9 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do at Lake of the Ozarks
Located on the northern edge of the Ozark Mountains in central Missouri, Lake of the Ozarks was created by an impoundment of the Osage River in 1931 and has ever since catered towards great American travel experiences. With more than 1,100 miles of shoreline outlining this massive man-made reservoir, the water is always a defining feature of your visit. Whether it's golfing within view of the water, camping next to the shore, or renting a boat for the day, there are many reasons Midwesterners and others flock to the Lake of the Ozarks for long weekends and extended family vacations. You'll find plenty of space thanks to the lake's serpentine shape and branching tributaries.
One of the central hubs for activity is the city of Osage Beach, located just south of the Osage River impoundment, the Bagnell Dam. Farther south, Camdenton also provides plenty of adventure, including subterranean exploration of Bridal Cave. Surrounding the lake in every direction, fun things are waiting to be explored, including castle ruins, swinging bridges, and three-story waterslides, all lending to fun family traditions for years to come.
1 Lake Activities
No one visits Lake of the Ozarks without experiencing the water. Whether it's navigating the lake on a boat, fishing from the shore, or enjoying the aquatic views from a cozy residence, the Lake of the Ozarks is the focal point. Boating is made easy through boat rentals from outfitters and from a wide range of public access boating ramps for personal watercraft. Fishing and swimming are also easily accessible at Lake of the Ozarks, with two sandy beaches at Lake of the Ozarks State Park and different types of fishing for every month of the year.
One of the best ways to enjoy the water at Lake of the Ozarks is to spend the night at one of the beautiful resorts at Lake of the Ozarks and waking up to a lakeside view. For an even more natural approach, nearly all the best campgrounds at the Lake of the Ozarks lend quick access to the water and other area attractions.
2 Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Surrounding the southeast Grand Glaize arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, the state park provides easy access to lush Ozark landscapes from its lakeside campsites. Spending the night is the only way to explore all 17,000 acres and miles of undeveloped shoreline at Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The park is Missouri's largest state park, and popular activities include hiking, swimming, boating, and cavern exploring.
The Lake Trail is always a favorite to trek, and the 13-mile Trail of Four Winds provides a good amount of exercise and many water views. For on-the-water activities, the two State Park Marinas at Lake of the Ozarks provide everything you need to enjoy the lake, including boat rentals, fishing supplies, and nearby swimming beaches. To top off your stay, the state park also offers guided tours of Ozark Caverns within the park's boundaries, which is the only way to witness these stark underground works of natural art.
Address: 403 MO-134, Kaiser, Missouri
3 Golf Courses
One of the most popular things to do at Lake of the Ozarks is teeing off at one of the many championship golf courses. Whether the courses are lakeside, wooded, hilly, or professionally manicured, golfing at Lake of the Ozarks is more than just the experience of swinging a club, it's an outing into a beautiful Ozark landscape. All skill levels will find something to appreciate at the dozen plus golf courses at Lake of the Ozarks, with nearly all open to public play, and many that have been brought to life by world-famous designers.
Some of the most popular courses to play include the 27 holes at Osage National Golf Resort and the Zoysia fairways at Bear Creek Valley Golf Club, both located in Osage Beach and both open to the public. South of Osage Beach and across the lake in Camdenton, Old Kinderhook is regarded as one of the Ozark's best public golf courses and features a lakeside setting complete with rolling fairways, long putts, and a picturesque layout with every hole.
4 Bagnell Dam
To appreciate the marvel of engineering that created the Lake of the Ozarks, the Bagnell Dam deserves your attention. With construction completed in 1931, the dam spans more than 2,500 feet and impounds the Osage River, effectively generating hydroelectric power and the immense watery landscape that is Lake of the Ozarks. Visitors to the Bagnell Dam are afforded many opportunities to appreciate the engineering at hand, including the Bagnell Dam Overlook on Upper Power Plant Road. On the opposite side of the dam, the Bagnell Dam Strip offers classic summer fun, with family friendly restaurants, unique shops, and the Hot Summer Nights motor festival.
5 Bridal Cave
To explore another defining feature of Missouri, Bridal Cave is great for young explorers and seasoned adventurers alike. Located near the city of Camdenton, Bridal Cave has a long history in the area, dating back for centuries before the lake was created. Bridal Cave notably served an important role in the Osage Native American culture and folklore, lending this deep cave its current name and story. More information on Bridal Cave's history can be acquired on any one of the hour-long guided tours offered throughout the day. Along the guided route, visitors to Bridal Cave witness for themselves the giant columns, sensitive soda straws, and mysterious lakes that make Bridal Cave one of the best year-round attractions at Lake of the Ozarks.
Address: 526 Bridal Cave Road, Camdenton, Missouri
6 Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Located south of Bagnell Dam, near Camdenton, and along the shore of the Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, Ha Ha Tonka State Park delivers on beautiful Ozark scenery and an interesting look into a ruined past. The park encompasses more than 3,000 acres of karst and woodland attractions, and popular land activities include hiking, backpacking, and exploring geological features, such as sinkholes, caves, and a natural bridge. With easy access to the water, other popular activities at Ha Ha Tonka include boating, fishing, and swimming. Near the northwest entrance of Ha Ha Tonka State Park, the ruined remains of an early 20th-century castle are often the centerpiece for any visit.
Address: 1491 State Road D, Camdenton, Missouri
7 The Historic Willmore Lodge at Lake of the Ozarks
Located on the National Register of Historic Places, Willmore Lodge is home to the Lake of the Ozarks Visitors Center, as well as a museum displaying the history behind nearby Bagnell Dam. Standing as a striking wooden-log building surrounded by water, Willmore Lodge was constructed by Union Electric in 1930 alongside the dam. Visitors to the Willmore Lodge today can take in the aesthetics of the architecture and enrich their visit to the Lake of the Ozarks with historical displays and exhibits of the area. The visitors center at Willmore Lodge can point you in the direction of a few more things to check out, but with any stop, the panoramic view of the lake offered by the Willmore Lodge is worth the stairs leading down to the observation deck.
Address: 1 Willmore Ln, Lake Ozark, Missouri
8 The Swinging Bridges of Brumley
Located within the southeast boundary of Lake of the Ozarks State Park, near the small village of Brumley, two steel-suspension bridges have stood the test of time to remain a tourist attraction today. Both bridges, the 414-foot Grand Auglaize and the 134-foot Miller Creek Bridge were built in the 1930s by Joseph A. Dice, a prominent swinging bridge builder from Missouri historically noted for "eyeballing" his bridge designs. Regardless of his methods, visitors can still drive over the loose-planks of the Auglaize Bridge today. The entire area surrounding the two bridges is a dense woodland ripe for activity, including swimming in the shallows of Auglaize Creek or using the primitive camping sites found ashore.
Address: Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Missouri
9 Big Surf Waterpark
Nothing beats the heat of a Missouri summer quite like an afternoon at Big Surf Waterpark. Situated just south of Osage Beach and Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Big Surf Waterpark features raging rapids, lazy rivers, and a variety of water attractions suited for all levels of swimmers. Two of the more unique water rides at Big Surf include the three-story high Zambezi Falls water halfpipe, and the 30-foot-wide Space Bowl that patrons drop into. While you are at Big Surf Waterpark, a session in the 375,000-gallon wave pool is a must, as well as a go at the aquatic obstacle course found in the activity pool, just don't forget to re-apply your sunscreen.
Address: 954 State Hwy Y, Linn Creek, Missouri
Other Awesome Things to Do in Missouri
After you've spent some time checking out the top attractions of Lake of the Ozarks, including the best resorts and the best campgrounds, Missouri has a lot more fun to offer. All the top attractions in Columbia and the many things to do in Springfield can keep you busy throughout the year, and everyone who visits the musical city of Branson can't help but have a good time.