How far do you have to get from a big city before vacation mode sets in? If the city is Atlanta, and the destination is Lake Oconee, the answer would be 75 miles. The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee sits on 30 of the 374 miles of shoreline along this eastern Georgia lake, known for its golf courses and lakeside houses; the Ritz-Carlton is one of the few places to stay as a non-resident. Atlanta may be the closest big city, but it’s a popular place for people all over the Southeast to visit — by car or quick flight into the Atlanta airport.
The Ritz attracts a lot of families — with its man-made sandy beach and myriad activities for all ages — but we think it’s an ideal place to grab a girlfriend or two and relax … there’s enough to do, but not too much to do, so you’ll have plenty of time for visiting.
Suggested itinerary: Make a stop on the way there in charming Madison, a small town about a half-hour away from Lake Oconee. Stroll the historic town square and make sure to browse Madison Markets, a renovated cotton warehouse full of antiques, art, plant creations and other finds. There are quaint places to eat lunch, such as Town 220 or Madison Produce Company.
Check in or stash your bags at the Ritz and start enjoying the peaceful setting at the pool (heated year-round), a scenic infinity pool that seems to blend in with the lake beyond. Waiters regularly make the rounds to serve you, and sometimes they may stop by with a smoothie or other complimentary treat. The nearby beach area is good for dipping your toes in the lake, but more adventurous souls can take a YOLO board, kayak or canoe out as part of the resort fee, or rent something faster like jet skis.
A Starbucks on the property is a convenient place for an easy breakfast or afternoon pick-me-up, but don’t get too full, since the restaurants have a lot of temptations on the menu. Georgia’s specializes in regional cuisine, with specials that incorporate items from local farms. The view is swanky, too … overlooking the grounds and lake. Save room for a s’more, since the Ritz is well-known for its nightly campfire and a well-stocked s’more bar.
After a good night’s sleep, get a tee time for golf or go hiking along one of the lakeside trails as a morning activity. Afternoon might be good for a spa treatment at the on-site spa — a bit of a splurge (facials start at $155), but they — and you — are worth it. Arrive at the spa early to enjoy the quiet lounge or to take a soak in the whirlpool.
Make sure to have lunch or brunch at Gaby’s by the Lake, the resort’s casual restaurant overlooking the pool and lake. Feeling like you want to imbibe? The restaurant’s Georgia John mixes Firefly tea vodka, peach liquor and lemonade.
Rooms include signature robes, Frette linens and porches to enjoy a good book, so nobody will judge if you want to just relax in the room. Check the website for current promotions; the resort’s “Reconnect” package starts at $429 per night and includes breakfast and $75 resort credit.
All photography by Lisa Mowry.
For more ideas for you next adventure, check out the SB Travel suggestions!