Lake of the Ozarks has a reputation as a full-throttle boating vacation destination. And there are plenty of activities (waterskiing, tubing, biking or going for a zoom in a speedboat) that will get you buzzing on this massive reservoir near the center of Missouri. But that doesn't mean there aren't quiet places to drop a fishing line or just dangle your feet in the water. The lake itself is vast: more than 1,100 miles of shore and coves snaking out in all directions, which means that even on summer weekends, you can find elbow room. You can also find a huge variety of lodgings: rustic cabins, newer condos, fully equipped houseboats, family-oriented resorts and luxurious, pampering retreats. The restaurants around the lake offer the same range.
Bagnell Dam Strip Taste fudge or dine at a family-friendly restaurant. Play arcade games like Skee-Ball. Buy a souvenir T-shirt, or attend a classic-car show. It’s all on this main drag in Lake Ozark.
Bridal Cave An Osage Native American tale of heartbreak, love and marriage centers here. Hour-long tours showcase mineral formations, like soda straws and bacon flaps, and subterranean Mystery Lake at the Camdenton attraction.
Bridgeport Boat Rental Choose from speedboats, pontoons, Jet Skis and more in Osage Beach.
Grandma’s Candy Kitchen Give your sweet tooth what it wants—hand-dipped chocolates, 20 flavors of homemade fudge and 40 kinds of saltwater taffy—on The Strip in Lake Ozark.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park More than 15 miles of trails and the striking ruins of an early-20th-century stone mansion—along with caves and natural bridges—draw visitors to the Camdenton spot.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Hook’em Guide Service Fishing guides happily teach newbies how to bait up, but they also show experienced fishermen the best spots on the lake. (573) 216-2409
Lake of the Ozarks State Park Sandy beaches, 12 hiking trails, horseback riding, boat rentals and lantern-lit tours of Ozark Caverns attract visitors to this leafy park in Kaiser.
Willmore Lodge When you swing by Lake Ozark’s historical visitors center for maps and brochures, leave time to explore the museum exhibits highlighting Bagnell Dam’s construction.
Baxter’s Lakeside Grille By the toll bridge in Lake Ozark, Baxter’s has one of the best sunset-viewing spots. Pair a swordfish Caprese sandwich with the signature Baxter’s Sunset: part mango margarita and part raspberry daiquiri.
Blue Heron A long-standing favorite, Blue Heron offers fine dining and a panoramic view of the lake. Arrive early to avoid the dinner rush.
H. Toad’s Bar and Grill This waterfront spot serves chops, filets, seafood and pastas, but the crowd is here in Lake Ozark for dancing to live music Friday and Saturday nights.
J. Bruner’s Restaurant An upscale dining option in Osage Beach, Bruner’s delights diners with hand-cut steaks and hand-battered onion rings.
JJ’s at the Copper Pot It’s a great spot in Laurie for special occasions. Start in the piano lounge for live music, then indulge in prime rib and lobster tail before finishing with flaming bananas Foster.
Old Kinderhook Resort Two classy dining options await guests at the Camdenton golf resort, part of the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail. The Hook Cafe serves breakfast and lunch; The Trophy Room plates entrees like Korean-style Chilean sea bass and a veal rib chop with whipped goat cheese and truffle potatoes.
On the Rise Bakery and Woodfired Bistro A cafe tucked amid Osage Beach’s big-box stores serves breakfasts of baked vanilla bean French toast, lobster and chive omelets, and classic eggs Benedict, plus gourmet lunches with a side of pepper-Parmesan potato chips.
Shady Gators Family-friendly by day; spring break party by night. The Lake Ozark spot plays to the Cajun theme with items like blackened catfish and red beans and rice.
Shorty Pants Lounge On a quieter part of the lake near Osage Beach, you’ll find authentic Cajun cuisine in a sophisticated setting. Try the alligator eggs (jalapeños stuffed with cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and baked).
Sunrise Cantina Enormous chipotle burritos make the drive to Sunrise Beach, on the lake’s west side, worthwhile.
Bass Point Resort A relaxed atmosphere and affordable cabins have kept this family-run resort on the lake’s quieter west side in business for more than 40 years.
Lake Breeze Resort Cottages and condolike units take advantage of a grassy lakeshore. In addition to a pool, there’s a sand beach, fire pit and boat rentals.
The Lodge of Four Seasons Beyond its Rat Pack-Era lobby with a sunken fireplace, you’ll discover a polished retreat with 359 rooms and suites, a large marina, restaurants, golf courses and spa.
Old Kinderhook Golfers love staying here to play the 18-hole Tom Weiskopf course.
Tan-Tar-A Resort On a lakefront resort spread over 420 acres, guests enjoy an indoor water park, horseback riding, water sports, a game room and the Windrose on the Water restaurant.
For information: Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau