31 Jan Adventures in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Lake of the Ozarks is a reservoir located in central Missouri, and it is huge! The reservoir has more than 1,150 miles of shoreline, and from one end to the other, it spans 92 miles. With that much water, you know there is bound to be an abundance of adventures in the region. We partnered with Lake of the Ozarks Tri-County Lodging Association, and had so much fun exploring Lake of the Ozarks and the surrounding area. There are tons of things to do, and we barely scratched the surface of what the area has to offer.
During our time in Lake of the Ozarks, we went hiking, paddling, explored a cave, ate at some fantastic restaurants, visited a couple of wineries, played on a ropes course, and saw some gorgeous castle ruins. Our home base for the trip was the Margaritaville Lake Resort, and we had a wonderful time throughout our entire visit. Read on to learn more about some great adventures in Lake of the Ozarks!
Paddling on Lake of the Ozarks
Exploring Lake of the Ozarks via the water is a must, and we explored our favorite way, paddling! There are many marinas in the area that rent out kayaks, and we ended up renting them from Ha Ha Tonka State Park. When we were ready to paddle, we made our way to the park’s office and filled out some quick paperwork. Then we were handed the keys and told where and how to pick up our kayaks for our two-hour rental. The kayaks are stored right by the water near the docks. All of our supplies (kayak, paddle, and PFD) were easy to unlock, gather, and get into the water.
We spent the next 1.5 hours paddling around the calm waters under a bright blue sky—we made our way along the cliffs by the park’s castle ruins, next to tree covered shores, and near the spring. The scenery was gorgeous, and it was a perfect adventure out on the water.
Spelunking at Bridal Cave
There are several caves in the area surrounding Lake of the Ozarks, and we ended up visiting Bridal Cave.
From the moment we walked inside, we were blown away. The stalactites looked as though they were dripping from the ceiling all the way to the floor creating mesmerizing columns and towers along the way. As we made our way through the cave, we had to duck under some short ceilings and squeeze through some tight passages, but the path was mostly easy to navigate with a few stairs here and there.
At one point during the tour, our guide turned off all the lights and we stood in complete darkness. The darkness was both eerie and mesmerizing; it’s crazy how dark it was deep inside the cave. Another fun fact about this cave is that there have been a bunch of weddings held there, hence the name, Bridal Cave! We loved walking through the cave and learning all about its history—exploring this cave is definitely a fun adventure to have when visiting Lake of the Ozarks!
Hiking at Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Lake of the Ozarks State Park has 89 miles of shoreline and a lot to offer visitors. We visited the park on the first day of our trip and our first stop was the beach. With so much lakeshore, there are plenty of spots to enjoy the water, and we ended up at one of the park’s beaches. We spent time relaxing by the water and soaking up the sunshine.
We also went on a sunset hike in the park along the Rocky Top Trail. This trail is essentially two connected loops, and it is 2.2 miles long. The path runs through the forest and along the lakeshore with lots of beautiful views along the way. We stopped at an overlook on the lake right at sunset, and the pink sky was stunning. We even spotted an armadillo scurrying about in the woods and on the trail. It was so neat to see one in the wild—we don’t have armadillos running around at home in Minnesota!
Exploring Ha Ha Tonka State Park and the Castle Ruins
Ha Ha Tonka State Park is another fantastic state park located right on the shores of Lake of the Ozarks. We woke up bright and early to start exploring, and we are glad we did because we spent the better part of our day there! We needed all the time we could get to see this beautiful park. Our first stop of the day was the Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins. The castle was originally completed in the 1920’s and in the 1940’s it burned down in a fire when the castle was being used as a hotel. Now, the ruins are part of the state park, and while it’s sad to think about how the castle met its demise, it’s still a gorgeous structure to see. We wandered around the castle ruins, marveled at the plentiful birds flying around, and soaked up the views overlooking the lake.
Then it was time to hit the trails. We started off with a short walk to the natural bridge, which is a giant rock that has formed itself into a bridge over the years. The bridge is 70 feet wide, and you can walk right underneath it. We were shocked how large the bridge was and how tiny we felt standing under it—nature is certainly spectacular.
We made our way over to the Spring Trail next. The path to the spring is about 0.4 miles long and it is a nice, paved trail. Once you reach the spring, the trail turns into a boardwalk with some steps, as well as tight maneuvering around large rocks. The spring water was so clear and vivid; it looked like we were staring into another world!
The entire Spring Trail is a loop that is 1.4 miles long, and not long after you pass the end of the spring, you are greeted with more than 300 stairs. This portion of the hike starts to get more strenuous as it sends you right up the giant staircase. Talk about a workout!
Before leaving the park, we also rented kayaks and spent two hours paddling around the lake, which I mentioned above. The paddle was the perfect way to cap off our long morning at Ha Ha Tonka State Park. We loved the variety of adventures we were able to have at this park, and the beautiful scenery was a wonderful backdrop for it all to take place!
Dining at Lakefront Restaurants and Bars
Lakefront dining is certainly a thing in Lake of the Ozarks. There are an abundance of fantastic eateries with views overlooking the lake, and many of the restaurants also have lakeside pool bars. We ate at several great spots that were located right on the lake: Shorty Pants Lounge, LandShark Bar and Grill, and Redhead Lakeside Grill and Yacht Club. All of the restaurants served good food in a fun atmosphere. While the weather and timing didn’t quite cooperate for us to enjoy the pool bars, they looked like a good time!
Of course, there are plenty of fantastic non-lakeside restaurants in the area, as well. Some other spots we went to and enjoyed were Malted Monkey (see more below), Great Stone Coffee, Paint Box Café, and Sip Coffee House.
Relaxing at Wineries
There are plenty of wineries around Lake of the Ozarks, and we had the pleasure to stop at two of them: Seven Springs Winery & Shawnee Bluff Winery. We started out at Seven Springs Winery and ordered a couple glasses of red wine to enjoy on the patio. The patio at this winery was fantastic—there were several levels cascading down the side of a hill, and many of the tables were secluded next to trees, flowers, and a flowing water feature. To top it off, all the tables overlooked the vineyard. We enjoyed both the wine and the atmosphere and could have spent a couple of hours relaxing at our private, cozy table. But the sun was starting to go down, so we had to make our way to the next stop on the list.
The second winery we visited was Shawnee Bluff Winery. We were welcomed with another amazing view, and this time the view on the patio was overlooking the expansive waters of Lake of the Ozarks. As we were perusing the wine list, the bartender mentioned their current wine slushie flavor was watermelon, and it sounded so refreshing that I couldn’t pass it up. Micah ordered another glass of red, and we made our way out to the patio situated between the pool and lake. As we enjoyed our refreshing sips, we watched the sun set on another fantastic day in Lake of the Ozarks.
Playing on the Ropes Course and Drinking Malts at Malted Monkey
The ropes course at Malted Monkey rises to dizzying heights of up to 55 feet, and it’s a great way to channel your inner child. We had so much fun climbing around the course and playing on the obstacles! Once you are strapped into a harness and connected to the course, you are free to explore. Most of the obstacles require you to gather all the balance you can muster, and several require clever maneuvering to make it to the other side. One of our favorite sections of the course was the zipline that sends you around a giant curve and right over Bagnell Dam Strip.
When you are done playing on the course, you can either take the stairs back down to the ground or jump straight down off a platform from the very top of the course. We couldn’t resist the thrill of a freefall, so we had to give that option a go. It was all so much fun!
Once we returned safely with two feet on the ground, we had to reward ourselves with lunch and gigantic milkshakes from the onsite restaurant. The burgers and mac & cheese were tasty, but the milkshakes definitely stole the show! We were planning on sharing one, but Micah wanted Oreo and I wanted Reese’s. So, we each ended up ordering our own, and let’s just say it was a good idea because they were amazing and gone before we knew it!
Where We Stayed
Lake of the Ozarks is a massive lake, so there are plenty of accommodations to pick from when visiting the area. We ended up staying at the Margaritaville Lake Resort, which is located right on the edge of the lake. The property has a lot to offer guests with multiple pools, mini golf, waterparks, pool bars, several restaurants, and more. Our room was spacious and came with two king beds, and one of our favorite parts of the resort was the lakefront pool.
The pool had a beachy, tropical vibe with rock waterfalls and a tiki hut bar. It’s the perfect place to relax on a hot, sunny afternoon! We also had dinner at Landsharks, one of the onsite lakefront restaurants. And of course, when you visit Margaritaville, you must have a Margarita…or two!
We visited Lake of the Ozarks, as part of a content creation project. Special thanks to Lake of the Ozarks Tri-County Lodging Association and Madden Media for hosting us on our adventures at Lake of the Ozarks. As always, all opinions are our own.
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