Virginia’s Piedmont is rich in history, diverse culture and plenty of places to imbibe—while enjoying impeccable views. Fall is an especially popular time to visit, as the leaves nearly seem to be showing off their incredible, vibrant hues. When winter comes, so do the skiers, snowboarders and tubers seeking magnificent thrills upon the hills.
Spend some time in the great outdoors by hiking one of the many scenic trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Load up your two wheels to bike along the Tobacco Heritage Trail, running along Southside Virginia, or the James River Heritage Trail in Lynchburg. Take in Richmond’s one-of-a-kind culture. Soak up Virginia’s history—and soak up the local sips, too—in Charlottesville. Whether you immerse yourself fully in the unmatched beauty of Central and Southern Virginia’s nature or you admire the fabulous views from afar as you drink in some culture, you’ll soon discover why this region is beloved by many.
Explore the outdoors—or kick back and relax at Smith Mountain Lake
Smith Mountain Lake is breathtakingly beautiful: a crystal blue lake surrounded by woods leading up to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains.
There are some 50 miles of shoreline with scores of recreational opportunities, from water sports like boating and fishing—especially for striped bass—to camping and golf. The lake was created in 1963.
In addition to the community of Smith Mountain Lake, other nearby towns include Huddleston, Moneta, Union Hall and Wirtz. Adjacent is Smith Mountain Lake State Park. Most of the shoreline falls in Franklin County, with the region also comprising of Pittsylvania and Bedford counties. These venues offer visitors plenty to see or do—or the chance to kick back and do little of nothing at all.
Around Smith Mountain Lake, folks can find many family-owned and family-centric restaurants, with even the finer dining having an approachable, casual slant. We like The Landing Restaurant, which offers great lake views. Lake County cuisine is personified with the Duck Duet; the dish includes five-spice crispy duck breast with duck confit kimchi rice and a poached farm egg atop and served with fresh greens. TheLandingSML.com
An assortment of lodging opportunities are available around Smith Mountain Lake, including camping/campgrounds, cabin rentals, bed and breakfasts, hotels and lodges.
Gills Creek Marina & Lodge in Wirtz provides boaters with needed docking, and for folks staying overnight, four rooms provide rustic charm and modern amenities, as well as large covered decks with expansive views of Gills Creek opening up to the Blackwater River on Smith Mountain Lake. GillsCreekMarina.com
Across the region there are wineries and breweries, year-round festivals and shopping. But it’s sports and recreation (followed by rest and relaxation) that is first and foremost for visits to Smith Mountain Lake. In addition to boating, camping and hiking, consider casting a reel with PointRunner’s Striper Guide Service, putting around at Harbortown Miniature Golf at Bridgewater Plaza, learning about regional history at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville or about American history at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.
Also of note: the 28th Annual Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival takes place this year Sept. 24–25 and features 29 wineries, 85 craft vendors, live music and more. The event is presented by the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. Learn more at VisitSmithMountainLake.com
There are a number of wineries in and around the Smith Mountain Lake area. We love Hickory Hill Vineyards, producing 100 percent local vintages for more than three decades. They offer a consistently award-winning vintage, estate-grown chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. Try the Smith Mountain Lake Country Red, an easy-drinking, unoaked, dry, red wine blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. SMLWine.com
If you want something a tad stronger, you’ll enjoy a sip of Franklin County’s Finest, produced by Twin Creeks Distillery, located in what’s long been known as “the moonshine capitol of the world.” Get a taste of their Sweet Mash Rye or their First Sugar Rye, or go sweeter with their dandy Peach Brandy. FCFMoonshine.com
Have a drink and an experience to remember at Sunken City Brewing Company, giving a nod to the once-incorporated town of Monroe, which was flooded in the mid-1960s when Smith Mountain Lake was filled. Try the Dam Lager, an American-style amber lager with a subtle herbal hop aroma and a slightly sweet and clean finish. And when it gets a wee bit cooler, indulge in the Tartan Tent Scottish Ale, boasting a sweet and smooth caramel character and robustness to keep you warm on any long winter night. SunkenCityBeer.com