The pristine waters of Lake Ouachita have attracted visitors to the region since the 1800s. Nestled entirely within the state of Arkansas, the area around the lake features a diverse landscape with mountains, hot springs, and forests all within driving distance. The lake offers plenty of water sports such as boating, fishing, swimming, and much more. Popular attractions include exploring quartz mines, going shopping in downtown Hot Springs, and feeding alligators on a farm. Lake Ouachita vacation rentals boast the perfect blend of fun activities and relaxation. Check out some of the most exciting family activities at Lake Ouachita.
1. Visit the Hot Springs Historic District
Not far from your vacation rental is the historic town of Hot Springs, originally developed as a spa town around the thermal springs in the area. Today this historic district is filled with shops, cafe, restaurants, and art galleries, and is the perfect place to spend the day. You can also tour many architecturally restored buildings from the early 20th century, such as Arlington Hotel, built in 1924 and a former resting spot for Al Capone.
2. Tour Garvan Woodland Gardens
On the campus of the University of Arkansas lies Garvan Woodland Gardens, a 210-acre botanical garden with scores of breathtaking flowers and other sites. Kids will love playing in the interactive rock garden at Evans Childrens Adventure Garden, while adults can marvel at the Bridge of the Full Moon, an 11-foot semicircular bridge based on ancient stone bridges found in China.
3. Learn How to Scuba Dive
Lake Ouachita has about 40,000 acres of crystal clear waters, making it the perfect place to try out scuba diving. Take a short drive from your vacation rental to Lake Ouachita Dive Center to rent scuba or snorkeling gear so you can swim along with the fish. The center also offers classes, so first-time scuba divers can learn safety measures and have a stress-free dive.
4. Go Fishing Along the Shore
The lake is an ideal spot for fishing, with plenty of small islands and shallow areas so you can set up a spot along the shore for an afternoon of fishing. There are plenty of places offering boat rentals if you prefer to fish out on the water. Some of the more common species you will find are striped bass, catfish, and largemouth bass.
5. Visit the Quartz Mines
Near the western end of the lake, not far from your vacation home, is Mount Ida, a town famous for its quartz crystal mines. Stop by a town to shop in the many stores selling crystal jewelry and gifts. You can also mine your own quartz at several of the mines. Bring a picnic lunch and head over to Twin Creek Crystal Mine or Board Camp Crystal Mine for a day if digging.
6. Go Boating on the Lake
If you are looking to spend some time relaxing on the water, Lake Ouachita is a great place to go sailing. Several marinas near your vacation home offer boats for rental, so you can set out onto the water for a beautiful sunset sail on a warm summer night.
7. Bathe in the Thermal Springs of Bathhouse Row
Hot Springs National Park has been a protected area since 1832 and offers more than 40 naturally occurring hot springs. To test out the water, stop by Buckstaff Bathhouse or Quapaw Bathhouse on Bathhouse Row to enjoy a thermal bath. You can also learn about the area’s history at Fordyce Bathhouse Visitors Center or walk along the thermal springs.
8. Go Horseback Riding in Ouachita National Forest
Equestrian lovers can rejoice because there are plenty of opportunities for horseback riding near Lake Ouachita. You can bring your own horse along the mountain trails of Lake Ouachita National Forest, where you will enjoy scenic views of the lake below. If you don’t have a horse, don’t worry, there are horses and trail guides available at Mountain Harbor Riding Stable.
9. Visit the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo
See more than 300 alligators up close at Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo. Kids and adults alike will love holding and feeding the baby alligators and petting the farm’s tame alligator, Dundee. The farm also has a small petting zoo, with pygmy goats, sheep, ponies, and more, waiting to be cuddled.
10. Go Hiking in Lake Ouachita State Park
The area surrounding Lake Ouachita is gorgeous year-round, so you won’t want to miss taking a long hike to enjoy the scenery. Lake Ouachita State Park offers two trails based on skill level, so you can take the leisurely path along Dogwood Trail or choose a more strenuous hike along Caddo Bend Trail. Other parks with lovely trails with lake and mountain views include Ouachita National Forest and Hot Springs National Park.