Smith Mountain Lake State Park

Written by’s Local Expert


Smith Mountain Lake is a reservoir located in Virginia, about an hour southeast of Roanoke.  It’s renowned for its green, tree-lined shoreline and deep blue topaz water, for which it’s nicknamed, “Jewel of the Blue Ridge.” Smith Mountain Lake has over 580 miles of shoreline, and is a hotspot for locals, tourists, and water sports enthusiasts. It takes up about 32 square miles, and is 40 miles long.  It was created back in 1963, and has undergone significant development since then. It’s now the largest lake in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I love being on this lake because it lies in a valley right by the Blue Ridge Mountains, so there are mountain vistas all around. In fact, it’s so picturesque that it feels like you’re in a movie scene, which is just about right because the famous movie with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, “What About Bob,” had several scenes on this very lake.

There’s a genuinely friendly vibe to this lake, too. Even though many of the people enjoying the lake are visitors, the locals are very welcoming. There are two public beaches that provide public access to the lake. One of them is a 500-foot beach, and it’s definitely more crowded here than the smaller one. Access to the beach area is $2 per person, and children three years old and younger are free.

At the end of a long day on the lake, sit back and enjoy a beautiful sunset over the water as it sets behind the Blue Ridge Mountains.

What To Do At Smith Mountain Lake State Park

There are numerous ways to enjoy the clear blue waters of Smith Mountain Lake. There is fishing along the docks, for one thing. Rumor has it that you can catch striped bass, largemouth bass, black mouth bass, and small mouth bass.

Boat rentals are available at Smith Mountain Lake. Get up close and personal with kayaking or canoeing. Or enjoy renting one of several other watercraft, like a pontoon boat, hydro bike, jet ski, paddle board or jet boat, all available at Bernard’s Boat Rentals at Bernard’s Landing. You can also rent boats at the Bridgewater Marina, Crazy Horse Marina and Gills Creek Marina, all of which dot around the lake in various locations.

Notably, Smith Mountain Lake hosts the annual Virginia Commonwealth Wakeboarding Competition. Lots of pro wakeboarder convene on the lake in summer, such as Joy Manning, Women’s Master World Champion Wakeboarder.

A word to the wise: Although Smith Mountain Lake looks peaceful and serene (and it is), there are still hidden dangers like wakes from jet skiers and passing boats. Keep yourself and your family safe with lifejackets and of course, plenty of sunblock. You are, after all, at a high altitude where the sun’s rays can be strong even on cloudy days.

Services at Smith Mountain Lake State Park

The beaches at Smith Mountain Lake have lifeguards on duty during certain days and hours. Be sure to check before swimming if a lifeguard is on duty. There are plenty of restrooms and some drinking fountains near the beaches, too.

There are no less than seven public boat ramps at Smith Mountain Lake. You can pick up a waterproof map of the lake, which includes the location of each boat ramp, at the Smith Mountain Lake Association building for just over $10. Some of the local marinas also sell maps of the lake.

You can get gas for your boat at one of several marinas, including Bay Rock Marina, Bridgewater Marina, Virginia Dare Marina and Maanum Point Marina. Each of the marinas also provide public restrooms.

For your dining pleasure, pull right on up to one of four dozen eateries, some of them accessible by boat. For instance, try the Beacon Seafood Pub, located northwest of Marker R-21 on  the lake. For casual fare and deck dining, check out Drifters, situated at Crystal Shores Marina, northeast of Marker R-27.

Finally, there’s a completely quaint ice cream boat that travels along the shoreline. Just like the ice cream trucks in your neighborhood, all you have to do is listen for the music and wave them on over to your boat or into the place you are docked to enjoy a frozen treat.

What's Nearby

Even when you’re not on the water, you can enjoy the surroundings of Smith Mountain Lake. There’s a beautiful community park with miles of walking trails that you can access right from the beach.

While bicycling can be a little dodgy due to narrow-shoulder roads in the area, you can still avail of nearby shops via car. Visit one of the many antique stores. bring a picnic to the community park, go camping overnight or disappear for a day to one of several spas just off the lake, such as Serafina Spa. You and your family will find loads of things to do and enjoy during your stay at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. Looking for a place to stay? Check out our selection of vacation rentals today! Browse & book online or call us today at (877) 276-5745 - we're here to help!

Local Tips

  • There are two public beaches that provide public access to the lake.
  • Cabins & Campsites are available for rent.


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