8 things you need to know about living on Smith Lake, including where to find a Sunrise Margarita

Paddle boarding on Smith Lake. Rentals at Smith Lake Paddle Boards.
Smith Lake Paddle Boards offer a unique way of getting across the Smith Lake. Photo via Smith Lake Paddleboards on Facebook

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You’ve probably been to a friend’s weekend home on Smith Lake just north of Birmingham.  Have you thought about getting your own place? Never fear. Bham Now has pulled together this handy, dandy guide to give you a glimpse of what it’s really like.  Find out where the locals eat, shop and hangout. Check out local properties for sale.

1. What’s so special about Smith Lake?  

Powerboat cruising on Smith Lake, Alabama
Smith Lake, AL. Photo via ARC Realty

You might not know that Smith Lake is BIG! HUGE, actually! It has 21,000 acres of some of the cleanest and deepest lake water in the USA (260ft) and over 500 miles of beautiful tree-lined coastline.  

This means gorgeous, blissful privacy and stunning natural scenery. With average summer water temperatures of 80°, you’ll  definitely want to pack your swim suits.

Smith Lake is a huge reservoir located on the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River, about 20 miles north-west of Birmingham.

Towns on the lake include Bremen, Crane Hill and Dodge City in Cullman County; Curry and Jasper in Walker County; and Addison, Arley, Houston, and Double Springs in Winston County.

Leda Mims of ARC Realty told me “I love it all! The deep clean lake, wildlife, a real sense of community, great spots to eat, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the water. It’s a joy to live at Smith Lake!”

2. Getting to Smith Lake is easy

Does the thought of being able to leave Birmingham and play on the lake in little over an hour sound as great to you, as it does to me?

Hoover resident Carol DiPlacido talked with me about her family’s decision to purchase a weekend lakeside cabin on Smith Lake, and it turns out being easy and quick to get to was an important factor,

“We thought a lot about whether to get a beach house or a lake house. We just felt we’d use a cabin at the lake a whole lot more if it were a little over an hour away, as opposed to a five hour trip to the beach, and we were right” said Carol.

Leda told me how she commutes from Smith Lake to Birmingham,

“I love that we’re just an hour away from Birmingham on the Cullman side of the lake. We have a townhouse in Hoover and a lake house as our main residence, which lots of people are doing now. It’s such an easy commute!”.

3. Local hiking, bike trails, and natural wilderness

A young girl hugs The Big Tree in the Sipsey Wilderness
The “Big Tree” in the Sipsey Wilderness. Photo by Tony Barber

The Western side of Smith Lake is crowned by the 180,000 acre Bankhead National Forest,and the Sipsey Wilderness home to Alabama’s largest tree, the Big Tree

Smith Lake Park has some great walking and bike trails, suitable for kids and big kids!

Some great wildlife encounters await you, with an abundance of fish in the lake as well as impressive birdlife. Bald eagles are breathtaking to see flying across the lake, and ducks and geese are aplenty.

4.  How to get active on the water – go slow or go fast!  Find your own fishing spot or get a guide. 

Group of friends wade on the shoreline of Smith Lake
Smith Lake provides plenty of opportunity to play on the water. Photo via ARC Realty

The deep, clear water of Smith Lake and its sheer size make it the perfect water playground. 

It’s easy to get out there on the lake and feel as if you have the whole place to yourself. It’s not like the beach where you’re battling to find somewhere on the water that is quiet and calm.

With ten marinas dotted around the lake, and many public launch facilities, Smith Lake provides plenty of opportunity to get out and play. 

Carol added “You get a real feeling of community at Smith Lake. We’ve gotten to know people at the marina and at local stores. They look after you and remember you. It’s small town living.”

This is echoed by ARC Realty’s Leda Mims, “I’ve been coming to the lake since I was nine years old. It’s just such a friendly place. You get to know people and experience all there is to enjoy on the lake with them, stunning sunsets, watersports, and brunch at the marina (which can extend until dinnertime!)”

A group of friends on one of Fishing 24-7 Guide Service's tours. Smith Lake, Alabama.
Smith Lake has some big bass! Fishing 24-7 Guide Services offer guided trips. Photo via Fishing 24-7 Guide Service Facebook

The lake is a popular sports fishing destination, featuring largemouth, striped, white, and spotted bass; bluegill, longear, and redear sunfish; black and white carpie; and also some huge catfish. 

Fishing 24-7 Guide Service offers guided trips on Smith Lake, Alabama for trophy striped bass. 

If skiing or wakeboarding isn’t your thing, and if you’re feeling energetic, Smith Lake Paddle Boards offer rentals, and Smith Lake Park offers Canoe and Kayak rentals for a more relaxed approach to the lake.

There’s plenty of spots to go for a peaceful swim, or if you want to get the adrenaline pumping, popular cliff jumping spots into the lake are Indian head jump (30 ft) and Castle Rock (40–50 ft.).

5. Where do people eat and hang out? Enjoy a Sunset Margarita at The Grille

Sunset Margarita on the dock of Trident Marina, Smith Lake. Available at The Grille
The Grille at Trident Marina offers a varied food menu and cocktails. Photo via The Grille on Facebook

Even though a big part of staying at the lake is grilling out and watching the sun go down over the water, sometimes it’s nice to have somebody else do the cooking! 

Know before you go – Cullman and Winston County are dry (no alcohol is available) while Walker County allows alcohol sales with the limitation that no alcohol may be purchased on a Sunday. A law was passed in 2017 meaning that marinas with restaurants can serve alcohol regardless of what the law is in the county. (Aha!)

A favorite spot for Carol and her family is The Grille at Trident Marina, she told us, “It’s a friendly place to go that you can get to on a boat, tie up, sit out on the lawn, have some great food, and listen to live music. They also make an awesome Sunset Margarita”.

Other places to eat nearby to the lake include:

If you’re willing to drive a bit further out, there’s plenty of places in nearby towns, and you’ll get back to the lake in no time.  

Leda likes that “on the Cullman side, you can be in downtown Cullman  in 15 minutes and enjoy luxuries you’d expect, while getting back the wilderness shortly after. There’s so many great restaurants – some of my favorites are Augusta’s Sports Grill and 412 Public House. They also have a warehouse district which feels very much like downtown Homewood.”

Bham Now top tip – The Sunflower Bakery & Eatery does the best biscuits in the history of biscuits!

6. You might bump into Miley Cyrus!

Actress and singer, Miley Cyrus and actor, Liam Hemsworth have been spotted in Cullman. Rumor has it, country music superstar, Billy Ray Cyrus, has a place on Smith Lake.

7. Any homes for sale on Smith Lake?

Rustic bungalow on Smith Lake, Alabama. For sale by ARC Realty
This lovely rustic bungalow has 170ft of waterfront to enjoy. Click the picture to find out more. Photo via ARC Realty

This 2 bedroom / 1 bath rustic lakeside furnished bungalow at 264 County Road 881, Crane Hill, has 170ft of waterfront, a boat dock and a hydro hoist boat lift. Click to see the full listing, complete with all the lovely pictures. Price: $330,000.

Waterfront property on Smith Lake, Alabama. For sale by ARC Realty
This near 5,000 sq. ft. waterfront property is less than 10 minutes away from I65. Click the picture to find out more. Photo via ARC Realty 

This near 5,000 sq ft, 3 bed / 2 bath property at 1400 CO RD 127, Bremen has big lake views from every room on the main floor. It has a boat dock with swim platform and is less than 10 mins to I65 – perfect for commuting to Birmingham. Click here to see the full listing. Price: $539,000.

See ARC Realty’s huge inventory of stunning homes for sale on Smith Lake

8.  Why would y’all consider Smith Lake over the beach? 

Couple being pulled on the water of Smith Lke, Alabama.
Clinging on to the lake over the beach. Photo via ARC Realty

If you’re not sold on lakeside versus seaside yet, consider this…

  • You can spend more time on the water than in the car
  • You don’t have to walk through miles of hot sand to get to the water
  • No sharks or crabs
  • The water’s perfect for watersports
  • No worries about having to head back before the tide goes out
  • Docks and cliffs were just made to jump off into clear lake water
  • The lake is enclosed by stunning views
  • It’s easy to fish (psst…does anyone know any secret spots?)

Has the lake won you over?

Are you dreaming about the perfect weekend pad at Smith Lake? Are you looking to sell your home or shopping around for a new one? Reach out to ARC Realty for more information.

Smith Lake, a stunning location that offers panoramic views, amazing sunsets, as well as endless watersports your family is sure to enjoy.

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Author: Jon Eastwood

Originally from Wales (UK) and a fluent Welsh speaker. Longtime sustainability and recycling champion. Former county recycling manager in the UK. Career highlights include introducing innovative recycling systems and achieving a point where households throw out trash just once a month. Competed in international coastal rowing championships and followed Wales throughout Europe in their Rugby and Soccer endeavours.