Road Trip Guide to Lake Havasu City: Home of the London Bridge and a ton of fun!
In this road trip guide to Lake Havasu City, Arizona I will provide route highlights from Phoenix and Las Vegas depending on which direction you are traveling. I also provide a lists of some of the top activities, events and even some of my favorite restaurants. I’ve also embedded many links and a few videos to help with your travel planning.
Brief History on Lake Havasu City and the London Bridge
A common question people get wrong when playing Trivial Pursuit is the city location of the iconic London Bridge. The original London Bridge that was built in London, England in 1825-1831 and was in fact moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1967-1971.
Lake Havasu City was created by a man named Robert P. McCulloch, who flew over the area in the early 1960s in search of a place to test his outboard boat motors. If he had flown over just 30 years earlier, he would have deemed the area unfit for motor testing, as the lake had not yet been formed. It was the construction of Parker Dam in the late 1930s that created Lake Havasu.
After purchasing land and setting up shop, Mr. McCulloch figured the area would make a nice place for people to live, but in order to attract folks to the area, he needed an attraction. There was an article in the paper talking about how the City of London was selling its famed London Bridge as it needed major repairs. Mr. McCulloch read the story and thought the bridge would make a great tourist attraction to draw people to Lake Havasu. The bridge had been dismantled in London, shipped and reassembled in Lake Havasu. A monumental endeavor to say the least.
At the time, the bridge was built on dry land and went over a shallow ravine. Once the bridge was assembled, the ravine was dredged, allowing lake water to flow through, thus creating an island. This island is home to several hotels, camping sites and a municipal golf course where the site of the annual balloon festival is hosted.
Mr. McCulloch was involved in a number of businesses and was highly successful, but one thing he seemed to know something about was building and attracting people to destinations. In addition to Lake Havasu City, Mr. McCulloch is also responsible for building the world’s tallest fountain in Fountain Hills, Arizona.
Lake Havasu City Road Trip from Phoenix
- 190 miles
- 3:15 hour drive
- Depending on what part of Phoenix you are leaving from, you would take either I-10 West to 72 to 95. Or, 60 through Wickenburg.
Most people will likely take US 60 through Wickenburg, which is what I did.
Lake Havasu Road Trip Stops from Phoenix
- Wickenburg is a true western town, where the spurs have a job to do and hats are not accessories. The town is full of character, where spirits remain wild and the souls are Western through and through. If you conjure images of the west, generally what emerges in the mind’s eye are horses, open space, clean air and cowboys. With fewer and fewer areas to enjoy a true western experience, there is one place that has flourished for well over a century and that’s Wickenburg.
- As you continue West on US60, you’ll run across a few small towns such as Salome, Aguila and Hope. As you past Hope, you’ll see a funny sign that says “You’re now beyond Hope,” which might be a good spot to take a humorous selfie.
- At Hope you will head north on 72, which turns into 95.
- Up until this point the landscape is a bit boring, but that begins to change once you get close to Parker.
- Parker has some beautiful landscape and lots of access to the Colorado River. Its dam, which created Lake Havasu, is also worth pursuing.
- Just past Parker is the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge. This is a lovely place to break out the hiking boots, fishing pole or kayak. There are more than 6000 acres to explore with hundreds of bird species as well as reptiles, butterflies, mammals and other indigenous wildlife.
- If you have a 4×4 and you’re traveling on the weekend, be sure to check out Nellie E Saloon, AKA “The Desert Bar. This is a fun and eclectic ghost town of sorts for live music, artwork and some basic grub and drink. Check out the video from my friends Jason & Nikki.
Where to Play in Havasu
Lake Havasu City is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts! In the summer, it’s all about boating and lake recreation. Nestled deep in the Mojave Desert, this oasis attracts skiers, wakeboarders, jet skiers, hydrofoilists, kayakers and pretty much any other water sport you can think of. There are many places to camp and put your boat in the water, including several Arizona state parks.
Of course, the focal point in Lake Havasu is the London Bridge. Below the bridge are all kinds of shops, restaurants and tour operators. Walking across the bridge is a must as you can get some stupendous views in both directions, and, you can pursue even more shops and restaurants on the other side.
In the milder months of the year, off-roading is a huge draw. Whatever you have, 4×4 truck/SUV, dirt bike, sand rail, ATV or UTV, you’ll have a blast in Lake Havasu. If you don’t have an off-road unit, you can rent one from several outfitters. You can explore the area at your pace, do some rock crawling, or go full-bore and feel the thrill of the off-road trails. Arizona weather in the fall through spring is ideal for off-roading this area.
- Parks – Lots of local and state parks with beach access.
- The Aquatic Center is perfect to cool off in the summer months.
- Believe it or not, there are many lighthouses around Lake Havasu, 28 in fact. There are over 400 miles of shoreline and these lighthouses help boaters at night to avoid sandbars and jetties.
- Stargazing – With so many clear nights a year, with really dark skies, Lake Havasu is a great place for stargazing.
- Disc Golf on Grand Island.
- Boat Cruises – Several options available to get out on the lake if you don’t have your own boat.
- Hot Air Ballooning – Even if you don’t attend the annual Havasu Balloon Festival, you can still go up in one during the season.
- Walking trails – There are miles of walking trails, many right along the lake that are worth strolling.
- Fishing is another big attraction at Lake Havasu.
- Golf – There are a couple of golf courses in town, I would just avoid playing in the heat of the summer.
- Hiking – A local favorite is Crack in the Wall in SARA Park. This five-mile loop takes you along a sandy wash through a beautiful slot canyon, then down to the lake for views of beautiful rock formations.
- Mountain Biking – SARA Park as mentioned above is also a great place for Mt. Biking.
- Culinary Scene – I have only been to a few of the over 140 restaurants in town, so if you discover one you would recommend, but sure to leave a comment below. My favorites are listed below.
Top Events in Lake Havasu
Lake Havasu City has many note-worthy events throughout the year, here is just a sample:
- Festival of Lights
- Annual Hot Air Balloon Festival
- Fishing Tournaments
- Rockabilly Car Show/Festival
- WORCS (off-road racing)
- Music Festivals
- 4th of July Festivities
- Boat shows
- Renaissance Fair
- Car shows
- 12-Days of Christmas at the London Bridge Resort
Where to stay in Lake Havasu City
There are a lot of lodging options in Lake Havasu, but there is only one place at the base of the London Bridge that puts you within walking distance to the all the action, and that’s the original London Bridge Resort. This hotel is the most centrally located in Lake Havasu with unobstructed views of the lake and its famous bridge. The rooms come with full kitchens, which is so handy for those extended stays. The third floor accommodations have spiral staircases leading to a rooftop deck with unbelievable views of the London Bridge. This is the best spot in town to view some of the local activities such as the annual hot air balloon festival, the festival of lights and the 12-Days of Christmas.
Places to Eat in Havasu
Some of my favorite places to dine in Lake Havasu include:
- Cha-Bones – One of the most gastronomic restaurants in Lake Havasu! They have a fantastic tapas and steak selection with fresh seafood brought in daily. Wonderful atmosphere with some cool water features at the entrance. A lovely bar as the focal point serving up some inspiring cocktails.
- Red Onion – The cuisine can probably be best described as refined comfort bar food, presented in a lovely atmosphere with a wall of windows that open up to the outdoors.
- Barley Brothers -Extensive comfort food and beer menu, lively atmosphere on the northwestern side of the London Bridge. Great happy hour and views of the Bridge.
- Mudshark Public House – If you enjoy craft beer, don’t miss this local brewery. During the winter months they have an outstanding selection of dark beers with evocative flavor profiles. They also serve up some tasty pub food, from pizzas, salads to starters and sandwiches. Oh, and the view from the patio is an outstanding spot to watch the sunset.
Lake Havasu City Road Trip from Las Vegas
- 150 miles
- 2:30 hour drive
- I-515 to 95 south
Lake Havasu Road Trip Stops coming from Las Vegas
The drive from Las Vegas to Lake Havasu is pretty uneventful, but it is an easy one down NV/CA-95 (with a short duration on I-40). If you want to make a bit of a road trip out of it, take 163 through Laughlin and head to Oatman. This will add about 40 minutes and 30 miles to your trip, but it’s well worth it.
Nestled in Arizona’s rugged and remote wilderness, this tiny town has a rich history that comes alive with staged shootouts, wooden boardwalks and a bounty of burros that freely roam the streets. Oatman is best known for its beloved burros. Fun facts…the town is home to more burros than people!
When you leave Oatman, you’ll travel down a stretch of the historic Route 66. This famous road used to be the main highway that traversed the United States from the 1920s through the ‘50s. You’ll stay on this windy scenic route until you reach I-40, which you’ll travel for a few miles before getting onto AZ-95, which will take you right into Lake Havasu City.
Mohave County, Arizona Home Base
Lake Havasu City is an ideal place to call your home base while exploring Mohave County, Arizona. There are so many outstanding nearby road trips. I’ve mentioned a few en route to Lake Havasu from the south and the north, but here are a few more suggestions:
- Blythe Intaglios – 70 miles south of Lake Havasu you can see one of over 300 intaglios in the American Southwest and regions of Mexico. The Blythe Intaglios are a group of giant figures found in the desert near Blythe, California
- Diamond Creek Road to the Colorado River – Located off Route 66 in Peach Springs, Diamond Creek Road is an adventurous road to the Colorado River. You will actually be driving down into the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River.
- Grand Canyon Caverns – This natural wonder was created over millions of years and is the largest dry cavern in the U.S. The air in the caverns is a consistent 56° year-round due to zero humidity and is drawn in from the Grand Canyon through 60 miles of limestone caves and crevasses.
- The Hualapai Mountains is a great escape from the desert climate. with elevations of 6300 ft to 8240 ft, you’ll experience the smell of pine trees, fresh mountain air, and snow in the winter.
- Topock Maze – Less than 45 minutes north of Lake Havasu lies a very special remnant of American Indian heritage in the form of a 600+ year old geoglyph called the Topock Maze (aka Mystic Maze).
I hope you found this road trip guide to Lake Havasu City, Arizona helpful. If you have any questions at all, please leave a comment below.