Atlanta Area Lakes and Beaches

Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain State Park north of Atlanta at sunrise
Robert Hainer/Getty Images
  • 01 of 06

    Atlanta Area Lakes and Beaches

    Beautiful Atlanta skyline
    Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

    Atlanta may be landlocked, but that doesn’t mean there aren't plenty of water hotspots around the city. In fact, though it doesn't have many salt-water beaches, lakes abound across the state, many of which are within a 2-hour drive from the city. Expect plenty of activities, from swimming and boating to fishing and camping.

    If you’re willing to drive a bit further, there are a handful of great beach options available all within Georgia limits, like Georgia’s Golden Isles (roughly 5 hours) and Tybee Island (roughly 4.5 hours). But for something closer by, here our favorite lake destinations, complete with information about recreation, lodging, and quick facts.

  • 02 of 06

    Lake Lanier

    Sunset and clouds over lake Lanier, Georgia, USA
    Justin Davis/Getty Images

    Lake Lanier, Georgia’s most visited lakeside destination, is a reservoir created by the completion of Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River in 1956 and is also fed by the Chestatee River. Today the lake boasts 38,000 acres of water and 692 miles of shoreline.

    Distance from Atlanta: Less than 50 miles (a 45-minute drive) northeast of Atlanta

    Activities Available

    Whether you want to soak up some rays on the sandy beach or channel your inner child, LanierWorld, a 1,500-acre resort, is a one-stop-shop for the family, complete with a Family Fun Park (home of the South's largest wave pool), a Raging River, carnival rides and a lakeside restaurant, TAD'S Lakeside Grille. Don’t miss Sunset Cove, where live music, entertainment, dining, and nightlife help you make the most out of summer.

    Likewise, boating enthusiasts can savor the 30,000 acres of water by renting a day boat or pontoon boat, or charter a yacht. Harbor Landing also provides a variety of tubing and ski equipment available for rent.

    Lodging Options

    Many Atlanta families have been lucky enough to snag a lakehouse of their own around Lake Lanier, but for those who just want to escape the city, there are plenty of accommodations available, from lodges and campgrounds to luxurious villas, resort rooms, and lakehouse rentals. 

  • 03 of 06

    Lake Allatoona

    Lake Allatoona at Red Top Mountain State Park north of Atlanta at sunrise
    Robert Hainer/Getty Images

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began constructing Lake Allatoona in the 1940s. Today the lake boasts 270 miles of shoreline and 12,000 acres of water.

    Distance from Atlanta: Roughly 35 miles northwest of Atlanta (a 45-minute drive)

    Activities Available

    This storied lake (the region’s history includes a Civil War battlefield and the settlement where the removal of Native Americans first began) is home to ​15-day use beaches, most of which have picnic areas and many of which offer boat launch space, plus 11 parks, 8 marinas, and 10 campgrounds. If you want to splash around, Dallas Landing, Galts Ferry, and Acworth Beach are good access points with swimming beaches. There are several reputable boat rental companies, whether you prefer a slick ski boat, a powerful Personal Water Craft, or a pontoon/party boat. You can even hire a Captain and charter a pontoon for up to 20 people.

    Lodging Options

    There are nearly a dozen campgrounds at Allatoona, including the popular Red Top Mountain State Park. Choose from cabin accommodations or post up your tent. You can also stay in nearby towns, like Acworth and Cartersville. 

  • 04 of 06

    Lake Oconee

    This central Georgia reservoir on the Oconee River was created in 1979 when Georgia Power completed the construction of the Wallace Dam. Today, Lake Oconee boasts 374 miles of shoreline with a surface area of 18,971 acres.

    Distance from Atlanta: 75 miles southeast of Atlanta (a 75-minute drive)

    Activities Available

    Like most of the lakes on this list, Lake Oconee offers exceptional boating, fishing, camping, and watersports. In fact, in addition to the traditional activities, like swimming, water-skiing, wakeboarding, you’ll also find Flyboarding, a one-of-a-kind adventure, and a plethora of golfing options (there are six championship courses!). 

    Lodging Options

    Though there are several lodging options available, The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation is our favorite. The luxury resort is akin to an upscale summer camp—they even offer jet skis, pontoon boat, paddle board, and kayak rentals. For something more budget-conscious, consider Harbor Club, which offers overnight cottages, water rentals, and a public marina, or one of the two campgrounds where you can pitch a tent or bring your RV. 

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Callaway Gardens’ Robin Lake Beach

    Robin Lake Beach
    John Coley/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Robin Lake Beach, the world's largest man-made, white sand beach stretches a mile around 65-acre Robin Lake.

    Note: This is a seasonal option; Open daily Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend

    Distance from Atlanta: Roughly 80 miles south of Atlanta (a 75-minute drive)

    Activities Available

    Located in Callaway Gardens’, you’ll have to pay admission to access Robin Lake, but so much fun awaits once you’re in. There’s table tennis, miniature golf, shuffleboard, a children’s playground, and WiFi access. There’s FSU’s Flying High Circus, swimming, sunbathing, giant chess and checker sets, and shuffleboard. And for an added fee, there’s also a floating obstacle playground (Aqua Island), paddle boats, water slides, rock climbing walls, bouncy houses trapeze adventures, and even beachfront dining.

    Lodging Options

    Callaway Gardens offers four accommodation types – the Mountain Creek Inn, Southern Pine Cottages, Mountain Creek Villas, and Vacation Homes – to suit a variety of tastes and budgets. All overnight rates include Gardens admission, Fitness Center use, and Wi-Fi access. Other area lodging options include the Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens and the Pine Mountain RV Resort, which offers RV sites, cabins, yurts, and tent sites.

  • 06 of 06

    Lake Hartwell

    Hartwell Lake, Georgia
    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    This man-made reservoir bordering Georgia and South Carolina on the Savannah, Tugaloo, and Seneca Rivers is one of the southeast's largest and most popular recreation lakes with nearly 56,000 acres of water and a 962-mile shoreline.

    Distance from Atlanta: Roughly 100 miles northeast of Atlanta (a 90-minute drive)

    Activities Available

    Lake Hartwell, 222 miles of which is in Hart County, Georgia, is home to a multitude of year-round events and a variety of recreation, from sandy beaches perfect for swimming and sun worshipping to shoreline campgrounds and quiet water areas ideal for boating, water skiing, and tubing. There are 5-​day-use recreation areas running along the Hartwell Dam, plus two County recreation parks offering tons of recreation areas where visitors can hunt in a preserve, swim at the YMCA, or watch a local baseball game.

    Lodging Options

    You won’t find many luxury resorts around Lake Hartwell, but there are charming B&B’s and some big box motels to choose from, or you can camp at one of the popular US Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds near the lake. There are also tons of lakehouse rentals available.