There’s great crappie and bass fishing at Georgia’s Lake Oconee. Locals will tell you that the best time for them to bite is between February and April.
But it’s only December. Who wants to wait until then to visit? Not you, especially after you see all that Reynolds Lake Oconee, a community of private homes, vacation rentals, The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee and more just an hour and a half from Atlanta, has in store over the next few months.
From holiday get-togethers at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star resort to heart-pounding endeavors in the nearby woods, Reynolds Lake Oconee is the year-round getaway that has us hooked this winter.
Even if you’ve never experienced Christmas at this luxurious lakefront escape, you can probably guess what’s on the festive agenda — life-sized gingerbread houses, classic movie showings and breakfasts with Santa. Yes, the 30-acre property is unwrapping all of that this year. But the property is raising the peppermint-scented bar even more with seasonal spa treatments (biting winds, meet the Winter Forest Facial) and fun libations (two cranberry martinis, please).
Still, the Ice Rink in the Forest might be the holiday highlight. Already an annual favorite at the property, the 6,000-square-foot rink is a complimentary treat for all hotel guests through January 5.
And when it comes to accommodations, it won’t much matter if you’re at the top of the naughty list; everyone is gifted with a well-appointed room. It’s been known to get a little nippy around the lake in December and January, but because halls are decked with warm, neutral tones, marble-trimmed baths and waterfront vistas, you won’t feel a thing. Ground-level Fireside Lake View rooms offer the added pleasure of having a walk-out patio equipped with a fire pit.
But take it all in now. Come April 2020, The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee will unveil a new contemporary look across many areas. Guest rooms and suites will be given fresh coats of creams, grays, greens and blues. The Club Level will make over its popular Club Lounge and debut five new guest rooms. The beloved Backyard will be enhanced with a family pool built along the shore.
If Christmas menus around the resort are anything like those from Thanksgiving, you can expect the dining rooms at Linger Longer Steakhouse and Georgia’s to permeate with the pleasant aromas of turkeys, prime rib and all the usual fixins.
But even when the holidays are over, these restaurants will keep the good times rolling with wet-aged steaks (Linger Longer Steakhouse), blackened grouper (Georgia’s) and other comfort foods done with a sophisticated Southern touch.
Linger Longer elevates meals even more with the occasional three-course dinner and wine pairings. Circle January 8 (with Beaulieu Vineyards), February 12 (Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards) and March 11 (Cakebread Cellars) for the next events.
Though things are much more informal at Gaby’s By The Lake — enjoy your vino in flip-flops here — a menu of brisket street tacos, barbecue wings and a delicious lobster grilled cheese lets you know that the kitchen still means business.
Just off the hotel property, but still on Reynolds Lake Oconee, are even more dining options. Eighty8 Kitchen + Cocktails has warm woods on the floor, WhistlePig whiskey on the shelf and a soul-warming meatloaf on its menu.
When you visit The National Tavern, another comfortable restaurant just a short drive from your hotel room, you can expect a cabin-like feel, friendly server smiles and an expansive roster of mountain trout, margherita pizza and many tasty dishes in between.
But no matter where you decide to go for your main course, make sure your dessert is shared around the communal campfire back at The Ritz-Carlton. The nightly s’mores spread from 8 to 10 gives you the chance to reminisce on the day with your crew, converse with other hotel guests and, most importantly, nibble on graham-cracker-marshmallow concoctions under the stars.
When it comes to the great outdoors, however, Reynolds Lake Oconee doesn’t stop at s’mores. On a clear winter day, a boat outing can still make sense. Should the forecast call for anything over 65 degrees, we’d understand the urge for wanting to play a few holes on one of the resort’s five gorgeous courses or even setting up a private swing lesson at the state-of-the-art Reynolds Kingdom of Golf.
But the resort has an even wilder side at Sandy Creek Sporting Ground. A 100-acre outdoorsman’s playground roughly a 20-minute drive from the hotel (but technically still on Reynolds property), the facility affords you the chance to try your hand in a number of pursuits — archery, air rifles, fishing and sporting clay shooting.
With Sandy Creek Sporting Ground director Justin Jones by our side, we gave the latter sport a chance. The resort asked Jones to design a shooting course in 2017 the world hadn’t seen before. And with this 20-station layout, he did just that. Clays dart across wide-open expanses, over picturesque ponds and through thick brush. Like a golf course, every station presents a different challenge. It’s easy to see why this activity has gotten increasingly popular for company outings and other groups.
The resort’s newest offering, an off-roading experience, probably won’t take long to become a guest favorite, either. With a veteran guide riding shotgun, you get behind the wheel of a Land Rover Discovery and test your driving skills on a rolling, sloping route through the Georgia countryside that was designed by Bob Burns, a renowned architect of off-roading courses around the globe.
The perfect complement to the shooting, swinging and sipping already on your vacation agenda, off-roading is just the latest reason to love Reynolds Lake Oconee right now.