Lake Towns in Illinois: 11 Beautiful Lakes in Illinois to Live on in 2024

With its nickname the “Prairie State,” Illinois may make you think of rolling plains and green prairies alongside big cities like Chicago. However, Illinois is much more than that – think of picturesque lakes, lush parks, and lake towns perfect for enjoying the sunny weather. So, if you’re looking to live in a tranquil lakefront area, look no further.

At Redfin, we’ve gathered a list of the best lakes in Illinois to live on. Whether you’re drawn to the bustling shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago or the tranquil waters of Carlyle Lake, there’s a lakeside home for you. Let’s dive in and see what lakes made the list.

carlyle lake illinois

1. Carlyle Lake (Carlyle)

Nearest city: Carlyle, IL
Median home sale price: $70,750
Population: 3,200
Homes for sale in Carlyle, IL
Apartments for rent in Carlyle, IL

The first spot on our list of lakes in Illinois to live on this year is Carlyle Lake. This expansive lake is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, providing ample opportunities for fishing, boating, and bird-watching. The nearest city is Carlyle home to about 3,200, and has a close-knit community feel. Carlyle Lake is surrounded by lush parks and recreational areas, like Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area and South Shore Park, making it an ideal spot for picnics and outings. The lake’s proximity to Carlyle means residents have easy access to local amenities while enjoying the tranquility of lakeside living.

2-3. Cedar Lake and Crab Orchard Lake (Carbondale)

Nearest city: Carbondale, IL
Median home sale price: $94,000
Average 1-bedroom rent: $870
Population: 21,000
Homes for sale in Carbondale, IL
Apartments for rent in Carbondale, IL

Carbondale is home to the stunning Cedar Lake and Crab Orchard Lake, making it a great location for those seeking waterfront living. These lakes are not only beautiful but also offer a plethora of activities such as kayaking, fishing, and hiking around the scenic trails. Cedar Lake is the more remote of the two lakes and is perfect for swimming, canoeing, and kayaking, or exploring the stunning Shawnee National Forest. At Crab Orchard Lake, you’ll find the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, campgrounds, and the Woodland Trail. Carbondale has a population of 21,000, so there’s plenty to do in town, in addition to exploring these picturesque lakes.

chain o lakes il shutterstock 1484557808

4. Chain O’Lakes (Antioch)

Nearest city: Antioch, IL
Median home sale price: $307,750
Population: 14,000
Homes for sale in Antioch, IL
Apartments for rent in Antioch, IL

The Chain O’Lakes in Antioch is a magnificent series of interconnected lakes that serve as a popular destination for boating, fishing, and water sports. Some of these lakes include Lake Marie, Antioch Lake, Redwing Slough Lake, and Channel Lake. This area is perfect for those who love the water and outdoor adventures, as there are plenty of beaches, nature preserves, and boat launches. The Chain O’Lakes State Park provides additional recreational opportunities, including camping and hiking. Antioch, with its 14,000 residents, offers a small-town charm with all the necessary amenities close at hand, including the quaint downtown with local shops and restaurants.

5. Evergreen Lake (Hudson)

Nearest city: Hudson, IL
Median home sale price: $155,000
Population: 1,900
Homes for sale in Hudson, IL
Apartments for rent in Hudson, IL

Evergreen Lake is a picturesque destination known for its peaceful surroundings and outdoor activities. The lake is ideal for fishing, kayaking, and enjoying nature walks around its perimeter. It’s home to the World’s Largest Square Knot, a unique tourist attraction near the lake. The nearest town is Hudson so residents can easily enjoy the natural beauty and recreational activities that Evergreen Lake offers. This combination of small-town living and outdoor adventure makes Hudson a great option for those looking to live on a lake in Illinois.

6. Fox Lake (Fox Lake)

Nearest city: Fox Lake, IL
Median home sale price: $192,500 
Population: 10,000
Homes for sale in Fox Lake, IL
Apartments for rent in Fox Lake, IL

Fox Lake is a vibrant community around the namesake lake, offering residents and visitors alike a plethora of water-based activities. From boating to fishing, the lake is a hub of activity during the warmer months. The town of Fox Lake, with a population of 10,000, provides a welcoming atmosphere with all the conveniences needed for lakefront living. Its location allows for easy access to the natural beauty and recreational opportunities of the lake, making it a great destination for those wanting to live on a lake in Illinois.

7. Lake Decatur (Decatur)

Nearest city: Decatur, IL
Population: 70,000
Homes for sale in Decatur, IL
Apartments for rent in Decatur, IL

Lake Decatur is a central feature of Decatur, providing residents with a scenic backdrop for a variety of outdoor activities. The man-made lake offers boating, fishing, and picturesque walks along its shores. There are plenty of outdoor activities along the lake such as the Devon Lakeshore Amphitheater which hosts concerts, the Scovill Zoo, the Country Club of Decatur, and Nelson Park. With a population of 70,000, Decatur is a city that combines the amenities of urban living with the charm of lakeside life.

lake michigan chicago il

8. Lake Michigan (Chicago)

Nearest city: Chicago, IL
Median home sale price: $370,000
Average 1-bedroom rent: $1,849
Population: 2,700,000
Homes for sale in Chicago, IL
Apartments for rent in Chicago, IL

Lake Michigan, bordering the bustling city of Chicago, offers an expansive waterfront that is a key part of the city’s identity. The lake provides a stunning natural contrast to the urban landscape, with beaches, parks, and recreational activities that draw both residents and tourists. Chicago’s population of 2.7 million enjoys access to events, dining, and entertainment options, alongside the tranquility and beauty of Lake Michigan. This blend of city energy and natural beauty makes Chicago a unique place to live, with Lake Michigan playing a central role in residents’ lifestyles.

9. Lake Shelbyville (Shelbyville)

Nearest city: Shelbyville, IL
Median home sale price: $370,000
Population: 4,600
Homes for sale in Shelbyville, IL
Apartments for rent in Shelbyville, IL

Lake Shelbyville is an 11,000-acre lake located in central Illinois. It’s a popular destination for those seeking outdoor adventures and a peaceful living environment. The lake’s vast expanse is perfect for boating, fishing, and swimming, as well as exploring the Shelbyville State Fish and Wildlife Area. Situated near the charming city of Shelbyville this town has a warm and inviting community atmosphere. The city’s proximity to Lake Shelbyville means residents can easily enjoy the benefits of lakeside living, including stunning views and a variety of recreational activities.

10. Lake Springfield (Springfield)

Nearest city: Springfield, IL
Median home sale price: $152,000
Average 1-bedroom rent: $910
Population: 115,000
Homes for sale in Springfield, IL
Apartments for rent in Springfield, IL

Lake Springfield is a key attraction in the state’s capital, Springfield, offering residents a place to relax and enjoy various water sports and activities. There are plenty of things to do along Lake Springfield’s shores like exploring Henson Robinson Zoo, visiting the Lincoln Memorial Garden and Nature Center, and golfing at Lincoln Greens Golf Course. With a population of 115,000, Springfield balances the feel of a larger city with the benefits of lakeside living. The city’s rich history and hidden gems, combined with Lake Springfield’s recreational opportunities, make it a great lake in Illinois to live on.

rend lake illinois shutterstock 302706224

11. Lake Vermilion (Danville)

Nearest city: Danville, IL
Population: 30,000
Apartments for rent in Danville, IL

Lake Vermilion, located near Danville, is a hidden gem offering tranquility and natural beauty. This lake is a peaceful retreat for fishing, boating, and enjoying the outdoors. Danville has a population of 30,000 and provides a friendly community atmosphere alongside the quiet charm of Lake Vermilion. The area is home to plenty of lush parks, local restaurants, and charming streets, perfect for exploring.

12. Rend Lake (Benton)

Nearest city: Benton, IL
Median home sale price: $105,000
Population: 6,800
Homes for sale in Benton, IL
Apartments for rent in Benton, IL

Rend Lake is a vast reservoir that serves as a popular spot for fishing, boating, and camping. The lake’s scenic beauty and recreational opportunities make it a great location for outdoor lovers. For example, you can find lots of parks like Rend Lake State Waterfowl Management Area, Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area, and South Sandusky Beach, all perfect for enjoying the day by the lake. The nearest town is Benton where you’ll find a quaint and welcoming community. The town’s small size contributes to a close-knit feel, while the lake has endless possibilities for adventure and relaxation, making it an ideal setting for lakeside living.

Note, this list is not comprehensive of all the lakes in Illinois. Median home sale price data from the Redfin Data Center during April 2024. Average rental data from April 2024. Population data sourced from the United States Census Bureau.

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