Go Jump in a Lake: Find float-worthy fun within driving distance of Baton Rouge
268 miles from Baton Rouge
Right alongside Alaska’s glacier-filled Bear Lake and Oregon’s ice blue Crater Lake, both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure have named Caddo Lake one of the most beautiful lakes in the United States. This lake straddling the Louisiana-Texas line is a sleepy Southern stunner with Spanish moss dripping from cypress trees.
What to Do: Take a boat tour from the Texas side, or rent your own vessel for a day on the water.
Where to Eat: The rustic Drift In Landing in Mooringsport offers legendary burgers right on the water.
Where to Stay: Lakeside cabins are surrounded by trees for the ultimate private escape.
51 miles from Baton Rouge
Though the scenery is similar, Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge is not part of the main Atchafalaya Basin but rather a backwater flood plain surrounded by a levee. Wildlife sightings are common, and swamp tours launch from both sides of the lake.
What to Do: Visit the Nature Conservancy’s Cypress Island Preserve Visitor Center to see egrets and roseate spoonbills in the rookery this time of year.
Where to Eat/Where to Stay: Maison Madeleine, located right on the lake, is an 1840s-built cottage that now operates as a charming bed-and-breakfast and also offers an exclusive Secret Supper series featuring live music and dishes by James Beard-nominated chefs.
140 miles from Baton Rouge
The Tensas Parish town of St. Joseph is home to this clear-water oxbow lake that is bordered by both a state park and private properties. Water sports and fishing are among the top draws.
What to Do: When you’re not on the water, pop into town to shop at B. Viz Design, the headquarters and gift shop of antique textile pillow creator Rebecca Vizard.
Where to Stay: Book a campsite or cabin at Lake Bruin State Park, or rent a lakehouse.
28 miles from Baton Rouge
This oxbow lake in New Roads was formed when the Mississippi River changed course in the 1700s. A series of improvement projects over the last decade has restored its status as a top freshwater fishing destination, but it’s also an ideal quick getaway for tubing and water-skiing.
What to Do: Rent a pontoon boat or paddleboard, or pick an Airbnb property with a pier—there are more than 40 to choose from.
Where to Eat: The seafood is supreme at Cody and Samantha Carroll’s casual Hot Tails; Ma Mama’s Kitchen cooks up French and Cajun favorites.
Where to Stay: Morel’s Courtyard Inn is tucked between century-old St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the river.
48 miles from Baton Rouge
This hidden gem off Highway 61 near the Mississippi border was born in the 1960s as a getaway community for retired educators and families. Today the two lakes here are lined with a mix of weekend camps and full-time residences.
What to Do: The focus is on quality time with friends and family, whether on the small beach or out on a boat.
Where to Eat: Drive into St. Francisville to dine under the giant oak at The Francis Southern Table & Bar or make a reservation at Restaurant 1796 at the Myrtles Plantation.
Where to Stay: Lake Rosemound Inn Bed & Breakfast is a convenient home base for canoeing, fishing and swimming; don’t miss the inn’s self-serve ice cream parlor.
Toledo Bend Reservoir
211 miles from Baton Rouge
The largest manmade body of water in the South was created by damming the Sabine River in the 1960s. With 1,200 miles of shoreline, the lake has multiple marinas on both the Louisiana and Texas sides.
What to Do: First-class fishing lures many visitors, along with boating, birding and hiking.
Where to Stay: Rental cabins and cottages are as plentiful as the largemouth bass.