Travel & Destinations

Lake of the Ozarks: A Perfect Vacation Spot

Planning a summer escape from the Texas heat?

An eight-hour drive from Dallas, Lake of the Ozarks is a great warm-weather destination where the entire family can relax, unwind, and immerse in nature.

Tucked into the rolling hills of the Ozark Mountains, Lake of the Ozarks has more than 1,150 miles of shoreline (longer than California’s Pacific coast). Renowned for its water activities, including boating, water-skiing, and kayaking, Lake of the Ozarks also offers luxurious golf outings, hiking, and fantastic fishing.

A Little History

The lake was formed by the construction of the Bagnell Dam in 1931 and fed by the Osage River channel and other tributaries. Its long, serpentine shape earned it the nickname “The Magic Dragon.” Three museums and the historic Willmore Lodge preserve much of the area’s history.

Nature Abounds in Two State Parks

Lake of the Ozarks State Park protects the entire Grand Glaize Arm from private development. It features marinas, swimming beaches, trails for hiking and biking, and caverns for exploring.  The Park offers summer programs on the area’s natural history, guided hikes, and other activities for visitors. Better yet, it’s free and open daily, year-round, during daylight hours.

My favorite activity was enjoying a pontoon boat ride along the Lake of the Ozark’s “Aquatic Trail” from the Grand Glaize Marina. Getting a waterfront perspective of the area’s history, nature, and geology through 14 well-curated stops was an ideal afternoon excursion.    

Want to rent a boat from the marina and explore the lake? This is the place. If you’re going to bring your own craft, it can be launched at one of the area’s nine public access ramps. It’s easy to obtain the required Missouri Boating Certification card as well as a fishing license.

HaHaTonkaSpring E 72
Ha Ha Tonka Spring | Photo by MO State Parks

Named the “Most Beautiful Place in Missouri” by Conde Nast Traveler, Ha Ha Tonka State Park has 15 miles of hiking trails among the best-preserved oak woodlands in Missouri. One of the winding nature trails leads to the remains of a 19th-century European-style castle overlooking the lake. Built by a wealthy Kansas City businessman in 1920, it was destroyed by a fire in 1942.

I spent a happy morning wandering among the ruins, with the rustle of leaves beneath my feet, periwinkle blue sky overhead. From atop towering bluffs, the views of the lake are majestic. The unique limestone formations and one of Missouri’s largest natural springs only add to the area’s breathtaking beauty.

TheRidgeatTheLodgeofFourSeasons E 72
The Ridge at The Lodge of Four Seasons | Photo By The Lodge


If your idea of fun is hitting the links, the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail has 13 stunning courses and is a golf destination for golfers of all skill levels. Pros at each course offer lessons for those interested in learning.

I’d Rather Be Fishing

The Lake of the Ozarks is a fisherman’s dream. All this water makes for billions of fish; visiting anglers will discover more than a dozen types, including catfish, crappie, and bluegill. Rent your own boat or hire a local guide who knows all the best holes. The lake hosts more than 500 fishing tournaments every year. Once you visit, you’ll be hooked.

Although most of the area’s natural beauty remains untouched, the lake offers world-class accommodations, restaurants, and entertainment venues. You can be as lively or as laid back as you want to be. After all, you’re on lake time, here.

For more information, visit


Sharon Kurtz

Sharon Kurtz is a freelance writer and photographer. Her passion is travel, telling stories, and tussling with her four-legged friends. As a baby boomer who loves adventure, she welcomes opportunities to share stories of people, places, food, and flavors around the corner or around the world. A regular contributor to fyi50+ Magazine, she's published 200 articles in various digital and print publications. Austin, Texas, is home with her husband and three spoiled dogs when not searching out new adventures. You can follow her travels on Instagram and Facebook.

Related Articles

Back to top button