The Perfect Summer: Lake Life

Three Southern spots for cool water and mountain magic

Photo: David McClister

An afternoon on North Georgia's Lake Rabun, aboard a 1937 Garwood Streamliner. Top by Saint James. Swimsuit by Marysia Swim.

Fontana Lake
Bryson City, NC

One of the region’s best-kept secrets, this 11,700-acre lake forms the border between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala National Forest, meaning you won’t find a bunch of big showy homes—just miles of undeveloped shoreline and unspoiled scenery.

Lake Jocassee
Salem, SC

Tucked into the northwest corner of South Carolina, where the Blue Ridge Mountains roll into the Piedmont, Jocassee stays uncommonly clear and cool thanks to the streams and waterfalls that tumble into the lake. Plan a day trip to Laurel Fork Falls, an eighty-foot beauty on the lake’s north end.

Lake Rabun
Lakemont, GA

There’s one marina and a twenties-era inn, and the closest grocery store is a thirty-minute drive. But it’s exactly that quiet charm that has kept families returning for generations to this North Georgia hideout, just a hundred miles from Atlanta. Summer highlights include the Fourth of July Wooden Boat Parade—the area is home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of classic crafts.