Buying a Lake House - The Best Lakes Near Columbia, SC

Photos of Columbia South Carolina and lakes near Columbia

Lake Murray | Lake Monticello | Lake Wateree |

Are you looking for the perfect spot to purchase your dream lakeside home in South Carolina? Lucky for you, Columbia is a prime area full of gorgeous lakes and lake houses available in various sizes, shapes, budgets, and locations. However, the lake where you end up living in South Carolina will depend on your preferences: the area where you want to live, the activities you love to do, and the budget you have for your new South Carolina lakehouse. In this blog post, we highlight the three best lakes near Columbia, SC for buying a lake house. 

Lake Murray

Found in the state of South Carolina, Lake Murray is a reservoir of approximately 50,000 acres and roughly 650 miles of shoreline. In the 1920s, it was impounded to give hydroelectric power to the state. Owned by South Carolina Electric & Gas Company, the lake is spread throughout four counties — Lexington, Richland, Saluda, and Newberry — in the Midlands region. 

Saluda Dam was built to be 1.5 miles long and is 220 feet high, while the lake is 41 miles long, and 14 miles at its widest point. By the time development on the whole lake was finished, it became the largest man-made reservoir. Officially known as the Dreher Shoals Dam, it was recognized as a feat of engineering and was the world’s largest earthen dam when it was finished in 1930. 

The lake itself was named after William S. Murray, Saluda Dam’s chief engineer. Nourished by the Saluda River, Lake Murray receives water all the way from upstate South Carolina, close to North Carolina's state line. Apart from providing the region with hydroelectric power, this lake is also a recreational attraction. 

Things to Do in Lake Murray 

Fortunately, there’s always something to do on southern lakes 365 days a year. A prime example of this is Columbia’s Lake Murray, where you can enjoy a watery playground every season. Depending on what you enjoy doing, you can take part in boating, fishing, paddle boarding, and sailing on the water. 

On land, you’ll have a great time hiking, cycling, and birdwatching. Warmer months bring more activities such as water skiing, swimming, jet-skiing, kneeboarding, wakeboarding, and scuba diving to add to your adventures. Here are some of the most popular things to do and places to see while in Lake Murray: 

  • Bomb Island: Located at the center of Lake Murray, Bomb Island is a known haven for over a million purple martins — the largest species of swallow in North America. They make this island their home each summer. 
  • Fishing: Much like Columbia, Lake Murray is located at the heart of the state and is known as “The Jewel of South Carolina.” This is because it’s one of the best fishing spots and is a gem for those who are looking for striped bass and largemouth bass — Bassmasters annually hold their tournament here. 

Lake Murray is also responsible for the state record in white catfish, white perch, white bass, and white crappie. If you’re looking for more fishing, the lake is also surrounded by recreation areas, beaches, campgrounds, and parks. 

  • Dreher Island: The Dreher Island State Recreation Area is famous for its variety of recreational activities and is located in the Western area of the lake. Here, you can swim on its sandy beaches, rent out kayaks to explore the lake’s waters, and walk through the various hiking trails and nature paths. 

There’s even a playground for kids here, as well as a camp store where you can buy a fishing license and rent tackle for fishing. Lastly, those who wish to spend the night can pitch up their tent or stay in one of the villas on the island for a great glamping experience. 

Homes and Land in Lake Murray 

Lake Murray offers ample space for lakeside neighborhoods, marinas, stores, and restaurants throughout its shores. Real estate here is known as the third-largest market for lake lots and lake homes in South Carolina. Some well-known cities that run along its shores are Columbia, Lexington, Ballantyne, and Chapin. 

Geographically speaking, Lake Murray provides suburban, rural, and urban-like areas. Currently buyers will see 31 lake lots and 33 homes for sale in Lake Murray where the average list price of a home is $459,000. Many investors are interested in townhomes and single-family homes inside some of the hottest neighborhoods such as Earlewood, Hyatt Park, Glenridge Watch, Skyland, and Broad River Corridor. 

Whether you’re looking for a fancy summer escape or a modern estate by the waterfront, Lake Murray will have something for you. People who wish to live near or on the lake can pick from several master-planned communities. Here are just a few options that you can choose from when you’re ready to make the move to Lake Murray. 

  • Paradise Cove: This community is situated near Chapin and is located by the northern shore of the lake. It has a 3,500 sq ft clubhouse that has a rooftop deck with amazing views. Some of the distinctive design features seen here are the shake or slate roofs as well as professional landscaping. 

Residents of Paradise Cove are automatically qualified to get a boat slip by the marina. Furthermore, the luxurious waterfront homes here quickly attract buyers from all over the state. 

  • Plantation Pointe: Here, you can find luxury homes that measure over 5,000 sqft, offering plenty of living space. Plantation Pointe offers a prime development with gorgeous lake views. You’ll also find attractive, yet modest homes with three to four bedrooms here, while amenities include the beautiful clubhouse and more. 
  • Other options include Hallmark Shores, the lake’s first planned community, and The Villages, which are Lake Murray’s condominium development. 

View all Homes Currently for Sale on Lake Murray

Lake Monticello

This reservoir is also located in South Carolina and was built in 1978 to provide the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station with water. Located in Jenkinsville, Fairfield County, this lake is only 35 minutes away from Columbia. It also complemented the Parr Reservoir which came much earlier in the 1900s, and together they were the two main pieces behind the Fairfield Hydro Station’s pumped storage. 

The lake stretches for around 7000 acres, which includes a 300-acre area that was designed for fishing. It is also owned by the South Carolina Electric and Gas Company, the same company that owns and operates Lake Murray. While Lake Monticello doesn’t impound a river, it actually impounds a creek and takes water from the Broad River. 

Things to Do in Lake Monticello

While Lake Monticello may not be too popular with visitors, it is certainly a favorite among locals due to the phenomenal catfishing found here. The lake is only available for fishing on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but it’s possible to swim here every day. Here, you’ll find four piers for fishing, three boat ramps, as well as a picnic area that surrounds the whole lake. 

Unfortunately, jet-skiing, water-skiing, and other motorized vehicles aren’t allowed here. If you’re more into walking, Monticello Reservoir also offers a nature trail in the southern part, located near the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. This trail has marks and identifiers for plants to keep your exploration of the area interesting. 

Lake Monticello is used mainly to cool the nuclear power plant’s turbines, but is more famous for its local catfishing; fish weighing as much as 60 lb. or more have been pulled from these waters. However, other species such as crappie lake, largemouth bass, and sunfish have also been caught here. Before fishing, however, you need to have a South Carolina fishing license. Additionally, you can find tackle and bait at Glenns Campground that you can find near the lake.  

Homes and Land in Lake Monticello

For lake lots and homes, Lake Monticello is known for having a tight inventory. Waterfront real estate developments here are sparse, while land use is restricted. Furthermore, the issuance of dock permits will need at least 100 feet of water frontage in a single-family lot — it's also limited to one dock for every lot.

Unfortunately, Lake Monticello is still a rural area and has stayed mostly undiscovered by visitors and residents. As a result, lakefront property investors within and around Columbia’s Real Estate Market haven’t taken too many properties yet. So if you’re in the market for an eco-friendly and low-traffic community close to Columbia, you might find the perfect place in Lake Monticello. 

On EZ Home Search there are 5 properties available within Lake Monticello as of this writing. One of the properties is located on 6360 Monticello Rd, Jenkinsville and stands on 32 acres of land where it has been kept secret from the rest of the world. Just 40 minutes away from Columbia, the property already has three docks in place, while three permits for more docks have been approved. 

Located on the east part of the lake, it sits on a sleepy cove — a perfect place to watch a beautiful sunset while you relax by the deck or the boat. Across the water, the neighboring lands are protected, so you can be sure that you can stay here in privacy, while the whole property has been properly maintained. You can get all this for just $299,900 for a cut of 10.5 acres — a bargain you won’t see again once it’s snatched up! 

View all Homes Currently for sale on Lake Monticello 

Lake Wateree

Lake Wateree is a 13,025-acre lake owned and operated by Duke Energy. It’s located just 30 miles away from downtown Columbia within the counties of Kershaw, Lancaster, and Fairfield. As one of the oldest man-made lakes in South Carolina, it was created through the Wateree River’s damming in 1919. The lake has 242 miles of shoreline, which includes the Shaw Air Force Base Recreation Center and Lake Wateree State Park, which serves as a bird refuge. 

The Wateree Native Americans were the inspiration behind this lake’s name — they were a historic tribe living in the area before the colonization of Europeans. Because of European encroachment and warfare, they became extinct; their descendants later merged with the Catawba people. The dam, which was 3,380 feet long, was made to operate the Wateree Hydroelectric Station, and provide a reliable water supply to Camden and Lugoff, South Carolina. 

Its full pond elevation is 225.5 feet, while there are 14 access points throughout the lake. Both the SC Department of Natural Resources and Duke Energy are responsible for maintaining eight public boat access areas by the lake as well as one by the dam. Fish are plentiful here, and the SCDNR monitors the species available here to maintain their healthy population. 

Things to Do in Lake Wateree

Lake Wateree is well known to anglers thanks to its high numbers of bream, bass, crappie, and catfish. Apart from the great bass fishing, this area is also home to diverse wildlife and a bird refuge. The Lake Wateree State Park is a paradise for birdwatchers and features a playground, a nature trail, picnic shelters, and many camping sites. 

Moreover, you can experience various kinds of water sports here, as well as find the best camping spot — some of which are right in the middle of the lake! With so much land to explore, there are plenty of things to do for fun, including hiking trails that take you closer to nature. Many people have been lucky enough to find animals like foxes, deer, turtles, and even alligators here, so keep your eyes peeled for a surprise encounter. 

Homes and Land in Lake Wateree

You’ll be happy to know that Lake Wateree is in the top ten of South Carolina’s real estate marketplace. The average home here has a list price of $358,000, where there are currently 28 land listings, and 14 listings for lake homes. Real estate in Lake Wateree has a wide selection of properties scattered throughout the three counties in which it is located. 

At Lake Wateree, you’ll find grand estates by the water, modern homes that overlook the lake, or ranch-style homes in the various neighborhoods that surround it. There are a total of 24 towns around Lake Wateree, which provides investors with many recreational facilities, cultural experiences, and historic buildings. Here are a few areas worth looking into when wanting to invest in a lakefront home. 

  • Wateree Keys: This subdivision is rural in nature and is located along with one of the most northern shores of Lake Wateree. Easily accessible through Interstate 77, it is located 40 miles north of Columbia. Developed in the mid-’90s, it was the lake’s second exclusive neighborhood and was a high-quality project, instantly getting the attention of many investors. It originally had plenty of lots, but many lovers of Lake Wateree purchased many of these to secure their privacy. 
  • Woodside Harbor: As the lake’s first exclusive neighborhood, it had restrictive covenants regarding the quality of its construction. Also developed in the mid-90s, it sits on land that was never owned by Duke Energy. Residents who live in Woodside Harbor can get privacy and are far from the road since most properties will have a winding driveway. While it started with 41 lots, many residents purchased huge plots of land to get privacy. 

View all Homes Currently for sale on Lake Wateree

Buying a lake house doesn’t have to be an overwhelming or hard decision — knowing where the best places are will help you narrow down your options. Whether you want to be near a lake where there’s plenty of action, or one that provides you with privacy away from bustling cities, you can find the perfect home for you in a lake near Columbia. 

So if you plan to do a lot of fishing, be sure to consider Lake Monticello. If you prefer to enjoy summer by the lake with fun activities, head over to Lake Murray. Finally, if you’re looking forward to quiet nights and lazy afternoons, then Lake Wateree might just be perfect for you and your family. 

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