If you’d love to buy a lake house but assume you can’t afford one, then you might want to rethink that belief. Lakeside living is affordable — you just need to know where to look. While lakefront property in some places comes with an astronomical price tag, lake towns off the beaten path are a different story.
Realtor.com analyzed 11,000+ lake towns to find the nation’s most affordable options. To compile the list, they looked at list prices from January through May. And because you’ll want to do things beyond lounging at the lake (at least sometimes), they also made sure each town had enough restaurants and entertainment options.
Here are ten charming but cheap lake towns to consider:
- Median home price: $146,000
Located on stunning Lake Superior, Ashland has a lot going for it. There’s the lake, of course, and everything that goes with it — swimming, boating, and fishing. And then there’s the town’s healthy arts and culture scene to boot.
According to Lake-Link, Ashland’s historic business district is within walking distance of the water. You’ll find street art murals, restaurants, galleries, and local shops there. As a result, this Wisconsin gem should be on your radar.
Lake Placid, NY
- Median home price: $279,000
The natural beauty of Lake Placid shines all year long. Get in the water in the summer, go leaf peeing in the fall, ski in the mountains in the winter, and then watch as everything starts blooming again come spring.
Lake Placid also has plenty to do when you head inside from the great outdoors. In addition to art galleries, restaurants, and fun shops, there’s the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. It stages theater, music, and dance performances throughout the year.
- Median home price: $224,000
Sulphur, Oklahoma, challenges the “Dust Bowl” image many have of Oklahoma. That’s because the town has several water attractions — Veterans Lake, Lake of the Arbuckles, Rock Creek, and a number of mineral springs, just to name a few.
USA Today says “many people come to swim in the consistently cool water” on hot summer days. Beyond the water, entertainment options include a casino, spa, art galleries, and a variety of restaurants.
- Median home price: $315,000
They don’t call it Watertown for nothing. This South Dakota charmer sits between Pelican Lake and Lake Kampeska, so there’s a lot of waterfront to go around. And residents make the most of that fact all year long.
Local realtor Jayson Maguire tells Realtor.com, “We have four seasons here, and most people like that it switches things up from boating, to snowmobiling, ice fishing, and hunting.” And thanks to the town’s Goss Opera House, there are arts and culture events throughout the year.
- Median home price: $420,000
Ketchikan’s full of breathtaking scenery, from Misty Fjords National Monument to Tongass National Forest. Even with so much natural beauty to choose from, Visit Ketchikan calls its “achingly blue lakes … the most beautiful jewel in our crown.”
And since it sits on the Inside Passage, Ketchikan’s also a great spot for fishing. Additionally, the town is a thriving hub for Native arts. The source says several museums and totem parks “showcase both ancient and more contemporary works.”
Spirit Lake, IA
- Median home price: $301,000
This charming town is located in the heart of the Iowa Great Lakes region, which is home to seven beautiful lakes. Those lakes include Big Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake, and East Okoboji. So, swimming, boating, and fishing are all readily available.
You’ll also find plenty to do here on land. For example, tee off at one of the area’s golf courses, explore local history at the museum, and shop at the farmers’ market. There’s also an amusement park nearby to keep kids and grandkids entertained.
- Median home price: $260,000
If you’d love a lake home in New England, then consider Winsted, Connecticut. It’s a quaint spot by Highland Lake. Since it’s also near a couple of state parks, LakeLubbers says Winsted is a great choice for those who love camping and hiking.
Besides nature, Winsted has an old-fashioned Main Street with a lot of charm. In addition to restaurants, antique stores, and other local boutiques, Friends of Main Street Winsted says the area hosts a farmers’ market, concert series, and other community events.
Lake Ariel, PA
- Median home price: $307,000
Let’s head to the Poconos for this next one. It turns out that you don’t have to break the bank to buy in the desirable region. Lake Ariel is an affordable option. And as LakeLubbers explains, it’s been a private lake ever since residents bought it in the ’60s.
As a result, Lake Ariel is a peaceful spot with more privacy than some alternatives. Realtor.com suggests looking into a gated community called the Hideout. That’s because it has options in the $300,000 range and offers access to additional private lakes.
- Median home price: $248,000
Located on Lake Huron, Cheboygan is also close to several smaller lakes, including Burt Lake, Mullett Lake, and Black Lake. So, residents have several options when they want to get out on the water to enjoy lakeside living.
Additionally, Cheboygan is full of small-town charm. For instance, Pure Michigan says locals head to Main Street to check out the bookstore, ice cream shop, restaurants, and other boutiques. It’s a Midwest charmer as a result.
- Median home price: $158,000
In 2019, USA Today named Sandusky the best coastal small town. And it’s easy to see why. The picturesque town sits on the shores of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes of North America. So, it’s a beautiful spot for lakeside living.
Plus, Sandusky is about an hour away from both Cleveland and Toledo. That means residents have easy access to two metropolitan areas. So, it could be a wonderful fit if you don’t want to give up bigger city amenities.