We were guests of Central Missouri while visiting the area.
We are perched on a fishing boat in Lake of the Ozarks, sun beating down relentlessly when I feel the tug on my line. The first time I reel it in, the worm has disappeared. Deflating slightly, we all chatter about this one, as if it is THE ONE that got away and maybe five minutes pass before I feel that familiar tug again.
Impossible, I think, and yet something is pulling hard on the line, so I follow the instructions of Big Ed. Reeling. Reeling. And then I see it – the bass fish wriggling, swimming away from me until it breaks the surface and suddenly I am drawing it into the boat.
“Hold it up and give it a kiss before you throw it back,” says Big Ed.
My lips never quite connect with the bass. It’s slimier than I anticipated and I am a total newbie. This bass is my first catch ever and its mouth beneath my finger feels entirely different than I expected, bony jaw beneath my thumb. I worry about my pincer grip and to be honest it’s freaking me out just a little. A second or two passes and someone, either Ed or my daughter Ainsley, quickly snaps the photographic proof of my first catch ever, then we unhook gently and toss it over the side watching my resilient bass fish swim away.
It’s our first time ever in Central Missouri and when we spied Lake of the Ozarks on the itinerary we were ecstatic. As soon as I realized the number of fun outdoor family activities there were to do here in Missouri at Lake of the Ozarks I knew fun was in store.
Fishing is one of my younger daughter’s new favourite things and Big Ed’s Guide Service did not disappoint. I reeled one in and Ainsley, after catching 2-3 of her own, was beaming with pride. Not only that, Big Ed put her to work immediately, helping to untie the boat, drop the motor, pull the motor up out of the water and then when out on the water he gave her a casting lesson or two. No doubt in my mind this was the best part of the trip for this sporty teen.
Where is Lake of the Ozarks?
Tucked into the rolling hills of the Ozark Mountains, Lake of the Ozarks covers more than 54,000 acres and snakes along 1,150 miles of shoreline. In fact, Lake of the Ozarks has more coastline than California’s Pacific Coast. It is actually a reservoir and it’s located in the heart of Missouri.
From the moment we got there to the second we left, we were physically engaged with the outdoors. From spelunking, to learning to golf, to catching my first bass fish, hiking and riding in a helicopter, Lake of the Ozarks is a gorgeous, fun, spot for families and the setting of so many summer firsts.
The lake is well known for outdoor sports and we tried so many new ones here that Lake of the Ozarks will forever be etched on our hearts as the setting of something truly special.
We arrived in Lake of the Ozarks after spending a couple of days in Columbia, Missouri. Our flight from Detroit was fast and early, landing us in St. Louis just shortly after lunch. More on Columbia Missouri in the next few days, and not to take anything away from the other cities, but I’d been looking forward to this part of the trip the most. Lake of the Ozarks is known as America’s fun lake and we wanted to see if that was true.
Our two-hour guided fishing tour raced by, but we caught five fish in total on our boat, with the help of Big Ed, and then we had plans to go up in a helicopter for the first time ever! Couldn’t miss that.
Flying with Lake Ozark Helicopters
Back up the steep ramp outside Ed’s family business, Bass and Baskets Bed and Breakfast, and then we proceeded straight out to Lake Ozark Helicopters. After watching a helicopter take off and return again with a young family of boys, I was both excited and confident we would enjoy the ride. I mean if kids who looked about six and seven were beaming getting out of the chopper then we would be golden, right?
Our First Helicopter Ride
Our first helicopter ride ever was so not what I expected. The ride was smooth, so much smoother than an airplane. Take an aerial tour of Bagnell Dam and Lake of the Ozarks to see the full extent of the serpentine Lake of the Ozarks, complete with wineries, golf courses and Million Dollar Row.
Historic Bagnell Dam Strip
Earlier in the day, after arriving from Columbia we spent a couple of hours exploring the historic strip, which evokes an old vintage beach strip feel. We bought a few fantastic t-shirts as souvenirs and then met up for lunch at Stewart’s on the strip. There are many great restaurants up and down the strip too.
Stewart’s is known for breakfast and they also have what I am calling the world’s biggest cinnamon rolls. I cannot prove it, but just know that it took two of us at least two days to get through half of it. BIGGER than my head. Tons of sweet sugary icing. Need I say more? GET ONE. These are big enough to feed a small army of Canadians.
Discovering an Outlet Mall
After the helicopter ride we went shopping at Lake of the Ozarks outdoor discount mall near Osage Beach. We spied it as we passed over in the helicopter, so had to check that out. It makes me happy to check in on some familiar American stores that we just don’t have access to in Canada. Also I bought a cute dress for $25 at Banana Republic. Can you say – STEAL!
Later that night we found a Barbecue place for dinner, followed by dessert at Randy’s Frozen Custard. Try the Ozark Turtle. Such a sweet treat to cap off a world class epic day. At the end of that jam-packed day, we retired to Old Kinderhook Golf Resort, home to one of the finest golf courses in the Midwest.
On Day 2, in Lake of the Ozarks, skies were threatened rain, so we switched the day around a bit. Breakfast at Old Kinderhook Resort was ample and then we drove over to Bridal Caves for some spelunking.
Bridal Cave and Thunder Mountain Park
At Bridal Cave, tours are offered periodically throughout the day and they also host their fair share of weddings and vow renewals. From the moment we walked in we were wowed. We also couldn’t help but wish that Payton had been with us to see Bridal Caves and the gift shop and educational centre. She is a gem lover, crystal enthusiast and big fan of caves, as well as rocks. If you have a family member like that traveling with you, then take them to Bridal Cave.
The caves were protected from the weather and frankly business was booming as a result.
A few Bridal Cave facts:
They estimate that the caves of the Ozarks are one to two million years old. Bridal Cave is an active cave and it is considered to be a growing cave, ever changing slowly over time. The space used to be full of water so walk through and imagine. Water, when it drops in the cave, goes through a natural purification.
Centuries ago the Osage Indians discovered Bridal Cave beneath Thunder Mountain. Many unique features make Bridal Cave in Lake of the Ozarks both fun and educational. Over 2,128 couples from around the world have exchanged vows inside Bridal Cave. After decades of exploration, this natural treasure was deemed protected in the late 1940s.
Inside you will find a drapery room, a curtain, a room that makes the indoor stalactites and stalagmites appear as if it is a giant organ. And there is also a chamber which reveals itself at the end of the tour with a crystal clear body of water called Mystery Lake. Follow the instructions and don’t touch anything while inside, because it is easily damaged.
Lake of the Ozarks is well known for its outdoor recreational activities including boating, kayaking, wake boarding and paddle boarding.
Lake of the Ozarks also has a reputation for being one of the best bass fisheries in the country and hosts over 500 fishing tournaments every year, not to mention being home to several fishing legends.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park
After the rain stopped, we drove over to Ha Ha Tonka State Park. Just west of Camdenton, admission to this park is free. It’s easy to see why Ha Ha Tonka was named the most beautiful place in Missouri by Conde Nast Traveller. When planning out fun things to do at Lake of the Ozarks this needs to make any list.
Here you will find the ruins of a 1900s castle and estate. The scenery makes a stunning backdrop for any photos you take. Of course, you will want to hike the park too. Several marked hiking trails feature scenic overlooks. Prominent Kansas City businessman Robert McClure Snyder had the castle built by Scottish stone masons. It was to rival European architecture of the time, but in 1942, a fire gutted the building.
Explore Old Kinderhook Resort
Old Kinderhook is home to one of the finest golf courses in the midwest and it’s a gorgeous destination. With spacious rooms featuring balconies and windows overlooking the golf course, Old Kinderhook is a stunning and welcoming spot. On our last night there we had a scrumptious dinner at the Kinderhook. The Kinderhook Punch combined house infused strawberry pineapple vodka, with lemon and raspberry liquor.
It’s all about golf in Missouri. We couldn’t leave Lake of the Ozarks without a golf lesson from a pro. Golf pro Shane Blankenship patiently gave Ainsley and I both our first golf lesson.
Here’s what I learned. You cannot golf without learning the fundamentals and those are: grip, posture and alignment. The most important is the grip because it’s the thing that connects you to the club. There are a couple of different grips for a golf club: baseball grip; and interlock grip. We spent our time focused on learning the interlock grip.
After 90 minutes and numerous times connecting with the ball and driving it out onto the course, we felt pretty good about finding a new sport we could definitely enjoy more often.
All The Fun Things to Do at Lake of the Ozarks
With its expansive coastline, ample opportunities for fishing, world class golf courses, hiking trails, parks and southern flavours, Lake of the Ozarks is an outdoor adventure lover’s playground. Find your own firsts here among all the fun things to do at Lake of the Ozarks.
From there we went to Fulton, Missouri – > Taking The Mystery Out of History