Since 2020 took a lot from us, we knew that we needed a change of scenery. Back in January, we booked a house in Lake Oconee, Georgia for the end of July. We wavered back and forth for a long time on whether or not we should go, and even the weeks leading up to it. In the end we decided that we were minimizing our risk by driving and we followed everything we would have followed at home. We ended up having such a great time when we went in July and found the drive to be doable, so we decided to do it again for our Christmas vacation.
Because we did follow social distancing precautions, the travel guide is not that extensive. I'll share the few things we did do that we really enjoyed, as well as some of the things that there are in the area.
First of all, why Lake Oconee? We wanted a change of scenery, something we had never done before, and we wanted it to be within driving distance of Miami without having to stop at a hotel for the night. The drive is about 10 hours - while long, it is definitely doable. We packed sandwiches, snacks and electronics, and we stopped only for potty breaks, gas, and coffee. We left early in the morning and we arrived with daylight to spare.
Another requirement was being able to rent a house. We did not want to stay in hotels as we wanted to be able to cook our own meals and be okay with just hanging out at the house. We have had great luck with vacation rentals on vrbo.com. We stayed in two different houses. They were both very nice, but they were different and located in slightly different areas. The first house was more on the outskirts of the lake and part of the town of Eatonton. It was not part of a community therefore we did not have access to amenities and it was just the house. The second house we stayed at was in the Reynolds Plantation area, which is a (HUGE) community with a gated entry. There was a playground, a marina, a pavilion, a golf course, and plenty of walking paths as well. If you are looking to have additional amenities, I highly recommend the Reynolds Plantation area. Aside from that, both houses had docks, 4 bedrooms and 4.5 baths, outdoor areas, grills, and fully stocked kitchens (tool-wise).
There is a Publix in the area which is where we bought all of our groceries. I realized this time around that you can do a pickup order there so you don't have to go inside if you don't want to, but we didn't take advantage of that. We also wanted to have a special meal on New Year's Eve, so we ordered stone crabs from a local market called Pounders Meat & Seafood Market. We also had some food from Georgia Butts BBQ and it was absolutely delicious.
There are several restaurants you can dine at or order from, we ordered from Mellow Mushroom pizza once and Marco's Pizza. Both were great. We did have dinner one night at Linger Longer Steakhouse at the Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee.
Over the summer, we visited a farmer's market (it was next to The Harbor at Harmony Crossing). They had baked goods, fresh fruit, and local artisans.
Both times we rented a boat. Over the summer, the Lake is full of boaters and people stopping in different spots and jumping in the lake. We did this and had a really great time. We rented the boat from Oconee Wild Watersports for four hours and really took advantage, stopping in multiple places and jumping in the water. This time, we rented from Young Harris Watersports for 2 hours (because it was cold and we didn't think we would be able to be on the water for 4 hours). It was chilly but it was so nice to cruise around the lake for a little bit. Both rentals were smooth and the boats were in good condition, although the one from Oconee Wild Watersports was a little bit newer.
We also visited the Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee a few times - once for coffee and to walk around a bit, another time to visit the spa for a couple of treatments (which were absolutely lovely), and finally to dinner at the Linger Longer Steakhouse. They usually have marshmallow roasting and additional activities for the kids in the evenings, but a lot of those activities were not currently available to non-hotel guests. For anything at the hotel, make sure you call ahead and make reservations, as everything is not open due to COVID precautions.
There is The Alice Walker Driving Tour you can complete. This self-guided driving trail takes the visitor to various points of interest applicable to Eatonton native, Alice Walker and her family members. Alice Walker is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the novel "The Color Purple."
Aside from that, there are several other outdoor things to do in the area, and plenty of walking/hiking trails. I'm sure there are more things to do, but again, due to the pandemic we wanted to limit how much we interacted with others. We really enjoyed both times we spent in Lake Oconee. We truly felt like we were able to get away and disconnect, and we are already looking forward to when we can go back.
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