Your guide to Georgia’s lakes: 16 spots to play or unwind

Mountain Lakes

Escape to the Lake: Blue Ridge
Morganton Point Recreation Area

Photograph by John E. McDonald

Clean and cool with the occasional reflection of a nearby vista, these founts of the foothills offer tree-lined coves that feel like your own private refuge

Blue Ridge

Why we love it
Eleven years ago, downtown Blue Ridge had four restaurants to its name. Today, 25 line the streets of this charming town 90 miles north of Atlanta. Blue Ridge’s boom can be credited to a 2008 ordinance permitting alcohol sales, which also paved the way for two breweries and a brewpub to tap their kegs downtown. But even as local businesses toast their growth, Blue Ridge’s 3,300-acre namesake lake remains ever tranquil, with national forests framing three-quarters of its shoreline.

Local hangout
Bring your dog, your swimsuit, and your thirst to the Boat Dock Bar & Grille at Lake Blue Ridge Marina, the only marina on the lake. The family-owned joint draws locals by the boatful, especially when townie Shannon York plays guitar.

Perfect day on the lake
Launch your boat (or rent one) at Lake Blue Ridge Marina—but don’t push off before perusing the quirky antiques showroom jammed with old boat engines and vintage brass cash registers. Spend the day tubing, breaking for a picnic lunch in popular Big Island Cove. Dry off and head for dinner at Harvest on Main, the grande dame of Blue Ridge’s fine-dining scene.

Other great mountain lakes

Lake Chatuge

More than double the size of Lake Blue Ridge but with half the fanfare, Lake Chatuge outside Hiawassee is Georgia’s best-kept secret (with nearby fishing hotspot Lake Nottely a close second). Stay at the Ridges Resort, where you can rent a pontoon at the marina, play croquet on the lawn, and roast s’mores by a fire at dusk.

Rabun County Lakes

Where do real-estate tycoons, owners of car dealerships, and the Alabama head football coach all keep second homes? The blue-blood lakes of Rabun County, especially Burton and Rabun. Getting here is easy—it’s just two hours northeast of Atlanta—but finding a place to crash isn’t. Your best bets are VRBO or the 13-room Lake Rabun Hotel.

Carters Lake

The Army Corps of Engineers does not permit development on Georgia’s deepest reservoir, Carters Lake. But its waters are teeming with giant striped bass. Rent a pontoon at Carters Lake Marina & Resort, crack open a cold one, and wait for your next trophy catch to bite.