All your life, you’ve longed for your own personal lakeside retreat. But you haven’t inherited money, you haven’t issued an IPO. What to do? You rent your lakeside paradise for a week or two. Christina Lake, British Columbia, is seemingly created for people who want to rent their own lakeside cottage/cabin/luxury home. Resorts are nonexistent (although there is a scattering of nice, small B&Bs). But what Christina has is a broad range of properties for rent, from quirky but comfortable cabins to a few seven-figure estates.
Christina’s charms extend beyond real estate, though. The lake is serenely lovely, set in the Monashee Mountains, near the Canadian Rockies. August lake and weather temps belie the north-of-the-border location: 71° (or, as they have it up here, 22° C); daytime averages around 82°. If you’re looking for a lake with sweeping, sandy beaches where you can get so warm that you have to make regular plunges into the water, this is it.
One potential drawback—the lake’s somewhat remote location, more than two hours north of Spokane—is in some ways a plus. Things aren’t crowded here. True, in summer the population soars from its year-round 1,500 to 6,000, but that won’t faze anybody familiar with, say, Lake Tahoe. And with the north half of the lake embraced by Gladstone Provincial Park, it’s easy to find quiet moments, when you can fantasize about living here permanently.
Best for a romantic splurge
The ideal romantic lake outing requires three things. 1. Natural beauty, because soaring hearts demand scenery to match. 2. Not too many people, because romance shuns crowds. 3. Some luxury, because love likes it a little cushy. Suttle Lake, in central Oregon, earns top marks in all three categories. The glacier-formed lake is undeniably a stunner. But oddly, even at the height of summer, Suttle never feels mobbed—despite being one of Oregon’s more accessible mountain lakes (U.S. 20 skirts its northern shore).
But luxury is where Suttle really scores. Its seven-year-old resort is a modern take on Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge, big on rough-hewn beams and wrought-iron chandeliers. The spa offers couples’ massages; the Boathouse Restaurant serves surprisingly-ambitious-for-being-out-in-the wilds Northwest cuisine, like grilled salmon with charmoula cumin sauce and buttermilk-soaked trout and chips. There’s a long list of activities you can participate in—kayaking, canoeing, fly-fishing, hiking. But if you just want to sit on the lodge lawn gazing off at the lake and thinking only about each other, that’s fine too.
Stay: Eagle Feather, the most desirable of the 11 lodge suites, features a sitting room with a stone fireplace and a sleeping loft overlooking the lake. The older lodge cabins are pretty simple, but four contemporary versions fronting Cinder Beach feature all the modern luxuries of the lodge rooms. Lodge suites from $199, waterfront cabins from $299; 2-night min.; thelodgeatsuttlelake.com
Best for National Park luxury
In Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, Jenny Lake reflects the Teton peaks better than any mirror. And Jenny Lake Lodge reflects rustic elegance. The restored historic cabins have handmade quilts. Breakfast, five-course dinner, and use of bikes and horses are included. From $620; gtlc.com
Best for throwback fun
Lakes don’t get much more old school than Crescent, in Washington's Olympic National Park. Lake Crescent Lodge is one of the great national-park hotels, with a wood-paneled dining room—President Franklin Roosevelt ate here—and a sunroom where parents and young children play games of Uno and Jenga.
As for the lake itself, it’s a gem: second-deepest in Washington and, locals claim, clearer than Western rivals Crater and Tahoe. There are biological reasons for this—such as an almost complete absence of water-clouding nitrogen—but what will count more is all the fun you can have on and around Crescent. The lodge rents canoes, rowboats, and tandem kayaks; you can fish for two species of trout found nowhere but here. (You do, however, have to put the trout back.)
Stay: Best (and only) choice is 1916-vintage Lake Crescent Lodge. Singles and couples cocoon in the eight upstairs lodge rooms (all have lake views); families go for the four Roosevelt Cottages, each with a working fireplace and situated steps from the water. If they’re booked—and they often are—the 13 Singer Tavern Cottages lack fireplaces but have Dutch doors that open to let in lake breezes. Lodge rooms from $115, Roosevelt Cottages from $259, Singer from $224; olympicnationalparks.com