Nestled in Georgia’s northeastern countryside, Lake Lanier (a.k.a. Lake Sidney Lanier) is the state’s largest lake, boasting some 38,000 acres of water and 692 miles of shoreline spanning five counties. This splendid retreat, which gets its name from favorite son/poet Sidney Lanier, offers an idyllic locale that lures enthusiasts to what is considered a mega-boating destination, welcoming more than 7.5 million guests yearly to its many natural and man-made attractions.
What To Do
The summer months usher in an enticing list of things to see and do, from an afternoon picnic to a moonlight party on the beach, so there’s something for everyone on board.
High-performance aficionados from around the country converge for the super-charged Pirates of Lanier Poker Run (the 8th annual event is slated for July 14-16, 2016). The event, organized by Lanier Partners of North Georgia, is considered one of the best poker runs on the circuit. The three-day fest is comprised of a Wanna-Be-Pirates Welcome Party on Thursday, a Cheeseburger Raft-Up Friday and Poker Run on Saturday, and raised more than $250,000 for local children’s charities last year. Not a boater? No worries! Show off your best set of wheels at the Landlubber’s Car & Bike Show held at the Vendor’s Village.
Lanier Islands is home to the popular waterpark LanierWorld — a must on any family’s itinerary. Take a day or two to play in this fun zone and be sure to hit the newest addition, CAT4 Tube slide, which twists, turns and splashes you down into the lake. You can also soak up some rays at Big Beach or savor the gourmet pizza at Gianni’s Italian Bistro on the Boardwalk. Nearby, Sunset Cove celebrates every week with activity-based and food-themed events and presents a dazzling fireworks display on holiday weekends. There’s no shortage of dock space here — hundreds of slips across the two sets of docks.
While Lake Lanier lures the boating crowd with poker runs, fishing and its tranquil beauty, a trio of trails located on public lands at the south end of the lake allows outdoor lovers to discover the area’s landside environment and many creatures. Explore Lower Pool Park beneath Buford Dam along the wide, level Buford Dam Trail, which showcases the powerhouse, the saddleback dam that creates the lake and the original bed of the Chattahoochee River. Or, take a short stroll down Little Ridge Trail (it’s only 1.05 miles long) with lots of wildlife viewing possibilities. The Laurel Ridge Trail, a picturesque, 3.8-mile hike following the ridge line east of the Lake Lanier Dam and Lanier Dam Park, provides a great family outing, with bathroom facilities, swimming areas and boat ramps dotted along the way.
Where To Dock
Finding a marina that suits your needs is a given, since 10 marinas are situated around the shoreline. Two of the three Westrec-owned facilities, the newly acquired Aquamarina Lazy
Days and Holiday Marina, are in Buford and Sunrise Cove in Gainesville. The former houses 75 wet slips for vessels up to 125 feet; the latter offers a complete line of services and almost 1,300 wet splis.
Sunrise Cove Marina, tucked in a 62-acre park-like setting, accommodates a range of vessels in its variety of 749 slips.
Flowery Branch is home to the largest inland marina in the country, Aqualand Marina, with more than 1,700 wet and dry slips for boats 26 to 100 feet in length.
Where To Eat
Just about every dining spot around — from outdoor casual to indoor gourmet — showcases an incredible lake view to complete your outing. Stop by Fish Tales Lakeside Grille for some fresh seafood, or try the char-grilled burgers at open-air eatery Sunset Cove Beach Café and Club.
Lanier Islands’ Legacy Lodge offers a great pair of dining options: You can kick back on Bullfrog’s Bar & Grille poolside deck, with inviting fire pit for pub fare, or plan an evening at Sidney’s for a fine-dining experience that serves a seasonal menu of Southern cooking.
Pick you pleasure and plan your trip! Lake Lanier has it all.
IF YOU GO
Bullfrog’s Bar & Grille, (770) 945-8787
Fish Tales Lakeside Grille, (770) 967-3775, www.fishtaleslakelanier.com
Gianni’s Italian Bistro, (770) 945-8787
Sidney’s, (770) 945-8787, www.lanierislands.com/dining/sidneys-restaurant
Sunset Cove Beach Café and Club, (303) 934-2685
Aquamarina Lazy Days, (678) 288-8916
Holiday Marina, (770) 945-7201, www.holidaylakelanier.com
Sunrise Cove Marina, (770) 536-8599, www.sunrisecovemarina.com
Aqualand Marina, (770) 967-6811, www.aqualandmarina.com
LanierWorld, (770) 945-8787, www.lanierislands.com/lanierworld
Pirates of Lanier Poker Run, (641) 715-3900, www.lanierpartners.org
Sunset Cove, (303) 934-2685, www.lanierislands.com/lanierworld/sunset
Author: Bobbye Miller Kenyon is a contributor to HeartLand Boating magazine