Summer Travel Destinations: Smith Mountain Lake

By Annie Tobey | June 8th, 2016

A nearby vacation spot for man-made fun and natural beauty.

For 50 years now, the land around Smith Mountain Lake has been developing – gently, as easy as the inland waves lapping against its shores. The 20,600-acre reservoir three hours southwest of Richmond has maintained a peaceful balance of natural beauty and man-made fun – re-creation and recreation for people of all ages.

In 1960, construction began on the dam to generate power for Appalachian Power Company. The dam walls were completed in September 1963, and on March 7, 1966, the lake reached capacity. Although homes now dot much of the 580 miles of shoreline, the trees, forests, foothills and mountains still dominate the sightline.

You’ll want to get more than your feet wet at the lake. Many communities and rental properties have beachfront, while the Smith Mountain Lake State Park and Smith Mountain Lake Community Park provide public-access swimming.

Houseboats are a lake favorite: park in a quiet inlet, lounge on the deck or splash in the water. Marinas and rental businesses offer opportunities for jet skiing, paddle boating and paddle boarding, kayaking, parasailing, tubing, wake boarding and sailing. If you don’t have the boat or the accessories, SML businesses can rent it to you.

Fishing guides will help you find the perfect place to cast your line, helping you reel in muskie, bass, trout, striper and more.

Bridgewater Plaza, a popular shopping area, features art galleries and gift shops, water sports gear, a miniature golf course, an arcade and dining.

Savor local wines and beers at nearby Hickory Hill and Ramulose Ridge vineyards and Sunken City and Chaos Mountain breweries.

Not enough action for you? How about golf or a riverboat cruise, spas and shopping, dining from causal to fine? Lodging ranges from camping to rental cottages, fine hotels and B&Bs.

For all the ages, SML’s 50th birthday provides the perfect excuse to visit.

While you’re here

  • The Booker T. Washington National Monument. Pay your tribute to the renowned African-American educator and statesman.
  • The National D-Day Memorial. Experience the stirring tribute to the sacrifice of Allied forces on June 6, 1944.
  • Hiking. The Appalachian Trail and the Peaks of Otter trails are both about an hour’s drive away.
  • Harvester Performance Center. The Rocky Mount music venue hosts a diversity of well-known and up-and-coming acts, such as 10,000 Maniacs, Marty Stuart, The Marshall Tucker Band and The Bacon Brothers. Enjoy a pre- or post-show dinner at Bootleggers’ Café.

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