Kids slide off a waterslide on the back of a houseboat at Kentucky's Lake Cumberland

Lake Cumberland Fun

Southern Shorelines Family Itinerary

Laced with a trio of stunning lakes, the Southern Shorelines region of Kentucky is known as the “Houseboat Capital of the World” for good reason. But you’ll also find plenty of recreation, nature, history and local libations to enjoy on land as well.


Day 1: Get on the Water!

People houseboating and jet skiing on Lake Cumberland in KentuckyIn a region blessed with so much beautiful water, there’s no question where you’ll spend most of your time here. In fact, you can rent a luxury houseboat and make the lake your home base for exploring the entire area. You’ll find plenty of rental options at marinas all around Lake Cumberland, Dale Hollow Lake and Green River Lake. But if you’d prefer to have dry land under your bed at night, local hotels and lakefront cottages will still keep you close to the water.

Wherever you stay, spend your first day enjoying the water your way. Take it easy with a lazy float, a relaxing swim and lounging on the boat, or kick it up a notch with an adrenaline-fueled jet ski run or a slippery slide into the water from the top deck of your houseboat.

Day 2: Waterfalls & Train Rides

Two girls on a rock behind Yahoo Falls, taking in the scenic viewSoak up a soul-soothing sunrise on the lake, then pack a picnic lunch and take a leisurely drive to Stearns and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Buy your ticket and board the Big South Fork Scenic Railway for a ride into history as you visit a coal company town and explore the legacy of mining in the Eastern Kentucky mountains. After returning to the station, drive into the recreation area for a hike to Yahoo Falls, the state’s highest waterfall. A one-mile loop will take you down to the 113-foot falls, where you can go behind the curtain of water and then up to the top. 

Before heading back for the night, ask the locals where to eat! Great food is easy to find here, with many places offering the region’s popular fried catfish. Rowena Landing Restaurant at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park is especially known for this crispy signature dish.

Day 3: Apple Picking & Sightseeing

Civil War reenactors on the battlefield at Mill Springs in KentuckyThere’s still plenty of sightseeing to do – the hardest part is just deciding where you want to go first. You can explore the area’s rich Civil War history at Mill Springs National Battlefield Visitor Center & Museum in Nancy, home of the battle marking the Union’s first victory in the western theater. A nine-mile driving tour includes 10 interpretative stops, or you can hike a trail on the battlefield itself to learn more.

This fertile part of Kentucky is well-known for its lush farms and wineries, so be sure to check out a few before you go. Pay a visit to Haney’s Appledale Farm and Bear Wallow Farm, both in Nancy, or head to Heavenly Haven Farm in Columbia. Then sip and stroll among the grapes at Cedar Creek Vineyards in Somerset or Cave Hill Vineyard & Winery in Eubank before catching a striking sunset back at the lake.

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