I was in my senior year at Clemson when my parents decided to leave the suburbs of Philadelphia for life on a lake in northern Georgia. Because of this, our visits to my parents’ place over the years have never felt like I was ‘going home’ – that feeling is reserved for when we visit my sister and her family in Pennsylvania. That being said, we always enjoy the time we spend on Lake Lanier. It may not be home but it’s a great place to visit.
Lake Lanier is a man-made lake (reservoir) that was created in 1956 with the completion of Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River. With 59 square miles of water and 692 miles of shoreline, Lake Lanier is perfect for water sports, sailing, fishing, swimming, and everything in between. In fact, the rowing and sprint canoeing events during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta were held at Lake Lanier.
Lake Lanier is a great place to vacation because it is only a little over an hour from Atlanta, so a trip to the lake can easily coincide with a visit to Dogwood City. It’s not terribly known outside of northern Georgia and when I write about our trips to visit my parents, I get questions about Lake Lanier so I thought I’d write this post to highlight why a trip to Lake Lanier may be a good fit for your family.
Where to Stay?
As accommodating as my parents may be to family and friends, they’re not in the bed and breakfast business. There are plenty of options via AirBnB and VBRO and those with military affiliation can check out the Armed Forces Vacation Club – I’ve seen some Lake Lanier properties pop up from time to time. If you are wanting more of a hotel feel, there is The Legacy Lodge at Lanier Islands, which offers guest rooms, lake side villas, and cottages on the water. You can also stay further north in the mountains and drive down for a day trip to Lake Lanier – if that is more your jam, I recommend Dahlonega or Helen.
What to Do?
For as much fun as we have taking the boat and jet skis out on the water, our favorite thing to do on Lake Lanier is kayak. If you’re wanting to be on the water, Port Royale Marina offers boat rentals from runabouts to party yachts to wave runners. And The Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club has a big selection of non-motorized watercraft available for rent. There are plenty of opportunities to fish as well, all you need a Georgia fishing license and a pole. The Striper Experience has chartered expeditions, as does Capital Clay’s Catching Not Fishing.
As far as land activities, there is horseback riding at Lanier Islands and zip lining at North Georgia Canopy Tours and Lake Lanier Canopy Tours. There are plenty of hiking opportunities near the lake and if you’re willing to go further in the mountains, you can check out the Appalachian Trail. There is a water park at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands during the summer and Snow Island during the winter.
Where to Eat?
Due to the shear size of Lake Lanier, there is no shortage of restaurants in the surrounding area. Atlanta Highway Seafood Market in Gainesville is great for a low-key meal or to purchase fresh seafood to prepare at your rental. Pelican Pete’s Tiki Bar & Grill has typical bar food but the fun atmosphere and waterfront location more than makes up for the just-adequate food. If able, be sure to arrive by boat or jet ski! Tam’s Tupelo Cajun Restaurant & Bar in Cumming is popular as well as Pig Tales Lake Lanier in Flowery Branch.
Henry David Thoreau famously wrote that, “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” According to the EPA, there are approximately 53,119 manmade lakes in the United States so Lake Lanier is just one of many. But it’s worth checking out – especially if you find yourself in the Atlanta area.