Smith Mountain Lake
Insiders’ Guide 2024

Aerial of a golf hole at Mariners Landing with Smith Mountain and the lake in the background.
Photo by Bryce Scott, Rapid Imagery

Smith Mountain Lake is a refreshingly different destination in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It’s renowned for its scenic natural beauty, rural charm and amazing recreational activities.

Since 1998, the SML Insiders’ Guide has been the go-to website for those looking for a family-friendly vacation spot, remote work retreat or idyllic location for a permanent or second home. We recently launched a quarterly magazine, too!


Read Our Summer 2024 Magazine

We recently released the first print edition of the SML Insiders’ Guide, a 68-page, full-color glossy magazine celebrating the best of summer at Smith Mountain Lake.

Flip through the digital version or read individual stories, including:

  • 99 Things to Do at SML
  • SML Marina Guide + Map
  • SML Golf Guide
  • SML Waterfront Dining Guide + Map
  • Can’t-Miss Summer Events
  • SML Lodging Guide

staying here

Smith Mountain Lake Vacation Home Rentals

Search for Smith Mountain Lake house rentals, cabins or hotels

In a hurry? Use our handy interactive map to search for SML vacation properties at a glance, then quickly book SML home rentals and hotels with ease.

SML self-catering vacation rentals are offered by the week, long weekend, month and longer – directly from homeowners and from vacation rental property managers.

Rates vary by season, size of rental and included amenities. Most are bargains compared to other lakefront, oceanfront and resort vacation rentals in the USA. Some Smith Mountain Lake house rentals include a dock for your boat (or the one you can rent while you’re here).

alternate accommodations

Other Places to Stay at Smith Mountain Lake

In addition to Smith Mountain Lake house rentals, our region offers a variety of other options for lodging, including cabins, hotels, resorts, houseboats and bed and breakfast inns. We break it all down and offer expert recommendations on our extensive SML lodging page and as a free, downloadable eBook.

when to go

Tourism Seasons at SML


June-August rates for most waterfront Smith Mountain Lake vacation rentals run from $700-$15,000 per week, with size, amenities and geographic location the primary determinants of cost. During peak season, you’ll typically need to check in and out on a Saturday, and rent for a full week.


In the 4-6 weeks preceding and following summer you can expect warm pleasant weather, fewer visitors, modest discounts from peak rates, flexible check-in and check-out dates – plus weekend and daily rate options.


Generally, in mid-October through mid-April, you can expect mild weather, fewer visitors, discounts of 20-50 percent on your vacation rental, flexible check-in and check-out dates – plus weekend, daily, and monthly rate options.

on and off the water

Family Fun Year-round at Smith Mountain Lake

Visiting Smith Mountain Lake is a real treat, especially for outdoor lovers. Among the lake’s many water activities are power boating, canoeing, sailing, swimming, fishing, water skiing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing, standup paddleboarding and jet skiing.

SML’s lakefront includes six free public boat launching sites, plus paid launches at more than a dozen marinas. In addition, some lakeside developments maintain their own private ramps. Get more details from our directory map of boat ramps and local marinas.

Photo by Kathleen Riordan

Off-water you’ll enjoy sightseeing that includes many spectacular views of Smith Mountain Lake’s gently mountainous 500-mile shoreline, plus peaks and ridges along the nearby Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway.

Four challenging golf courses surround the lake (two private, two public).

The SML State Park and Franklin County’s Smith Mountain Lake Community Park both include public access beach areas and miles of hiking trails. Smith Mountain Lake beaches are also available at a number of vacation rental homes.

The lake also offers picnicking, camping, hunting, antiquing, shopping, and relaxing. Restaurants on the waterfront and nearby offer everything from pizza and sandwiches to prime rib buffets and gourmet cuisine.

Well-maintained, winding roads with often-narrow shoulders make bicycling unsafe. (Drivers: Please pay careful attention to the road ahead at all times.) Most land and water activities are available at the State Park or within a short drive… so rent a lakeview or lakefront vacation home, and enjoy yourself for a week or two!

Smith Mountain Lake Directory Information

At Smith Mountain Lake, you’ll find a wide range of businesses open year-round and friendly merchants eager to help you.

Lodging Options at SML

adirondack chairs on a lake deck

Restaurants at SML

food and drinks on outdoor table

Things to do at SML

man kayaking on the lake

SML Boat Rentals

family on a recreational boat

Public Boat Ramps

man launching boat from trailer

Real Estate Directory

lakefront homes and docks

SML Gifts & Apparel

Churches at SML

closeup of man reading the bible

Smith Mtn Lake FAQS

view of smith mountain lake

getting on the water

Boating on Smith Mountain Lake

When you boat at SML, please be careful and courteous. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is an excellent source of information about safe boating, boating laws, and public access launches/ramps. Below are some important highlights for new boaters at SML.

Photo credit: Andie Gibson

Boating Courtesy and Safety at Smith Mountain Lake

Smith Mountain Lake is Virginia’s busiest recreational freshwater body of water. In 2006, the Virginia Assembly increased funding for enforcement of boating safety and noise laws; Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries) increased the number and visibility of patrols on the lake’s 20,600 acres.

In 2007, the Virginia Assembly passed a law mandating safe boating education for operators. If you don’t have a valid Virginia boater’s license and plan to rent rent from an SML marina, you must present a valid driver’s license so you can be temporarily licensed by watching a safety video and completing an in-person orientation.

  • Safety Equipment: You are required by law to carry this safety equipment in your boat: a wearable and properly-sized personal floatation device for each rider; a whistle or horn, a fire extinguisher, a flat throwable flotation cushion, your boat rental agreement (if applicable) and your boat registration certificate. Children under 13 are required to wear a personal floatation device. If you violate any of these safety equipment laws, prepare to pay a fine and processing fees.
  • No-Wake Coves: In a no-wake cove (indicated by no-wake buoys) you are required by law to operate your boat at your boat’s lowest possible navigable forward speed. If you don’t, prepare to pay a fine and processing fees.
  • Other Rules and Regulations: Please review Virginia boating regulations carefully before you boat at SML! Read them online or grab a copy at any marina.
  • Boating Violations: To report boating violations, call the Virginia Wildlife Crime Line at 800-237-5712 from 7AM-5PM daily. Be sure to record the boat registration number before you call. A description of the boat’s operator and passengers will help, as will a second witness (preferably not related to you).

SMLA successfully lobbied for the boater safety education mandate, but their request for boating speed limits failed to pass the Virginia legislature in 2007 and 2008. There are currently no boating horsepower limits on SML.

Boat Rentals and Sales at Smith Mountain Lake

Several companies on SML’s shoreline rent and/or sell power boats – pontoon boats, deck boats, ski boats, PWCs, fishing boats, house boats, and more. Many also sell marine gas and rent kayaks, paddle boards, tubes, skis, wake boards, knee boards, and more. For more information, see our list of boat rental companies.

Smith Mountain Lake Public Boat Launches / Ramps

Public boat launch ramps are plentiful here, so getting on the water won’t take all day. Visit our SML public boat ramps and marinas page for a complete list.

Smith Mountain Lake Marinas

Full-service marinas around the lake are a great place to park your watercraft and enjoy a lake day from land. Many marinas here are also a great place to rent watercraft, fill up your gas tank, get snacks or even a stop at a restaurant to grab breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Visit our SML public boat ramps and marina map page for more details.


Smith Mountain Lake Real Estate

Smith Mountain Lake offers a wide range of housing types and real estate prices, on the water and off. From one-bedroom starter condos to magnificent waterfront estates, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to call home here. Read more.

Smith Mountain Lake shoreline with waterfront homes
Photo by Andie Gibson

Considering a move to SML? Visit our Real Estate Agent Directory for a list of experienced professionals that service the entire SML area.

Get an up-close and personal look at gorgeous lakefront homes

Take a tour of eight of the lake’s most beautiful waterfront homes by attending the Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour. On Columbus Day weekend every year, hundreds of volunteers welcome many thousands of visitors (by car or boat!) to the three-day event, which raises funds for eight local charities. Mark your calendar … and bring your friends and family for a close-up view of some exceptional properties!

Getting to Smith Mountain Lake, VA – Driving & Airport Info

If you’re traveling by car, there are many ways to reach the lake. Most approaches involve mountain roads that can be challenging, especially at night.

Here’s a route that’s not the shortest possible, but it’s nearly free of bad curves. Follow I-81 toward Roanoke, then I-581 east approximately 7 miles to State Rt. 24 (I-581 Exit 6). Follow State Rt. 24 east for about 22 miles until you reach State Rt. 122. Follow State Rt. 122 southwest about 6 miles to Moneta. Moneta is just north of the only major bridge that crosses Smith Mountain Lake and offers easy access to any part of the lake.

If you enjoy driving winding mountain roads, consult a map and try approaching Moneta daytime via Rt. 43 (toughest), Rt. 116 “Windy Gap,” the Blue Ridge Parkway to its Virginia Rt. 24 exit, or Rt. 634 “Hardy Road” (easiest).

Smith Mountain Lake Map

For a map and driving directions, start with this interactive map: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia – courtesy of Google.

If you plan to arrive by private airplane, there’s a general aviation airport, Smith Mountain Lake Airport (airport identifier: W91), with a 3,100-foot paved runway. It’s located in Bedford County on the north side of the lake, about 2 miles from SML State Park, at 1090 Cutlass Rd., Moneta. Contact: 540-297-4859.

Warren Theis and Lisa Raub, refueling Warren's 1966 Mooney at Smith Mountain Lake Airport. Photo Copyright 1999 by Brian Raub

You can also check W90 (New London Airport), to the north of the lake in Forest Virginia, near Lynchburg as an alternative airport.

If you’re not flying your own plane, three commercial airports are nearby. Roanoke Virginia Airport (ROA, 40+ flights daily) is located 30-75 minutes northwest of SML.

The smaller Lynchburg Virginia Airport (LYH, 5 flights daily to and from Charlotte, NC) is located to the northeast, 30-75 minutes from the lake.

The Greensboro NC Airport (GSO, about 60 flights daily), aka Piedmont Triad International Airport is located 75-120 minutes south of the lake.

Airport drive times vary widely because the lake itself is 40 miles long. Be sure to check airfares at all three airports.