It's time to give a shout out to the South's unsalted waters.

By Valerie Fraser Luesse
Perfect Southern Lakes
Credit: Michael Hanson

We all know about the beach-people-versus-mountain-people debate in the South. True, some of us claim to be equally at home in the Smokies or on the Atlantic, but there are just as many who stake a claim on a dune or an overlook and won't budge.

Lesser known is the beach-lake divide. Lake life and beach life are worlds apart, but each one has its charms. Wrote one member of our Facebook Brain Trust: "There are beach people. There are lake people. Both think their choice is the best."

A coastal-dwelling member of our Brain Trust  clearly has strong opinions about his shoreline of choice: "Lake vs. Ocean is not an actual competition. Not even close. If you can see the other side, what room does that leave for fear or imagination?"

Point taken. Even so . . . no sharks in the lake. That's a plus. Also, you can likely enjoy lake living on a waterfront slice of paradise a lot closer to home than the nearest ocean. And if you fall asleep on your float, there's no danger that you'll end up in another country.

We asked our inland-waters crowd to weigh in and tell us what draws them to Southern lakes. Here's what they said. Agree or disagree?

  1. Two words: Pontoon party. You don't know what fun is until you've dropped anchor with like-minded lake dwellers for a gathering on the water.
  2. Nothing is more relaxing than summer at the lake—looking out at the water and listening to it lap against the bank or the dock—that's my idea of bliss. All this and no gritty sand in your shoes.
  3. I like being part of a lake community. Here in Alabama, people pull up in their boats to attend casual services at an open-air sanctuary on Lake Martin. It's called Church in the Pines. You get to know people from all around the lake.
  4. Southern women are supposed to glisten, not sweat, and it's easier to pull that off with boat spray all over you. (Speaking of which, a boat is nice to have, but a friend with a boat is even nicer—not to mention cheaper.)
  5. There are no jellyfish in the lake. You might spot a snake, but you can outrun it with a 200HP Mercury outboard.
  6. Great place for a pig pickin'. They might frown on that at the beach.
  7. You know that sound water makes when it slaps against a ski boat streaking across the lake? I live for that.
  8. It's all about the toys: fishing rods, dock slides, water skis, inner tubes, the Sea-Doo . . .
  9. I love the lake because it requires a minimal wardrobe—shorts, a T-shirt, a bathing suit—done.
  10. Nobody expects you to flatiron your hair at the lake.

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