Lake Rabun in Clarkesville, Georgia. Photo by @thelaketeam
4 Secret Mountain Lakes and Towns You'll Love
North Georgia's lakeside destinations are ideal places to cool off from the summer heat, but they also provide ample opportunities for recreation, no matter the time of year. Rent a boat or paddleboard to get out on the water, go fishing or hiking, and relax at the end of the day in a cabin or campground. Looking for great food and unique shops? Head into nearby towns for things you can't find anywhere else.
Lake Rabun & Clarkesville
Located in namesake Rabun County, Lake Rabun was created in 1915 as a reservoir for Mathis Dam. It boasts 25 miles of shoreline with many vacation homes set along it. From fly fishing to ziplining, and horseback riding, outdoor adventures in the area are endless. Don’t miss the chance to hike the half-mile trail to the 100-foot-high Minnehaha Falls, one of the most popular waterfalls in North Georgia.
Clarkesville is one of the closest towns with locally owned shops, like Mark of the Potter, known for its artist-produced pottery and its picturesque location in a 1930s mill that overlooks the Soque River. Dine at Glen-Ella Springs Inn & Restaurant, a local favorite for its Southern-inspired dishes. In Clarkesville’s charming downtown, The Copper Pot serves wood-fired pizzas and craft beer.
Stay near the water at Lake Rabun Hotel, built in 1922, and enjoy daily breakfast and an onsite spa. Moccasin Creek State Park is another option right on the lake with campsites for tents and RVs.
Lake Chatuge & Hiawassee
Created by the Chatuge Dam in 1942, Lake Chatuge encompasses more than 100 miles of shoreline that make it popular for visitors interested in boating, fishing, swimming, and watersports. Public boat ramps, a swimming beach, playgrounds, and picnic areas are all within the recreation area.
Hiawassee is the closest town to the lake, set along the Appalachian Trail. Here, visitors can explore the lake as well as nearby trails, including at Hamilton Gardens at Lake Chatuge, a botanical garden with more than 3,000 plants, like dogwood, native azaleas, wildflowers, trillium, and rhododendron. Hike to Bell Mountain Park for a 360-degree view of the lake and surrounding mountains.
While you’re here, visit Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest point at more than 4,000 feet. It’s accessible by a drive to the visitors center, followed by a paid shuttle or steep walk to the observation tower.
Sundance Grill is a favorite place to start the day, open for more than 20 years, and serves breakfast through the afternoon as well as lunch and dinner. The Oaks Lakeside Kitchen at The Ridges Resort is right on the water, allowing for boaters, and serves dishes like sweet tea-brined fried chicken, and shrimp and grits.
Spend your evenings at The Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge, which has comfortable accommodations along with activities like horseback riding, boating, fishing, and swimming. The resort has a marina with boat rentals, a fire pit, walking paths, and sporting courts.
Lake Nottely & Blairsville
Lake Nottely was built in 1942 by the Tennessee Valley Authority through the damming of the Nottely River for flood control. With more than 100 miles of coastline, the lake has two marinas and multiple public boat ramps along with a swimming beach and campground.
Blairsville is the closest town for visitors, with its bustling downtown centered around the historic courthouse. Don’t miss the famous boiled peanuts at Sunrise Grocery and the heaping biscuits at Hole in the Wall, a restaurant that has been a local favorite since 1931. There are also nearby wineries and horseback riding stables. Find more things to do in Blairsville.
Stay in one of the many local cabins or at Crossing Creeks RV Resort and Spa, a luxury campground with log cabins, RV sites, an onsite spa, and a pool. Paradise Hills Winery Resort & Spa also has a spa and a tasting room steps away from the accommodations.
Lake Hartwell, Hartwell, Lavonia & Royston
Popular with fishermen, Lake Hartwell sits on the Georgia and South Carolina state line. It was created in the 1950s with 962 miles of coastline on land. It was named for Nancy Hart, a frontierswoman during the Revolutionary War, and is the largest Army Corps of Engineers lake east of the Mississippi. Here, visitors can enjoy camping, biking, fishing, and water sports. Tugaloo State Park has boat ramps and hosts frequent fishing tournaments, with plentiful bass, crappie, and trout.
The communities of Hartwell, Lavonia and Royston are the most convenient for visitors to the lake. Dine on the water at Boat House Grill at the Hartwell Marina, serving burgers and classic American dishes, or Backstreet Bar-B-Que, the best place around for all things pork.
Hartwell, Lavonia and Royston have plentiful places to stay, including chains like Holiday Inn Express & Suites Lavonia. Tugaloo and Victoria Bryant state parks also have campsites and cabins, as well as “glamping” yurts.