We’re continually on the hunt for opportunities to add richness to our lives. In the time of the road trip revival, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston that make for a great getaway. We feel that our worldly and devoted readers will find these places interesting.
Land Between the Lakes, KY/TN
Driving six hours southwest from Charleston brings you to Land Between the Lakes, a region in Kentucky and Tennessee that is one of the coolest places you’ll find. This lesser-known gem, a national recreation area, is a great getaway for those who love the outdoors, nature, wildlife, and getting off the beaten path. It has 170,000 acres to do just that. LBL (Land Between the Lakes) sits between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.
WHAT TO SEE & DO AT LBL
You may be surprised to know that this region sees 1.5 million visitors a year and is often thought of as a national park by those who visit. Hiking and biking are highly popular, with 500 miles of trails. But not to worry, you can get out on the lakes, too, for boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, and water skiing as LBL offers 300 miles of shoreline. There are beach areas for swimming, places to rent boats and equipment, and two welcome stations in the north and south.
If you like to fish, you are going to love LBL. Forests are abundant in the area, so hunting is yet another activity. The property is used for licensed deer, turkey, and squirrel hunting.
Even the drive itself through LBL is exceptional in every way. Stop to enjoy historical markers and sites (the iron furnace, for one), migratory birds, herds of bison, and wildflowers. The Elk and Bison Prairie, full of beautiful prairie grasses and several dozen bison and elk, costs $5 to drive through, but you can often see them free just down the road by the main drag at the south bison range. Woodlands Nature Station is another scenic area to visit with an 8,500-acre Nature Watch Area.
A fun family activity would be visiting Golden Pond Planetarium, a NASA Educator Resource Center. Start with the planetarium show in the 360-degree domed theater to learn about the solar system. The laser light show is a highlight for the kids. Check out Rocking U Riding Stables is where to go for guided horseback trail rides or pony rides.
All ages will enjoy the Homeplace 1850s, a 170-year old working farm with costumed interpreters, pioneer homes, outbuildings, and farm animals, including Border Leicester sheep, pigs, chickens, and mules. Guaranteed, you will learn something at this one-of-a-kind attraction and maybe witness tobacco curing, sheep shearing, or gardening.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
There are no restaurants in the LBL region, so you will need to exit into a town for food.
Patti’s 1880s Settlement, in Grand Rivers, is one of the most fantastic places you’ll find to eat, drink, and be merry in 11 gorgeous dining rooms, plus do some shopping in the process. Patti’s is a full-scale complex, a recreated historical log cabin village housed around the restaurant. The restaurant serves fantastic food and wonderful pies (try the sawdust). My favorite dish is the Kentucky Hot Brown, but Patti’s is famous for the 1-2” pork chops. You can also play mini-golf and go gold panning on the property.
Echo Charlie’s is another fun Kentucky restaurant at the Eddy Creek Marina Resort in Eddyville. After a crisp salad, hearty appetizers, or fresh fish dish, save room for the peach, pecan, or blackberry cobblers.
Paris, Tennessee, the neighbor to Dover, has Sweet Jordans, an elevated coffee and pastries shop with excellent sandwiches, soups, and salads. They also have tasty breakfast sandwiches.
In Dover, Hillbilly’s BBQ is delicious for BBQ meats, beans, and coleslaw. Cafe Doughver is good for coffee drinks, sweets, and a few sandwich choices.
WHERE TO STAY AT LAND BETWEEN THE LAKES
I recommend staying in Dover, TN, or Grand Rivers, KY. In Grand Rivers, Patti’s 1880’s Settlement has accommodations including Patti’s Inn & Suites (58 rooms in the lake area) and The Rose of the Lake bed and breakfast. Breakfast is complimentary at both places.
LBL has camping options, ranging from tent camping and RV parks to cabin rentals. The camping season runs 3/1 through 11/30, with one or two open year-round. Two campground choices are Energy Lake (48 lake sites), with four primitive cabin rentals, a beach swimming area for campers only and a playground, and Piney Campground, 384 sites for camping and RVing, with around 20 cabins that can sleep four to eight.
BONUS OFFERING IN DOVER
In the southern part of LBL, Dover is home to historic Fort Donelson, the first significant Union victory in the Civil War, where General Simon Buckner formally surrendered to his long-time colleague, General Ulysses Grant. You can drive to the Civil War sites by following the Fort Donelson National Battlefield Tour markers and reading the informative plaques.