7 Great Lakes to Visit, All Less than 4 Hours Away

We’ve scoured the region to come up with seven great lake escapes, featuring the best the South has to offer, from luxurious spas and world-class golf to tranquil swimming holes and pristine waterfalls.


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Lake Rabun


Price: $$$

Distance from Charlotte: 190 miles, 3 hours

Lakemont, GA Rabun County’s official slogan, “Where spring spends the summer,” should be enticing enough for anyone to hightail it out of Charlotte’s summer heat wave. Add breathtaking mountain scenery with an elegant-yet-rustic feel all within a three-hour drive, and you’ll wonder why you’ve never been here before. Known as an upscale and stylish vacation spot, Lake Rabun offers a wide assortment of typical lake activities, including boating, water skiing, and swimming. But what sets it apart is the eclectic assortment of nearby activities and attractions, including a fabulous farmers market, the Hambidge Center artist retreat, Tiger Mountain Vineyards, and fly-fishing in nearby Batesville.

DON’T MISS: The Wooden Boat ParadeEvery! Fourth of July weekend, rustic wooden boats festively float along the shore of the lake, followed by an evening of fireworks. Fourth of July is the most popular time of year at Lake Rabun; so if you’re thinking about going, don’t think much longer!

Wine lovers and foodies will fall for Beechwood Inn, known for its chef’s tasting dinners and 3,000-bottle wine cellar. Guests can also indulge in stunning views of Blackrock Mountain. Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant sits right on the lake, giving you a front-row seat for all the lake and its surroundings have to offer, including horseback riding, fishing, hiking, and water skiing. Leave the sound machine at home and fall asleep to the lull of a 100-foot waterfall, located right above Sylvan Falls Mill B&B. Wrought iron, brass, and rustic wood come together with 600-thread-count sheets for a past-meets-present escape.

Executive chef Jamie Allred leads the charge at Lake Rabun Hotel and Restaurant, where he serves up deceptively simple yet elevated fare with a Southern flair. His fried green tomatoes with house-made pimento cheese and bacon-sherry vinaigrette are crowd-pleasers. Sweet tea is to the South what dive-y pizza joints are to small lake towns, and Lake Rabun is no exception. Almost everyone who summers or visits here gets the pizza at Louie’s on the Lake. A local favorite, Clayton Café on Main Street is known for its breakfast. Be sure to try the sweet potato pancakes—or anything on a biscuit!

At Sunburst Stables, choose your own adventure, like the one-hour moonshine still ride. You can also amp things up by adding a zip-line tour to your ride. Boat lovers can take the helm on a pontoon boat from Rabun Boat House just across the street from Lake Rabun Hotel. Enjoy a cruise and pull into the public beach for a swim. Foodies will love perusing the Simply Homegrown Farmers Market, offering locally produced goods of stellar quality, including farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, honey, baked goods, jams and jellies, and milled grains.

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