Real Estate

11 Best Illinois Lakes to Live in 2024

With its nickname of the “Prairie State,” Illinois might make you think of big cities like Chicago as well as rolling plains and green prairies. However, Illinois is so much more than that – think picturesque lakes, lush parks, and lakeside towns perfect for enjoying the sunny weather. So, if you want to live in a quiet lake front area, look no further.

At Redfin, we’ve put together a list of the best lakes to live in Illinois. Whether you’re drawn to the bustling shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago or the calm waters of Lake Carlyle, there’s a lakefront home for you. Let’s dive in and see which lakes made the list.

1. Carlyle Lake (Carlisle)

Closest city: Carlyle, IL
Median Home Sales Price: $70,750
Population: 3,200
Homes for sale in Carlyle, IL
Apartments for rent in Carlyle, IL

First on our list of lakes in Illinois to live this year is Carlyle Lake. This expansive lake is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering plenty of opportunities for fishing, boating and bird watching. The nearest town is Carlyle, which has about 3,200 people, and has a close-knit community feel. Carlyle Lake is surrounded by lush parks and recreation areas, such as Alden Hazlett State Recreation Area and South Shore Park, making it a great place for picnics and sightseeing. 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)

Closest city: Carbondale, IL
Median Home Sales Price: $94,000
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $870
Population: 21,000
Homes for sale in Carbondale, IL
Apartments for rent in Carbondale, IL

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

Chain of Lakes in Antioch, Illinois

4. Chain O’ Lakes (Antioch)

Closest city: Antioch, IL
Median Home Sales Price: $307,750
Population: 14,000
Homes for Sale in Antioch, IL
Apartments for rent in Antioch, IL

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

5. Evergreen Lake (Hudson)

Closest city: Hudson, IL
Median Home Sales Price: $155,000
Population: 1,900
Homes for Sale in Hudson, IL
Apartments for rent in Hudson, IL

Evergreen Lake is a charming destination known for its peaceful environment and outdoor activities. This lake is perfect for enjoying fishing, kayaking, and nature walks. It is home to the world’s largest square knot, a unique tourist attraction near the lake. The closest town is Hudson so residents can easily enjoy the natural beauty and recreational activities that Evergreen Lake has to offer. This combination of small-town living and outdoor adventure makes Hudson a great option for those looking to live on an Illinois lake.

6. Fox Lake (Fox Lake)

Closest city: Fox Lake, IL
Median Home Sales 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 surrounding the lake, offering residents and visitors a plethora of water-based activities. From boating to fishing, the lake is a hub of activity in the warmer months. The town of Fox Lake, population 10,000, offers a welcoming atmosphere with all the amenities needed for lakefront living. Its location allows easy access to the lake’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities, making it an ideal destination for those seeking Illinois lake living.

7. Lake Decatur (Decatur)

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

Decatur Lake 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 scenic walks along its shores. There are many outdoor activities along the lake such as the Devon Lakeshore Amphitheater which hosts concerts, the Squall 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 living.

Lake Michigan in Chicago at sunset

8. Lake Michigan (Chicago)

Closest city: Chicago, IL
Median Home Sales Price: $370,000
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $1,849
Population: 2,700,000
Homes for sale in Chicago, IL
Apartments for rent in Chicago, IL

Adjacent to the bustling city of Chicago, Lake Michigan offers an expansive waterfront that is an important part of the city’s identity. The lake provides a wonderful natural contrast to the urban landscape with beaches, parks and recreational activities that attract both residents and tourists. Chicago’s population of 2.7 million enjoys the tranquility and beauty of Lake Michigan, as well as access to events, dining and entertainment options. This combination 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)

Closest city: Shelbyville, IL
Median Home Sales 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 is A popular destination for those seeking outdoor adventure and peaceful surroundings. The expansive lake area is perfect for boating, fishing and swimming, as well as exploring the Shelbyville State Fish and Wildlife Area. SLocated near the charming downtown 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 spectacular views and a variety of recreational activities.

10. Lake Springfield (Springfield)

Closest city: Springfield, IL
Median Home Sales Price: $152,000
Average rent for 1 bedroom: $910
Population: 115,000
Homes for sale in Springfield, IL
Apartments for rent in Springfield, IL

Lake Springfield is a major attraction in the state capital, Springfield, providing residents with a place to relax and enjoy a variety of water sports and activities. There are many things to do on the shores of Lake Springfield such as exploring the Henson Robinson Zoo, visiting the Lincoln Memorial Garden and Nature Center, and playing golf at Lincoln Greens Golf Course. With a population of 115,000, Springfield balances a big-city feel 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 to live in Illinois.

Rand Lake in Illinois

11. Lake Vermilion (Danville)

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

Located near Danville, Vermilion Lake is a hidden gem that offers serenity and natural beauty. The lake is a peaceful retreat for fishing, boating, and enjoying the outdoors. Danville has a population of 30,000 and offers the quiet charm of Lake Vermilion as well as a friendly community atmosphere. The area is home to many lush parks, local restaurants and picturesque streets, perfect for exploring.

12. Rand Lake (Benton)

Closest city: Benton, IL
Median Home Sales Price: $105,000
Population: 6,800
Homes for sale in Benton, IL
Apartments for rent in Benton, IL

Rand Lake is a vast reservoir that serves as a popular spot for fishing, boating, and camping. The lake’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities make it a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. For example, you can find many parks such as Rand Lake State Waterfowl Management Area, Wayne Fitzgerald State Recreation Area, and South Sandusky Beach, which are perfect for enjoying a day by the lake. The closest 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 offers endless possibilities for adventure and relaxation, making it an ideal setting for lakeside living.

Note, this list is not comprehensive of all lakes in Illinois. Average home sales price data from Redfin Data Center through April 2024. Rent.com Population data obtained from April 2024 United States Census Bureau.


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