Central Florida Lakes Guide – Winter Haven Chain of Lakes

Polk County, Florida is home to more than 550 lakes. Coincidentally, it’s also the Water Ski Capital of the world. You don’t have to be a skiing pro to get out on the water and enjoy a day of natural recreation in one of Central Florida’s most humbly alluring destinations. Even those who aim for the region’s theme parks soon come to find out that a vacation from the park routine can be a very welcome change. When nature comes a-callin’ and a cool day on the water sounds like a refreshing shift, consider exploring the famous Winter Haven Chain of Lakes.

Located less than an hour from the Walt Disney World Resort (and that’s if you take the scenic route), and even closer to your Contempo Vacation Home, the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes is a popular respite from the hectic pace of the area’s theme parks and city life. Winter Haven is a world away, with an entirely different pulse, culture, and vibe. Spend a day or two exploring the chain – and take some time to see what gems you can discover along the way!

Explain the Chain

Winter Haven and the chain of lakes are situated at the headwaters of the Peace River. There are two interconnected “chains” of lakes, the northern chain, and the southern chain.

The northern chain consists of ten lakes, connected by a series of canals, crossing three cities (Winter Haven, Lake Alfred, and Lake Hamilton). The ten lakes on the northern chain are Lake Haines, Lake Rochelle, Lake Echo, Lake Conine, Lake Fannie, Lake Smart, Lake Henry, Lake Hamilton, Middle Lake Hamilton, and Little Lake Hamilton.

The 18 lakes of the southern chain are mostly contained within Winter Haven. The principal 16 lakes on the southern chain are Lake Howard, Lake Cannon, Lake Shipp, Lake Jessie, Lake Hartridge, Lake Lulu, Lake Roy, Lake Eloise, Little Lake Eloise, Lake Winterset, Little Lake Winterset, Lake May, Lake Mirror, Lake Idylwild, Spring Lake and Lake Summit – with Lake Blue and Lake Marianna emerging when water levels increase.

The Chain of Lakes is the center of watersport activity in Polk County, with fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, flyboarding, and pontoon cruises being popular ways to spend a day on the chain. The city maintains 21 boat ramps, 30 waterfront parks, and 14 public docks, providing plenty of opportunities to venture out and discover Polk County’s most incredible natural resource.

How to Chain

There’s no wrong way to enjoy a day on the Chain, but if you’re looking to take on the water by vessel, you have many to choose from. Pick your adventure level, and you can find a local outfitter, guide, or instructor to take you there!

Chain Chow Down

How else would you cap off a day on the Chain than a meal with a view? Winter Haven is home to an assortment of lakeside restaurants serving up everything from snacks and drinks to elaborate meals. Whether arriving by car or by boat, you’ll appreciate the option of air-conditioned seating indoors or dining on the deck at the waterfront. Top local favorites include:

If you’re looking to keep the water in your reach (beyond your private pool, that is), be sure to ask us about our nearest available homes to the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes – or other popular waterways in the Central Florida area. Check back soon for area guides to more lakes and rivers that are easily accessible from our inventory of homes. We’re happy to work with you to find the perfect rental, near all of the activities that will make your dream getaway complete!