referring to.
You are right, Marc, and thank you so much for letting us know about this. We’ve made the corrections. Thank you!