A day on the lake is the essence of summer in the South. While Lake Chickamauga is certainly not to be discounted for freshwater fun, here are a few slightly out-of-town options to consider this summer.


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Alabama Tourism Department photo by Kevin Terrell / Guntersville sunset

Lake Guntersville, Alabama

In a picturesque setting surrounded by mountains, massive Guntersville Lake stretches between Scottsboro and Guntersville, Alabama. You can reach the lake by boat from Chattanooga by traveling 119 miles on the Tennessee River, from Chickamauga Lake through the river gorge and locking through Nickajack Dam.

— Lakeside stay: Whether you're looking to retreat to a cozy cabin, camp under the stars or live the lake life in hotel-style accommodations, Lake Guntersville State Park has you covered. The 6,000-acre park also boasts several restaurants, a pool, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, hiking trails, a nature center and 900 miles of shoreline for ample access to fun on the lake.

— Lakeside restaurant: 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 kiddos. Known for coconut shrimp with pina colada dipping sauce, crab legs, fried alligator bites and, of course, crawfish.

— Watercraft rentals: Town Creek Fishing Center offers several boat ramps, a fishing pier and a variety of watercraft rentals such as pontoons, bass boats, canoes and fishing kayaks. You can also pick up fishing lures, drinks and snacks, or gas up your boat from the water. 11870 Al-227, Guntersville; 256-582-8358

— Fishing guides/outfitters: Guntersville Lake is known for large bass fishing, ranked No. 2 out of the 100 Best Bass Lakes of the Decade by Bassmaster magazine. Give it a try with Guntersville Bass Guides, which offers full-service guided trips on the lake for two anglers (or three for $100 extra) starting at $350 for four hours or $450 for eight hours. All tackle is included. 2488 Warrenton Road, Guntersville; 256-698-6593;

— Children's activities: Soar through the trees and see Lake Guntersville from the perspective of the bald eagles the area is known for by taking the kids on 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 keeps you out of the water, take a tour of Cathedral Caverns in nearby Woodville. Those who dread confined spaces need not sit this one out — the cavern is known for what is believed to be the world's widest entrance to a commercial cave, at 25 feet tall and 128 feet wide, as well as "The Big Room," with a length of 792 feet and width of 200 feet. The cave's other claims to fame include one of the world's largest stalagmites and a massive flowstone "waterfall."


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Visit Lake Oconee photo / Boating on Lake Oconee

Lake Oconee, Georgia

Located halfway between Augusta and Atlanta, Lake Oconee is the second largest lake in Georgia and offers ample opportunities for living 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 home for a larger group. You'll also have access to six golf courses, tennis, multiple pools, sporting grounds and 374 miles of Lake Oconee shoreline.

— Lakeside restaurant: Cafe 44 is a popular breakfast and lunch spot in Greensboro frequented by locals who love the burgers, blueberry pancakes, breakfast sandwiches and tomato basil soup.

— Watercraft rentals: Young Harris Water Sports 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; a water-based workout on kayaks, water bikes or stand-up paddleboards; or leisurely cruising in a pontoon boat. Young Harris' arsenal of water toys also includes tubes, wakeboards and water skis. All items are available for the general public to rent at the 44 Bridge location and for guests of the Ritz-Carlton on-site at the resort. The new Lake Club Marina at Reynolds location offers only jet-ski rentals to both members and the public by the hour, day or week.

— Fishing guides/outfitters: You'll be reeling in stripers, hybrids and crappie like pro 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 visitor's bureau. 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.; 404-803-0741

— Side trip: Located in a renovated cotton mill, Oconee Brewing Company produces craft beer and offers a welcoming and pet-friendly space to drink it, with plenty of games like darts and corn hole to keep you busy while you sip. The brewery also hosts live music most weekends, and while there's no in-house restaurant, there's typically a food truck on-site. 202 N West St., Greensboro


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Photo by Mary Anne Baker / Pines Recreation Area on Lake Glenville

Lake Glenville, North Carolina

Located 8 miles from the North Carolina mountain town of Cashiers, 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. An important thing to know is there is very little public access to the lake's shoreline. Pines Recreation Area has a small beach and a fishing pier, and the lake's two other public access points have only boat docks.

— Lakeside stay: Since public access to the shoreline is limited, a lakefront home is a huge benefit when visiting Lake Glenville. One such home is Fern Bank Cottage, with six bedrooms — all with lake views — and four-and-a-half baths along with spacious porches overlooking the lake and a private dock on deep water with kayaks and a canoe provided. Nightly rate is $650 and weekly rates range from $4,450-$12,500 depending on the dates. 828-332-3033;

— Lakeside restaurant: Happ's Place Barn and Grill is a recently opened, reimagined version of an older local restaurant. Entrees including Wagyu sirloin and fried chicken come with Southern sides like black-eyed peas, collard greens and fried okra served family-style. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., with dinner served after 5 p.m. by reservation only. 5914 North Carolina Highway 107, Glenville; 828-743-5700;

— Watercraft rentals: Lakeshore Marina rents pontoon boats, jet skis, kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards. 4623 Highway 107, Glenville; 828-743-9998;

— Fishing guides/outfitters: Find supplies like bait, tackle and fishing rods at Signal Ridge Marina. Brookings Anglers is a fly-fishing outfitter that offers guided trips and fly shops in Highlands and Cashiers.

— Side trip: Silver Run Falls is an easy, quarter-mile hike that's 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.

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A guide to living the lake life in three destinations near Chattanooga