An ‘Alabama Bucket List’: Kowaliga and Lake Martin

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My kids could be categorized as lake rats, if there is such a term. They love the lake, we all do. It’s a thick part of East Alabama culture, folks start flocking to Lake Martin in late spring and we don’t give in till cooler temperatures arrive in October. We visit often in the summer with friends or family, it’s a quick escape from the daily hustle to enjoy each other and cool off in the summer heat.
We have found a sweet spot on Lake Martin, fit for any family. Long days are great for the lake, but what if you just have an evening away and want to sneak off for a tasty family supper and lakeside fun?
The answer is Kowaliga Restaurant.
Kowaliga is located on a beautiful point and marina in Alexander City. It has a deep history on Lake Martin, filled with musicians and old-school ski clubs. We found this spot about three years ago, when my husband and I drove up for a date night. We soon went back with our kids and today when we say, “Who wants to go to Kowaliga?” They all pile up in the truck within 60 seconds with no necessities but a bathing suit.
Kowaliga Restaurant is located about 40 minutes from the Auburn-Opelika area. It holds a casual, lake-side atmosphere, topped off with incredible food and a restful beach space for playing and enjoying a summer sunset.
Our kids pile in the truck around 5 p.m., we grab a few floats, some towels and good appetites. I bring pajamas for Shep, as he is a champion at playing hard and passing out on the way home. It’s a nice, easy drive, the kids are chatty the whole way up, eager to jump out and get their bodies wet under the evening sun. We soon arrive to a marina filled with boats and trailers down a windy road.
Arriving at the restaurant, we are greeted by beautiful still waters and the smell of grilled hamburgers and tasty catfish. The kids make a beeline for the beach, they know the drill and don’t waste time making sure mom and dad are following behind.
Isaac follows the kids and parks his tired tail in a chair overlooking the water. This is my cue to head inside and order us a cold beer to celebrate our day.
The wait staff is always on point, I grab paper menus and head to the bar to check out the selection of local beers. I end up with an order of two Truck-Stop-Honey’s by Back Forty Beer Co. I give the waitress a heads up that we’ll be playing a bit before ordering, she smiles and opens the screen door for me. I walk across a long, deep back porch, filled with kids and happy parents taking down their meal. The view of Lake Martin is priceless. I hear my kids in the distance and meet up with Isaac, passing off his beer and giving him a toast to our perfect summer night.
The kids are clueless that we are enjoying ourselves just as much as they are. The calm of a parent on a still, small beach paired with the playfulness of a child. The kids decide to catch a few turtles, often found hanging around the rock wall along the shore of the restaurant. It quickly turns into a comedy show, followed by Shep running into the water saying, “Mom, watch me! I think I’m running on water…”
You’re adorable Shep, but we’ll leave running on water up to Jesus.
We review the menu while the kids play, an endless selection of fine dining options go hand in hand with chicken wings, fish tacos and tasty shrimp. Isaac and I ordered round two on cold beer, and we were soon ordering dinner, to be seated on the porch overlooking the evening sky. Isaac voted for wings, ordering two different varieties. I’m a sucker for any seafood, choosing the fish tacos, which were cooked to perfection. The little kids went all burger happy and I was quite proud of Braxton for ordering fried catfish, of which he gobbled up every bite. The food here is excellent, with plenty of variety and great southern portions. Isaac being the lively daddy that he is, entertained the kids at dinner with a tall tale of truth from his childhood. The echo of laughter into the night is all I need.
Family, around a table, smiles dripping with ketchup.
We wash down dinner with cold sweet tea in mason jars. The kids get one more dip in the water before we head home after dark. There is something about swimming at dusk that kids just love. Maybe it’s the adventure of the night, or maybe it’s the belief they are up way past their bedtime. Either way, getting them out of the water for the drive home is nearly impossible. They don’t want the fun to be over, and honestly, neither do I.
It’s rare to find a pleasant space to relax, watch your kids play and enjoy a fine dinner. Summer nights aren’t around much longer, take some time soon to travel the windy roads to Kowaliga, an outing meant for every Alabama Bucket list.
Grab your kids and set out on a short drive to paradise, Lake Martin crafted and approved.
Bradley Robertson is a local mother, wife and creative. She’s an Auburn University graduate, loves good food and getting outside with her family. Bradley enjoys feature writing, as well as southern culture and lifestyle writing.

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