Gallery: Explorer: March-April 2018: Mountain Lakes of the Southeast [5 Images] Click any image to expand.
Floridians are used to
water views. Without realizing it, however, we come to expect a flat horizon with
our watery vistas. What a wonderful treat, then, to experience the majesty of a
mountain lake, set amid a horizon of blue and green peaks. We’ve compiled a few
of the Southeast’s most beautiful mountain lakes, all within a short flight (or
a long day’s drive) from Southwest Florida.
Directly south of
Knoxville, Tennessee, is a gorgeous North Carolina mountain lake with a setting
directly in the Smoky Mountain National Forest. North Carolina’s Fontana Lake is the largest in western
North Carolina, and what a beauty it is. One visit and you’ll likely be longing
for a regular mountain lake getaway.
Rock’s tiny but relaxing Price Lake doesn’t
win any contests for size, but it offers lovely mountain views, paddling,
fishing, picnicking and hiking. Anglers will find bait for sale and tackle that
can be rented. A whopping 100 picnic sites anchor the many creeks off the lake. Equidistant from Charlotte and Asheville, the
quaint village of Blowing Rock regularly beckons mountain lovers each summer
of Asheville, and stretching out below dizzying Chimney Rock, relaxing Lake Lure anchors a village by the same
name. At its east end, you’ll find the popular Larkin’s on the Lake restaurant,
where late afternoon sun warms patrons while they enjoy a dazzling view. Lake
Lure has lovely rental homes, many with docks, as well as boat rentals, nearby
golf and other recreational opportunities. Summer brings several festivals to
the village, which also offers lodging.
Straddling the North
Carolina-Georgia state line, Lake
Chatuge (pronounced shuh-TOOG) makes
up part of the “Chain of Lakes,” along with North Carolina’s Apalachia Lake and Hiwassee Lake (not to be confused with the town of Hiawassee,
Georgia, on Lake Chatuge). Gorgeous and affordable, this area’s lodging options
include hotels, inns, rental homes and a sprawling resort with golf, horses and
day spa. Boat rentals allow a day of exploring Hiwassee’s 6,090 acres,
countless coves and the homes that dot its 180-mile lakeshore. You’ll find a
boat ramp, full-service marina, boat rentals and hiking trails that take
advantage of these lakes’ Nantahala National Forest setting.
Lake Blue Ridge, in the north
Georgia mountains, was created when the mighty Toccoa River was dammed. Launch
your own boat from a full-service marina, or rent a pontoon boat, canoe,
standup paddleboard (SUP) or even a paddle boat. The lake’s Morgantown Point
Recreation Area has its own beach, showers, picnic areas, hiking trails and an
outfitter that rents kayaks, SUPs, fishing equipment and bait. Camping is also
available here, as are many, many cabins at all price points, including near
the village of Blue Ridge (see sidebar). Luxury home rentals will include
indoor and outdoor fireplaces, hot tubs and big views. Anglers must visit Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods, the
shop and studio of world-renowned craftsman Bill Oyster.
Don Carter State Park—Georgia’s newest—opens
up a world of possibilities at massive Lake
Lanier. A swimming beach, boat ramps, hiking and cycling trails and
two-bedroom cabins await visitors to the park. This 38,000-acre lake (pronounced
luh-NEER) lies just northeast of Atlanta. Any number of vacation rentals are
available, as are boat rentals.
Lake Rabun, at only 835 acres,
is a short drive from historic Clayton and its bustling downtown, nearer the
Georgia-North Carolina state line. Boat, fish, camp, hike, picnic or settle in
for a longer stay, with a rental home or a room at the charming Lake Rabun Hotel.
The lake’s 25 miles of shoreline include Nacoochee Park.
The shoreline of South
Carolina’s nautical treasure—300-foot-deep Lake
Jocassee—is almost completely protected from development. Jaw-dropping Blue
Ridge Mountain views and even waterfalls await boaters and paddlers on this
7,500-acre component of the Jocassee Gorges area, which National Geographic magazine named “one of the 50 last great places
on Earth.” Cabins at Devils Fork State Park offer a rare opportunity to
vacation on this memorable lakeshore. Greenville is one hour away by car.
Lake Keowee, in the South Carolina
upstate, provides boaters and vacationers with stunning panoramic peaks. Because
its shoreline consists of, in large part, luxury neighborhoods, you’ll find
gorgeous lakefront homes for rent here, as well as a few ships stores, marinas
islanders will fondly remember chef Danny Mellman of Greenhouse Grill fame.
Since leaving Southwest Florida, Mellman has been a major catalyst in the
transformation of Blue Ridge, Georgia, where he and Michelle Moran have turned
sustainable food into a tourism catalyst. When not at their working farm, this
inspired pair helm several restaurants, including Harvest on Main, in Blue
their time between Sanibel Island and Greenville, South Carolina, restaurateurs
Mark and Larkin Lawson Hammond own a culinary sphere that extends to Lake Lure,
North Carolina. Tables on the outdoor decks at Larkin’s on the Lake often go on
a wait during summer and fall. Happy patrons also enjoy this duo’s many fine
restaurants in nearby Greenville, South Carolina, which include Larkin’s, Grill
Marks and Limoncello.
Written by Libby McMillan Henson, who regularly spends summers exploring the lakes of the Blue
Ridge Mountains. She’s particularly fond of boating on crystal-clear mountain
lakes, and never gets tired of the views.