A Guide to Visiting Charlotte-Area Lakes During Phase 2

Including Lake Norman, Lake Wylie, and Lake Lure

Lake Norman, Lake Wylie, and Lake Lure are all within a two-hour drive from Charlotte. But a visit to the lake will be a little different this year. Government mandates state that groups gathering at parks or on trails and beaches should not exceed 25 people during Phase Two, which began on May 22 and is expected to remain in place until June 26. The exact end of Phase Two and beginning of Phase Three may require adjustments depending on data. For now, here are some tips for navigating the waters:


Lake Norman

Lake Norman, the largest manmade lake in North Carolina, offers boat rentals, restaurants, parks, chartered cruises, and more. Keep your sunglass-clad eyes peeled for local celebrities on their yachts and estates, too.

Location: 20 miles north of Charlotte

Local Activities:

  • Cornelius Pontoon Rentals cleans and sanitizes every boat before and after use and offers touchless delivery. Capacity is limited to eight passengers, and social distancing guidelines are encouraged.
  • Cannon Water Adventures rents boats, jet skis, kayaks, and paddle boards as well as classes. They’re operating at limited capacity, sanitizing the equipment between uses, and encouraging social distancing guidelines. Guests can sign waivers and pay electronically, too.

Local Parks:

  • Visit Lake Norman State Park in Troutman for biking and hiking trails, a public boat ramp, and camping. Explore the kid-friendly Dragonfly Trail, but be aware the swim beach, boat rentals, and concessions are all closed.
  • Families know Ramsey Creek Park in Cornelius for its popular lake beach, but don’t apply to sunscreen too soon. The beach and playground are closed until further notice, but the walking trails and fishing pier are open.

Nearby Eats: Stop by Hello, Sailor! in Cornelius for a lakeside dining experience—and the hushpuppies.

Lake Wylie

Lake Wylie, which borders both North Carolina and South Carolina, is smaller than Lake Norman but still has plenty to offer. Find boat, paddleboard, and kayak rentals, Camp Thunderbird, parks, and more.

Location: 19 miles south of Charlotte

Local Activities:

  • The U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) sits along the Catawba River at the northernmost part of Lake Wylie. USNWC offers whitewater rafting, ziplining, kayaking, biking and hiking trails, and rock wall climbing. The center has increased current sanitization procedures, but check the daily activities schedule before you plan your visit.
  • Lake Wylie Boat Rental offers human-contact-free reservation and rental process. All surfaces of rented pontoons are washed and disinfected after each use.

Local Parks:

  • McDowell Nature Preserve is located along the banks of Lake Wylie. Bring hiking boots and a fishing pole, but be aware that the playground, nature center, Copperhead Island, and campground are closed.
  • Lakeside Windjammer Park’s fishing areas, pavilion, picnic areas, playground, restrooms, and swimming area all remain open. Parking permits are required; see website or Tega Cay City Hall for permit pricing and information.

Nearby Eats: Reserve a waterside table at Papa Doc’s Shore Club in Lake Wylie, SC with Yelp Waitlist. Try the fish tacos, grilled or fried.

Lake Lure

This picturesque lake in the town of Lake Lure has rental cabins for visitors to explore the lake and surrounding natural areas, especially Chimney Rock State Park.  

Location: 90 miles west of Charlotte

Local Activities:

  • Visit Lake Lure Beach and take in the mountain views, waterslides, and sprayground, open seven days a week from June 13 to August 9. The beach is currently operating at 50 percent capacity. Admission ranges from $7 to $9 per person, and children ages 4 and younger are free with paying adult.
  • Lake Lure Tours continues to rent pontoons, paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, and hydro bikes, and offers a guided boat tour. No more than 10 guests are allowed on tour boats, and all guests must wear a mask while on board.

Local Parks:

  • Stroll along the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, which crosses Rocky Broad River at Lake Lure, and enjoy a certified wildlife habitat that’s only for pedestrians and free of charge.
  • Morse Park’s playground is closed, but walking paths are open.
  • View the lake from above at Chimney Rock State Park while hiking or rock climbing, and don’t miss the Great Woodland Adventure Trail. See website for operating hours, shuttle information, and admission fees. The top parking lot, elevator, and Animal Discovery Den are currently closed.

Nearby Eats: Check out Old Rock Café in Chimney Rock Village, but note they have limited indoor and outdoor seating. Sit outside and enjoy views of Rocky Broad River, or order food to-go online.