Although Atlanta lacks sandy beaches where you can go to unwind and soak up the sun, there are a number of lakeside retreats right outside the city that are worth visiting. From Lake Lanier, frequented by vacationing Atlantans and tourists, to smaller bodies of water teaming with wildlife, the state’s great lakes are sure to fulfill your need for a little waterside relaxation.
Allatoona Lake. Situated about 40 minutes north of Atlanta, this 12,000-acre lake is at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Boasting 270 miles of shoreline, Allatoona is part of Red Top Mountain State Park and offers camping areas, hotels as well as quaint bed and breakfast accommodations.
Carters Lake. At the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this 3,220-acre body of water is known for its rugged shoreline and is the smallest and deepest of Georgia’s lakes. Complete with camping, fishing and boating, the lake’s recreation area also features a beach area ideal for laying back and taking in some rays. If water sports aren’t your thing, the shoreline also has miles of hiking, biking and nature trails to keep you entertained and active.
Clarks Hill Lake. Located on the Georgia and South Carolina border, this lake stretches 39 miles up the Savannah River with a 1200-mile shoreline of hardwoods and pine trees. Alive with a variety of plants and wildlife, Clarks Hill is particularly popular with fishermen who navigate through its more than 250 islands looking for a catch.
Lake Seminole. Set in southwest Georgia on the edge of the Florida and Alabama borders, this well-known fishing spot has cypress ponds, hardwood and pine forests and areas resembling the Florida everglades and Okefenokee Swamp. One of the top bass fishing lakes in the U.S., Lake Seminole is also ideal for bird watching and is known for its alligator sightings and other wildlife.
Hartwell Lake. North of Atlanta in the upper Piedmont of Georgia, Hartwell’s varied terrain includes everything from marshes to pine-hardwood forests to aquatic areas teaming with a variety of wildlife. More than 250 bird species and 40 species of mammal are said to be found near Hartwell. A half-mile, self guided nature trail leads visitors through the diverse habitats and there are also miles of old logging roads and fire trails to explore. Hartwell also has five marinas with boat rentals and other services and 80 public park sites for picnicking or camping
Lake Sidney Lanier. One of the most visited lakes in the country, Lake Lanier is in foothills of Georgia’s Blue Ride Mountains, just 30 minutes northeast of Atlanta. A popular weekend and holiday spot for fishing and boating, Lake Lanier surrounding area also offers golf, resorts, horseback riding and more. The 692 miles of shoreline stretches through parks, picnic areas and campgrounds.
Richard B. Russell Lake and Dam. One of the more secluded waterside spots, this lake’s shorelines are completely undeveloped providing an environment rich in wildlife and Native American history. Russell Lake also offers fishing, camping, hiking and swimming.
Walter F. Georgia Lake. Located near historic towns with antebellum mansions, this West Georgia lake allows visitors to enjoy nature and history in one trip. A great place to camp, fish or picnic, the lake extends 85 miles along the Chattahoochee River and borders Alabama and Georgia. Offering four campgrounds, the lake also has more than 650 miles of shoreline to enjoy.
West Point Lake. North of LaGrange, West Point Lake is popular with campers and RV aficionados, which visit in the hundred of thousands each year. A place for fishing and boating, attractions like Pine Mountain and Callaway Gardens are also nearby.
[Photo courtesy of Cameron Cassan]