Watauga Lake is an unforgettable destination for a getaway. Encompassed by winding mountain roads, this lake boasts seclusion and natural beauty since it’s situated at one of the highest points in Tennessee. Accordingly, Watauga Lake provides a blissful respite from the summer heat. Enjoy water sports, check out one of the many nearby National Recreation Areas, or embark on a hike on the Appalachian Trail. At the end of the day, head back to your Watauga Lake vacation rental to unwind and relax. Here are several family-friendly things to do in and around the lake.
1. Butler Museum
The original town of Butler now lies at the bottom of Watauga Lake as a result of the dam that was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the early 1900s and that created the lake. The Butler Museum, on the shores of the lake in “New” Butler, preserves memories of what life was like before the lake existed.
2. Water Sports
You have your choice of water sports at Watauga Lake. Trailer your power boat and water skis or your jet ski up to your vacation rental for some fun, or take out a canoe or kayak. Parasailing and wakeboarding are also available. Head to Lakeshore Marina to launch your boat or to inquire about rentals.
3. Head to the Beach
Yes, Watauga Lake has a beach, conveniently located inside one of the recreation areas. Pack a picnic lunch, and enjoy an afternoon playing in the shallow end of the water. Don’t worry Watauga Lake is well-known as having good ecological health, so it’s safe to go in the water.
4. Fishing in Watauga Lake
Watauga Lake is nicely stocked with crappie, bluegill, lake and rainbow trout, large-mouth and small-mouth bass, and walleye. Pick up a fishing guide at Fish Springs Marina to help you find what you’re looking for, and don’t forget that you need a Tennessee fishing license before you bait that hook.
5. Cherokee National Forest
Get into the wilderness when you go hiking in the Cherokee National Forest. The area around Watauga Lake is filled with delightful babbling brooks and hidden waterfalls, so make it an afternoon of discovery for the whole family. Pick up a hiking trail map to make sure you know the way back home to your waiting vacation rental.
6. Appalachian Trail
While you have your hiking boots laced up, why not check out the piece of the Appalachian Trail that crosses the southwestern tip of Watauga Lake. You can catch some fabulous views of the lake from the trail, and your kids can head back to school saying they’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail.
If it’s not truly a vacation without a round or two of golf, head to the Red Tail Mountain Golf Club in nearby Mountain City. The course takes you up and down over 400 feet of elevation changes, and it offers a stunning view of the Cherokee Forest.
8. Movies at the Drive-In
Have your kids ever seen a movie at a drive-in theater? If not, head over to Elizabethton to pick up a movie at the Stateline Drive-In. The sound is piped right through your car speakers, so you can actually understand the dialogue, unlike the drive-ins you went to as a kid. Don’t forget to load up on popcorn at the concession stand to make the evening complete.
9. Watauga Lake Winery
Overlooking the lake in Dry Run School is Watauga Lake Winery, a mandatory stop if you’re a wine lover. The beautiful Villa Nove Vineyards attached to the winery create a beautiful vista as well, and they’re actually the first vineyards to be planted in this county. Pick up a bottle or two to take back to your vacation rental.
10. Doe River Covered Bridge
In nearby Elizabethton, you can spot one of the few covered bridges still remaining in Tennessee. Take a picnic with your family to the Doe River Covered Bridge, and don’t forget to bring your camera. Local ducks are likely to visit you when you take advantage of the picnic facilities, so make sure to bring a little something to feed them.