Arizona’s Playground – Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu beach

Lake Havasu

Arizona’s Playground – Lake Havasu is a find! A beach town in the desert – like an island oasis, and it gets 300 days of sunshine a year. It’s a special place in my mind. We were there at Spring Break; we saw no crowds. Perhaps that is due to the remote location of Lake Havasu.

There are many reasons to go to Arizona’s Playground – Lake Havasu. Apparently, Lake Havasu’s London Bridge is the second biggest draw to Arizona after the Grand Canyon. Amazing that we had never heard about the London Bridge until we arrived in Lake Havasu.

Lake Havasu is a man-made lake formed as a reservoir behind Parker Dam on the Colorado River. It was designed to supply water to Southern California. As a lake, 450 miles of new shoreline were created.

Lake Havasu’s London Bridge

American entrepreneur Robert McCullough discovered the reservoir when he was searching for a place to test his outboard boat motors. He decided that the area surrounding Lake Havasu had great potential as a city for people wanting to escape cold winters. After marketing it and selling plots of land, he and Disneyland designer C.V. Wood developed Lake Havasu City. They turned the desert into Arizona’s Playground – Lake Havasu, a beach community, but only on the public side; the other side belongs to the Mojave people, who preferred to leave the land in its natural state.

Lake Havasu City's London Bridge at nightAlthough the City grew, McCullough thought it needed an attraction to expand the tourism industry. That’s why McCullough bought, transported, and reconstructed the original London Bridge at Lake Havasu. It was completed in 1971, and did what McCullough intended; it drew people from all over the world. Today tourism is thriving at Lake Havasu with over 775,000 visitors yearly.  It is a ‘top 5’ Spring Break location.

Arizona’s Playground – Lake Havasu – A Tropical Paradise in the Desert?

Lake Havasu City marinaAt Lake Havasu find all sorts of activities from easy to strenuous here. Some include hiking, ATV, beaching and swimming, boating, wildlife viewing, camping, fishing, golfing, biking, helicopter tours or ballooning; there is an aquatic center, indoor water parks and more. See https://golakehavasu.com/activities/ There is a State Park with trails, beaches, and camping. For those who want to relax by the water, there are lovely condos and some hotels by the water. Lake Havasu has everything an island paradise would offer.

There is a walkway/promenade along the Lake Havasu City side that starts from English Village shopping area at London Bridge. Stores, eateries, and activity concessions are near the bridge. There are outdoor places to eat along the lake. It’s quite an upbeat, fun environment. Towards the end of the walkway, part way down the lake is a Rotary Community Park with picnic tables and benches looking out onto the lake. There’s even a skateboard park. Eat, walk, rent a boat, take a water tour, swim, play at the beach – great choices for a desert getaway.

Since we love the water, we spent three days on Lake Havasu, exploring on different boat tours. None were strenuous, and all were adventurous.

Sunset Charter &Tour Co.

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Sunset Charter & Tour Company for hosting us on this tour. While we were hosted at no charge, we received no payment for this post, and this post is our honest opinion.

Sunset Charter & Tour Co. provides narrated lighthouse tours on beautiful Lake Havasu.On the evening of our first full day, we joined Sunset Charter & Tour Co. for a 90-minute, 5-mile Copper Canyon Tour on the lake. Our tour narrator, Megan, welcomed us and introduced us to Lake Havasu’s history with stories of its founding and development by industrialist and engineer, Robert McCullough. Jazz is played on their great sound system while we visit the original London Bridge, our first stop. Megan told us all about why and how it was brought to Lake Havasu. Megan also shows many of the nature trails that are accessed from land.

As we encountered wildlife or signs of wildlife, like the mudball nests of the cliff swallows tucked into the London Bridge, Megan was quick to point them out and gave us a history of the lake’s wildlife. On our tour, we searched for bighorn sheep, bald eagles and other birds of prey, herons, wolves, and saw some of them.

Lake Havasu - Currituck Beach Lighthouse replicaSites we visited on the historic cultural side included 8 of the 28 replicas of US lighthouses, plus replicas of Napoleon’s cannons.

It’s peaceful touring the lake just before sunset. Learning about Lake Havasu area history, viewing the coastline diversity, watching the sun, and the lights come up around London Bridge is a terrific way to gain a broad overview of the area.

Sunset Charter &Tour Co. did a nice job of showing us the highlights of Lake Havasu, and making sure everyone was able to see the sights as we passed. They run several four other tours on their 2 boats – both day and evening, and the prices are quite reasonable.

Thank you to Sunset Charter & Tour Co. for a pleasant and informative evening.

Bluewater Jet Boat Tours

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Bluewater Jet Boat Company Tours and Pirate’s Cove for hosting us on this tour. While we were hosted at no charge, we received no payment for this post, and this post is our honest opinion.

Bluewater Jet Boat Tours run 3 trips, and we were invited on the 5-hour roundtrip Topock Gorge Lake Havasu trip with lunch at Pirate Cove Resort (in CA).

Blue Water Jet Boat Tours docking at Pirates Cove Resort on Lake HavasuOn morning two, Tom and I boarded the Starship 2010, a jet boat headed to the Topock (pronounced ‘Toe-pock’) Gorge. We boarded at their dock by the London Bridge for a sight-seeing adventure to Topock Gorge.

 

Topock Gorge is a mountainous canyon with rugged peaks and cliffs plunging into the Colorado River. Traveling through the undeveloped 44,000-acre Havasu National Wildlife Preserve, spotting animals was our focus, looking for Desert Big Horn Sheep, coyotes, burros, and various waterfowl. Kevin, one of our guides, was spotting animals to show us during the trip. Kevin passed out binoculars to those of us who did not have them. Traveling through magnificent canyons we saw the Mojave Mountains, Needle Peaks, and fantastic rock formations.

Lake Havasu- Blue Water Jet Boat tour boatWhile cruising through the water in the dry comfort of Starship 2010, the trip narration informs us about the preserve, the animals, and history of the area. We learned about the mountains, the native peoples who live here, and how the waterway was used as the US developed.

When you go to Topock Gorge, be in the moment; enjoy the natural beauty. There is no cell or phone service; so pretend you are in ancient times.

Bluewater Jet Boat Tours has been running tours for over 30 years on Lake Havasu. They run tour 6 days/week. They recommend advance reservations. We thoroughly enjoyed our day with Bluewater Jet Boat Tours!

Pirate’s Cove

At the end of Topock Gorge, we stopped for lunch at Pirate’s Cove, which is set on the lake. Lunch was on our own at the log-built restaurant complex at Pirate’s Cove Resort. What an adorable small resort in a remote California location. Set on the shore, all of its units look out on the water, the marina and the island beach across the channel. If you are looking for a quiet place to vacation and a cabin or RV spot on the water, I would recommend checking out this resort. Tent spots or marina docks are also available here. If you are looking for things to do, Pirate’s Cove offers water sport rentals, off-road vehicle rentals, a tour boat and water taxi, and a 1000 miles of trails. We had a delicious lunch at the restaurant and a leisurely stroll around the property watching hummingbirds.

Rubba Duck Safari

Disclaimer: Many thanks to Rubba Duck Safari for hosting us on this tour. While we were hosted at no charge, we received no payment for this post, and this post is our honest opinion.

We spent our last morning on an exhilarating boating experience with Rubba Duck Safari. As a boat owner myself for over 30 years, I was excited to captain my own boat – a rigid inflatable boat that seats 3-4 passengers. Our boat name was – Quacker Jack. Each small group gets their own boat for a 2.5-hour tour of the lake’s scenic attractions as up to 7 boats follow our ‘Mother Duck’ tour guide, Josh. Our guide speaks to all boats through the boats’ radios.

Rubba Duck Safari is very safety conscious. There is a safety briefing before the group heads to the dock and instruction on how to safely board the inflatable. Josh tests use  of the radios before we start to ensure everyone can hear the captain.

What an adventure for those who love speed! Each boat zooms down the stretch of coastline to hidden coves and beautiful rock formations. Slowly we enter hidden coves and narrow coves to investigate; here our guide regales with tales and history of the area. We search for wildlife here since we can get so close to the rock formations. In one cove, we spotted big horn sheep and a bald eagle. We stop to view various lighthouse replicas.  Other stops include the State Park, the party beach, and London Bridge.

We learn about the various water races held here. When we visited in March, it was a bit cool for a swim.  In the warmer months the trip allows for swim time. If you only have a short time to see like Havasu and want excitement and adventure as part of your sight-seeing, Rubba Duck Safari is a great choice! It’s so much fun.

Conclusion

I have to agree that Lake Havasu is a ‘Playground.’ Snowbirds spend winters here.  Spring Breakers spend their holiday at Lake Havasu.

There is plenty of American history here.  Most of all are all the lake activities, the water vistas, sunsets, mountain views and rock formations. If you love the outdoors whether you actively or passively take part in the activities, Lake Havasu is a beautiful spot to visit.

Seeing the lake is a ‘must do.’ If you like speed, go with Rubba Duck Safari. If you prefer a smooth boat trip and want to be outdoors, see the lake with Sunset Charter Tours.  If your preferences are indoor comfort and smooth rides Bluewater Jet Boat Tours may suit you. No matter how you choose to see the lake, be sure to get out on the water while visiting Lake Havasu.

There are lots of accommodation options.  Small motels to hotels and resorts, private and state park campgrounds, and condos or AirBnB rentals are available.

For dining, there are many options, both indoor and outdoor, with American, Italian and Asian cuisine. Only a few are pricey, the rest are average or inexpensive.

Lake Havasu Rubba Duck Safari - blue skyHavasu hosts many events and competitions – a world famous boat racing competition, the IJSBA (World Jet Ski Finals), the “Relics and Rods”- a classic car show, the Lake Havasu Balloon Festival & Fair, Winter Blast Western Pyrotechnics Show, and other exciting events throughout the year.

36 thoughts on “Arizona’s Playground – Lake Havasu

  1. Loved the diversity in the Arizona landscape. Especially loved the pictures of Topock Gorge. Would dearly love to do the jet ski bit there too. or at least the Rubba duck!

  2. I’ve heard so much and remember the story of the London bridge, the area looks fun and so much amazing wildlife to see. I would love to visit some day.

  3. We really haven’t visited Havasu enough. We used to live in Tucson but would always keep driving to Vegas and that was a mistake. I did hear a funny story about London Bridge. The rumor was they thought I bought Tower Bridge. When it was assembled, they were quite sure that they had been duped. Turns out they just bought the other bridge.

    • I think Vegas is the name people hear, and so they go. It never drew me. I like the lesser known places surrounded by nature, and Lake Havasu is that!

  4. The Rubba Duck Safari sounds like so much fun. Too bad we just went to see the London Bridge when we passed by Lake Havasu. I guess I am not really a water person so we chose to go to the unique little town of Oatman.

    • The wildlife and mountains surrounding the lake are a great reason to get on the water to see them up close, unless you prefer hiking.

  5. I love that you tried the three different boat trips. I’d probably enjoy the sunset cruise the most. Love seeing all the wildlife there and hearing that it’s not being overrun by spring breakers!

    • It was a last minute, on the spot, decision to try all of them. We had 1 booked before arriving, and after we finished each one, I contacted another. While the information on the history is the same, each tour has a very different feel. And you do see different things on each (an some of the same too).

  6. I had no idea about this lake town until I read your post. I agree with you, the rock formations, the beautiful lake and the interesting tours on offer do make it a good option for a getaway.

  7. I visited Lake Havasu City a few years ago but was only there briefly. I didn’t get on the water and only saw some of the lighthouses accessible by land. It looks like you had a great time on the lake.

  8. Wow – a beach town in the desert with 300 days of sunshine a year sure is a find! Lake Havasu sounds fantastic. This is the first time I have heard of London Bridge – it must be a well-kept secret. I’ve pinned your post for my next trip to Arizona – thanks for this helpful information on Lake Havasu.

  9. thanks soooo much for your wonderful informative article about the Lake Havasu area (including its history) as well as the marvelous photos* that always accompany your articles! (*I believe Tom, your expert photographer/husband, deserves credit for most of them. I still treasure the amazing photos he took of your trip to Australia.)
    also, I didn’t realize until I looked up Lake Havasu on Google Maps how close it is to the California border. thanks again for sharing your experiences with all of us.

  10. I’ve been wanting to visit Lake Havasu and I didn’t realize they had so many water activities. I think it’s moving up higher on my list! These ideas are fantastic!!

  11. Lake Havasu in Arizona looks alike a perfect beach town with 300 days of sunshine each year. So now I have to visit Grand Canyon, Lake Havasu and London Bridge in Arizona. It is good to know how city has evolved and now ranks as top 5 Spring Break location.

    • There’s so much more to visit in Arizona too. Check out some of my previous posts. In 2 weeks, I will be posting about the Western Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. If you are planning a trip to Arizona, you may want to stay tuned for my several upcoming post.

  12. I’d never heard of Lake Havasu but I’m heading to Arizona in a couple of months so I’ll see if I can add it to the itinerary. Rubba Duck Safari looks so fun! I’d definitely want to do a tour with them.

    • Thank you Kate! We stayed 3 nights, 4 days. We could have easily stayed longer, especially if we were there in the warmer months.

  13. I’ve been wanting to get back to Lake Havasu since my first visit on a family road trip in the early 70s — just after the London Bridge was completed. Now that I live in Scottsdale, Arizona, it’s even easier to make it happen. Great tips for sights to see and things to do.

  14. I love Arizona, but have yet to visit Lake Havasu. I’ve never actually heard of it, but I would have expected it to be where Havasu Falls is. The desert is full of surprises!

  15. I had no idea there was such activity on Lake Havasu, and most of it looks like great fun! I’d love to explore this part of Arizona more and check out the fun.

    • I know what you mean. It seemed like a more obscure place when I was researching Arizona. Since we were slowly traveling north (by RV) along the Arizona border and trying to stay in warm weather in early March, it looked like something to check out. Boy, were we surprised! What a find!

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