Spend A Day on Nantahala Lake

Part of the draw of glamping at the yurts at stayNantahala is the proximity to Nantahala Lake, a three-fingered lake in Western North Carolina often considered to be a hidden gem. Located at an elevation of 3000 feet in the Nantahala National Forest, the lake is over 250 feet deep and is one of the deepest in the state.

Girl sleeping on pontoon while boy is pulled on inflatable tube Nantahala Lake north carolina

Thank you so much Lakes End Marina for hosting us- we received a complimentary rental and lunch, but as always, all opinions are honest and my own.

Lakes End Marina is where you’ll want to go to rent a boat and it is super easy- you can do the whole thing online. When it’s time to pick up your rental, stop by their office at the marina, sign a few forms and waivers, and you’re good to go. Rentals are available hourly, by the half-day, by the day, or by the week and they truly have something to fit every need.

Girls playing cornhole on banks of Nantahala Lake

The kids enjoyed playing cornhole on the lawn while I got everything set up. We were the only people out there but I imagine that the marina can be a lively place to hang out when restrictions are not in place.

Lakes End Marina Nantahala Lake

We rented a pontoon boat for the afternoon (230pm-630pm) and it was the perfect amount of time for our family. The staff at Lakes End Marina was phenomenal and gave us a quick boating lesson before we headed out. In North Carolina, boating licenses are required if you were born on or after January 1, 1988, and since that didn’t apply to any of the adults in our group, we were fine without a boating license.

Rented pontoon from Lakes End Marina NC mountains

They have a variety of boats at Lakes End Marina and given the current COVID-19 situation, they’re paying extra attention to high touch point areas when they clean the boats. We rented a 12-passenger pontoon boat and it was plenty of space for us to spread out, and speedy enough to pull everyone around on an inflatable tube!

Smiling family leaving Lakes End Marina Nantahala Lake in pontoon rental

Pulling out of the marina and ready for a fun afternoon on the waters of Nantahala Lake. Life jackets are included and children 12 and under are required to wear one at all times.

Teen enjoying inflatable tube from pontoon rental Lakes End Marina Nantahala Lake

It was an overcast afternoon- we were keeping our fingers crossed that the rain would stay away. With a high in the low 70s, I was concerned that the kids would say the water was too cold to get in (especially with the lake depth!) but I didn’t hear a single complaint!

Beautiful pine island Nantahala Lake in the NC mountains

Nantahala Lake is absolutely breathtaking and I can see why it’s considered a hidden gem- the water is very clear and the surrounding hills are covered in trees.

Picnic lunch from Lakes End Café and Grill at Nantahala Lake

We found a secluded cove and stopped to enjoy our late lunch from the Lakes End Café– and boy was it delicious!! Lexie LOVED the Cobb Salad and proclaimed it one of the best she’s ever eaten!

Picnic lunch from Lakes End Café and Grill at Nantahala Lake

Ben and I split the Turkey Club Wrap and Buffalo Chicken Wrap (with a side of buffalo wings!) and both were exceptional- I honestly don’t know which one I liked more!

Smiling faces enjoying lunch from Lakes End Grill at Nantahala Lake

The sandwiches/wraps from Lakes End Café were hearty and well-made- perfect for enjoying out on the water.

Boy on inflatable tube at Nantahala Lake

After our delicious lunch, it was back on the water where the kids took turns out on the inflatable tube.

Teen on inflatable tube at Nantahala Lake

Not being a boater, I was slightly concerned that a pontoon boat wouldn’t go fast enough for the kids to get a thrilling ride, but I was totally wrong!

Kids on inflatable tube at Nantahala Lake

Ben and Hannah took at slow at first, but then Hannah kept wanting to go faster and faster and faster!

Teen on inflatable tube at Nantahala Lake

The kids have now added a pontoon boat to the family Christmas list… I think we’ll stick with renting from Lakes End Marina for awhile though!

Smiling family on pontoon rental from Lakes End Marina Nantahala Lake

Cruising around Nantahala Lake was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon and so different than our usual packed days of traveling. It was nice to be able to unwind and enjoy each other’s company as well as enjoy the beauty of the lake.

Grandpa on inflatable tube at Nantahala Lake

Even Grandpa got out there for some tubing fun!

Girl on inflatable tube at Nantahala Lake

Hannah is such a daredevil! After riding once with Ben, she was pumped up and wanted to do it all by herself- and had a blast!

Smiling girl enjoying fruit cup from Lakes End Café and Grill at Nantahala Lake

Even though she’s a year older, Ellie is more risk-averse than Hannah, and enjoying a fruit cup from the safety of the boat was more her speed.

Banana pudding from Lakes End Café and Grill at Nantahala Lake

Mmmm… I’m still dreaming about the Banana Pudding from Lakes End Café. Some of the best I’ve ever had!

Sun shining over Nantahala Lake with kid on inflatable tube pulled by pontoon boat from Lakes End Marina.

All in all, it was a perfect day at the lake for our family. Four hours was long enough that we were able to explore most of Nantahala Lake and the kids all got several turns on the inflatable, but not so long that people were starting to get bored or needed a bathroom break. The kids are already talking about going back and renting one of the lakeside cabins and getting a boat for a week, and I totally support that idea! There’s a waterfall on the southern end of the lake that I want to hunt down next time we visit.

Things to Remember at Lakes End Marina

  • Reservations are necessary and they do book up several weeks in advance so make sure to reserve your boat online or by phone (828) 321-3001.
  • Life jackets are included with your rental- kids under 12 need to wear them at all times.
  • Pick up a picnic lunch from Lakes End Café and Grill before you head out- you won’t regret it! And don’t forget to get dessert, too!

Follow Lakes End Marina on social media:
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Follow Lakes End Café and Grill on social media:
Facebook | Instagram | Website


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  1. July 4, 2020 / 6:56 am

    I so want to drive that boat! The lunches look really good and perfect to eat on the water

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