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It’s easy to be “lake people” when said lake has a charming nearby town that expands the possibility of activity and exploration. From the Texas Hill Country to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, here are six seriously dreamy lakeside towns across the South to visit on your next school break, girls’ trip, or romantic getaway.

Chimney Rock Village and Lake Lure, NC on Lake Lure

This majestic, mountainside town in Western North Carolina tops many lists like this one, and for good reason. Dreamed up as a resort town in the mid-1920s, this man-dammed lake didn’t achieve its post-Depression revival until the mid-1960s. Today, Americans from far and wide flock to its 27 miles of shoreline, sandy beach, luxury lodging, and shop-lined downtown.

RELATED: 2 Days in Lake Lure, NC: The Real-Life Dirty Dancing Resort Town

Lake Lure

Lake Lure in the fall is just as enticing as a summer visit! Image: Buddy Morrison

While You’re There

Hike through Chimney Rock State Park to Hickory Nut Falls, rent canoes or a pontoon, or picnic on the kid-approved Lake Lure Beach. Once you have gotten your fill of the outdoors, meander along the Town Center Walkway and over the famous Lake Lure Flowering Bridge to see its seasonal display. Shop and sip at dozens of spots along the Chimney Rock Village Riverwalk. Snag a table at La Strada, Medina’s Village Bistro, LakeHouse, or Burntshirt Vineyards Tasting Room and Bistro. You can’t go wrong with a room at The Esmeralda Inn and Restaurant or The 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa — both charmingly rustic with storied pasts and fabulous dining and amenities.

Greensboro, GA on Lake Oconee

Founded in 1786, Greensboro is the proud hometown of Lake Oconee, but it has so much more to offer than just the lake. Steeped in Southern history and rich with elegant antebellum-style homes and churches, the historic downtown area is filled with curiosities, antiques, and food galore. Plus, it’s home to South’s most fabulous lakeside hotel, which is a destination in and of itself.

southern hotel suites

Book a private cottage at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee to enjoy a lush private pool encompassed by pines and Lake Oconee. Image: Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

While You’re There

A room at the ultra-luxe Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee opens up a trove of on-property activities (golf, spa services, multiple pools, culinary events, and more) right outside your door. Boat — with or without a motor — on Lake Oconee, tee off at one of 10 championship golf courses, and explore quaint Greensboro. Visit Highgate Estate‘s English-style flower garden and taste some local brews at Oconee Brewing Company across the street. One of the coolest parts of this lakeside town is The Old Gaol. Built in 1807, the jail is one of the oldest penal structures in Georgia and is now a museum.

Lakeway, TX on Lake Travis

Nestled in the scenic Texas Hill Country, Lakeway is ideally situated on the South shore of Lake Travis just 25 miles from downtown Austin. The resort village has golf, tennis, marinas, a hotel and spa, 100 acres of parkland and trails, 500 acres of greenbelts, and a private airport. Lakeway attracts weekenders from Austin and people from across the South looking to unwind Texas-style in a small-town setting.

Lakeway Resort

Perched on Lake Travis, Lakeway Resort & Spa is the nucleus of this lake town and offers everything from golf and poolside fare to luxurious rooms and spa services. Image: Lakeway Resort & Spa

While You’re There

Rent stand-up paddleboards, canoes, or kayaks from Lakeway Marina, or charter a private sail with Sail Austin Charters to learn about the Hill Country from a unique vantage point. Trailblazers have so many options within the Canyonlands, a 20-acre tract of explorable land with trails and stunning payoffs right along the lake’s rim. Enjoy pizza and a bottle at The Grove Wine Bar & Kitchen, or coffee and fresh sandwiches at Cafe Lago. Offering exquisite lake and sunset views, you’ll want to consider booking a table at Canyon Grille.

Clinton, TN and Norris Lake

The Norris Lake lifestyle revolves around one of the South’s most unspoiled and bright blue-green lakes. Families have picked the lake as a vacation and second home spot for decades, and weekend visitors find it an easy escape from the hustle and bustle of big nearby cities. Norris Lake has 809 miles of shoreline and covers 33,840 acres, and it extends 72 miles up the Clinch River around which the town of Clinton is perched.

Clinton TN lakeside towns

To help plan your trip to Clinton and all the outdoor adventures that surround it, head over to Adventure Anderson County! Image: Adventure Anderson County

While You’re There

Trout fish on the Clinch River, take a boat out on Norris Lake, hike one of the nearby state parks, and head to downtown Clinton one afternoon for serious antique browsing and excellent dining. Get a burger and shake at the seemingly frozen-in-time Hoskins Drug Store. Shop juried craft makers at the Appalachian Arts Crafts Center, and don’t skip The Museum of Appalachia, a living history museum of the early-20th-century Southern Appalachian region. Stay in a rustic 1860-era log cabin at The Cabins on Cedar Ridge, rent a lakeside Airbnb, or book a room at one of the town’s chain hotels.

Guntersville, AL on Lake Guntersville

The state of Alabama opened Lake Guntersville in 1974 as a recreational park spanning 6,000 acres in the northeast corner of the state. Known for its largemouth bass fishing, abundant wildlife (like bald eagles and even the occasional alligator!), and lively cultural scene, Guntersville is surrounded by water on three sides, making it perhaps the most literal lakeside town on this list.

Lake Guntersville State Park

Lake Guntersville State Park is one of many vantage points to soak up a stunning sunset. Image: ADT | Chris Granger

While You’re There

Venture out for a day of relaxing or fishing on Lake Guntersville and find some of the popular places to (safely!) cliff jump at Goat Island. After water time, take a zipline safari through a canopy of trees at Screaming Eagle, and catch a performance at the Whole Backstage Theatre. Try some locally-owned Guntersville eateries like Rock House Eatery, Top O’ The River, and Old Town Stock House while you’re there.

Kuttawa, KY on Lake Barkley

This idyllic small town located on the northern shores of Lake Barkley in Kentucky is described online as “Cape Cod but with the charm and hospitality only found in the Bluegrass State.” In the 1940s, a dam created the lake that completely covered where the original town was, and the town relocated to the edges of the new Lake Barkley. Remnants of old Kuttawa still exist in the beautiful homes lining Lake Barkley Drive, but the rest of the old town lies under Lake Barkley — you can explore the ruins in the colder months.

RELATED: 3 Small Kentucky Towns We’re Obsessed With

Kuttaw Beach

Kuttawa Beach is a great place to bring the family if you want to avoid water parks. Image: Visit Kuttawa | Instagram

While You’re There

The three small towns of Grand Rivers, Kuttawa, and Eddyville lie along Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, and the peninsula across the channel between the two huge lakes creates one of the greatest freshwater recreation areas in the country, known as the Land Between The Lakes. Picnic, hike, sunbathe on the beach, or paddle across the channel to find “Hotel California,” the mysterious ruins of an old home now covered whimsically with colorful graffiti. Book a cozy cottage at one of the local resorts or a room at Silver Cliff Inn or Patti’s Rose of the Lake B&B and restaurant. After working up an appetite on the lake, grab an oversized sandwich at Broadbent’s or upscale farm-to-table fare at Adams Breezy Hill Farm Restaurant in the nearby town of Princeton. You can also find scrumptious dishes at the two marina restaurants, The Buzzard Rock Café and Hu-B’s at Kuttawa Harbor.

See you on the lake!


For more lake fun, check out our article: 5 Southern Lakes for a Fun & Fabulous Family Getaway.

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