Horses and bourbon generally come to mind when people think about the Bluegrass State, and you’d have to drive almost 8 hours to get to the Atlantic Ocean (and the Pacific is more than 4,000 miles away!)
But this does not mean Kentucky is without beaches. The beautiful lakes in Kentucky boast plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, many with sandy swimming beaches included! So if the long drive to the coast is not appealing to you, you can still enjoy beach time and fun in the sun in Kentucky (just without the palm trees).
1. Barren River Lake State Resort Park in Lucas
Located 40 miles southeast of Bowling Green, this eastern Kentucky State Park offers everything you need for a family getaway. In addition to the lake swimming, there is also a pool onsite, a lodge overlooking the lake, plus 101 campsites.
If you don’t come up lucky casting your line, you can leave your campsite and eat in the park’s onsite restaurant instead. Driftwood Restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday from 7 am to 7 pm.
Active guests enjoy the basketball court, golf course, shuffleboard courts, and hiking around the lake. You can also enjoy the day picnicking in the sun or renting a boat at the park’s marina to cruise the lake at sunset.
2. Buckhorn State Park in Buckhorn
A 36-room lodge and two and three-bedroom cottages are available for lodging at this beautiful park in the blue grass state, with a sandy beach for swimming that guests love on a hot summer day.
There is even a museum onsite for those interested in learning more about the park’s history, and the Bowlingtown Country Kitchen serves up delicious meals to guests Wednesday through Sunday.
The Appalachian foothills surround this 1,200-acre lake, providing the perfect serene backdrop to get away from it all.
The marina rents pontoon boats to guests, and there is even an 18-hole mini-golf course open from April to October.
3. Carr Creek State Park in Sassafrass
A 29-acre park surrounding a 750-acre lake, Carr Creek State Park boasts a sandy swimming beach in a place once home to pioneer settlements as far back as the 1770s.
There are 39 campsites at the lake, abundant wildlife, pontoon boat rentals, and picnic facilities. Pets are allowed at the campground under the watchful eyes of their owners.
4. Cherokee State Park/Kenlake State Resort Park in Hardin
A historic “park within a park,” Cherokee State Park was once a segregated site where African Americans participated in recreational activities; the historic dining hall from the original park has been renovated, but the cottages were moved into Kenlake State Resort Park. Kenlake boasts a 48-room hotel, 34 cottages, and 90 campsites.
Aurora Landing is open daily from 6 to 11 for breakfast and all day on Fridays and Saturdays. Birding, fishing, and hiking are just some of the ways guests spend their time at Kenlake.
5. Green River Lake State Park in Campbellsville
With a sandy beach and 28 miles of all-purpose trails, visitors can swim, hike, and even ride horseback to their hearts’ content in this beautiful setting.
The lake was formed by the construction of an Army Corps Engineer Dam in the 1960s, and today it is a favorite spot for Kentuckians to beat the summer heat and relax with their families in the great outdoors.
The park is open year-round, but the campground closes in January and February. The marina is open for boat rentals from March to November, and kids love the miniature golf course in the park.
6. Lake Malone State Park in Dunmor
The beach at Lake Malone State Park opens from Memorial Day to Labor Day, daily from 10 am to 6 pm. Amenities nearby include restrooms, a bathhouse with showers, and a vending area.
In addition to swimming, visitors enjoy hiking, fishing the 788-acre lake, and camping. Kids especially love the “Big Twigs,” 14-foot wooden giants now inhabit the park.
7. The Moors Resort and Marina in Gilbertsville
This Kentucky Lake resort wows guests with its swimming beach and a host of other features and amenities: a full-service marina, bar and grill, mini-golf, a playground, swimming pool, pavilion, and more.
Guests can choose from 37 cottages or 24 log cabin rooms for an unforgettable lake vacation. Boat rentals are available at the marina, or you can rent a slip and bring your own. Special activities such as scavenger hunts or holiday fireworks also keep kids of all ages entertained at the Moors Resort and Marina.
8. Pennyrile State Park in Dawson Springs
At Pennryile, guests can enjoy a beach swim or cool off in the swimming pool by the lodge; 13 cottages and 24 lodge rooms are available for overnight accommodation in this picturesque park.
A basketball and tennis court are available for those who like to fill their days with activity, or you may also spend your time on more leisurely pursuits such as birding or just reading by the lake. An onsite gift shop boasts a wonderful collection of Kentucky souvenirs to commemorate your family’s trip to this beloved park.
A 1.25-mile horse trail, mini-golf, and a full golf course also make this one of our favorite Kentucky beach destinations.
9. Rough River Dam State Park in Falls of Rough
Stunning 5,000-acre Rough River Lake rounds out our list of the best beaches in the bluegrass state. You will find everything from a disc golf course to a marina with 120 slips at this well-equipped Kentucky state park.
Swimming, fishing, birding, and a hiking trail are some of the favorite guest activities, and you can also stay overnight in one of 40 lodge rooms or 17 two-bedroom cottages on the property.
Megan Jones leads the editorial staff of Seaside Planet. They are a multidisciplinary team of outdoor adventurers, water sports lovers, and passionate beach goers. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.