Lake Norman By Sea and By Land
When the days are long and hot as an oven, there’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in the sparkling clean waters of the largest (and, some say, prettiest) manmade lake in North Carolina.
Located just 25 miles north of uptown Charlotte near the charming communities of Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville, Lake Norman – often referred to simply as LKN – offers maritime aficionados and thrill seekers alike over 50 square miles of water to explore … and more. With approximately 520 miles of gorgeous shoreline, the lake is also perfect for more tranquil pastimes, including kayaking, fishing, sunset tours and plenty for history buffs.
Sun, Fun & More
Fed by the Catawba River, Lake Norman was created in 1959 by Duke Energy and finished in 1964. These days, Lake Norman is known as a resort area, and the area has plenty of fans, both local and afar.
Sharon Simpson is one such supporter. A native Charlottean who has lived at Lake Norman for 19 years, Simpson spent the better part of her career serving as the publisher of not one but two local magazines devoted to the Lake Norman community. While Simpson loves the lake first and foremost, she notes that the people are what make Lake Norman truly special.
Fun in the Sun
“Even though Lake Norman is considered more of a resort area now, the people are very down-to-earth, laidback and relaxed,” she says. “It must be the water that creates that feeling of tranquility, but whatever it is, you just don’t meet a stranger at Lake Norman.”
Kate Wolff agrees that the lake area offers warm welcomes. Wolff, who hails from Endicott, N.Y., moved to Charlotte in June 2013 and quickly became enamored with Lake Norman. As the owner of K8’s K-9 Club, a pet-sitting and grooming business, Wolff soon realized that having a flourishing business also meant a decided lack of downtime. Along with her fiancée, Wolff decided to become a member of a boat club in order to create a cool reprieve from everyday life.
“We were both working seven days a week, and we knew that for the first couple of years taking a vacation would be difficult,” Wolff says. “I heard about the boat club concept, and we toured a few on the lake. We decided on Carefree Boat Club in Cornelius and joined in January of 2015. We have loved it ever since.”
Wolff’s experiences with a lake in the Adirondacks were more placid than the speed and sport of Lake Norman. “When I was growing up, you couldn’t have motors over a certain horsepower, so it was very quiet and serene,” she explains. “Lake Norman is fun and sporty.”
Plan Your Trip
In addition to thrill seeking, Wolff enjoys taking her dogs to the public islands to romp in the water. It’s the perfect staycation, she says.
“On our way home, when we see the skyline of Charlotte again, we feel like we are coming home from vacation,” Wolff says. “Our trips to the lake always feel like our vacation from real life, and the fact that it is so close makes us feel like we are spoiled.”
For those who love the water but don’t own a boat or jet ski – or for visitors traveling in to experience the lake – consider a rental from Carolina Boat Rentals, 77 Watersports or Lake Norman Jet Ski Rentals, among others. For sailboat lovers, attend one of several annual regattas, or visit the Lake Norman Community Sailing Center to learn more about sailing and rowing. For avid anglers, consider chartering an expedition with a fishing guide service such as Fish on Lake Norman, led by Captain Craig Price.
After you are good and pruny, it’s time to dry off and explore the other side of Lake Norman, which includes plenty of fun by land. Venture ashore to find shopping and restaurants, including Port City Club, Kindred, 131 Main, and Fork. Indulge in a pint of locally made craft beer at one of several award-winning craft breweries, including Primal and D9 Brewing Co. Stroll through The Bradford Store in nearby Huntersville to experience a quaint specialty grocery store with plenty of fresh organic produce, flowers, seafood, baked bread and more. Or check out several farmers markets in the area, including the Davidson Farmers Market and Huntersville Growers Market.
Several historical homes also offer tours for visitors. In Huntersville alone, there’s Historic Latta Plantation, a 52-acre, early 19th-century cotton plantation and living history farm; Rural Hill, a 250-year-old historic farm known for its educational programs; and several other farmsteads and homesteads. To plan your itinerary, check out the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission’s driving tours of stops at these and other area attractions. Or, grab your sneakers and take a walking tour of downtown Davidson’s historic district, which includes stops at historic residences, stores, and the town hall.
Travis Dancy with Visit Lake Norman pronounces Lake Norman a summertime paradise. “The largest manmade lake in North Carolina is the perfect playground, no matter what your desired summer adventure,” he says. “The welcoming towns of Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville are rich with art, history, award-winning dinning, shopping, summer events, and more.”
– Karsen Price