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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Distance from Charlotte: 147 miles, 3 hours
Salem, SC Lake Jocassee is a bit of a hidden gem. With seventy-five miles of shoreline and only one mile or so developed, it’s a mountain lake retreat less than 150 miles away from Charlotte. You’ll hear the word “pristine” a lot when locals describe the lake, which is known as one of the clearest in the South. It’s not uncommon to be able to see loons chasing fish twenty feet under the water. Visitors come here for scuba diving, hiking, swimming, and, most of all, fishing. This is one of the best trout-fishing spots in the state. When the day’s activities are done, you can also take in a little old-time mountain music in a nearby town. But make no mistake about it—this secluded spot is about getting away from it all.
The idyllic Sunrise Farm Bed and Breakfast rests on ten acres of land that were once part of a late-1800s cotton plantation. Breakfast specialties include a garden vegetable and herb frittata and blueberry buttermilk pancakes. There’s nothing rustic or quaint about the level of luxury you will experience at Salem’s boutique lodge, Three Pines View Inn. Each bungalow boasts a long-range mountain view and its own special features. For example, the Lofty View has a telescope and, you guessed it, a loft. Devils Fork State Park has two campgrounds near the lakeshore. There are also villas (nicely furnished cabins on the lake), which have been recently remodeled.
Enjoy good home cookin’ at Aunt Sue’s Country Corner off Highway 11. Be sure to save room for ice cream and homemade cobbler. You can walk off lunch or dinner by perusing the surrounding village’s little gift shops. Tommy’s on Main in nearby Walhalla opened last year, earning rave reviews for its pizza. The marinara sauce comes from a 100-year-old family recipe and can be bought by the jar. For cheap and convenient fare, the Jocassee Outdoor Center on Jocassee Lake Road serves up pizza, burgers, hot dogs, barbecue sandwiches, and ice cream.
South Carolina may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of scuba diving, but Lake Jocassee is a premier destination for divers of all levels. A unique dive spot by the dam called “The Quarry” features unexpected underwater sights, including a Chinese sailboat and a line of plastic flamingos traipsing across the lake floor. Training and gear are available from nearby Lake Jocassee Dive Shop. Fishermen will also find much to love here. Numerous mountain streams provide the lake with its extremely cold water, allowing it to support species rarely seen in a lake setting this far south. Also, don’t miss the four-hour Lake Waterfall Tour by the Jocassee Outdoor Center. In addition to the waterfalls, keep your eye out for local wildlife such as bald eagles, bears, and wildcats.