The beach and mountains aren’t the only places to unwind: This lakeside Georgia property is a retreat for couples and families alike.
By Blake Miller
Photos: Donald J. Riddle, Heidi Geldhauser, Terry Allen, Evan Schiller
When it comes to weekend getaways, most Charlotteans tend to head for the coast or mountains. But just a few hours away in inland Georgia, about halfway between Augusta and Atlanta, is a quiet, uncrowded spot with the stunning Lake Oconee as the centerpiece. Even at the peak of summer, the lake boasting 374 miles of shoreline isn’t buzzing with a bevy of boats, kayakers and fishermen that you’ll often find at closer-to-home destinations such as Lake Norman or Lake Wylie.
One of the area’s highlights is the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee (formerly Reynolds Plantation). Situated on 30 acres of shoreline, the property is tucked on top of a hill overlooking the water and features peaceful pockets to unwind and relax. But it’s not just about getting into Zen mode here: The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds is all about family, too. Designed to be a place for generations to visit year after year, the resort built in 2002 caters to kids by offering everything from nature walks to crafts to kid-friendly water sports.
The lakeside setting means there isn’t a bad room on the property. The 251-room hotel features rooms and suites that accommodate couples, large families and everything in between. Be sure to request a room with a view of the rolling green that leads down to the pool and beach areas — it’s an ideal spot to begin your day with coffee on your balcony while the sun begins to rise over the glasslike water.
Larger groups can choose from the two- and three-bedroom waterside cottages or a four-bedroom lake house. These standalone dwellings are a short walk from the main property yet allow for optimal privacy. The cottages and lake house feature a charming rustic aesthetic that blends seamlessly with the luxury look and feel of the entire property.
The beauty of the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee is that you can be as busy — or as relaxed — as you like. The pool by the lake is best experienced early in the morning or later in the evening, especially during the peak summer months when it can get crowded with guests seeking cool relaxation. During those popular times, indulge in some serious self-care at the nearly 28,000-square-foot spa, where you can unwind one of the resort’s signature treatments. The Georgian provides a calming experience using the restorative benefits inherent in red clay, which is found throughout the South, coupled with antioxidant-rich sweet tea and magnolia.
For the active family, head to the lakeside beach, where kids can play in the sand or swim out to one of the floating docks. Parents can pull up a chaise longue under an umbrella and watch the boats glide by or catch up on some reading. Choose from a variety of water sports, too, such as water bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, as well as boats for rent.
Golfers will love the property’s five courses designed by golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio. While some feature lake views, others are just as stunning with towering pine trees, beds of flowering azaleas and native dogwood trees lining the fairways.
Situated on the Oconee golf course, Linger Longer Steakhouse offers elevated versions of classic American steakhouse fare, with plenty of seafood options as well. Opt for a wine pairing with your classic filet mignon topped with Jonah crab and a creamy béarnaise sauce. For a more family-friendly environment, head to Georgia’s, which serves classic Southern fare with a contemporary twist. For a casual family dinner by the water, Gaby’s by the Lake will keep the kiddos happy with children’s menu items such as a triple-stacked grilled cheese and mini corn dogs, as well as kid-inspired mocktails such as the No-Buzz Lightyear.
If you’re looking for a romantic setting, make advance reservations for the Chiminea Dining Experience. This lakefront dinner for two includes a private three-course meal paired with a bottle of red or white wine.
After dinner, head to the green, where families gather nightly for s’mores. Year-round, kids and parents roast marshmallows over the cozy fire pit before hopping onto one of the property’s tree swings for one last hurrah before bedtime. SP