Micro-scale thermal profile data were acquired in four lakes in northwest England and southeast Australia that ranged from a small, sheltered pond with a surface area of about 1 ha to more open lakes with surface areas of several square kilometres. These lakes provided a range of topographic and climatic contexts, basin morphologies and dominant macrophyte species. The data were acquired using two SCAMP profilers, one deployed in the open water and the other mounted on a field traverse deployed within the vegetated littoral zone. From these profile data, turbulence parameters were calculated. The results show the variation in the influence of vegetation on turbulence in the four lakes, which depends on the combination of wind stress, solar radiative forcing and macrophyte mechanical properties. In the sheltered pond, the vegetation alters the light climate within the water, thus reducing stratification and allowing weak, thermally-driven mixing. In the larger lakes, however, the primary action of the vegetation is to prevent surface-generated TKE from penetrating the water column, although this effect becomes less important as the plant separation increases. A simple mechanistic model, calibrated against the field data, suggests that the macrophyte mechanical properties are most important in determining the turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) profile. Increasing the number of turbulence-generating plants reduces the transport of surface-generated TKE into the deeper water, consistent with the field observations. The model suggests that solar forcing, as measured by the temperature gradient between the surface and bottom waters, is of less importance since the TKE profile is similar in runs with different gradients. Perhaps most surprisingly, the value of the surface-wind stress used in the model is not important, within the limitations of the model, as it does not change the TKE profile, except in a thin surface layer.