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Ladies Day Out (on the Water)

Savor a getaway at nearby Smith Lake

The next time you get your friends or mom and sister to shirk responsibility for a day or a weekend, take a break from the familiar “lunch and shopping” itinerary. This is the time of year to visit Smith Lake, one of the cleanest bodies of water in the country and boasting about 600 miles of pristine shoreline, according to Jeff Tolbert, owner of Trident Marina. Best of all, Smith Lake is close enough to Birmingham that it doesn’t trigger travel anxiety — yet its beauty will make you feel worlds apart from any regular routine. At just one hour’s drive from the Magic City, Smith Lake makes the perfect day trip or weekend getaway. 

“The lake is clear, deep water — plus, there are cliffs and beautiful scenery, and the atmosphere is perfect for Instagram and other photo memories,” Tolbert says, with the trademark relaxed smile of someone working by the water. “I’ve always viewed the lake as one of the best-kept secrets in the South. It’s an easy place to get away and experience the lake lifestyle — which is to get out on the water, have fun with family and friends, and unwind from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.” 

Rent your boat

If you’re thinking to yourself, “But a boat is expensive, and the upkeep is always a lot of work,” don’t worry. Tolbert and his team have you covered. In Tolbert’s own words, the marina is a “one-stop solution” for everything needed to have a great day (or a few days) on the water, boat included. Just show up at the marina on a sunny morning, and Tolbert and his crew will have the vessel gassed up and waiting for you. At the end of a fun-filled day of sunning, boating and catching up with friends, simply return the boat to your original launch point — the Trident team will take care of everything else. 

“We have ladies who come rent our boats all the time — in fact, I’d say it’s half men and half women for boat rentals,” Tolbert notes. “Our rental boats are all new and are all high-performance, so you can engage in water sports if you choose to.”

Stay for the day

For a day trip, Smith Lake is a perfect destination at just one hour from Birmingham. Tolbert suggests gathering a group of friends, renting a boat so it’s ready when you arrive and spending the day on the water with snacks and beverages. “There's a number of coves and places to tie up the boat, swim, listen to music and have fun,” he adds.

After you return the boat at dusk, head over to the Trident Marina Grille for dinner. The Grille serves a rotating seasonal menu — including some off-season specials — with fresh produce for salads, juicy burgers and the famous fish tacos for which they are known. “If you don’t want to worry about cooking, and you just want to have a meal by the water, we offer that,” Tolbert says. 

Stay for the weekend 

Prefer to soak in the relaxation of Smith Lake for a whole weekend? We don’t blame you. For the ideal itinerary, Tolbert recommends booking a vacation rental through either Airbnb or VRBO and arriving Friday, ready to unwind and savor the lake setting, perhaps with a bonfire. On Saturday morning, gather your crew and get out on the lake with your rented boat for the day. That evening, enjoy live entertainment and a cocktail or three at the Grille. “A lot of our live music is classic rock, country — fan favorites,” Tolbert says. “We have plenty of green space and outdoor lighting, and all the bands perform outside, perfect for dancing.” 

On Sunday, take the morning to sleep in, and depart Smith Lake feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the week ahead. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself scouring Smith Lake real estate for a permanent vacation home after a visit or two. 

“That’s how people fall in love with Smith Lake — they spend a day or two here, they realize it’s just an hour or two away, and they want a lake home,” Tolbert says. “Because of the proximity and the quality of the water in the lake, it’s one of the fastest real estate markets in the South. It’s a great getaway not too far from home.”