A great lakefront vacation within a few hours of St. Louis doesn’t have to mean another trip to the overcrowded Ozarks. For a Missourian who’s willing to look to the other side of the river, there are a number of peaceful and affordable alternatives. Lakes in Carlyle, Vandalia, and Shelbyville each offer their own unique experience.
For a family that demands a lot from a vacation, Lake Shelbyville is an excellent choice. Accomodations can be as simple as camping in a tent or as luxurious as a wooded resort with three restaurants and a gold course. Those who prefer air conditioning and indoor plumbing will be pleased to find nearby a variety lodging choices for less than $50 a night.
Whether you’re staying at a neaby campground, the Eagle Creek Resort, or anything in beetween, the lake itself has much to offer. Fishing and boating are the most popular activities on this lake, and if you don’t have a boat, several marinas will be happy to help you rent one. Lake policies are fairly liberal, and both waterskiing and wakeboarding are allowed with proper permits.
If you need a break from fishing and boating, the Shelbyville area will not disappoint. Within a few miles, you can find the Vahling Vineyards, the Roxy Theatre, an aquatic center, the Lake View Spa, and number of antique stores.
At just over 100 miles away, Lake Shelbyville is about two hours from St. Louis. For something a little closer to home, Carlyle Lake is a great option. Just 50 miles east in Illinois, it offers many of the same attractions, including excellent fishing and sailing.
While overall accomodations are not as posh, Carlyle does have some excellent options. The Hickory Shores Resort offers fun themed cabins and cottages for just over $100 a night. The “Redneck Cabin” could make an amusing stay for four, while the “Liberty Lodge” is an incredible bargain for up to ten guests.
If escaping civilization is your goal, Vandalia Lake offers a very traditional outdoor experience. With no lakeside resorts or motels, your only choice here is to rough it. Campgrounds here are situated along the waterfront, with a short walk to the nearest restrooms. A public beach is located nearby, and a small marina offers a few light snacks. As far as dining is concerned, an open fire and the day’s catch is the most popular alternative.
Next time you’re planning a St. Louis area lake vacation, don’t be afraid to cross the river. The Ozarks are lovely, but there is much to be missed by overlooking what Illinois has to offer.