Summertime in Atlanta means one thing to most people: it’s hot. With longtime residents well aware of the woes of high humidity and even higher temperatures, it’s no wonder that Atlantans tend to head out of town on the weekends to get some refreshing relief from the heat at any one of the lakes in Georgia. Atlanta homeowners are lucky to have so many outdoor recreation activities at their fingertips, and the lakes surrounding the metro Atlanta area tend to be a favorite option for just about everyone. With options ranging from making a quick day trip to one of the closer lakes, a weekend trip to somewhere a little more secluded or purchasing a lakeside Atlanta new home to have your own retreat for generations to come, Georgia’s many lakes offer something for just about everyone.
Lake Lanier is the closest major lake to Atlanta, and it is also the state’s most visited lake. Most of us have heard about the revelry that occurs at Cocktail Cove, but there is plenty of seclusion and tranquility to be found on the 59 square miles of water that make up Lake Sydney Lanier. Don Carter State Park, set to open up this summer, will be the state’s newest park and the first one on Lake Lanier. Located on the quieter north side of the lake, the park will feature miles of hiking trails; a sand-bottom swimming beach with a bathhouse and playgrounds; cabins for rent and campsites that can host RVs, tents and hammocks. Lake Lanier Islands Resort in Buford has multiple lodging options available, and guests can enjoy golf courses, a water park, numerous dining options and many other attractions. Two of the world’s largest freshwater marinas are located on Lake Lanier, Holiday Marina and Aqualand. Lake Lanier is also home to the first cable wake park in Georgia, Wake the Lake Cable Park, which hosts riders wanting to learn to wakeboard or just practice away from the busy waters of the main lake. Active adults can make their home on the shores of Lake Lanier in Gainesville at the award-winning active adult community of Cresswind. This gated neighborhood offers a variety of home plans and a multitude of activities, all while being located on the quieter side of Lake Lanier.
Lake Allatoona, which is situated on the outskirts of metro Atlanta, offers less developed fun for nearby residents. Much of Allatoona’s north side remains undeveloped due to its isolated location, making it less busy than Lake Lanier. Red Top Mountain State Park sits on Lake Allatoona’s west side, and is a favorite vacation spot for kids of all ages. The park, which has a 92-room lodge, 18 cottages and campsites for RVs, trailers and tents, features more than 12 miles of trails for both hiking and biking, and outdoor picnic areas that can accommodate groups ranging in size from two to 200 people. Located adjacent to both Lake Allatoona and Red Top Mountain is The Village at Waterside, a gated, architecturally controlled community of custom luxury homes. The shores around Lake Allatoona are also home to eight full-service marinas, more than 30 parks and campgrounds and 15 public boat ramps.
Lake Burton is called Georgia’s little Lake Tahoe due to its ability to draw celebrity homeowners, such as Nick Saban, Vince Dooley and Alan Jackson, to its banks. Just under a two-hour drive from Atlanta, this secluded, beautiful lake has 62 miles of shoreline along almost 3,000 acres of water. Lake Burton Fish Hatchery raises rainbow and brown trout to be stocked into Georgia’s mountain streams, and offers tours during their regular operating hours. The hatchery operates a stretch of nearby Moccasin Creek where young anglers under the age of 12 can go to hone their skills and fish the waters. Moccasin Creek State Park, located on the bank of Lake Burton, has 55 tent, trailer or RV campsites; a fishing pier for the physically disabled, the elderly and children; walking trails; a boat dock and a boat ramp. For those looking to own their own piece of property along Lake Burton, look no further than the premier community of The Waterfall at Lake Burton. This gated community features beautifully appointed homes with amenities such as a golf course, tennis courts, clubhouse with fitness center, swimming pool and direct lake access for many homes.
Lake Rabun may only have 835 acres of water and 25 miles of shoreline, but the privacy and classic style of the lake and surrounding area are part of its charm. Located just 90 minutes north of the city, Lake Rabun is known for having some of the most unique, interesting boathouses in the state. The strong and active community around the lake has been built through the Lake Rabun Association, and members list some of their favorite hangouts as the Lake Rabun Hotel, which features farm-to-table cuisine, and Louie’s on the Lake, known for their delicious pizza. There are only 485 homesites available around Lake Rabun, with approximately 10 percent of them available for purchase for those Atlanta homeowners who want to own their own weekend getaway home.
Lake Blue Ridge is one of Georgia’s most picturesque mountain lakes, with crystal clear aquamarine water, and it is the only lake south of the Great Lakes where walleye is caught. Less than two hours from Atlanta, this serene place will continue to stay that way due to 80 percent of its shoreline being part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Lake Blue Ridge has a full-service marina, Blue Ridge Marina, which offers pontoons and jet skis for rent, and also has a boat ramp, fishing area, boating supplies and boat storage. Morganton Point Recreation Area is home to campsites, swimming and fishing areas and public use boat ramps.
Georgia’s second largest lake, Lake Hartwell, is one of the southeast’s largest and most popular public recreation lakes, and it is consistently one of the top five most visited U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed lakes in the country. Less than two hours from Atlanta, the lake is intersected by I-85, which makes it easily accessible for Atlanta residents. Located along Lake Hartwell’s 962 miles of shoreline is the Currahee Club, home to the 2013 Southern Living Showcase Home. Also located along Lake Hartwell are the Georgia towns of Hartwell, Lavonia and Toccoa, and on the South Carolina side, the lake directly borders Clemson University. University of Georgia fans, even Head Coach Mark Richt, who has a home on Lake Hartwell, can ride their boat from the Georgia side of the lake right up to Memorial Stadium for this fall’s matchup between UGA and Clemson! You will also find nine Corps managed campgrounds, most of which offer restrooms, showers, boat ramps, playgrounds, electric and water hookups, courtesy docks, group camping areas and designated swimming areas. In addition, there are more than 80 public access boat launches. Pontoon rentals are available at Hartwell Marina, which hosts multiple community events and concerts throughout the year. Harbor Light Marina has pontoons, fishing and deck boats for rent as well.
Clarks Hill Lake is Georgia’s largest lake with 78,000 acres of water and 1,200 miles of shoreline. Clarks Hill is known to some as Lake Strom Thurmond, but that primarily depends on which side of the shore you stand on. Originally named Clarks Hill by the state of Georgia after a nearby town, U.S. Senator Bob Dole made things a little more confusing in 1987. Senator Dole tacked an amendment onto a foreign relations bill that renamed the body of water after South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond. Georgia soon retaliated by passing a resolution that reinstated the name of Clarks Hill, so now you frequently see both the state and federal names used. Clarks Hill is known as one of the best bass fishing lakes in the state, if not the nation. For less experienced fishermen visiting Clarks Hill’s waters, hire a guide to show you the ropes from Sasser’s Guide Service. The neighborhood of Charleston Bay, located on the shore of Clarke’s Hill between Lincolnton and Washington, is currently under construction and will feature 75 new homes, perfect for those who are looking for a vacation home in a peaceful and rural waterfront setting.
Georgia’s deepest lake, Carters Lake, tops out at 450 feet deep at full pool. The lake was dammed from the Cosawattee River, which inspired James Dickey’s Deliverance. With no development permitted directly on the shoreline, you are almost always guaranteed breathtaking vistas and seclusion. One of the only commercial operations on the lake is Carters Lake Marina and Resort, which rents pontoon boats and 10 cabins with lake views. KZ Cabins in Ellijay also offers cabins with gorgeous lake views. Harris Branch Recreation Area offers one of the easiest access points to the water due to the fact that the majority of the lake is surrounded by sharp declines down to the shore. There are four boat launch sites, numerous fishing guides in the area and miles of hiking and mountain biking trails all around the lake. Information on all of these opportunities can be found at the Carters Lake Visitors Center.
Georgia’s lake country, the name the four communities surrounding lakes Oconee and Sinclair have given themselves, boasts more than 15,000 acres of water, more than 10 golf courses, three Georgia Power-operated campgrounds, multiple other campgrounds for day or overnight use and more than a dozen marinas. Lake Oconee has become a luxury golf community with six championship courses and the Ritz Carlton at Reynolds Plantation located on its shores. Also located on Lake Oconee is Del Webb at Lake Oconee, a popular active adult community. This is Del Webb’s only lake community in the nation, and it features direct access with a boat ramp, docks and boat storage, as well as multiple other amenities for residents. Lake Sinclair is the dressed down version of its neighbor on the other side of the dam, Lake Oconee. While Lake Sinclair has no hotels, spas or golf courses located on its shores, lots here also run only two-thirds the price for a comparable piece of land on Lake Oconee. Located between Milledgeville and Eatonton, the lake has pontoon rentals available at Sinclair Marina or High Grove Harbor. If you’re in the mood for a seafood-centered dinner after a day on the lake, then visit Aubri Lane’s in Milledgeville. If you’re looking for something on-the-go, then make sure to check out Duke’s Lounge and Dawg House, which offers dock-side service so you never have to leave your boat to get dinner.
No matter what type of weekend entertainment or vacation activities you are looking for, one of Georgia’s lakes is sure to meet your needs. With so many options available, ranging from finding the perfect fishing hole, honing your skills at water sports or just relaxing on the back deck of your new home while watching the sun go down over the water, there is bound to be the perfect spot for you on one of our lakeshores.