Lake Havasu City is a beautiful lake town in central Arizona along the California border. It attracts visitors year round.
During winter, Lake Havasu Arizona is a popular snow bird destination just like South Padre Island. Lake Havasu Arizona offers an abundance of things to do and great scenery especially in winter.
Additionally, spring draws West Coast college students to Lake Havasu and summer is a popular family lake destination in Arizona.
Lake Havasu is a gorgeous lake town with all of the conveniences of a big city. We personally enjoy the free camping nearby, local craft breweries and beautiful weather.
Lake Havasu is a great winter destinations with plenty of things to do. Since we’ve spent the past two Januarys in Lake Havasu, we are sharing 21 things to do including several free ideas to plan your trip.
21 Fun Things to Do in Lake Havasu
During our winter stays in Lake Havasu Arizona, we have explored a lot and have rounded up the 21 best things to do for you.
Lake Things To Do at Lake Havasu AZ
Lake Havasu was created by the construction of the Parker Dam on the Colorado River in the 1930s.
The lake is 45 miles long and provides year-round fishing and recreational boating opportunities. Lake Havasu City is even known as the Personal Watercraft Capital of the World.
Boating is a popular thing to do in Lake Havasu even in winter.
If you already have a boat and want to take it to Lake Havasu, a free motorized boat launch is available at Site Six on Grand Island.
Rental boats and personal watercraft are available from dozens of different vendors in Lake Havasu if you don’t travel with a boat.
A few of the most well equipped rental companies in Lake Havasu are:
Free beach access is available at both London Bridge Beach and Rotary Park.
2. Paddle Lake Havasu
Non-motorized boat launch is available for free at Rotary Park or Mesquite Bay. Rotary Park is a great location to access the Bridgewater Channel Canal and the London Bridge.
The beach area offers easy shore launching, restrooms, picnic tables and free paved day use parking.
Check out this Lake Havasu paddling video from our friends Kristen and Jameson.
3. Beach at Lake Havasu
Lake Havasu’s 450 miles of shoreline attracts over 2.5 million visitors each year. Creative marketers have claimed Lake Havasu is home to the best beaches in Arizona.
When I heard this I chuckled a little and immediately started humming George Strait’s 1986 chart-topper “Oceanfront Property in Arizona”. Technically the sandy lakeshore is a beach but there are no seaside beaches in Arizona.
Free beach access is available at Rotary Park and London Bridge Park.
Although the water is a bit cold for swimming at Lake Havasu in winter, fishing is still a popular thing to do.
The rocky shore and submerged rock piles at Lake Havasu make great habitat for fresh water fish.
Fish commonly found in Lake Havasu are crappies, bass (largemouth, smallmouth and striped), sunfish, catfish (channel and flathead) and bluegill.
5. Rent a tiki bar
If you won’t be making the trek south to Mexico in your RV this winter, then consider finding some beach vibes at Arizona.
That’s right you can rent your own tiki bar to cruise around Lake Havasu. You can join others or book a private tour with Cruisin’ Tikis.
Guided 90 minute cruises depart from London Bridge and explore throughout Thompson Bay.
Cruising on a tiki bar is a unique and fun thing to do in Lake Havasu in the winter.
English Village at Lake Havasu
6. Drive over London Bridge
London Bridge is Lake Havasu’s claim to fame. While living in London I heard this story for the first time. I didn’t really believe it. But I saw the bridge myself and the signs posted nearby confirmed the story.
Is the bridge in Lake Havasu from London?
The stone bridge in Lake Havasu Arizona was originally constructed in 1831 over the River Thames in London.
Sadly, the bridge was not constructed to withstand automobile traffic and steadily sank at a rate of an inch every eight years.
The east side of the bridge was measured at four inches lower than the west side in 1924.
In 1967, London began looking for a buyer for the old bridge and opened the sale for bidders.
How did the London Bridge get to Lake Havasu Arizona?
The founder of Lake Havasu Robert P. McCullough Sr won the bridge with his $2.4M bid in 1968 (nearly $19M in today’s dollars).
He felt the bridge would drive tourism and improve local real estate. Included in the purchase of the bridge were ornate lampposts made from Napoleon Army’s melted cannonballs after the Battle of Waterloo.
After purchase, the bridge was dismantled in London so it could be reassembled in Lake Havasu Arizona.
All 10,276 exterior granite blocks were numbered prior to being disassembled. The blocks were shipped via the Panama Canal to Long Beach California and then trucked from Long Beach to Arizona.
The lake channel had to be dredged before the bridge could be built.
How much did the London Bridge in Lake Havasu cost?
Total costs for shipping, assembly, and dredging of the London Bridge in Lake Havasu were $7M in 1970 dollars. This does not include the $2.4M purchase price in 1968.
A steel frame replaced the previous interior construction reducing the overall weight by 60% and improving structural integrity to accommodate automobile traffic. Bridge construction lasted three years and the bridge was rededicated in 1971.
In conjunction with the bridge project, McCullough Properties built the English Village, an open-air shopping mall north of the bridge.
There are still several English-themed shops around the bridge including a fish and chips shop and an English pub.
7. Tour London Bridge and English Village
The London Bridge connects Lake Havasu City to a small island, Grand Island.
8. Enjoy an English Pub in Arizona
Visit Grand Island in Lake Havasu
9. Walk or Bike around Grand Island
Grand Island is easily accessible across the London Bridge in Lake Havasu.
It is a great location for an afternoon outing.
I would consider the Grand Island multi-use path a can’t miss thing to do in Lake Havasu especially during winter.
Parking is free once you drive over the London Bridge onto Grand Island from Lake Havasu. The free public parking areas are clearly marked.
Bicycles and pedestrians are both welcome on the almost four-mile Grand Island loop path.
We enjoyed the lake views and mild winter weather during our walk around Grand Island.
A small owl flew over us and landed nearby during our walk. This little guy seemed like he was posing for photos. I believe he is a Northern Pygmy-Owl which is a diurnal owl species, hunting both at night and during the day. Their diet is composed primarily of songbirds.
The bonus of our walk was spotting a few of the Lake Havasu lighthouses.
10. Lake Havasu Lighthouses
Lake Havasu is home to 27 lighthouses. A lighthouse scavenger hunt is a great thing to do in Lake Havasu. Sadly, many of the lighthouses require a 4×4 vehicle so we only explored a handful of them.
There are many reasons why people love lighthouses but I believe I simply love them because they remind me of home.
I grew up in North Carolina which has a notoriously dangerous coastline and is home to seven lighthouses. The NC coast is nicknamed the Graveyard of the Atlantic due to the number of shipwrecks lining the shores.
Lake Havasu Lighthouses
The Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club funded and constructed all of these replicas along the lake’s shoreline to ‘promote, preserve and improve Lake Havasu’.
They vary in size but the ones we visited were built at 1:3 or 1:4 scale.
The non-profit volunteer organization chose the location of the replica lighthouses based on their full-sized inspiration.
Lighthouses located on the east coast of the US and Canada were built on the east side of Lake Havasu. And those inspired by west coast beacons were built on the lake’s western shores.
A full list of lighthouses at Lake Havasu and their locations is available here.
11. Mountain Bike at SARA Park
SARA (Special Activities and Recreation Area) Park is a free county park with a network of hiking and mountain biking trails.
12. Hike SARA Crack
Crack in the Wall Trail, also known as the SARA Crack trail, is aptly named.
The narrow slot canyon leads from the trailhead to the shores of Lake Havasu.
The five-mile roundtrip hike crosses through several different desert landscapes including slot canyons, narrow ravine, wash bottoms and across the top of hillsides.
Based on a recommendation, we chose to hike the SARA Crack trail.
The slot canyon had standing water in one section and we chose to go around that section which added about a mile and some rough terrain up and over the canyon ledges.
After making the detour up and over and then walking into the other end of the canyon, we met other hikers who had walked through the water. Their legs were slimy and green from the knees down and I was happy to have skipped it.
The hike leads to a balanced rock along the shore of the turquoise waters of Lake Havasu.
A few ducks joined us while we ate our snack along the shoreline. They had no fear of humans and were almost professionals in the art of begging.
Our 6.2-mile loop hike included the SARA Crack trail and the Watershed trail along with a slight detour due to water in the slot canyon.
We enjoyed the small rope and ladder sections of the SARA’s crack.
Overall the canyon is quite wide compared to others such as the slot canyons at Grand Staircase Escalante which sometimes don’t even have enough width clearance for a backpack.
Kevin enjoys swimming laps for exercise when possible. Lake Havasu’s Aquatics Center was open for lap swimming and we visited a few times while in town. Admission was $5 per person and includes access to hot showers.
The indoor/outdoor pool complex includes several waterpark features such as a wave pool, children’s pool and water slide. It is located in the C.V. Wood Community Center. The Lake Havasu Aquatics Center is a great year-round thing to do if looking for water fun regardless of the weather.
We didn’t visit Rotary Park during our stay in Lake Havasu but the beach, picnic and boat launch area are big attractions at the free park.
Lake Havasu Brewery Tour
The number of local craft breweries in Lake Havasu is impressive. During our stay, we did a self-guided tour of the local breweries.
Mudshark is by far the largest brewery in town with multiple locations. We visited their taproom location and enjoyed the view of the lake from their deck. The amphitheater-style town design makes the lake the main attraction. Rising from the banks of the lake, the slightly sloping town provides great lake views from most locations.
I really enjoyed their Peaceful Pumpkin Ale and Hot for Teacher Apple Ale. Both were brewed with cinnamon and served with a cinnamon sugar rim on the glass. They were deliciously sweet and lovely. Kevin enjoyed several of their brews and purchased a 6 pack of the Scorpion Amber Ale and a growler of the Scotch Ale to go.
College Street Brewery
We made a quick stop at College Street Brewery for a happy hour pint. Happy Hour is from 3p-6p most days and all day Sunday. Pints were $4.50 during happy hour and several appetizers were available for around $5. College Street’s Big Blue Van, an American style wheat infused with vanilla and blueberries, is their most famous beer.
I love fruit wheat beers but blueberry beers are less appealing to me. The Big Blue Van was okay but I didn’t want a second pint. We found blueberry wheats at the other Lake Havasu breweries but didn’t try them.
Hanger 24 Brewery
We chose to visit Hanger 24 Brewing for their Taco Tuesday specials. In hindsight, we probably would not go back on a Tuesday evening. We enjoyed the live music but it was a popular location and the bar lines were long. The tacos were okay but nothing special.
Kevin had the Alt Bier Amber Ale and the Pacific Coast Hazy IPA but neither inspired him to take them home. The beer choices were IPA focused and I don’t enjoy hop-heavy brews. After a pint of the Citrus Blonde, I skipped the beer and opted for the $5 Margarita special. The highlights of Hanger 24 were watching the planes at the adjacent airport and the local musicians playing Tuesday Taco ‘n Tunes.
The only other dining out we did in Lake Havasu was a convenient choice rather than a planned dining destination. While running errands in town, we saw Chico’s Tacos located near Harbor Freight and decided to try it.
The Carne Asada and Carnitas burritos at Chico’s were both massive and delicious. Chico’s is a quick-serve restaurant with counter service and the food was very good. In hindsight, we didn’t need to order side items as the burritos were more than enough food on their own.
Camping in Lake Havasu
Lake Havasu State Park is a popular campground but there are also several private campgrounds in town that cater to the winter RVers.
Lake Havasu State Park offers direct lake access for easy boating, fishing, and swimming. We only visited Lake Havasu State Park to use their dump station. The $15 dump fee was a little higher than most AZ prices but it was the cheapest dump station available between Lake Havasu and Quartzsite.
Free camping in Lake Havasu
We knew we wanted to camp for free on public lands in Lake Havasu but had to decide between a few options.
Curious how we manage to stay in beautiful places for free? Check out our guide to saving water while boondocking.
Based on a recommendation from fellow RVers we met at the dump station, we headed to Craggy Wash BLM.
Craggy Wash was crowded when we arrived early afternoon mid-week. We aren’t super picky about our free campsites and found a site that was level with good solar orientation.
Our neighbors were fairly close and appeared to be long-term residents. But during our week and a half stay, they were friendly and didn’t bother us.
Our experience at Craggy Wash was pleasant. We loved that it was less than 10 minutes from town and campsites were nestled among the craggy stone cliffs of the wash.
As an added bonus, we saw bighorn sheep on the rocky cliffs above our campsite while staying at Craggy Wash.
What to do in Lake Havasu in January
Lake Havasu is a popular RV destination in January and there are multiple events that attract crowds.
Party like an RVer in Lake Havasu in January
Buses by the Bridge – VW Bus Festival in Lake Havasu
Another popular thing to do in Lake Havasu City Arizona in January is to attend Buses by the Bridge.
Buses by the Bridge is a Volkswagon bus festival held every January in Lake Havasu City Arizona.
Even if you don’t have a VW, you can pay a small entry fee to walk around and admire hundreds of vintage buses parked on the waterfront . We loved the creativity which included themed groups of buses.
Summary Lake Havasu
We were happy we chose to detour through Lake Havasu Arizona. During our week and a half visit, we found plenty of things to do in this popular winter RV destination. With several craft brewers, hiking and biking options, and year-round water activities available, Lake Havasu is a great Arizona “beach” destination.