Alberta has an abundance of lakes waiting for you to take the plunge this summer.
When it comes to our summer retreats, we’re a nation divided. If you’re from northern Ontario, you go to “camp.” Nova Scotians go to “the cottage.” And Albertans? Albertans go to “the cabin.” Regardless of the terminology you use, there’s generally one synonym we can all agree on: When it’s time to cool off, there’s no better place than “the lake.”If you’re planning your August long weekend, here are six of the best swimming lakes in Alberta that are calling your name.1. Lac Ste. Anne
Lac Ste. Anne is to Edmontonians as Georgian Bay is to Torontonians. With a thriving cabin community at Alberta Beach, this is one of the most popular summertime spots.Near the shore can be on the weedy side, but all it takes is stand-up paddleboard or a boat to get out to a clear patch for a swim in Lac Ste. Anne’s warm, shallow waters.2. Cold Lake
Straddling the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, this lake is said to be home to a mythical man-eating fish, the Kinosoo. Given its size, it’s easy to see why.Kinosoo Beach, with a brand-new splash park for kids, is where the locals head after work. But if you have time for an adventure and access to boat, head out to explore Murray Island or Garnet Beach, which has purple sand. Midweek visitors are well-advised to grab a patio spot at Clark’s General Store or Picante Café on Wednesday evenings—this is when you’ll see the colourful spinnakers of the Cold Lake Sailing Club during the weekly regatta.3. Sylvan Lake
If you’ve never been to Sylvan Lake, you’re not doing summer in Alberta properly. Tucked just off the highway midway between Calgary and Edmonton, this lake town has been a tourist destination since the early 1900s. When Wild Rapids Waterslide Park opened in the early 1980s, legions of kids begged their parents for a visit.Not much has changed since. Although Wild Rapids no longer exists, it’s been replaced by Sylvan Lake’s Aqua Splash, an inflatable obstacle course on the water. Combined with attractions like The Big Moo Ice Cream Parlour, this makes Sylvan a family-friendly destination.4. Waterton Lakes National Park
Alberta has more crystalline-blue mountain lakes than it knows what to do with, which is why we’ve only included one on this list. Stunning but frigid, most are un-swimmable. If you want to give one a go, Waterton might be your best bet. This is where you’ll find a string of pristine bodies of water, with Upper and Middle Water Lakes being the biggest and busiest.Brave souls take the plunge at Emerald Bay and the Marquis Hole picnic site, but there are tons of other activities on-offer, including windsurfing. If you’re a scuba diver, keep an eye out for the 20th-century paddle wheeler on the bottom of Emerald Bay.5. Elkwater Lake
Want to experience the ecology and wildlife of the Rockies without the crowds? Your answer is Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. Located in southern Alberta, this geographic anomaly is the highest point east of the Rockies until Labrador. It was never glaciated and the resulting landscape rivals the mountains, with similar flora and fauna. Yup, there are even cougars there.The park’s townsite, Elkwater, sits on the edge of a small lake, where you can swim, boat, windsurf and stand-up paddleboard. Be sure to stop for a burger at Camp Cookhouse and General Store, which is run by a former Top Chef contestant.6. Lesser Slave Lake
The “Hawaii of Alberta” is how one TripAdvisor visitor describes Lesser Slave Lake in central Alberta. That description might make you raise an eyebrow — that is, until you see the Devonshire Beach, the 1.5-kilometre stretch of sand that’s the lake’s crowning glory. Groomed and maintained, the natural white sand sits along the largest car-access beach in Alberta.If swimming in crystal clear waters isn’t your thing, Lesser Slave Lake is also a popular spot for birders. Hundreds of species pass through on their migration. To learn more, head to the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation, where there is 6,000-square-feet of exhibits and interpretative programming.Related