My husband and I had driven to Lake Oconee, about a three-hour drive from home, for a midweek escape. When we indulge, which isn’t often, we spoil ourselves with a spa getaway, and the Ritz Carlton was the perfect getaway. Hidden among the verdant forests, sweet-scented magnolias and iridescent sapphire waters of Lake Oconee, one of Georgia’s largest lakes, the sanctuary-like resort is all about golf, water and spa.
Crafted of wood, stone and glass, every structure here echoes perfectly with the tranquility and quietness of nature. If you listen closely, you can hear soft murmurs of the wind as it sighs through the pines.
We stayed in a regular guestroom with panoramic views of Lake Oconee. The linens were big and plush and the bathroom trimmed in marble. The resort also offers several individually decorated 894-square-foot suites including fireside accommodations with a private patio and fire pit for views of sunrises and sunsets. Luxurious cottages are available, too, and are named in honor of Georgia’s flora, include Azalea, Camellia, Gardenia, Jasmine and Magnolia. Their size ranges from 1,798 square feet to a massive 5,404 square feet, and they have extras including enhanced lake views, stone fireplaces, wraparound patios and kitchenettes.
Five championship golf courses are set among towering pines and oaks, seamlessly flowing in emerald-toned blankets of fairways and greens that slope gently and easily toward the shores of the lake. The architects and designers of the courses read like a who’s who of golf, among them Rees Jones, Tom Fazio, Bob Cupp and Jack Nicklaus. The nature-inspired courses are perfectly manicured for their 99 holes of play. As far as golf goes — and I’m not a player though my husband is — it’s a pretty spectacular place.
Loving the spa
The spa is incredibly peaceful, the stellar staff loaded with genuine Southern hospitality, and the location in Georgia’s lake country idyllically serene. It’s a retreat within a retreat, with extras of saunas, steam rooms and cold plunge pools. On that cool spring weekend we visited, I couldn’t imagine a better place to take a break, unplug from the world and rejuvenate our souls.
Among the spa’s feature treatments, besides my vitamin C facial, are the utterly soothing marine hydrating facial with ultra-moisturizing hyaluronic acid and marine algae and the stress relief massage. The menu also includes custom, age-defying and organic facials, as well as deep muscle, hot stone and couples massages.
For cleansing, nourishing, reviving and boosting, the spa’s main product lines are ESPA, which combines aromatic plant extracts, marine actives and essential oils for healthy skin products, and Eminence Organic Skin Care, which has some of the most natural and organic products available.
Dining with a view
Four restaurants and a coffee shop dot the resort, with a strong emphasis on Southern flavors and menus. If you want the decadence, richness and flavor that explodes in a cloud of buttery goodness, the must-try is the lobster grilled cheese at Gaby’s by the Lake. Loaded with Havarti cheese and plenty of lobster on brioche bread, it’s the Ferrari of grilled cheese sandwiches. If the spiny crustacean isn’t to your liking, other menu items are barbecue, burgers, sandwiches and salads. If the weather is good, sit on the patio and watch the pastel colors of the lake meld with the vibrancy of the setting sun.
For a fancier meal, think white tablecloths and a roaring fire; Linger Longer Steakhouse features prime cuts of beef tenderloin, Australian Waygu striploin and grass-fed bison New York steak. But it was the appetizer menu I flipped over. It included a country ham deviled egg, steak fries with truffled aioli and Parmesan cheese, pimento cheese, a wedge salad and stick lamb ribs made with Georgia peanuts — and which I handed off to hubby, as eating baby animals isn’t my thing. That deviled egg, though. Oooh, yum. While the appetizer menu changes from time to time, and you may not get Southern staples of deviled egg and pimento cheese, it will still be filled with local delicacies.
Before heading to Gaby’s or Linger Longer, pop into the Barrel Room for any number of bourbons including my favorite, WhistlePig, cocktails and appetizers like brisket flatbread or smoked meatballs. Georgia’s, on the casual side, is open for breakfast — staples of chicken and waffles or biscuits and gravy — and dinner, where the local favorite is the Georgia Burger with provolone and mushrooms. The Coffee Shop has a selection of pastries, coffee and other grab-and-go options if you’re keen on getting to the spa or golf course.
The last word
The Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee is about 90 miles east of Atlanta. Besides the spa, dining and golf, the full-service resort offers an incredible lakeside infinity pool, boating and fishing, canoeing and kayaking, a crescent of sandy beach, concerts and bourbon tastings. The family-friendly hotel includes the Ritz Kids clubhouse with games and nature programs and Ritz Kids Lake Adventures that gets the kids acquainted with the outdoors.
The resort, and the spa itself, takes its inspiration from Mother Nature and the beauty of its natural surroundings. It is whisper quiet and slow here, and our sojourn here left us refreshed, revived and energized.
IF YOU GO
The Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee is at One Lake Oconee Trail, Greensboro, Georgia. Call 706-467-0600 or visit www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/georgia/reynolds. Resort packages focus on romance, family amenities, golf and spa. Special rates are often available. Currently the resort fee is $57 per night per room.