A day on the lake is the essence of summer in the South. While Lake Chickamauga is certainly not to be overlooked for freshwater fun, here are some slightly out of town options to consider this summer.
Lake Guntersville, Alabama
In a picturesque setting surrounded by mountains, the huge Lake Guntersville stretches between Scottsboro and Guntersville, Alabama. You can reach the lake by boat from Chattanooga by traveling 119 miles on the Tennessee River, from Lake Chickamauga through the river gorge and past the Nickajack Dam.
— Lakeside Stay: Whether you’re looking to retreat to a cozy cabin, camp under the stars, or experience the lakeside life in hotel-style accommodations, Lake Guntersville State Park got you covered. The 6,000-acre park also includes several restaurants, a swimming pool, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, hiking trails, a nature center and 900 miles of shoreline for wide access to fun on the lake.
— Restaurant by the lake: Crawmama’s is the perfect place for a casual meal after a day on the lake, with live music and an indoor play area for the kids. Known for their coconut shrimp with pina colada dip, crab legs, fried alligator bites and, of course, crawfish.
— Boat rental: Town Creek Fishing Center offers several boat launches, a fishing pier and a variety of boat rentals such as pontoons, bass boats, canoes and fishing kayaks. You can also buy fishing lures, drinks and snacks, or refuel your boat from the water. 11870 Al-227, Guntersville; 256-582-8358
– Fishing Guides/Outfitters: Guntersville Lake is known for big bass fishing, ranked #2 on Bassmaster Magazine’s Top 100 Bass Lakes of the Decade. Try with Guntersville Bass Guides, which offers full-service guided lake trips for two anglers (or three for $100 more) starting at $350 for four hours or $450 for eight hours. All hardware is included. 2488 Warrenton Road, Guntersville; 256-698-6593; guntersvillebassguides.com
— Kids Activities: Fly over the trees and see Lake Guntersville from the perspective of the bald eagles the area is known for as you take the kids for a canopy tour with Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventures at Lake Guntersville State Park. 1155 Lodge Drive, Guntersville
— Side trip: on a day when bad weather prevents you from swimming, go around the Cathedral Caverns in the nearby town of Woodville. Those who dread confined spaces need not sit on this one – the cavern is known for what is believed to be the world’s widest entrance to a commercial cave, at 25ft. high and 128 feet wide, as well as “The Big Room”, with a length of 792 feet and a width of 200 feet. The cave’s other claims to fame include one of the largest stalagmites in the world and a massive “waterfall” made of pouring stone.
Lake Oconee, Georgia
Located midway between Augusta and Atlanta, Lake Oconee is the second largest lake in Georgia and offers plenty of opportunities to live your best lake life.
— Lakeside Stay: Experience lakeside luxury at the Reynolds community, where you can stay at the five-star Ritz-Carlton resort or rent a house for a larger group. You’ll also have access to six golf courses, tennis, multiple pools, sports courts, and 374 miles of Lake Oconee shoreline. reynoldslakeoconee.com
— Restaurant by the lake: Coffee 44 is a popular breakfast and lunch spot in Greensboro, frequented by locals who love burgers, blueberry pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, and tomato basil soup.
— Boat rental: Young Harris’ Watersports can help facilitate fun times on the water no matter how you like to spend a day on the lake, whether you prefer the thrill of jet skis or ski boats; water-based training on kayaks, water bikes or stand-up paddleboards; or a leisurely cruise in a pontoon boat. Young Harris’ arsenal of water toys also includes tubes, wakeboards and water skis. All items are available for rental to the general public at the 44 Bridge location and to Ritz-Carlton guests on-site at the resort. The new Lake Club Marina in Reynolds only offers jet ski rentals to members and the public by the hour, day or week.
– Fishing guides/outfitters: you’ll be shocked by stripers, hybrids and crappie like professional guide Mark Smith with Reel Time Guide Service, which was actor Chris Pratt’s guide service of choice on Lake Oconee, according to the local tourist board. The cost is $350 for four hours, $450 for six hours, or $550 for eight hours for two people, plus a $50 charge for each additional person. realtimeguideservices.com; 404-803-0741
— Detour: Located in a renovated cotton mill, Oconee Brewery produces craft beer and offers a welcoming, pet-friendly space to drink it, with plenty of games like darts and the corn hole to keep you busy while you sip. The brewery also hosts live music most weekends, and while there is no restaurant on site, there is usually a food truck on site. 202 N West St., Greensboro
Lake Glenville, North Carolina
Located 8 miles from the mountain town of Cashiers in North Carolina, Lake Glenville is the highest lake east of the Mississippi River at 3,500 feet above sea level. The 1,452-acre reservoir has 26 miles of shoreline, seven islands, and three waterfalls that can only be reached from the lake. One important thing to know is that there is very little public access to the shoreline of the lake. The Pines Recreation Area has a small beach and a fishing pier, and the other two public lake access points only have boat docks.
— Lakeside Stay: Since public shoreline access is limited, a lakeside home is a huge plus when visiting Lake Glenville. Such a house is Fern Bank Cottage, with six bedrooms – all with lake views – and four and a half bathrooms as well as spacious porches overlooking the lake and a private deep-water dock with kayaks and a canoe provided. The nightly rate is $650 and weekly rates range from $4,450 to $12,500 depending on the dates. 828-332-3033; cashiersnc.com
— Restaurant by the lake: Happ’s Place Barn and Grill is a recently opened reimagined version of a former local restaurant. Entrees, including Wagyu sirloin and fried chicken, are accompanied by southern accompaniments like black-eyed peas, collard greens and fried okra served family-style. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., dinner is served after 5 p.m. by reservation only. 5914 NC Highway 107, Glenville; 828-743-5700; happsplace.com
— Boat rental: Lakeside Marina rents pontoon boats, jet skis, kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards. 4623 Highway 107, Glenville; 828-743-9998; lakeshoremarina-nc.com
— Fishing Guides/Outfitters: Find supplies like bait, tackle, and rods at Signal Ridge Marina. Brookings Fishermen is a fly fishing outfitter that offers guided trips and fly shops in Highlands and Cashiers.
— Lateral displacement: silver scraps is an easy quarter mile hike that is mostly level and leads to a 25 foot waterfall and kid friendly swimming hole. The trailhead is located about 4 miles south of Cashiers on Highway 107.