10 Stunning Lakes in Virginia for Outdoor Adventure

by Patricia Keppel | Posted: Apr 7, 2017 | Updated: Apr 26, 2017

Comments: 2 Comments

 

Now that warmer weather is on the horizon, you have probably already started daydreaming about waterfront vacations. Virginia’s lakes offer the perfect place to soak up the sun and enjoy the outdoors, with exciting aquatic activities ranging from fishing to water skiing.

Not sure where to start when picking a lake to visit? We’ve put together a few of the most popular lakes for watersports and outdoor activities to help you choose.

 

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE—BEDFORD, FRANKLIN, AND PITTSYLVANIA COUNTIES

Smith Mountain Lake Learn to Sail

A manmade watery avenue created after a dam was added in 1963, Smith Mountain Lake lies in a broad valley nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southcentral Virginia. Striped bass fishing is a big draw for the lake, bringing several large fishing tournaments to the region. If you’re interested in getting out on the water, there are more than a dozen free public boat launches that provide access to the lake. Take a break from the water sports to hit the links at one of the four golf courses spread around Smith Mountain Lake.

Permitted Water Sports:

  • Swimming
  • Motor Boating
  • Kayaking/Canoeing
  • Sailing
  • Parasailing
  • Paddleboarding
  • Fishing
  • Water Skiing/Wake Boarding
  • Jet Skiing

Local Outfitters:

Where to Stay: Sans Souci at Smith Mountain Lake, Westlake Waterfront Inn, Bernard’s Landing, Mariners Landing Smith Mountain Lake

Camping Alternative: Smith Mountain Lake State Park has campsites available

Where to Eat: The Landing Restaurant, Heath’s Waterfront Grill, La Trattoria Italian Restaurant

A Little Extra Fun: Animal lovers should head to Smith Mountain Lake Farm Alpacas, where you can learn about the animals while you feed, pet, and even hug them.

 

LAKE GASTON—BRACEY

Lake Gaston Birding

Straddling the border between Virginia and North Carolina, Lake Gaston is roughly 35 miles long, has about 350 miles of shoreline, and covers more than 20,000 acres with huge open waterways, making it popular for water skiing and other active watersports. Visitors to the region can get boating access at Holly Grove Marina and the lake’s public DGIF boat launch.

Permitted Water Sports:

  • Swimming
  • Motor Boating
  • Sailing
  • Fishing
  • Water Skiing/Wake Boarding
  • Jet Skiing
  • Paddleboarding
  • Kayaking/Canoeing

Local Outfitters:

Where to Stay: Greenwood Inn

Camping Alternative: Lake Gaston Americamps

Where to Eat: Shady Shack Grill, Horseshoe Restaurant

A Little Extra Fun: Finish the day with wine tastings at Rosemont Vineyards & Winery.

 

LAKE ANNA—LOUISA

Lake Anna State Park

Virginia’s third largest lake, Lake Anna spans 13,000 acres with over 200 miles of winding shoreline. As one of the best lakes for largemouth bass on the East Coast, Lake Anna is a popular spot for year-round fishing. You may not be on the coast, but you’ll easily forget it when you lie out on the sand of Lake Anna State Park’s swimming beach. Picnic sites, camping, and recreational areas are all located inside the park.

Permitted Water Sports:

  • Swimming
  • Motor Boating
  • Fishing
  • Sailing
  • Water Skiing/Wake Boarding
  • Jet Skiing
  • Paddleboarding

Local Outfitters:

Where to Stay: Lighthouse Inn, Whistle Stop Bed & Breakfast, Boxley Place Inn

Camping Alternative: Lake Anna State Park Campgrounds and Cabins

Where to Eat: Tavern on the Rail, The Snack Shack, Butternut and Blue Bistro

A Little Extra Fun: If you’re up for a drive, head to Montpelier, the home of the fourth President of the United States, James Madison.

 

PHILPOTT LAKE—FRANKLIN, HENRY, AND PATRICK COUNTIESPhilpott Lake.

With nine boat launches, eight campgrounds, and six beaches, Philpott Lake has everything you need for a fun waterfront getaway. The lake is situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, creating a scenic outdoor oasis encircled by beautiful mountain landscapes. Shaded trails along the lake shores allow for hiking, biking, and wildlife observation when you aren’t on the water.

Permitted Water Sports:

  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Motor Boating
  • Canoeing/Kayaking
  • Paddleboarding
  • Snorkeling
  • Scuba Diving
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing/Wake Boarding

Local Outfitters:

Where to Stay: The Virginia Home Inn, The Mountain Rose Inn

Camping Alternative: Horseshoe Point Park, Jamison Mill Park

Where to Eat: Blackwater Grill

A Little Extra Fun: Take the kids to Fairy Stone State Park and collect a few of the lucky “fairy stones”, or catch a thrilling NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway.

 

BUGGS ISLAND/JOHN H. KERR RESERVOIR—CLARKSVILLE

Fishing in Buggs Island Lake

The John H. Kerr Reservoir, called Buggs Island by locals, is the largest lake in Virginia, with more than 50,000 acres of water and 800 miles of shoreline. The massive waterway attracts water sports enthusiasts, but there are endless quiet coves to anchor down and enjoy the quiet scenery. The lake hosts many state and national fishing tournaments and was ranked as the number one crappie fishing lake in the United States by Fisherman Magazine. Occoneechee State Park and Staunton River State Park both provide public access points to the lake and offer hiking and biking trails for the landlubbers in your group. Towards the evening, the stunning sunsets create unforgettable beauty over the water, and at night, the Clarksville Bridge is illuminated by glowing lights that reflects off the water’s surface.

Permitted Water Sports:

  • Swimming
  • Motor Boating
  • Kayaking/Canoeing
  • Sailing
  • Fishing
  • Water Skiing/Wake Boarding
  • Jet Skiing
  • Paddleboarding

Local Outfitters:

Where to Stay: Cooper’s Landing Inn and Travelers Tavern

Camping Alternative: Camp at North Bend Park Campground to sleep right beside the lake.

Where to Eat: The Lake House Restaurant or Cooper’s Landing Inn & Travelers Tavern in Clarkesville

A Little Extra Fun: See the lake from above when you book an excursion with Sand Dollar Sea Planes.

 

SHERANDO LAKE—LYNDHURST

Sherando Lake features swimming, camping, picnicking, hiking and fishing.

Although Sherando Lake is fairly small at just 24 acres, the destination is filled with fun activities, both in the water and along the shores. Between aquatic excursions, visitors hit the trails around the lake for beautiful hikes through the wooded shoreline. Lie out and enjoy sunny days on the lake’s sandy beach area, then clean off afterwards at the park’s bathhouse, complete with showers. Known as the “Gem of the Blue Ridge Mountains”, Sherando Lake is surrounded by gorgeous outdoor destinations, from the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests to the world-famous Blue Ridge Parkway.

Permitted Water Sports:

  • Swimming
  • Kayaking/Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Paddleboarding

Local Outfitters:

Where to Stay: Wintergreen Resort

Camping Alternative: Sherando Lake Campgrounds

Where to Eat: The Green Leaf Grill, Kline’s Dairy Bar, Blue Mountain Brewery Restaurant

A Little Extra Fun: Just a short drive away is the Nelson 151 Trail, a route through Nelson County that is packed with wineries, cideries, and breweries, or if you’re traveling with kids, head to Cyrus McCormick Farm, where you’ll learn about the world of agriculture and the invention of the reaper.

 

CLAYTOR LAKE—DUBLIN

Claytor Lake State Park.

The centerpiece of Claytor Lake State Park, Claytor Lake offers 4,500 acres of pristine water in Southwest Virginia. Hiking trails, swimming beaches, and waterfront cabins line the shores of the lake, and a full service marina provides everything you need for a lake vacation, whether you are staying just for the day or stretching the trip into a weeklong getaway. Drop by the park’s historic Howe House to see interactive exhibits that cover the ecology of the lake and the wildlife in the region.

Permitted Water Sports:

  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Motor Boating
  • Canoeing/Kayaking
  • Paddleboarding
  • Water Skiing/Wake Boarding
  • Jet Skiing
  • Sailing

Local Outfitters:

Where to Stay: Claytor Lake Inn

Camping Alternative: Claytor Lake State Park has cabins and campsites

Where to Eat: Blue Door Café, MK’s Gourmet Pizzeria, Al’s on First

A Little Extra Fun: The Draper Mercantile and Trading Company showcases regional artists and their wares.

 

HUNGRY MOTHER LAKE—MARION

Hungry Mother State park

This 108-acre lake is part of Hungry Mother State Park and features a sandy beach, bathhouse, boat launch, fishing pier, and campgrounds in the surrounding woods. Over 17 miles of hiking and biking trails wind through the wooded shores, and you’ll often spot a wide array of local wildlife as you walk the lakeside pathways.

Permitted Water Sports:

  • Swimming
  • Paddleboarding
  • Kayaking/Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Non-gasoline powered boating

Local Outfitters:

  • Hungry Mother State Park: Canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, paddleboats, and electric powered jon boats available to rent Memorial Day through Labor Day
  • Hungry Mother Adventures: Tube rentals

Where to Stay: General Francis Marion Hotel

Camping Alternative: Hungry Mother State Park Camping & Cabins

Where to Eat: Hungry Mother State Park Restaurant, Wolfe’s BBQ Restaurant

A Little Extra Fun: Although they are about an hour away, Grayson Highlands State Park and Mount Rogers are both worth the trip. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the wild ponies for which the park is famed.

 

LAKE FAIRFAX—RESTON

If you’re looking for a lake vacation tailored around fun for the kids, plan a trip to Lake Fairfax Park in Northern Virginia. Like Sherando Lake, this 18-acre urban lake might be small, but there are still plenty of activities to keep the whole family busy. Rent pedal boat rentals, take a tour on a guided boat ride, or try your hand at fishing in the seasonally-stocked trout stream. (Note: Fishing from boats is not permitted on Lake Fairfax). But the biggest draw for kids is the new Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole, a Western-themed activity pool complete with over an acre of slides, water playgrounds, flumes, and a lazy river for a relaxing float. The smaller children will love Tenderfoot pond, the water area built specifically with toddlers in mind.

Permitted Water Sports:

  • Non-motorized pedal boating
  • Fishing from the shores

Local Outfitters:

Where to Stay: Westin Reston Heights, Hyatt Regency Reston, More Lodging

Camping Alternative: Lake Fairfax Park Campground

Where to Eat: Clyde’s of Reston, Maple Ave Restaurant, Stone’s Cove Kitbar

A Little Extra Fun: Stop in for a refreshing craft beer at one of the dozen breweries in Loudoun County along the LoCo Ale Trail, catch a show at Wolf Trap Amphitheater, or do a little shopping at Tysons Corner.

 

DOUTHAT LAKE—MILLBORO

Douthat State Park

In the breathtaking Allegheny Mountains of Bath County, Douthat State Park’s 50-acre lake is an outdoorsman’s dream. The lake is fully stocked with trout, largemouth bass, crappie, and pickerel, and is encircled by another four miles of streams and over 40 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.

Permitted Water Sports:

  • Swimming
  • Paddleboarding
  • Non-gasoline powered boats
  • Paddleboating
  • Kayaking/Canoeing
  • Sailing

Local Outfitters:

  • Douthat State Park: Rent jon boats with and without electric motors, paddleboats, canoes, hydrobikes, funyaks, and paddleboards

Where to Stay: Fort Lewis Lodge, the Inn at Gristmill Square, The Omni Homestead in Hot Springs

Camping Alternative: Douthat State Park Camping & Cabins

Where to Eat: Sam Snead’s Tavern, Les Cochons d’Or, Waterwheel Restaurant

A Little Extra Fun: Explore the George Washington National Forest or enjoy a relaxing soak in the Jefferson Pools, natural heated mineral springs famously visited by Thomas Jefferson in 1818 (Booked through the Homestead. You do not need to be a guest of the hotel to book the spa).

 

These are just a few of the many lakes that Virginia has to offer. Discover the beauty of Virginia’s lakes this year and share your favorite lake experiences with us below!

 

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Donna SmthSeeley
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We have a home at Lake Anna VA and it gets no better. Lots of water fun, nature’s beauty and quality family time spent. Virginia’s little kept secret. http://www.lakeannavacationrental.com

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