The Netflix drama Ozark has shone a spotlight on the Lake of the Ozark, a huge lake in Missouri.
Jason Bateman’s character – a money-laundering financial advisor called Marty – is forced to move there and isn’t exactly enamoured with his new home, which is hardly surprising as the show paints Missouri as a gothic backwater in a dreary palate of blues and browns.
My first impression couldn’t have been more different: I visited in early July when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the Lake’s resorts and bars were full of ordinary Midwesterners enjoying the glorious weather.
Here are 13 reasons why you should ignore Marty and check it out for yourself…
(Wondering where exactly Ozark was filmed? Check out our location guide.)
1. It’s America’s Best Recreational Lake according to the readers of USA Today in a 2016 poll (number two was Big Bear Lake in California’s San Bernandino Mountains).
2. For $129, you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Lake from a Cessna 172 Skyhawk – a single-engine vintage plane. The Lake Aviation Center is located near Camdenton and the pilot cheerfully ignored my yelps of fear and pointed out the landmarks, including mighty Bagnell Dam.
3. There are over 60s bars and restaurants on the water, including lots of independent and family-run establishments. The best way to explore them is by boat.
4. When you rent a boat, you can also “cove out” – anchor and jump out into the deliciously cool water. This is what lake life is all about.
5. The bars have amazing names. Hurricane Dolly’s (which has an upside down Christmas tree), Dog Days and Shorty Pants Lounge were just a few of my favourites.
6. You can parasail and it’s surprisingly relaxing. The friendly chaps at Paradise Parasail harnessed me to a parachute with a smiley face and then sped off in their boat, leaving the wind to hoist me several hundred feet up. The view was fabulous, as was the sensation of floating gently along.
7. You can also jet-ski, waterski, kayak, wakeboard, or try virtually any watersport you can think of apart from surfing. I opted to do paddle-boarding and didn’t topple in once thanks to the instructors at Franky and Louie’s.
8. There are 14 golf courses if you like that sort of thing.
9. You can visit Bridal Cave. The website promises this is one of America’s “most scenic” cave tours and it did not disappoint. A knowledgeable guide led us through a series of otherworldly caves, pointing out the rock formations: vast stalagmites and stalactites, chandeliers of “soda straws”, rippling walls of “drapers” (so named because they look like curtains). The red and white rock twists and blends into gold and uncanny shapes – a tree, a bird, a wedding cake. Over 3,000 couples really have married here. The rock formations are awesome but there’s another good reason to visit Bridal Cave: it’s beautifully cool in the caves.
10. Battered and deep-fried lobster. The restaurants round here fry everything, but this is the dish to splash out on (don’t cove out afterwards: you will sink).
11. The Shootout. The Lake’s biggest boat race will take place over the last weekend in August at a bar called Captain Ron’s. It was started in the 80s by two guys arguing over whose boat was fastest, and now a hundred or so of the sleekest, meanest vehicles roar up and down the Lake hoping to win a prize. For the thousands of people who come to watch, it’s a great excuse to crack open another beer.
12. Ha Ha Tonka State Park. If you fancy drying off, this state park has the remains of a turn-of-the-century mansion, some lovely shady walks and a crystal-clear spring which is an oasis for wildlife.
13. Frozen custard. It’s a thing in Missouri and is also called “a concrete” because it’s so thick you can turn it upside down. The proper way to eat it is smothered in sprinkles and E numbers.
Ozark is out now on Netflix