To say that we are die-hard lake people would be a vast understatement.
Growing up in North Georgia, I spent weeks every summer at my grandparents’ cottage on Lake Hartwell. As an adult, Mary and I have kept a boat docked on Lake Allatoona for 14 years, and visit 3-4 times a week.
We fell in love on our second date to see the Christmas lights on Lake Lanier, and we’ve since visited the most beautiful lakes in Georgia (including Lake Blue Ridge, Lake Burton, Lake Rabun, Carters Lake, etc) many times.
And now we’re we’re looking for a little lake house in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia or North Carolina for our future home!
Some nitpickers might say that these bodies of water are not technically lakes, but rather reservoirs (because they were created by the construction of dams on major rivers).
And while it’s true that there are very few natural lakes in Georgia, we’d argue that the man-made lakes in Georgia are beautiful enough that the technicalities are irrelevant.
Read on for our in-depth guide to the 15 best lakes in Georgia to visit, including options stretching from the North Georgia mountains to lakes near Atlanta and the Georgia-Florida border.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Lakes in the North Georgia Mountains
The 15 Best Lakes in Georgia Guide
- Lake Allatoona
- Lake Blackshear
- Lake Blue Ridge
- Lake Burton
- Carters Lake
- Lake Chatuge
- Lake Hartwell
- Lake Lanier
- Lake Nottely
- Lake Oconee
- Lake Rabun
- Richard B. Russell Lake
- Lake Seminole
- Lake Sinclair
- Lake Winfield Scott
READ MORE: The 10 Best Lake Houses in Georgia to Rent
1. Lake Allatoona
Located in Cartersville, less than an hour north of the state capital, Lake Allatoona is widely considered one of the best lakes in Georgia due in part to its proximity to Atlanta.
Allatoona covers 18.77 square miles, and can easily be accessed from I-75, offering fishing, boating, swimming, and kayaking to Olde Rope Mill Park’s Allatoona Falls.
It’s only about 20 minutes from our house, which makes it very easy to get there.
But there are also around a dozen different campgrounds offering 1,000+ campsites and RV sites for those who want to spend a weekend.
The lake boasts 150+ picnic sites, Red Top Mountain State Park, the Allatoona Pass Civil War battlefield, and 8 marinas offering jet ski and boat rentals. So visitors will have lots of activities to choose from.
There are also myriad great hiking trails to explore, including the 4.5-mile Pine Mountain Trail (which offers beautiful views of Lake Allatoona) and the 5.3-mile Red Top Mountain Homestead Trail (which follows along the shoreline).
READ MORE: The 30 Best Hiking Trails in North Georgia Bucket List
2. Lake Blackshear
If you’re looking for man-made lakes in Georgia with numerous activities to enjoy, check out Lake Blackshear.
Named after Revolutionary War General David Blackshear and created by a dam on Flint River, this spacious lake in South Georgia is just 11 miles from the town of Cordele.
The southern part of the state of Georgia has a warmer climate, ensuring you have 6+ months a year soak up some sunny rays.
Visitors can enjoy the region’s temperate weather by kayaking, boating, swimming, fishing, and more.
The 1,308-acre Georgia Veterans State Park offers endless exploration opportunities, and even has a Military Museum with several outdoor activities.
READ MORE: 8 Civil War Battlefields in Georgia to Visit
3. Lake Blue Ridge
One of our favorite Georgia lakes is located just 3 miles from Downtown Blue Ridge, which continually ranks among the best places to live in Georgia.
Lake Blue Ridge has about 60 miles of shoreline to explore. Around 80% of that is in the Chattahoochee National Forest, which is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
The area boasts great waterfalls, campgrounds, and countless Blue Ridge Georgia cabins to rent. Hike the 0.8-mile Lake Blue Ridge Loop Trail to get great views of the lake and see an array of local wildlife, wildflowers, and birds.
There are Lake Blue Ridge boat rentals available for visitors, and you can also rent jet skis, paddle boards, and kayaks.
The Morganton Point Recreation Area has a pebble beach that’s great for anyone who wishes to swim and enjoy the sun. And the lake connects to the Toccoa River, for those who want to explore without a motorized boat.
Vacation rentals on Lake Blue Ridge include 3-bedroom homes, 4-bedroom homes with hot tub, and 5-bedroom homes with hot tub.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Things to Do in Blue Ridge GA
4. Lake Burton
Named after a mountain town that is now submerged under its waters, the 2,775-acre Lake Burton was one of the first lakes in Georgia created by Georgia Power for power generation in the 1920s.
The western side of the lake is home to Moccasin Creek State Park, which boasts a campground, hiking trails, a playground, a boat dock/ramp, picnic shelter, beach volleyball, and much more.
Lake Burton has three marinas where visitors can rent boats, paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes. There are also some great Georgia waterfalls worth visiting nearby, including Hemlock Falls.
The lake’s diverse population of fish makes it a popular fishing destination, with bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, and catfish, as well as stocked trout in Moccasin Creek.
There’e no swimming at the state park, but Timpson Cove Park has a sandy beach and swimming area.
Vacation rentals on Lake Burton and in nearby Clayton GA are available, including 5-bedroom luxury retreats, 2-bedroom bungalows, 3-bedroom homes, and 5-bedroom homes.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Clayton GA
5. Carters Lake
Located near the town of Ellijay GA and known for being the deepest lake in Georgia, Carters Lake has a whopping 62 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 450 feet.
This lake was developed in the 1970s, when the US Army Corps of Engineers built an earthen embankment dam on the Coosawattee River. The Carters Lake Dam is 445 feet tall, making it the tallest dam east of the Mississippi River.
If you’re in search of a more private lake experience, consider Carters Lake camping. Although the lake has 62 miles of shoreline, there are no commercial developments or private docks to be found.
There’s a full-service marina where visitors can rent boats and kayaks, and numerous Ellijay cabin rentals that offer views of the lake.
Carters Lake is every fisherman’s dream, as it’s filled with bass, crappie, catfish, bream, and walleye.
There are several great hiking trails in the area, including the Oak Ridge Trail, Hidden Pond Songbird Trail, and Carters Lake Nature Trail. Hiking and camping at Fort Mountain State Park is also a good option nearby.
2-bedroom vacation rentals overlooking Carters Lake are available in Ellijay.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Ellijay GA & Gilmer County (2023)
6. Lake Chatuge
Hiawassee & Young Harris GA are home to another one of our favorite Georgia lakes, Lake Chatuge, which offers some of the most spectacular scenic views in the state.
Nestled between some of Georgia’s tallest mountains and the expansive forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Chatuge spans the GA/NC border and boasts over 130 miles of shoreline.
Public boat ramps grant visitors easy access to the water, and two marinas can be found for jet ski, kayak, and pontoon boat rentals.
The most popular spot to relax by the water is Towns County Recreational Beach, but the shores of Chatuge are also home to numerous campgrounds that visitors can enjoy.
For a 1-mile round-trip hiking trail that winds through the forest while offering amazing views of the lake, check out the Lake Chatuge Trail & Recreation Area.
Vacation rentals on Lake Chatuge are available at The Ridge Resort and include 3-bedroom homes, a 3-bedroom villa and 4-bedroom homes.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Hiawassee GA & Young Harris GA
7. Lake Hartwell
I grew up spending several weeks every summer on Lake Hartwell, the largest lake in Georgia, which covers an impressive 56,000 acres.
Hartwell has 9 campgrounds with over 500 campsites, as well as miles of great hiking trails and diverse wildlife.
There are several state parks and recreation areas on both the Georgia and South Carolina side of the lake, including Tugaloo State Park, Hartwell Lakeside Park, Lake Hartwell State Park, and Sadlers Creek State Park
Five marinas and myriad boat ramps can be found around the lake, making it a popular place for boating, water skiing, and wakeboarding.
There are many different species of fish that inhabit the lake, including bream, largemouth bass, crappie, and trout. But the most common fish caught on Lake Hartwell is the striped bass.
Vacation rentals on Lake Hartwell in Georgia including 5-bedroom homes and even a 7-bedroom home.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Kayaking Rivers in Georgia
8. Lake Lanier
The second biggest lake in Georgia and one of the best lakes near Atlanta, Lake Lanier is extremely popular for a reason. I spent a lot of time there with friends during my late teens and early 20s.
Named after Macon-born Sidney Lanier (who put poems about Georgia to music in the late 1800s), the lake boasts 700+ miles of shoreline, with over 10 North Georgia campgrounds and 40 parks in the area.
Lanier offers great opportunities for swimming, boating, kayaking, and fishing, with the most common fish including bass, catfish, crappie, walleye, and bluegill.
Opened in 2022, Don Carter State Park is one of the state’s newer parks, with 4 miles of hiking trails, Georgia cabins to rent, and a recreational beach.
The newly renovated Lanier Islands Legacy Lodge resort has a variety of lodging options, numerous amenities, and fun Christmas events. It’s one of our favorite places to celebrate Christmas in Georgia.
There are also numerous Lake Lanier vacation rentals available.
READ MORE: The 30 Best Day Trips From Atlanta GA
9. Lake Nottely
Lake Nottely is one of the lesser-known lakes of Georgia, but it’s widely considered among the best by anyone who’s had a chance to visit Blairsville.
Located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, this 4,180-acre man-made lake has an abundance of great views.
There are two marinas on the lake offering boat, kayak, paddle board, and canoe rentals. And there are plenty of fishing opportunities, with largemouth bass, rainbow trout, walleye, and bluegill inhabiting the waters.
As for the surrounding area, the 1.7-mile Nottely Reservoir Trail is a great way to explore the lush forest that surrounds the lake.
You can also visit the Poteete Creek Campground park and enjoy their beaches, swimming areas, picnic tables, and public restrooms.
The location of Lake Nottely is a huge plus, as it sits right outside the heart of town. So visitors can easily enjoy some of our favorite Blairsville restaurants and shops before or after a beautiful day at the lake.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Blairsville GA & Union County
10. Lake Oconee
Looking for lakes near Atlanta GA?
There are numerous options within an hour of the metro Atlanta area, but none have quite as many activities and attractions as Lake Oconee.
Located near Eatonton GA, less than 60 miles east of Atlanta on I-20, Oconee Lake has all you could want in a day trip.
With 10 different marinas scattered around the lake offering jet ski, ski boat, wakeboard, and pontoon boat rentals, water sports are naturally a popular pastime here.
People visit from all over GA to fish the lake’s waters, which are teeming with bluegill, bass, crappie, and sunfish.
There are myriad options for Lake Oconee hotels and vacation rentals, with a Ritz-Carlton hotel, The Lodge at Lake Oconee, and a 3-bedroom vacation home all located right on the water.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Hiking Trails In Atlanta GA (& Hikes Near Atlanta)
11. Lake Rabun
Another one of our favorite lakes near Atlanta, Lake Rabun is just 90 miles north of the hustle and bustle of the city.
There are myriad campsites for tents and trailers at the Lake Rabun Recreation Area, where you can access a beach, boat ramp, and a great picnic area. Boats, tubes, jet skis, and kayaks are all welcome on Lake Rabun as well.
Fishing is a popular pastime here, with many avid anglers finding luck in catching walleye, bass, and bream.
The 1.75-mile Angel Falls Trail departs from the recreation area, leading hikers to the beautiful Angel Falls and Panther Falls. For an even shorter hike, check out the breathtaking Minnehaha Falls.
For those who aren’t crazy about camping, the Lake Rabun Hotel offers great accommodations so that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort during your weekend getaway.
You can also rent a 3-bedroom vacation home on Lake Rabun.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Wineries in the North Georgia Mountains
12. Richard B. Russell Lake
Richard B. Russell Lake is located just south of Lake Hartwell along the border of Georgia and South Carolina.
Encompassing more than 26,000 acres, this is another one of the biggest lakes in Georgia, with over 540 miles of shoreline to explore.
This gorgeous GA lake is largely undeveloped, granting fishermen quiet days on the water in search of largemouth bass, crappie, and striped bass.
Private boats are welcome, and there are marinas where you can rent boats, kayaks, and canoes.
If you’re looking for a beach on the lake, Richard B. Russell State Park has a beach area as well as 6 miles of hiking trails to explore, including the flat, 1.5-mile Cottage/Beach Trail.
There are also myriad cabin rentals and campgrounds that can accommodate tents, RVs, and trailers.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Places to Visit in Georgia (State)
13. Lake Seminole
Another popular lake in GA, Lake Seminole (named for the Native American tribe) is located right along the border between Georgia and Florida.
With 376 miles of shoreline, Lake Seminole has over a dozen cottages you can rent, as well as 50 different campsites for tents and RVs.
There are also picnic shelters, boat ramps, and a fishing dock on the lake for visitors to enjoy, plus a sandy beach, smooth waters, and excellent opportunities to see birds and other wildlife.
Fishing is arguably the most popular activity at the lake, with many anglers catching crappie, largemouth bass, catfish, and chain pickerel.
Duck hunting is another popular activity during the cooler winter months.
READ MORE: The 10 Best State Parks With Cabins In Georgia
14. Lake Sinclair
Located near the town of Milledgeville in the central region of the state, Lake Sinclair is considered one of the cleanest lakes in Georgia.
It’s a very popular spot for boating and, with 417 miles of scenic shoreline, several public boat ramps and marinas, and plenty of boat storage areas.
Fishing is also a popular pastime here, with anglers finding luck catching bass, catfish, and crappie. But there’s a limit to how many bass you can catch, depending on the species, so do some research before casting your line!
Both Oconee Springs Park and Rocky Creek Park offer beach areas, boat ramps, and picnic tables. Oconee Springs has places to camp and rent cabins, but Rocky Creek Park does not.
There are also many waterfront Lake Sinclair vacation rentals available in Milledgeville and Eatonton.
READ MORE: 6 Incredible Indian Mounds in Georgia to Visit
15. Lake Winfield Scott
Nestled in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Lake Winfield Scott is one of highest altitude lakes in GA at around 2, 854 feet.
Since its development in the 1930s, the Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area has become a popular spot all year round.
Kayaking and canoeing are popular activities here. And since only hand-powered or electric motorboats are allowed on the lake, it’s very quiet compared to some Georgia’s largest lakes.
Fishermen are drawn by the chance to catch perch, bream, bass, and catfish.
There’s a designated swimming section in the Recreation Area, with picnic tables, pavilions, and restrooms all available on site.
If you’re looking to make a weekend of it, there are 30+ campsites that can accommodate tents and RVs, as well as a cabin that can house up to 12 people.
Nearby attractions like Vogel State Park, Blood Mountain, Helton Creek Falls, and the Desoto Falls Scenic Area offer great trails, so don’t forget your hiking shoes! -by Samantha Dickens & Bret Love; featured image of Lake Allatoona by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett