Netflix’s drama stars Jason Bateman as Marty, a financial adviser who launders Mexican drug money. In the first episode, he flees Chicago and relocates his reluctant family to rural Missouri, to the “Redneck Riviera” – the Lake of the Ozarks.
As Marty discovers, it’s a massive manmade lake with more shoreline than California (1,150 miles, to be exact). Two other sizeable facts: it stretches 92 miles from end to end and attracts 5 million holidaymakers every year.
The Lake of the Ozarks is nicknamed “The Magic Dragon” because of its serpentine shape
Midwesterners love it because all the condos, resorts, restaurants and bars are right on the water. That’s not allowed at most American lakes, but the Lake of the Ozarks is a private reservoir that belongs to a hydro-electric company.
They also love it because summers are very hot and humid in Missouri and the Lake’s cool, calm waters are very inviting. Plus, you can do just about any water sport apart from surfing: kayaking, rowing, paddle-boarding, wakeboarding, waterskiing, jet-skiing, parasailing. There are also some pretty ginormous mansions to ogle at as you zoom along in a hired speedboat.
Jet-skiing is popular in summer
In fact, the Lake of the Ozarks is so popular, Netflix had to film most of the drama at quieter lakes in a different state entirely: Allatoona and Lanier in Georgia.
You will spy a few Lake of the Ozarks landmarks in the show, though. Here’s where to find them…
At the end of the trailer and the first episode, Marty and his family have their first glimpse of the Lake of the Ozarks from this glorious viewpoint, which rises about 200 feet above the water.
A very teeny Marty and family admire the view from Lover’s Leap at the end of episode one
Lover’s Leap is located on the west side, near the town of Linn Creek, and is one of the lake’s most famous landmarks. It’s especially popular with high-school kids who come here to smoke and drink Doctor Pepper. In fact, the Ozark crew had to do a massive cleanup of all their trash before they could film here.
Some say it’s named after an Indian maiden who hurled herself from the bluff rather than forsake her lover, who later fell to the same fate. Others believe this fanciful tale was made up by a local newspaper editor.
2. Bagnell Dam and The Strip
You can’t go to the Lake of the Ozarks without visiting the place where it all began: mighty Bagnell Dam. Back in 1929, this dam was built to impound the Osage River, creating what was America’s largest manmade lake at the time. Bagnell Dam is 148-foot tall and even more impressive when you learn it took over 20,000 labourers two years to build; they worked nine to 12 hours per day for 35 cents to a dollar per hour.
You can drive or walk across it (as Marty’s son does at one point in the series), or admire it from below by going on a cruise – Celebration Cruises are moored at one end.
Bagnell Dam Strip is the Lake’s beating heart and it’s brilliantly kitsch. Whether you’re after a tattoo, a pair of sunglasses or an ice cream, this colourful street of bars and stores will provide. Netflix filmed a scene at the arcade and in Stewarts Restaurant, a no-frills diner where you can breakfast on “The BIGGEST Cinnamon Roll at the Lake”, which is the size of a human head and arrives swimming in frosting.
Jason Bateman was also a fan of Trucker’s Shuckers, a popular oyster bar which does a mean Bloody Mary.
3. Alhonna Resort
Ozark was written by Missourian Bill Dubuque who had a summer job at the Lake of the Ozarks when he was in high school. He worked at Alhonna Resort & Marina, which you can find at the eight-mile marker (everything is mapped according to its distance from the dam).
Like lots of the Lake’s resorts, it’s a family-run place, right at the water’s edge. You don’t have to be a guest to park your boat in the dock and enjoy a burger and a beer at the laidback restaurant. You won’t actually see Alhonna on screen but it did inspire the resort in Ozark – Blue Cat Lodge.
4. The Blue Heron Bluff
The second viewpoint in the show is near the Blue Heron, a fancy restaurant with panoramic views where you can indulge in a local delicacy: battered and deep-fried lobster. It’s located at 180 Blue Heron Hill Lane, off the Horseshoe Bend Parkway, which isn’t far from the Strip.
To get to the bluff, ignore the righthand turnoff to the restaurant and take the lefthand one instead – the one with the “Dead End” sign. A short walk will bring you to a panoramic vista you’ll have all to yourself, but be careful: there are no railings and it’s a very long way down.
5. The Glory Hole
Finally, look out for hole-in-the-wall bar The Glory Hole, which you can find at 77 Mockingbird Beach Drive, Camdenton. Be warned: this is no hipster pretender. A local described it like this: “Usually you go to a bar and tell the bartender your problems; there, the bartender tells you her problems.”
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