5 Ways to Vacation on a Budget at Lake Guntersville
As the weather warms and spring break nears, we’re all itching to get out of town and stretch our legs. While a trip to the Gulf Coast can be pricey and stressful, with large crowds jeopardizing your relaxation time, there’s one place in Alabama where you can spend time on the water without all the fuss. With three distinct state parks, miles of banks for fishing and picnicking, plus free museums and art centers, Lake Guntersville is the ideal destination for families, couples, or solo travelers looking for a convenient, inexpensive, and breathtakingly beautiful escape. Here are 5 inexpensive experiences you can have at Lake Guntersville.
- Explore Lake Guntersville State Park
Located on the banks of the Tennessee River, Lake Guntersville State Park features 6,000 acres of natural woodlands, including more than 36 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails and even a sandy beach area with easy access for lake swimming. Whether or not you’re staying at the park’s Lodge, you’ll want to head to its expansive overlook deck for sweeping views of Lake Guntersville. Grab a cocktail or eat dinner (Thursday through Sunday) in the Pinecrest Dining Room that opens out onto the deck.
- Visit the Guntersville Museum & Dam
For the history buffs, pay a visit to the Guntersville Museum & Dam. Free and open to the public, the museum offers an interactive experience where visitors can learn more about the history of the town, as well as the creation of the dam and the lake. With 69,000 acres of water and more than 10,000 years of history to draw from, the museum offers plenty for visitors to discover, from Native American artifacts to interesting local personalities.
After spending time in the museum, head 15 minutes across the Tennessee River to see the dam for yourself. Spanning 3,979 feet across the Tennessee River and at 94 feet high, the dam is truly a sight to behold. If you’re on the south side of the dam, take a hike along the TVA Mountain Cave trail. The area below the dam also offers an easy one-mile loop trail that leads by a cave used during the Civil War to mine saltpeter, a basic ingredient in gunpowder. Fishing off the banks of the dam is also a popular pastime. The area just below Guntersville Dam is known for its exceptional sauger fishing during autumn and winter, white bass in early spring, and catfish in summer months.
- Plan a picnic lunch with local café favorites
There are few experiences as simple and satisfying as eating a delicious meal in the presence of a gorgeous view. Instead of packing your own picnic baskets with boring PB&Js, pick up lunch from one of Lake Guntersville’s many affordable eateries and head to the water for a picnic you’ll never forget. Café 336 in downtown Guntersville offers nostalgic southern sandwiches, salads, and soups. The Pepper Jelly Pimento Cheese Panini includes Wickles Pickles and bacon—enough said. Another great café is Jonica’s Bakery, featuring some of the best chicken salad in town, as well as to-die-for desserts like strawberry crinkle cookies and red velvet cupcakes. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial after a particularly active morning on the water, grab a pulled pork sandwich from Simmon’s Barbecue or a burger and milkshake from Charburger.
- Cast your line with some bank fishing
As the state’s largest lake, Lake Guntersville has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the country’s best bass-fishing destinations. But you don’t need a fancy boat or expensive equipment to reel in a big catch around these parts. For bass fishing, any of the docks at Lake Guntersville State Park are ideal. The park superintendent has caught several 6-to-8-pound bass directly from the dock. If you’re looking to bring in catfish, head to any of the lake’s causeways. Highway 431 and Highway 69 in particular are known for being especially fruitful. And of course, any rocky bank or bridge along the lake is perfect for dropping a line.
- Take a tour of the Fire Hydrant Capital of the World
A quick 15-minute drive from the water is the city of Albertville. In addition to being the largest city in Marshall County, Albertville is also known as the Fire Hydrant Capital of the World. Home to Mueller, North America’s leading and most recognizable fire hydrant manufacturer, you can see the company’s four-millionth fire hydrant, in all its nickel-plated glory, near the town’s chamber of commerce downtown. While you’re in town, make sure to see the town’s historic train depot. Do some shopping at downtown’s many local boutiques and specialty stores, then go for an evening stroll along the trail at the new Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheater. Finish your “fiery” tour at La Michoacan, an authentic Mexican palateria. The shop serves innovative paletas (creamy and fruity ice cream bars) and Coolstix or bolis (frozen dairy-free ice pops). Flavors range mango and chamoy to pina colada, horchata, and key lime pie.
Ready for an escape to gorgeous Lake Guntersville? Plan your trip here.