Outdoors & Adventure

How to Plan a Lake Day in Lake Norman

Where to eat, drink, paddleboard and lounge while exploring the Carolinas’ largest man-made lake.

Lake Norman - Photography by Jamey Price

Just 20 miles north of Charlotte, Lake Norman beckons nature lovers, loungers, adventurers and the culinary curious. With more than 500 miles of shoreline, Lake Norman is the largest man-made lake in the Carolinas and borders the charming towns of Mooresville, Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and Denver. Each area offers a unique array of attractions, activities and restaurants.

Things to Do on the Lake

Peninsula Yacht Club on Lake Norman - Photography by Jamey Price

There’s plenty to see and do while visiting Lake Norman. If you’re outdoorsy, Lake Norman State Park offers miles of mountain bike trails and swimming beaches as well as a boathouse complex complete with a boat ramp for anglers and cruisers. Whether you’re a day-tripper or an overnighter, you can use the visitor center to rent pedal boats, kayaks, paddleboards and canoes. The park’s boat ramp is free and there are plenty of quiet fishing respites to go around. There are also 32 campgrounds with kitchen facilities, restrooms and outdoor fire pits if you want to experience the park after dark.

Ride LKN Wake School

Relax on Lake Norman with yacht service from Queens Landing. Book a two-hour sightseeing tour, offered three times a day Thursdays through Sundays. You can even add boxed lunches for an extra fee. Schedule a romantic four-course dinner cruise on The Lady of the Lake or a more casual meal on the Catawba Queen riverboat on select Thursdays through Sundays.

Whether you're a novice or a professional, get out on a wakeboard or wake-surf with Ride LKN Wake School. For those looking to relax, rent a paddleboard or cruiser from Lake Effects Rentals, a family-operated and locally owned water rentals team.

Things to Do on Land

The Quarry at Carrigan Farms

After a great day at the lake, wander into the surrounding towns for some shopping, live music or a pint at a brewery. Explore local boutiques in downtown Mooresville or go window shopping at Birkdale Village in Huntersville. While you’re out, you may happen upon a live jazz concert or acoustic set at a local park or brewery, such as D9 Brewing Co., Lake Norman Brewery, Lost Worlds Brewing, Ghostface Brewing, Hoptown Brewing, Eleven Lakes Brewing or King Canary Brewing, among others.

Take a tour of Lake Norman's breweries on the Brew Ha-Ha Tour from Charlotte Special Events Group. Ride in style on a motorcoach to four local breweries. Along the way, you'll hear from a knowledgeable tour guide, receive complimentary tastings at each stop and even get a behind-the-scenes tour of two breweries.

There are plenty of attractions for families too. Take the little ones to explore the wonders of flight at the Carolina Raptor Center, home to birds of prey like eagles, vultures, hawks and falcons. Cool off at Quarry Swimming at Carrigan Farms, an open-swim, natural quarry oasis just 30 minutes from Charlotte. If you have a need for speed, check out GoPro Motorplex, home to an 11-turn kart-racing track, or PIT Indoor Kart Track, featuring exciting activities like indoor kart racing, axe throwing and escape rooms. Stop in Discovery Place Kids in Huntersville, where kids of all ages can explore science, art and literacy while enjoying hands-on exhibits and events.

Eat & Drink

Hello, Sailor - Photography by Kyo H Nam

Explore popular dining locations along the banks of Lake Norman’s waterfront. Hello, Sailor is a fish camp-style restaurant from James Beard-recognized chef Joe Kindred and his sommelier wife, Katy. Featuring an indulgent fried bologna sandwich, fried flounder and homemade soft serve, the eatery was recognized as one of the top 50 best new restaurants by Bon Appetit when it opened in 2018. Fun cocktails, served in quirky shark-shaped glasses or tiki cups, are best enjoyed at the outdoor tiki bar. You can get there by land but come by boat and enjoy free docking while you eat.

Toucan's Lakefront offers the perfect place to recharge with custom cocktails, fresh seafood and live music. Watch the sunset from the patio overlooking the lake.

Kindred - Photography by Elizabeth Cecil

The most important meal of the day is brunch, which is why spending your Sunday morning at Eddie's on Lake Norman is always a good idea. Build your own omelet, indulge in a pancake stack or munch on Lacy's French Toast.

For casual Cuban cuisine, head to Havana 33 in Mooresville. Start with the Croquetas de Pollo and Toston con Camarones. Then go with the Sandwich Cubano made with Cuban bread, roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard.

Continue your tiki boat tour to North Harbor Club, a waterside bar that’s great for family lunches or nighttime gatherings with friends. When you dock for the day, venture away from the lakefront for an evening at Kindred, where the aforementioned Kindreds serve incomparable homemade pastas and farm-fresh dishes in a restored 1920s structure on Davidson’s charming main drag. The menu changes frequently, but the complimentary starter, milk bread, is a signature.