Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee
A golfer, I amn’t. Consequently, my family and I don’t really focus on such resorts. But the wife has consistently reminded me that these properties often provide plenty of activities to keep the non-golfers busy. Plus, given our Marriott free night award stockpile and our spring break plans to visit extended family nearby, we found the Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee intriguing. Here’s our recent experience at this lakefront resort over a three-night stay.
We used certs for each night of our stay. My wife and I each held 85k free night awards from last year’s Brilliant signup bonuses, and I had a fresh 50k cert from meeting the Bevy’s big spend bonus in late 2022. Points rates for our stay dates were in the mid-50k range nightly, and cash rates approached $800. During trip planning, I noticed 80k-point award nights and four-figure cash rates at higher-demand times of the year.
We earned approximately 12,700 Bonvoy points during the stay, taking into account room charges, promos, and our Platinum status. I paid for all incidentals with my Bevy card, earning 6x Bonvoy points while inching closer to another $15k big spend bonus free night award.
The Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee sits approximately halfway between Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia and about 15 minutes south of Interstate 20. Essentially a bubble within a bubble, the resort is located inside the Reynolds community. The property faces beautiful Lake Oconee. We reached the resort after a couple hours’ drive from South Carolina, and Atlantans can likewise escape to the property without too much effort.
Beyond their overlapping recreational activities, the Ritz-Carlton and the Reynolds community aren’t exactly convenient to many other options. I don’t necessarily hold this against the resort. We planned to remain on property for the entirety of our stay, anyway, fully taking in as much as we could. Those looking for adventures beyond should probably look elsewhere.
We arrived at about 4 pm, and the check-in process was relatively smooth. The valet area was busy but efficient. Our valet warmly welcomed and accompanied us to the front desk with our luggage. The check-in agent had no problem merging the two reservations my wife and I held, ensuring no room changes or key updates were required. I asked about available Platinum room upgrades, and we were offered a lake view two-queen room. We happily accepted. At booking, certs and points are only eligible for the basic resort view room.
We asked for a room away from the elevator, and we definitely received that. The bellman conveniently arrived just before check-in ended. Our journey to the room commenced.
The Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee is a sprawling property, and we arrived at our 4th floor room after a long walk from the elevator. Renovated in 2020, the guest rooms are holding up well. Similar to other Ritz-Carlton properties, the Lake Oconee room updates bring lighter white and gray hues to complement the rich, woodsy finishes of the public spaces.
The long foyer holds a convenient counter and Nespresso machine. The beds are simply magical – I never wanted to get up. Quality materials exist throughout the room, from the light fixtures, to the dresser drawers, table, chairs, sliding balcony door, curtains, and opulent bathroom. The six-door dresser offers plenty of storage space. Above the dresser and minibar is a jarringly-gigantic television. Marriott’s site mentions a 50-inch TV, but the one in our room is seemingly 70 inches, at least.
The spacious bathroom offers separate tub and shower, the latter a bit on the smaller side. The commode sits in an adjacent room with sliding door. The single vanity offers plenty of counterspace and a bright makeup mirror. Bathroom lighting is on a dimmer, something our family appreciates during nighttime.
Beyond the bathroom, the room felt a bit small. Some of that’s to be expected with a family of four sharing a basic size room. As with other hotels, accessing the dresser blocks the walkway. The room’s 463 square foot measurement is a bit deceptive, since much of that is taken up by the large bathroom and foyer.
Gaby’s by the Lake
The Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee offers multiple dining outlets for a variety of experiences. Perhaps our favorite is Gaby’s by the Lake, offering a relaxed vibe, excellent views, and attractive, diverse menu for lunch and dinner. The kitchen also caters to the adjacent infinity pool, but don’t let that fool you. It’s a great destination for a nice, convenient dinner. We enjoyed seafood, sandwiches, and Mexican fare here.
Linger Longer Steakhouse
The stuffier dinner option, Linger Longer is colocated at the clubhouse for the golf course closest to the resort, about 300 yards from the lobby. We didn’t mind the brisk morning walks here to enjoy a couple delightful morning breakfasts. Food is high quality, but it can be a remarkably slow experience. On our first visit, we waited about 30 minutes after ordering for breakfast to arrive. The restaurant wasn’t busy at the time, not even half-full. Don’t come here if you’re on a schedule.
Linger Longer has a dress code for dinner but, thankfully, not one for breakfast. Still, we enjoyed dressing up a bit for our morning meals.
The Coffee Shop
For a lighter, quicker, and slightly-less expensive breakfast or lunch, stop by the Coffee Shop. Food is a cut above Starbucks fare but heavy on the bread. Pastry and cold sandwich lovers will surely find something to enjoy here. Fresh fruit and yogurt/granola options are also available. I stuck with their solid coffee, while my family had a quick breakfast on morning two. Surprisingly, the bill wasn’t much cheaper than full breakfast at Linger Longer. But the Coffee Shop does the job, quickly fueling one up for a day full of activities.
Adjacent to the lobby is the adults-only Barrel Room, focusing on bourbon but also offering the usual variety of cocktails, beers, and light bites. Barrel Room waitstaff also serves food and drinks to those relaxing in the lobby. The Splash Shack offers snacks and drinks adjacent to the family pool, closed during our early spring stay. Lago, an upcoming Italian restaurant below the lobby, replaces Georgia’s and is currently under renovation.
The Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee offers room service, a popular option for many, based on the number of trays we saw in the hallway. The club lounge also offers multiple dining opportunities daily. We didn’t experience either of these options.
In my view, this is where the Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee shines brightest. In addition to five golf courses, the resort offers a plethora of activities for guests young and old. Here are some highlights from our stay:
- Kids Club
- Game Room
- Tree Swings/Hammocks
- Outdoor Putting Green, Ping-Pong, Foosball, Basketball
There’s too much to mention in this review. Check out this page for a full description on all activities the resort has to offer.
Pools and Beach
The Ritz-Carlton offers three pools and a lakeside beach for guests’ enjoyment. The heated infinity pool is adults-only during high season, but kids were welcome during our mid-April stay. The family pool was closed during our visit. The spa holds a lap pool and offers family access in the afternoon. For lake waders, a sandy beach is located next to the infinity pool.
Spa and Fitness Center
The Spa sits in a dedicated building at the front of the resort. Visitors can expect the usual spa treatments here in addition to the pool on the lower level. While we didn’t bother with any spa services, I enjoyed using the cardio equipment and free weights at the fitness center. Plenty of weight machines are available, also.
As I’ve come to expect from Ritz-Carlton stays, service is on point at the Lake Oconee Resort. All workers, from the front desk to housekeeping, poolside, and waitstaff were warm throughout our stay. Employees are remarkably knowledgeable about the property and consistently available to help. Agents were always available at the front desk, and I never had to look far for assistance elsewhere, either.
About That Resort Fee…
The Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee charges a $59 nightly resort fee, plus tax. There’s no avoiding that number. But we were satisfied for what we obtained in return. The resort fee covers the following: valet parking, all of the above activities we enjoyed, “enhanced” internet access, tennis court and driving range access, and golf course shuttle service.
Sure, I wish Marriott waived resort fees on award stays like Hyatt and Hilton do. But I know I’ve paid resort fees elsewhere and gotten much less in return. Plus, an intangible benefit we received here is simplicity. It’s remarkably refreshing to participate in all the activities and not be inconvenienced with an a la carte bill for each one.
While we theoretically could’ve gotten more out of those 85k certs, we happily used them at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee. This stay met our primary goal during this spring break – plenty of family time with a balance of relaxation, fun activities, and a bit of luxury mixed in. We plan to visit again, probably while our kids are still on the younger side. Those looking for an aspirational lakefront stay who love golf, have young kids, or both will probably enjoy the Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee most.
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