Ready to step away from the hustle and bustle of uptown and into a more relaxed way of life? Lakeside living may be calling your name. And there’s no need to venture too far from the QC — we’re fortunate to have several gorgeous lakes within a short drive.
But what’s it really like to live in a lake town, and how much can you expect to pay? We spoke to the pros and Helen Adams Realty to find out. Here’s what they told us about these nearby lakeside retreats:
Lake Norman Area
Many of Charlotte’s neighbors to the north enjoy quick and easy access to Lake Norman, the largest man-made body of water in North Carolina. Created in 1959 by Duke Power and named for its then-president Norman Cocke, Lake Norman is home to thousands of water-loving residents (and, according to urban legend, a sea monster named Normie), says Helen Adams Realty agent Marlene Billesdon.
“There are entire towns at the bottom of Lake Norman; they were built before the lake was formed, Marlene says. “Lake Norman is also home to many movie backdrops. Nick Jonas’s parents live here and his movie ‘Careful What You Wish For’ was filmed in Lake Norman, as were parts of Tom Cruise’s ‘Days of Thunder’ and Will Ferrell’s ‘Talladega Nights’.”
This sparkling lake is flanked by several adorable towns filled with unique shops, delicious restaurants and plenty of waterfront southern charm.
“It’s Southern Suburbia at its best!” Marlene says. “Lake Norman has that laid back small-town charm vibe, but with all the big-city amenities.”
If you want to see some beautiful homes in the area, Marlene suggests checking out Lookout Point, Shadowcreek, Pointe Regatta, Connor Quay and the end of Jetton Road in the Peninsula.
Seafood lovers will love the fresh catches at restaurants like Eddie’s on Lake Norman, one of Marlene’s waterfront favorites.
Interested in buying property on Lake Norman? The median of sales closed in the last 180 days at about $314 per square foot, says Helen Adams Realty agent Rachel Mangiapane. And if you’re looking for the perfect lakeside feel, look no further than Davidson, Huntersville and Cornelius.
“The vibe of this area is exactly why I love it!” Rachel says. “I consider Davidson, Huntersville and Cornelius together as one special area, each with its own unique character. They are each vibrant individually, but when woven together they are spectacular!”
Davidson is Rachel’s personal favorite lakeside town (and the one she calls home!)
“Charming shops, artistic murals, a quintessential Town ‘Green’ in front of the library flanked by a highly rated college — it is beautiful and charming,” Rachel says. “While Main Street seems small, it is chock full of great finds. Summit Coffee, the Pickled Peach, Ben & Jerry’s, Carrburritos and Flatiron are just a few fun choices. For a special meal, Kindred is perfect. Owner Lindsey Williams has made Davidson Wine Co. the perfect spot to meet friends and unwind with a glass of wine too.”
If outdoor recreation is your thing, hop on the West Branch Greenway and bike to Fisher Farm, a natural area populated with plenty of wildlife and plants, all accessible by four miles of bike trails.
In Davidson, the median price per square foot for non-waterfront property is $144. Check out available homes here.
Rachel says for her, the best part of Davidson is the sense of community.
“Charming is part of the vibe, but collaborative and community-minded is also an important feeling in Davidson,” she says. “Obvious events like The Farmer’s Market and Concerts on the Green bring people together, but during the pandemic, we also saw the ingenuity of our local business owners. Kindred paired up with Summit Coffee to serve coffee and Milk Bread donuts at the old Wells Fargo drive-thru. Ingenious and delicious! How cool is that?”
“Cornelius sparkles with beautiful homes on the lake side and smaller neighborhoods on the east side,” Rachel says. “The old mill buildings have been revitalized and there are lots of great coffee shops and boutiques popping up. The new Cain Center for the Arts is in the works which will add even more to the already eclectic vibe of old Cornelius on the east side.”
Marlene suggests browsing the shops at Home, Heart and Soul for a unique gift.
You can expect to pay about $187 for non-waterfront property in Cornelius. Check out homes for sale here.
If hustle and bustle is more your speed, check out nearby Huntersville, which Rachel says has a “frenetic energy.”
“There are tons of shopping and restaurants — Target, Whole Foods and Birkdale Village,” she says.
Marlene’s new favorite Birkdale Village spot is Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop, where you can tickle your sweet tooth with delicious pies like pecan, key lime and, for a limited time, strawberry. Yum.
If you’re hoping to “window shop” for homes, check out the Lookout Point neighborhood, Marlene suggests.
You can expect to pay about $139 per square foot for a non-waterfront home in Huntersville. Check out homes for sale here.
“The Denver area is growing rapidly offering diverse opportunities for many lifestyles,” Amy says. “There’s a good mixture of older homes, townhomes/condos and single-family homes as well as lots of new construction.”
Denver’s down-home feel combined with its waterfront amenities make it a highly desirable area for people of all ages and lifestyles.
“You don’t have to live on the water to enjoy all the water perks,” Amy says. “I don’t live on the water, but my husband and two boys love to take our boat and kayak out. One of the most popular access ramps for kayakers and boaters is the Beatty’s Ford public access area. It is well-kept and spacious making it convenient for all sizes of boats. Better yet, get some friends or family with waterfront property and you can put in at their place.”
Want to eat like a local in Denver? Amy has this advice:
“When I think of a secret place that only locals know about, I think of The Landing. It is a waterfront restaurant you can visit by car or — even better — by boat. It’s been around for years and if you were driving by, you probably wouldn’t look twice at this hidden gem. It’s definitely a ‘party in the back’ kind of place with lots of outdoor seating, music and games for entertainment. It’s super casual, relaxed and family-friendly, plus offers a variety of food for everyone. My ideal lake day would include making a pit stop at The Landing,” she says.
Even if you don’t want to spend a day at the lake, you’ll find something to do in Denver.
“My family loves hanging out at Rock Springs Nature Preserve. There is a beautiful park, covered picnic area and walking trails. There are also hiking trails that we discovered a year ago and my boys love exploring the trails, playing in the creek and eating a picnic lunch,” Amy says.
If you’re looking at real estate in Denver, be sure to drive down Bay Pointe Drive, Governors Island and the Westport Community.
“Westport is one of the OG waterfront neighborhoods in Denver. It’s the perfect mixture of older and newer homes, where no two are the same. Driving through Westport, you will enjoy mature trees with just the right amount of shade plus those picturesque lake views,” Amy says. “Bay Pointe Drive is just the prettiest street. It just simply feels like where you should live if you wanted a lakefront property in Denver. Governors Island is one of the few islands with permanent residents on Lake Norman. It is considered part of the Westport community. Approximately 40 homeowners call Governors Island home and it is referred to by locals as being on the ‘quiet side’ of Lake Norman. If you’re looking for luxury living on this side of the Lake, this is the place.”
Want to live on the water in Denver? You’ll pay about $282 per square foot for a single-family home or $229 per square foot for a condo. Non-waterfront property is significantly less, coming in at about $157 per square foot for single-family homes and $144 per square foot for condos and town homes. See available properties here.
Lake Wylie Area
Lake Wylie may only be half an hour south of South Charlotte, but it feels like a whole other world. From tubing down the Catawba River to dancing with the music of a live band at a music festival, outdoor activities abound in one of the towns surrounding this 21-square-mile lake.
“The vibe around Lake Wylie is very laid back and family-oriented,” says Helen Adams Realty agent Carol Syler. People are very friendly here. One of the biggest compliments I hear from out-of-town clients that move to the area is how welcoming and nice everyone is here. If you are walking down the street or on one of the many trails around the area, expect to be greeted with a smile and wave from passers-by. There is a true sense of community here. I have never seen a community so willing to help others in need. If someone in the community is going through a difficult time, the entire community comes together to help in any way possible. It is truly inspiring to see. And they are big on supporting local businesses.”
Hungry? Hop on a jet ski and ride to Papa Doc’s for waterside dining.
“Sit on the outside deck overlooking the water, but be prepared to wait for a table,” Carol says. “It gets very packed in the summer months.”
If you love the outdoors like Carol does, you won’t run out of fun things to do around the Lake Wylie area.
“You will find a mix of paved and natural trails for walking, hiking and biking, two championship golf courses, tubing/kayaking down the Catawba River, ski shows on Fridays during the summer, festivals, summer concerts, and recreational sports for kids and adults,” Carol says. “The list goes on and on. On Friday nights, you will find me playing kickball for the local adults coed kickball league and socializing at our local Lake Wylie Brewing Co. after the game.”
Is music more your thing? Check out the free summer concert series in Tega Cay, a once-monthly festival featuring food trucks, beer/wine stands and live music in Runde Park.
Worried about fitting in with the locals? Don’t be.
“You won’t find too many people that are local to the area,” Carol says. “With the award-winning schools, low taxes, warm climate, close proximity to Charlotte and laid-back friendly nature, people move here from all over.”
Carol’s favorite neighborhood is River Hills, a gated country club community located off Highway 49 which features rolling hills, alek vistas, a championship golf course, private beach, tennis courts, marina and more.
“When you drive through the neighborhood, you just get this sense of serenity that takes over,” Carol says. “You feel like you are a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of life, and it is only 18 miles from Charlotte center city.”
She also recommends checking out Trinity Townes townhomes in Tega Cay, the Palisades in Charlotte, Handsmill in York County and Paddlers Cove in Clover.
According to the Canopy REALTOR Association’s Statistical Analysis Module (as of 5/12), Lake Wylie property is selling for an average of $149 per square foot. Check out available homes here.
Mountain Island Lake
Right on the border of Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties lies Mountain Island Lake, a 3,000-acre watershed that provides drinking water to residents of both counties as well as recreational activities like boating, fishing, water skiing, wakeboarding, sailing and more.
Helen Adams Realty agents Angie Godley Bright and Judy Godley, experts on all things Mountain Island Lake, describe the area as a picturesque, environmentally protected lake where families can enjoy beautiful sunsets, water activities and precious time spent with family and friends.
Head out onto the water and discover the sandbar, many beach areas and coves around the lake where friends and families gather and fish on the weekends.
When you get hungry, head to Sports Page Food and Spirits, a longtime local favorite restaurant that offers daily specials, catering and an extensive menu. Judy and Angie say it’s a great place to watch a game. You could also head to the Riverbend Village area for more restaurant options (and a Harris Teeter with a wine bar!)
Some of their favorite neighborhoods for looking at homes include Overlook, Mt. Isle Harbor, Mountain Point and Preservation Pointe as well as Stonewater and Imagery, a newer 55-and-older commuunity in Gaston County.
You can expect to pay $141 to $234 per square foot for a waterfront home, many of which have deeded boat slips, and $131 per square foot for non-waterfront homes. See available homes here.
Thank you to our contributors:
Helen Adams, a sixth-generation Charlottean, founded her residential real estate company in Charlotte in 1975. Her achievements as an entrepreneur and community leader laid the foundation for a thriving, multi-office real estate business, and today she has become a role model for women throughout the Charlotte region. Second- and third-generation family members, led by Jeff Adams, continue to successfully operate four offices serving Charlotte’s finest neighborhoods with a stalwart commitment to perfecting their craft.