Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. -
With 1,150 miles of shoreline meandering for 92 miles from end to end, covering over 54,000 acres, Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks is the state's second-largest lake. However, Lake of the Ozarks is second to none when it comes to on-the-water recreation, family fun and year around events and activities.
This fun lake has been a go-to vacation destination for travelers around the country since it was impounded in 1931. Certainly it was the lake itself, at the time the largest man-made lake in the world, and its rugged beauty that drew travelers to the area in its infancy. Over the years, the Lake of the Ozarks has earned a reputation for being a top-tier vacation and recreation area for visitors of all tastes and budgets.
Fast forward nearly nine decades and the Lake of the Ozarks still offers miles and miles of tranquil scenic beauty paired with man-made attractions and outdoor recreational opportunities. Nearly five million visitors venture to the Lake every year for boating, golfing, fishing and both on- and off-the-water fun.
Because of all the Lake of the Ozarks has to offer, readers of USA Today voted it the "Best Recreational Lake in the Nation." And, it's why so many recognize the Lake for what it is: a special destination in the heart of the heartland.
The fondness for the Lake of the Ozarks continues to grow.
Within the last two years, the Lake has been a mainstay on Microsoft's MSN Today. The news and lifestyle website has named the Lake of the Ozarks as Missouri's "perfect summer travel spot," most "awesome travel destination" and "best vacation spot." MSN also recognized one of the Lake's treasures, Ha Ha Tonka State Park, as one of the "most romantic spots," as well as one of the "most beautiful places" to be found in the "Show-Me State." And, the MSN website hailed the city of Lake Ozark one of the "best lake towns" in the U.S. Lake Ozark is where the Lake of the Ozarks began with the construction of Bagnell Dam to impound the Osage River during the Great Depression. The descriptions that come with the recognitions often site the laid-back, fun and friendly vibe, wide variety of on-the-water activities and the beautiful scenery as what sets this lake apart from the rest of the pack.
"The Lake of the Ozarks has such a variety of recreational activities that appeal to visitors of all ages," says Jim Divincen, administrator for the Lake of the Ozarks Tri-County Lodging Association.
"We are thrilled that our lake continues to be recognized for the fun, family-friendly destination that it is," Divincen says. "There are so many ways to enjoy the Lake of the Ozarks, be it on-the-water activities like swimming, fishing, boating, tubing, wake boarding, paddle boarding and kayaking. And, off-the-water, we have activities like playing golf in the rolling Ozark hills; exploring one of our show caves; touring a local museum; attending a concert, variety show or any of our many annual events and festivals throughout the year; going shopping; racing go-karts; or hiking in our state parks."
As Divincen alluded, visitors will find no shortage of excellent recreational opportunities.
The Lake of the Ozarks is considered one of the top bass fisheries in the nation and hosts over 500 tournaments every year. Most resorts and accommodations in the area cater to anglers bringing their own boats by offering use of their boat ramps and boat docks. These resorts also sell fishing permits and bait and tackle. There are many public boat launches throughout the area, meaning that an angler is never far from being in the water and on the hunt for gamefish. Those that don't have their own boats or gear can book half- or full-day fishing trips with one of the Lake's Coast Guard-certified fishing guides. These guides provide all the tackle, gear and knowledge needed for a successful day out on the water catching a variety of fish.
From one end of the Lake to another, myriad local marinas, businesses and outfitters can set visitors up with everything they need for on-the-water fun. Depending upon on the business, rental options may include boats, personal watercraft, kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards, paddleboats, water skis, wakeboards, tubes and just about any other water toys a vacationer could want.
On land, there are enough things to do that a visitor could almost forget that the Lake exists except that it is a constant pretty backdrop to the scenery.
The Lake of the Ozarks' two
showcase the area's natural history and beauty and each has its own claim to fame.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park is Missouri's largest park consisting of 17,626 acres and also Missouri's most visited. It is a favorite among backpackers and anglers and also features an aquatic trail and guided horseback riding trails.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park was voted the fourth-best state park in the country by readers of USA Today and named the most beautiful place in Missouri by Condé Nast Traveler. Ha Ha Tonka has one of the most photographed features in the state: the ruins of a 19th century "castle" that was constructed on a tall limestone bluff overlooking Ha Ha Tonka Spring and the Lake of the Ozarks. In total, the parks have a combined 26 different trails covering over 57 miles that accommodate hikers and backpackers. Some trails allow for mountain bikers and equestrians as well.
golf trail" in the Midwest according to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine. The courses at the Lake were designed by some of the biggest names in golf: Arnold Palmer designed Osage National Golf Resort in Lake Ozark, Tom Weiskopf designed Old Kinderhook Golf Resort in Camdenton, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed The Cove at The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Ken Kavanaugh designed The Ridge at The Lodge of Four Seasons, Jack Nicklaus designed The Club at Porto Cima in Sunrise Beach, Floyd Farley designed Lake Valley Golf Club in Camdenton, Jim Lewis designed Nine Hole Course at Margaritaville Lake Resort in Osage Beach and Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge designed The Oaks at Margaritaville Lake Resort. Two of the Lake's courses are regularly recognized by GOLF magazine as two of the best in Missouri: Old Kinderhook as the second-best and The Ridge at The Lodge of Four Seasons as the fifth-best. Most of the courses are open year around, weather permitting.
Also scattered around the Lake, visitors can choose from three different stables
offering guided scenic horseback trail rides: Old Family Farm Trail Rides in Macks Creek, Theuvenel Stables at Margaritaville Lake Resort in Osage Beach and Show-Me Trail Horseback Riding in Lake of the Ozarks State Park near Brumley. There are four historical and cultural museums: Bagnell Dam Historical Museum at Willmore Lodge in Lake Ozark, Camden County Museum in Linn Creek, Miller County Museum in Tuscumbia and Morgan County Museum in Versailles. Four show caves allow visitors to explore the Lake's prehistoric past and they are: Bridal Cave in Camdenton, Jacob's Cave in Versailles, Ozark Caverns in Lake of the Ozarks State Park near Linn Creek and Stark Caverns in Eldon. For those looking to unplug, relax and rejuvenate, there are four excellent spas at the Lake: Spa Shiki at The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, The Spa at Old Kinderhook in Camdenton, Spa 54 at Camden on the Lake Resort in Lake Ozark and Windjammer Salon and Spa at Margaritaville Lake Resort in Osage Beach.
The Lake of the Ozarks' wineries provide visitors with the opportunity to sample some of the best local wines and enjoy vineyard views at several different stops.
Seven Springs Winery in Linn Creek and Shawnee Bluff Vineyard in Eldon both feature expansive pastoral views, while Shawnee Bluff Winery in Lake Ozark offers scenic lake views and Golden Rock Winery in Camdenton provides in-town convenience. Visitors will find a variety of vintages for tasting and amenities such as food to complement the wine, a gift shop, picnic tables and more. Each stop along the trail has its own unique sights, sounds, smells and tastes to excite the senses and create lasting memories.
When it comes to
, the Lake of the Ozarks is paradise. The Lake has one of the largest top brand-name outlet stores in Missouri, Osage Beach Outlet Marketplace, featuring nearly 100 stores. There also are several other local shopping areas,
kitschy souvenir shops, antique stores and specialty boutiques, plus nationally known retailers and "big box" stores.
The variety of activities are matched by the diversity of
Boating Magazine named Lake of the Ozarks among the top-five best places to "dock and dine" in the U.S., right up there with Key West, Fla. and New Port Beach, Calif. This is due to the fact that of the 200 restaurants at the Lake, more than 60 are located lakeside where all a boater has to do is pull up to dock, hop off the boat and head inside to dine. A delicious meal is made even more memorable by the stunning views of the sun reflecting off the great glassy blue expanse just beyond the dining table. The diversity in cuisines also means there are menus and plates for every palate, from delicious down-home comfort food in unfussy classic eateries to artfully crafted meals in white tablecloth restaurants. There's mouth-watering Ozark barbecue, Cajun creole favorites, classic American cheese burgers, perfectly prepared steaks and lobster and just about everything in between.
When it comes to lodging, the hardest part about staying at the Lake of the Ozarks is choosing from the excellent selection of accommodations, many of which have five-star ratings on Trip Advisor and are recognized as some of the best in the state by various publications and travel sites.
There are full-service large-scale resorts and smaller family-owned and operated resorts as well as charming bed and breakfasts or comfortable cabins and cottages.
There is no shortage of fully furnished vacation rental homes and condominiums. For those who prefer sleeping under the stars, there are spacious campgrounds and RV parks interspersed throughout the area. For a complete list of accommodations available at the Lake, visit the "Lodging" tab at
To start planning a trip to the
Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau
, or visit the CVB's award-winning website,
. While there, visitors can learn more about all the fun events, attractions and activities, as well as lodging and dining options available all year at the
"Best Recreational Lake" in the Nation