Fishing, Camping and Playing: A Guide to Santee Lakes

Beautiful Santee Lakes offers a piece of serenity mere minutes from San Diego. Santee Lakes is the perfect spot for a picnic, a great place to feed ducks, pedal a boat, fish or even camp in a beautiful floating cabin. Visitors will love the seven spacious serene lakes, big leafy trees to lounge beneath, and play spaces big enough and well-equipped for family get togethers. Get ready to leave your busy life behind and savor a lazy day at Santee Lakes.

Photo Credit: Cherie Gough

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Where to Play
Near the park entrance, you’ll find a towering play structure that offers quite a climb (and view!) for bigger kids as well as twisty slides that lead to shady trees for parents to relax beneath. There’s also a wheelchair-accessible playground and fishing pier with ramps to make play fun for any kid. Colorful ramps lead to an innovative playground that is fun for all. An adjacent scent garden with roses, herbs and plentiful benches is interesting to explore with little ones.

Santee is known for it’s warmer temperatures. So be sure to hit up the Spraygrounds to cool down. The splash park is open year-round and is a mere $2 per kiddo. Little ones can enjoy as much time as they’d like splashing on a clean, well-maintained splash pad.

Make time to check out the boulder island further on in the park. Cross a bridge and try climbing across various “boulders” that give the feeling of accomplishment in the great outdoors. Older kiddos will enjoy the challenge of this unusual play area.

pedal boat
Photo Courtesy of Santee Lakes

Boat, Bike and Beyond
Rent a pedal boat for a fun family experience. Even those who have never paddled a boat are sure to enjoy pedaling around the lake for an hour since these boats are very easy to maneuver. Little ones can watch ducks follow along as they toss crumbs overboard to pass the time. Bags of duck food are available to purchase at the general store. Your family will likely see birds such as egrets and heron as you enjoy a lazy day on the lake. Life jackets for those 11 and under are provided with your rental. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, kayak and canoe rentals are also available.

The lake is the perfect place to bike as a family. Families can pedal alongside the lakes and stop at a playground during a short trip. Don’t have a bike at home? No problem. You can rent a surrey bike at the Lake. Keep in mind that although most of the ride around the lake is flat, there are a few hilly spots. So you’ll need to put some muscle into your bike ride.

feed ducks
Photo Credit: Kim C via Yelp 

Go Fish!
Kids love the adventure of trying something, so about introducing them to fishing? This park is a great place to fish since it doesn’t require a state fishing license. A permit for the day and bait can be purchased at the park’s general store. Day permits cost $6 for kids and $9 for adults. The adventurous can even try night fishing on select dates in August.

Do You Wanna See a Movie?
Santee Lakes offers free summer movies to the public. Bring your picnic and cozy around family and friends on a blanket near the lake. There are games and contests to keep kids busy until showtime. The movie begins at 8 p.m. at the amphitheater on Lake 5. Remaining shows this summer include Despicable Me 2 on Aug. 8, and Planes on Aug. 22. Parking is $8 per car on movie nights.

Photo Credit: Joselyn S. Via Yelp 

Camping We Will Go!
With ten cabins that offer the comforts of home and are only a short drive from the city, Santee Lakes may be the perfect introduction to camping for families who are just getting their feet wet. You’ll find fully equipped kitchens, air conditioning, and even wi-fi in all cabins. Floating cabins offer a beautiful deck and your own paddle boat to use whenever you please.

There are over 100 RV spots along the lakes to choose from. Camping at Santee Lakes includes many perks such as a pool and a clubhouse with weekly potlucks, coffee and donuts, and family nights. Cabin reservations for weekends go fast. If possible, try reserving the floating cabins 6 months in advance for a weekend.

9310 Fanita Pkwy
Santee, Ca 92117

Parking fee: $3/car weekdays; $5/car weekends.

Have you been to Santee Lakes? What’s your favorite activity? Tell us in the comments below!

-Cherie Gough


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