I recently enjoyed the pleasure of a four-day stay at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee as a representative of The Daily Meal. Having never stayed at a Ritz-Carlton before, I was expecting it to be luxurious, but my visit managed to surpass my already high expectations — not an easy feat to accomplish! I dined in all three of the resort’s signature restaurants, spent a ridiculously long time in the heated infinity pool, and even tried my hand at kayaking on the lake, something I haven’t done since college.
Walking in the doors of the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee reminded me of walking into a giant mountain lodge. Dark, rustic wood features heavily in the entryway, which was also full of comfortable-looking couches and chairs, and a giant picture window overlooking the lake.
My room featured one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in, hotel or otherwise, king sized and extra fluffy. I also had a large flat-screen television, love seat, and balcony that looked out over the grounds and lake. The bathroom was about the size of my actual bedroom at home, with both a shower and a tub, as well as a marble sink that left plenty of room for all my bathroom accoutrements. A fluffy robe hung from the bathroom door, and I seriously debated taking it home with me (for a fee, obviously).
The hotel also features a 24-hour fitness center, a world class spa, a professionally designed golf course, a playground for kids, a number of hammocks and swings, and lots of lake activities for those who are adventurous. The women’s locker room in the spa — which is open to all guests during the entirety of their stays — featured a hot tub, cold plunge, steam room, sauna, massage shower, lounge, bathing showers, and an area in which to get ready, which features everything you could possibly need (hair dryers, straighteners, hair spray, deodorant, toothbrush, floss, hair gel, and more). When you walk in, you are assigned a locker and given a pair of spa sandals and a robe in which you can chill. It’s not a bad place to spend an afternoon, let me tell you.
My reservation was upgraded to include access to the Ritz Club, which I highly recommend visiting. It involves complimentary meals and alcohol and some delicious blueberry and white chocolate chip cookies. They’ll even put your drinks in plastic cups for you to take with you to the pool. It might cost extra to upgrade for club access, but if you’re smart, you can definitely get your money’s worth. The club offers breakfast, lunch, cocktail snacks, and heavy hors d’ouevres, and all the food I tried was really tasty. There is also coffee, tea, beer, wine, liquor, and a DIY mimosa bar at breakfast time. My kind of place.
The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee features three distinctive restaurants on the resort campus: The most casual is Gaby’s — whose tagline is “no shirt, no shoes, our pleasure” —which is located adjacent to the pool; the middle of the road offering is Georgia’s, which just underwent rebranding with a new chef; and the most upscale is the Linger Longer Steakhouse.
Gaby’s by the Lake
This restaurant is casual in that you can get straight out of the pool and walk in to order something for lunch or dinner (which I may have done). Their signature items include a lobster grilled cheese sandwich (which was delicious and decadent), barbecue nachos, fish tacos, and some of the best ribs I’ve ever had. You can feel free to dine at the restaurant or poolside with a gorgeous view of the lake.
A slightly more upscale — but still casual — offering is Georgia’s. They just brought in a new chef, Shaun Thomas, and did a rebrand of their menu and the restaurant itself (which is open for breakfast and dinner), so I was one of the first to try everything the new restaurant had to offer. Some of my favorite menu items included the she crab soup (which I cannot say enough good things about), the charred okra, the pimento cheese, and the Heath bar dessert (a recipe from the chef’s grandmother). For breakfast, they just released a new menu of breakfast cocktails, including a Bloody Mary that includes bacon-washed vodka, housemade bloody mix, heirloom cherry tomatoes, pickled veggies, bacon, and purple kale straight out of Georgia’s garden!
Linger Longer Steakhouse
The most upscale offering, Linger Longer offers everything you’d expect to find in a traditional steakhouse, with a few upgrades. Chef Casey Burchfield treated me to an off-menu prix-fixe dinner, and everything I had was amazing. Our waiter was a certified sommelier, and took a lot of pride in matching the wines perfectly to every dish we were given. Some of my favorites were seared sea scallops with ramps, strawberry, and white asparagus and the Thai-style barbecue pork with green papaya and sweet onions. After dinner, in lieu of a dinner mint, the table receives some fresh-spun cotton candy (flavors vary), which is a fun and exciting change that gives the whole experience a touch of whimsy.
At night, you can enjoy complimentary s’mores overlooking the lake, which is a beautiful and peaceful way to end the day. The activities coordinator also works tirelessly to offer guests some pretty fantastic activities both during the day and at night. Some of the activities I was told about included an adult game of Quidditch, scavenger hunts, races, obstacle courses, concerts, and more. For those with kids, they also have a kids’ camp that keeps children occupied during the day while their parents are enjoying lake or pool activities.
During the summer, waiters around the pool will come into the pool to take your drink order or deliver drinks, and when it gets really hot, they make a big event out of dropping a big block of ice into the pool to cool it down. They also have snow cones, poolside cocktails, and more.
I also took the time to visit downtown Greensboro, Georgia. We ate the Yesterday Café, famous for their buttermilk pie, and shopped at some of the locally-owned boutiques and antique shops in the quaint, quiet downtown area. The whole time I felt like I’d stepped through the television and into Mayberry.
My visit was one of the best resort experiences I’ve ever had, and my next hotel stay is most likely going to pale in comparison. Only a 4-hour drive from Charleston and 1.5 hours from Atlanta, the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee is super-easy to access, while being far enough away for you to not think about the rigors of real life (I know I didn’t think about work for one single minute the whole time I was there).
If you’re not heading to Georgia but still want to have a great hotel experience, check out these hotels that are so fun you might not want to leave.