While anyone native to the Greater Eastside will tell you that Summer does not “officially” start in the Pacific Northwest until after the fourth of July, there are technically 13 glorious weeks between the summer solstice in June and fall equinox in September, that bring warmer temps and (some) sunnier skies to our beautiful region. We have yet to find a better way to enjoy the heat and longer days, than a visit to one of the many cool and refreshing lakes and beaches around Seattle’s Greater Eastside.
With several of our Eastside cities forming the perimeters of two large lakes – Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish – these two lakes alone offer multiple access points for swimming throughout various Eastside cities. There are also two smaller lakes that are favorites for swimming – Beaver Lake, and Pine Lake. Both are resident favorites and located in Sammamish. Read on to learn more about our 13 must-visit lakeside destinations, to keep you splashing all summer long.
Places to Swim in Sammamish
Tucked into the heart of Sammamish is the magical Pine Lake Park, a resident favorite place for swimming and exploring. With a small, shallow entry beach, and a significant size dock, there is suitable depth swimming for kids (and adults) of all ages. One downside is that there is not a sandy beach area for younger kids to play. Seasonal lifeguards are on duty here during the summer months, and motorized watercraft are not allowed on the lake, so it makes an awesome spot for longer distance open water swimming.
The park is also a great option for longer outings. On any given day you’ll find a number of families fishing off the dock, kids taking full advantage of the multiple playgrounds, and friends gathering for outdoor celebrations in one of the many picnic shelters or picnic table alcoves. The park offers plenty of shade under the trees, and an exterior loop trail perfect for walking with young kiddos. Important to note is that the parking lot is about a five minute walk from the swimming area, but there is access closer to the beachfront for passenger drop-off and unloading.
Beaver Lake Park is a personal favorite on the list, and has us coming back year after year. If you are looking for a low-key place to spend a day, venture up to Sammamish and give this park a try. Even when the parking lot is full, it never feels that crowded once you enter the park area. The swim area is super small, but we’ve never seen more than a handful of families here at any given time, and it is hands down our top spot for open water swimming during triathlon training season. There are no motorized watercraft, and an out and back to the infamous “rock” at the opposite end of the lake is about 1.4 miles, a perfect distance for those training for a half or full iron distance tri. Being the smallest lake on our list, Beaver Lake is typically the first to warm up in the season, and we’ve swam in wetsuits here as early as late April.
Like Pine Lake, there is no sandy play area for young children, but there are several picnic tables and benches, a large shelter available for rent, and grassy areas/trails for running and exploring. A short trail (about 10 minute walk by our estimation) takes you through the woods and over to an off-leash dog park, playground, and several ball fields, as well as an additional parking lot. Please note that there are no lifeguards on duty here, and if you are going for water access be sure to park near the Beaver Lake Lodge lot, not the ball fields/dog park side.
Located right off the East Lake Sammamish Trail and East Lake Sammamish Parkway, the Sammamish Landing Park is one of the newer swimming holes in the area, and is a great destination to get to by bicycle. This swim area is unique as it offers multiple micro beach access areas that provide private nooks of sand and water access all along the shore of Lake Sammamish, as well as a large grass area with a dock on each end of the main section of the park. There is not much shade besides the trees that line the water, and a single picnic shelter available if you are ambitious enough to get there early in the day.
There is a new small parking lot, but other than that it is all on-street parking along E. Lake Sammamish Parkway, so on the hottest summer days parking here can be a challenge. A convenient feature of the Sammamish Landing are the outdoor showers for rinsing after your swim.
Places to Swim in Redmond
Almost directly across the lake from Sammamish Landing Park is Idylwood Beach Park. This 18-acre beauty has a large swimming area that is perfect for kids, or adults looking for a location for open water swim practice. It is also a great place if you want to launch a small watercraft like a kayak or canoe, as it offers access to a small boat launch. Idylwood’s bathhouses, gorgeous views of Lake Sammamish, and sand volleyball pits, make it a great choice for a weekend of recreating with friends.
Cons of the park are the smaller parking lot (overflow parking is available, just a further walk away) and it can get quite busy during summer months, but it is well worth a visit.
Places to Swim in Issaquah
The only State Park on this list, Lake Sammamish State Park is hands down our favorite for bringing kids young and old. It is easily accessible from I-90, has two large swim beaches with roped off swim areas, a large sandy beach, and several massive playground areas. It also offers outdoor shower facilities, as well as seasonal gear rentals, if you want to give kayaking or paddle boarding a try. A plethora of picnic tables and large grassy areas make the State Park a perfect spot for an all-day BBQ or picnic.
There is ample parking, but you must have a Discover Pass or purchase a daily pass at the gate to park there. If you are looking to launch a motorized boat, the park also offers a boat launch located at a separate entrance off of East Lake Sammamish Parkway.
Places to Swim in Kirkland
Located right in the heart of downtown Kirkland, Marina Park in an iconic spot in Kirkland. It boasts a sandy beach, picnic tables, and a great view looking out over lake Washington. This spot is unique in that it is walking distance to various shops and restaurants in downtown Kirkland, making it a perfect place for a swim followed by lunch or dinner al fresco. We love the energy and excitement of the waterfront strip in Kirkland – it is definitely a highlight of the City and the Eastside as a whole.
Additional notes: We would not recommend this as a spot for open water swimming due to boat traffic, and just generally being more busy, and plan on paying for parking. You may get lucky and find street parking, but as of writing the lot closest to the beach is a paid lot.
Just south of downtown Kirkland is Houghton Beach Park. This a great alternative to Marina Park if you’re looking for something a little less crowded and further off the “beaten path.” It has a wide-open grass and beach area, so you will get nothing but sun here on a hot day. Houghton includes a nice swim area, playground, and a beach volleyball set-up. There is both onsite and street-side parking available.
The largest waterfront park in Kirkland, Juanita Beach is a mush visit. It’s great for those with younger kiddos as it offers both an enclosed swimming area and seasonal lifeguards on duty. There is also a playground, public dock, beach volleyball court, horse shoe pit, and ample lawn area to set up camp for the day.
One of our favorite perks of this location is that it right across the street from Spud Fish and Chips, an iconic seafood restaurant that has been a staple in the Juanita Beach area since 1969.
Places to Swim in Bellevue
For the years we lived in downtown Bellevue Meydenbauer Bay Park was our go-to spot for open water swimming. Since leaving Bellevue over half a decade ago, this spot has gone from good to great, and is well worth the drive back for summer time visits. The park was completely overhauled over the past couple years, creating a larger and more protected swimming area, new playground, additional parking, and more overall room for visitors.
The Park is so serene, you wouldn’t know the high rises and bustle of Bellevue’s Downtown core is just a few blocks away. Once you are finished with your day at the beach, head a couple blocks over to Old Main Street and pop into one of the many restaurants with outdoor seating, or head to the wonderful Downtown Park for a stroll and some people watching.
Enatai Beach is a unique location as it is partially located under local interstate I-90, and has access to two separate bodies of water. Come for Lake Washington, where we recommend heading in for a swim, but also the Mercer Slough (note: slough is PNW for NOT for swimming in). Local outdoor retailer REI hosts the REI Boathouse at Enatai Beach Park that offers rental kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and canoes that can be paddled down the slough or on the lake for fun non-swimming water activity. In the past we’ve spotted a variety of wild creatures (turtles, herons, and more) kayaking on the slough so it makes for a fun outing.
Like most of the spots on our list Enatai also offers a playground, and has a smaller, hidden away feel for a quiet day.
Located in the Newcastle area in South Bellevue, this park is one of the more quaint on our list, and is a neighborhood favorite so can get quite busy. It is a perfect spot for bringing young kiddos or stopping by at non-peak hours. It offers a small sand beach, public dock, roped off swim area, small playground and nature trails.
Places to Swim in Mercer Island
You can find this great little beach on the Southeast shore of Mercer Island. Clarke Beach is nestled into the trees which provide a good shade cover, this park offers a roped off swim area, dock and picnic areas. Be prepared for a short hike down to the beach area. Once you get there it’s likely you’ll be one of just a few visitors, as the more remote location of this park seems to keep it less busy. If you’re looking for a quieter experience, Clarke Beach is definitely one to check out.
Last on our list, but definitely not least, is the giant 77 acre Luther Burbank Park. Located on the North Central shore of Mercer Island, Luther Burbank is a local destination for swimming, fishing, boating and more. The Park has two separate parking areas that lead to a variety of trails and water access points. We recommend parking in the main lot, as it is central in the Park and provides easy access to the two main swim areas, gigantic playground, fishing dock, dog park and more. Regardless of where you park, be prepared for some walking. Both paved and gravel trails loop throughout the park to the various amenities, and it is about a 15 minute walk from one end of the park to the other.
In regards to the swimming areas – if you are looking for sand, head to the Swim Beach area marked on the map to the South. We prefer the water access area at Calkins Point (past the dog park) as it is a bit more scenic and still has a small sand area for younger kids too. If you’re looking for a spot to bring your four legged family members along too, Luther Burbank is at the top of our list. Although dogs are not allowed in the main swimming area, there is an entire off-leash park that includes water access.
Note: Be sure to check all park and city websites before visiting to get updated information on park rules, conditions, availability of lifeguards, and any possible closures. All water sports should be approached with proper precaution and supervision.