There’s no better way to enjoy time together as a family than by planning a day in the great outdoors. Thankfully, the area around South Barrington boasts tons of waterways that make having fun as a family a breeze.

Whether your kids are into fishing, boating, swimming, or simply strolling along the shore, you’ll find so much to do without going far at all. Crème de la Crème of South Barrington put together this list of places close to home you can visit when you want to explore the water. Get inspired for some canoeing, birdwatching, and beyond with these great local spots.

Baker’s Lake

A small child in a blue and orange life jacket playing with her father in a local river.

Image via Unsplash by miekelauren

Make the super short trip to Baker’s Lake to treat your family to a range of outdoor activities. This popular recreational area in Barrington offers the perfect place to enjoy the water or just take in nature’s wonders. Head out on the lake in a canoe or kayak, or go for a fun swim. The lake doesn’t allow motorized boats, making it a great spot for these more laid-back family activities in the water.

You also have to check out Baker’s Lake if your kids are into birdwatching. Grab the binoculars and take in the amazing birdlife on the lake itself as well as in the prairie. If you go to the lake’s north end, you can observe the island rookery from a viewing platform. Pro-tip: June is the height of breeding season, so you’re in for a wild time spotting birds if you visit then. Great blue herons, great egrets, and back-crowned night herons nest at the rookery in the spring and early summer.

That’s not the only time of year you can spot wildlife, though. Late March or early April marks the arrival of egrets, herons, and breeding cormorants. You can also find ducks, geese, and mergansers making their migratory stopover at the lake in those months. Then there are the coots resting on the lake in the summer.

A range of other species like blue-winged teals, pied-billed grebes, ring-necked ducks, and more are often spotted on the lake as well. You might even catch sight of red-headed woodpeckers, norther harriers, or coyotes in the area! All in all, Barker’s Lake offers an amazing oasis for nature lovers, so add this lake to your list of local places to visit.

Lake Zurich

You’ll find Lake Zurich in the heart of Barrington, making it easier than ever to plan your family day out. Whether you head out to explore the lake and its surroundings by kayak or take a stroll along the walking trails on the shore, Lake Zurich offers the perfect way to enjoy the water without traveling far from home. Stay for the sunset to catch something truly amazing views on this lake.

The Hollows Conservation Area

Head over to The Hollows, home of Lake Atwood and Little Lake Atwood, for some more fun on the water. Located just about a half hour’s drive from South Barrington, this awesome area promises tons of outdoor adventure.

Lake Atwood spans 22 acres, while its smaller counterpart, Little Lake Atwood, is only 2.5 acres. Both are popular fishing spots for people of all ages. You can reel in everything from bluegill to largemouth bass to channel catfish to rainbow trout here. In fact, Lake Atwood is stocked every year before trout season, which opens on the first Saturday of April. You can even fish here over the winter since ice fishing is allowed when the lake has at least four inches of ice.

If your family is into boating, you can launch a boat on Lake Atwood for a leisurely trip or go off the shoreline for fishing. Canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, or electric motorized rowboats ?— you’ll enjoy any boat on this lake. The Hollows is known as a place to go with kids, so drive out here for a day together.

Three Oaks Recreation Area

Three Oaks Recreation Area is another fun-filled spot not far from South Barrington. The City of Crystal Lake turned the abandoned Vulcan Lakes quarry into an unparalleled recreational experience local families are sure to love. There’s truly something for everyone here thanks to pristine waters, the gorgeous natural habitat, and activities that will keep every member of the family entertained.

The water boasts incredible fishing, and you can also have fun out on the water when you rent a boat. Canoes, kayaks, rowboats, paddle boats, and sailboats are all available here. Prefer to just take in the scenery? Have a family picnic overlooking picturesque views of the lake islands and water. You can also grab lunch lakeside at the outdoor dining patio.

Younger kiddos are sure to love the spray park. If you’re seeking out adventure, Three Oaks Recreation Area is also the place to go. You can enjoy recreational scuba diving here or even get certified through community scuba schools in the area’s Scuba Zone.

Lake Julian

Searching for some amazing fishing? You’ll want to check out the Lake Julian Trout Farm. The seasonal experience has something for newbie fishermen and experts alike.

The trout pond is half an acre and fed by a fresh spring. They stock the pond each week with locally grown rainbow trout. You can also cast a line at Big Lake, where you can catch bass, bluegill, carp, catfish, crappie, perch, trout, and walleye. An on-site bait shop takes the guesswork out of planning your day, offering everything you need for fishing on the lake or river in the area. You can even treat the kids to ice cream there after a long day fishing.

There you have it. With this list from Crème de la Crème of South Barrington, you’re sure to find the exact right waterway to suit your family’s idea of fun. From laid-back picnics on the shore to more intense adventures, our area has it all. Maybe we missed your family’s go-to local waterway? Let us know if we did so we can check out your recommendation and add it to our list.