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 Oconee

Courtesy of Reynolds Plantation

Price: $$$$

Distance from Charlotte: 240 miles, 4 hours

Lake Oconee, GA While history buffs debate the meaning of the word Oconee, most people living near this Georgia lake agree: resorts here are the definition of laidback luxury. Reynolds Plantation—specifically, The Ritz-Carlton Lodge—has made Lake Oconee a top destination for sophisticated relaxation. Along with indulgences such as Frette linens and bath butlers, The Ritz-Carlton spa includes water-themed therapies inspired by the lake. Golf fanatics can choose from five courses, many with lake views. Nearby towns Madison and Greensboro add Southern charm with antebellum homes, art galleries, quaint shops, and restaurants. Then there’s the lake itself, home to eagles and blue herons, with 350 miles of shoreline to explore—at your leisure, of course. 

DON’T MISS: Whether you’re still on the greens, relaxing by the pool, or slow cruising the lake, look west and take in a daily sunset over Lake Oconee.

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation, with thirty acres of shoreline, golf, and a spa, is the area’s primo destination. For those wanting a lake view with a lower price tag, consider The Lodge On Lake Oconee, a short drive from Reynolds Plantation. Or for luxury away from the waterfront, The James Madison Inn, a boutique hotel in historic downtown Madison, offers all the amenities, plus a spa, with a little less stress on the wallet.

The Ritz-Carlton’s Linger Longer Steakhouse is ideal for an elegant night out. The food is exceptional, with dessert soufflés as a popular option. For lunch, visit Great Waters Clubhouse at Reynolds Plantation. Enjoy the gorgeous lake views while feasting on the delectable sushi tempura. For casual dining, head to the Silver Moon on Highway 44. Write your name on the chalkboard and wait for a seat. The fish and chips are worth the wait, and the cheese grits might be the best you’ll ever have.

Golf at Reynolds Plantation is world renowned, and there are a total of three resorts with eight courses in the area. Try the Oconee Rain treatment at The Ritz-Carlton spa. It’s a combination of a hot stone massage and a rain shower, with lavender and eucalyptus, inspired by the Creek tribes who once lived on the lake. The most relaxing activity may be a morning light slow cruise on the lake. Pontoon boat rentals are available at all four marinas of Reynolds Plantation.

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