How We Spent One Perfect Weekend at Lake Guntersville
As we drive into town with the late afternoon sun glistening on the water, an immediate sense of calm washes over me. Our car windows frame a perfectly idyllic small Southern town. People mosey in and out of shops covered in striped awnings, Adirondack chairs sit at the bottom of a small green lawn. We turn up a steep hill and park in front of a white-paneled two-story house.
Lake Guntersville Bed & Breakfast, also known as the Hooper House, has been around for more than 10 decades, and though it has received several new coats of paint over the years, it’s retained much of its original charm dating back to 1910. We get settled into our comfortably appointed room before meeting host and owner Michelle Louze on the front patio for happy hour. On a swinging bench with glasses of house special white sangria (the secret’s in the pineapple juice) in hand, Michelle gives us the lowdown on the area.
As evening falls, we head to Lake Guntersville State Park for one of the best views of the lake anywhere in the area. In the state park’s main lodge, choose from one of two expansive decks on which to soak in the golden sunset. The decks are popular spots for weddings and events. On the night we’re there, a rehearsal for tomorrow’s wedding is already under way. When we got hungry, we headed to the Lodge’s Pinecrest Dining Room for a bite to eat. Friday night features a seafood buffet, so we knew we were in for a delicious meal.
Sufficiently stuffed with fried shrimp and catfish, we head home to cap off the night with some friendly competition. When Michelle took over Hooper House in 2015, she converted the B&B’s third-floor attic into a game room complete with a pool table, darts, board games, and plenty of cozy seating.
Guntersville Bed & Breakfast, Lake Guntersville State Park and Fried Catfish
We start our first full day with one of Michelle’s signature hearty breakfast. All seven rooms are booked for weekends through fall, so when we wander into the community dining room, she’s already hard at work serving guests. We tuck into a piping hot plate of sausage, egg, and cheese casserole with crispy potatoes on the side, then set out on foot to explore downtown.
Guntersville’s walkable main street is home to local shops and boutiques where you can find many a treasure to commemorate your visit. Antique lovers should check out Antiques and Sweets, Downtown Vintage Market, and Main Street Marketplace, all located within a block of one another. Find one-of-a-kind home goods and gifts from The Monkeys Uncle and The Red Elephant Marketplace. If you need a pick-me-up in between exercising your credit card, stop into Bakers on Main, a vintage building housing 25 individual shops and boutiques, as well as a wine shop, café, and event space. Inside of Bakers on Main, Café 336 is perfect for a coffee, light lunch, or sweet treat.
Once we’re all shopped out, we take a short drive to Jules J. Berta Vineyards in nearby Albertville. Voted Alabama Winery of the Year, the idyllic vineyard is famous for its estate grown grapes, local muscadine, and sweet fruit wines. Though its early spring when we visit, the day’s beginning to warm, so we pick a shady picnic table under a gorgeous vine-covered trellis on the winery’s expansive outdoor patio. With wine slushies in hand and a wood-fired pizza on the way, the gorgeous surrounding vineyards have never looked so lovely.
Our next adventure is a cave tour at historic Cathedral Caverns State Park. The destination was first opened to the public in the 1950s by owner Jacob Gurley. In 2000 the state park, known for its unusually occurring stalagmites and stalactites, officially opened to visitors. Our guide directs us through the cave’s expansive entrance, measuring 126 feet wide and 25 feet high and through the expansive interior caverns. We’re in complete awe of the beautiful natural occurring formations, including one of the world’s largest stalagmites—a 45-foot-tall, 243-foot circumference mammoth called Goliath.
We can’t miss an opportunity for another sunset on the lake, so we rush to Sunset Drive Walking Trail for an evening stroll. The sky shifts between magnificent pinks and purples as the big ball of red sinks low into the water. It’s a lovely pre-dinner show for one of Michelle’s recommendations. Only open for less than a year, The Boat House Lakeside Bar & Grill is already a favorite among locals. Its eclectic menu features everything from Korean barbecue short ribs and lasagna to fish tacos and Greek French fries. We grab a seat on the restaurant’s waterfront patio and catch a glimpse of the fireworks being set off for the wedding now taking place at the state park.
Downtown Guntersville by John Sharp Jules J. Berta Winery, Cathedral Caverns and Korean BBQ Short Ribs at the Boat House
Our final morning at Lake Guntersville starts with a real treat. Michelle’s prepared quite the spread of homemade French toast with caramel bourbon glaze, melt-in-your-mouth grit souffle, and our state’s special—griddled Conecuh sausage. It’s a warmer morning, so we sit on the front porch, watching bees pollinate the flowering azaleas and making small talk with the other guests.
After a full day taking in the lake from land, it’s finally time to dive in—well, sort of. At the state park’s Town Creek, we rent a kayak for a mid-morning paddle along the shoreline. Plenty of small boats are out taking advantage of the lake’s world-class bass fishing, so we get to enjoy seeing what they pull in. After an hour and a half on the water, we’ve built up an appetite for a meal at the hottest Sunday brunch spot in town, Rock House Eatery. When we arrive, droves of happy diners are already enjoying the breezy day on the outdoor patio that’s basically a large garden and lawn speckled with tables. We order the house special chicken salad, taking care to save room for our final stop of the trip.
The cherry on top of a wonderful getaway arrives at one of Guntersville’s latest additions. Just down the hill from our B&B at the start of the downtown strip is Harbor View Winery. Inside another white historic home (with light blue shutters and a pale-yellow door), is a seemingly endless array of 100% fruit wines. We opt for a wine tasting, where we sample every flavor under the sun, from coconut and blackberry to passion fruit, honey, key lime, and tomato, before making our selections to take home.
It’s the sweetest ending to a perfect weekend in the quaint Southern town that stole our hearts. As we pull away, we’re already planning our next visit. After all, we have to make it back to try The Soak House & Soapery Spa. We hear the facials there are heavenly.
Early morning kayaking around Lake Guntersville State Park, the Rock House Eatery, Harbor View Winery
To plan your trip to Lake Guntersville, check out some of their itineraries here: http://plan your visit.